Thoughts on Belle de Jour’s ‘Intimate Adventures of a London Call-Girl’

‘The Intimate Adventures of a London Call-Girl’ tells the true story of the author’s escapades as a high-class sex worker. Belle de Jour was one of the world’s first successful sex-bloggers and her book was based on the blog. The writer was very secretive and managed to maintain her anonymity for years. Eventually revealing herself, after discovering she was about to be exposed in the media. As it turned out, Belle de Jour was Brooke Magnanti: a scientist who took up sex-working to fund her PhD studies.

The book is written diary-style, over a period of eight months. However, it covers more than that, as Belle steps back to reminisce about previous sexual adventures and relationships. Thus the chronology jumps back and forth through time quite a lot, but the artful story-telling makes this feel natural and easy-to-follow.

Belle is entertaining and adventurous, insightful and funny, so it’s a real pleasure to follow her and explore her world. Her witty, sarcastic manner and humorous turn-of-phrase is great for imparting insights about sex and relationships. For example, observing that most men ‘take first-date sex as an excuse to crack open a can of cider and watch Grand Prix on all forthcoming dates’. She diagnosed (former Prime Minister) Theresa May’s problem early, and prescribed a sensible solution. But her advice was ignored and 15 years later, Ms May still visibly requires a fortnight in a Turkish brothel.   

Unlike most of the books I’ve reviewed on my blog, this is not ‘erotica’, because it’s not generally intended to turn the reader on. The sex stories are interesting and comical, but the to-and-fro is not described with much detail. Some bits did sexually stimulate me though. I got all hot and bothered as Belle described the ‘rippling ribbons’ of her boyfriend’s arm muscles as he worked out in the gym. I’d have loved to hear more erotic details (especially regarding Belle playing the Domme role), but I understand that’s not what the book is about.

Belle’s account of her experiences as a sex worker has been influential in changing the public perception of the ‘old profession’. Her positive tone and attitude towards her work contrasts sharply with the traditional idea that all sex workers are vulnerable drug addicts with miserable lives (although she acknowledges that many sex workers have significantly worse experiences than her). She loves the fact that men will pay through the nose to pleasure her with wine and oral sex. She doesn’t tend to genuinely orgasm with clients, but still gets turned on and often feels sexually stimulated.

The story focuses on relationships. Particularly Belle’s relationship with ‘the Boy’ as it gradually breaks down and falls apart. In many ways, it’s unclear how, or why, this happens. The writer’s thoughts regarding the relationship are muddled and confused, so the reader really feels that too. Neither party seems to rationalise or communicate properly and things kind-of trail off without specific reasoning. This really captures the messy and chaotic reality of many relationships and break-ups.

I enjoyed hearing stories about Belle’s previous relationships. It’s great that she’s still close friends with many of her ex-boyfriends (and that they’re all friends with each other) – how cosy 🙂 They’re a fun bunch.

It’s interesting that Belle generally characterises her clients as timid, shy and highly unthreatening. I wouldn’t have thought that would be the description of the average punter. She contrasts them with the confident kind of guys who pull in clubs and tend to ‘take rather than ask’ when it comes to their sexual desires. The clients expose their secret fantasies to Belle, many of which are kind of ridiculous in the cold light of day (e.g. having sex ‘near’ horses) and she takes it all in her stride. She generally seems quite sympathetic to her punters… taking an amusingly patronising tone towards them and their eccentricities.     

Belle’s tradecraft is impressive and as a sex worker, she comes across as the consummate professional. She’s really thought about communication, on a deep level, tailoring it perfectly to the specific individual and context. Almost like a good therapist as she listens to clients, analyses their multiple levels of communication and manipulates her words accordingly. We see a great example of this, in the opening chapter, as Belle allows her client to express his secret thrill regarding the eroticism of equine environments. She probes along carefully, letting him guide the fantasy, but playing along as if she feels exactly the same way.

Of course, these impressive communication skills are totally lacking when it comes to Belle’s relationship with her boyfriend. The contrast between her incisive professional acumen and the indecisive, lost-for-words muddle she becomes when dealing with her relationship, will no-doubt feel familiar to many of her readers. It’s just a fact: strong emotions make humans rubbish at thinking straight and talking clearly… even if they’re normally quite good in those areas.

I found it especially meaningful when the writer poetically described the time she (for once) couldn’t work out what a client wanted from her:

‘It made me feel like unturned clay must, wanting to form into something, some fantasy, but not being allowed.’

This really gets to the heart of the matter and the core of Belle’s business… what it is that an accomplished sex worker should be: a piece of clay that can mould and metamorphosize into whatever shape the client desires. Fantasy clay – playing such a role must enable so many fascinating insights into the human mind… the secret part 🙂 The clay simile made me think about my own experiences writing ‘Mirror Secret Mirror’. Was he moulding me like clay? Was I deliberately collaborating with that? Is it me moulding him like clay? And moulding the others, as well? Everyone moulding everyone else? Anyway, it’s good to be malleable sometimes… that way you can just go with the flow 🙂

Jessica Seaques
Jessica Seaques

Hi :) I’m Jess. I love traveling, daydreaming, drinking tea and snuggling cats (especially Baggins!). I also enjoy: provoking a response; pretending to be innocent; and getting into trouble. I dislike: forgotten tea that’s gone cold; blushing in public; and not being punished when I clearly deserve it.

I’m in my early twenties, recently finished university and moved to London looking for adventure… of which I found plenty…

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