Under the Covers

In the early '00s the blogosphere was very different to what it is today. The number of bloggers was very small and everyone seemed to sort-of-almost know each other. My friendship with Stuart of Feeling Listless goes back to this adamic age and this morning Stuart wrote about another blogger who I had actually forgotten existed: Ms Belle de Jour. Yes, she of the lucrative book deal and the Billie Piper TV series. To recap: Ms Belle de Jour was a high-end prostitute blogging about her work and her life. She was a good writer, was clearly smart and educated. Like most bloggers at the time, she was anonymous, but interestingly she kept her anonymity even when she landed the book deal and the Billie Piper TV series. People tried to guess her identity: Was Belle de Jour a real person? Was she actually Toby Young (the implication being that no female prostitute could possibly write so well)? Or was she some other published writer having a bit of a laugh (again the same implication as before)? It seemed as though everybody was suddenly Belle - I even had emails asking me if I had invented her because, you know, I was reading the same book as her. I never knew that reading Jonathan Coe singled you out as being a potential sex worker.

And now The Times has finally revealed the identity of Belle de Jour. Yes, she is real and she is "a curvy size 8 with a fantastic figure" and, oh, a research scientist.

This unveiling is a twist which feels incredibly dated to me - it goes to show just how blogging and the whole damn blogosphere has changed in the last four or five years.  Blogging has gone democratic: you get personal blogs, corporate blogs, politics blogs, mom blogs, fashion blogs, car blogs, book blogs, gadget blogs, travel blogs etc. Blogging is no longer something you do on the sly - bloggers will link to their Facebook profile, Twitter feed, Skype ID, Ravelry profile, del.icio.us account, Flickr account and LibraryThing profile (and probably a dozen other social networks with which I am currently unfamiliar). Secrecy no longer intrigues; openness appeals.

Tellingly, when Stuart posted the news about Belle de Jour to MetaFilter (itself an online community dating back to the early '00s), the reaction was rather muted. Some had never heard of Belle, others shrugged a bit and most of the attention was given to the way the mainstream media had broken the story. We have become so jaded.