Epidemiologists don’t often hit the headlines. While forensic scientists are celebrated in endless mini-series, the bug hunters merit just the occasional, mercifully long forgotten film (anyone remember Dustin Hoffman in Outbreak? I thought not). As a job, it’s just not very sexy, and most of us who plod away at it keep our wild sides to ourselves. How delightful, then, to discover that Belle de Jour, a sex icon for our times, is actually a practicing researcher with a PhD in epidemiology.
Needless to say there’s been a big kerfuffle about this. The “all prostitution is explotation crowd” are banging the drum again, anxious to entrench the image of the sex tade as nothing but tawdry. But as Catherine Stephens of the International Union of Sex Workers eloquently points out in this segment on Channel 4 News, those sterotypes are unhelpful.
(For those who are confused by Cath saying she doesn’t think practicing hookers should go public, it’s amazing how Channel 4’s hair and makeup team can nerd a girl down.)
The University of Bristol, where Brooke Magnanti PhD works, has very sensibly said that the way she chose to finance her studies does not have any bearing on the quality of her work. The university doesn’t mention that there are many other similarities between being a hooker and a research scientist. We all provide the services that the people who put down the cash demand, whether they are punters or science funding bodies.