NSFW: ‘Tis Pity She’s A Success – Belle de Jour and the Impossibility of Anonymous Blogging

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So Belle De Jour was real after all. The Internet’s most famous anonymous sex blogger – turned best-selling author – turned internationally successful TV series – has finally outed herself in the UK’s Sunday Times. And it turns out she’s a character straight from the pages of XKCD.

From her interview with the Times’ India Knight, we learn that Belle is in fact Dr Brooke Magnanti a specialist in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology who ran out of money during the final stages of her PhD thesis and decided to become an escort to make ends meet. So to speak. Add in the fact that Magnanti was already a reasonably well known science blogger and ‘The Secret Diary of a London Call Girl‘ was born.

Despite Belle’s growing fame, and the determined efforts of journalists around the world to out her, Belle’s anonymity remained intact – mainly thanks to a complex series of agents and shell companies that allowed her to receive payment for her work without compromising her identity. Even her agent didn’t know her real name until this week when Belle herself chose to out herself, granting an interview to Knight, one of her harshest critics.

A better example of someone operating on her own terms it’s hard to imagine. Anonymous bloggers everywhere can read Belle’s story and take heart in the fact that it really is possible to be both successful and anonymous in the Internet age.

There’s just one problem: it isn’t.

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