This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
In the coming weeks, the UK will see what must be a legal first—someone suing for libel over claims that they are not a former prostitute.
The development has come in the legal drama surrounding Dr. Brooke Magnanti, who made a fortune writing under the nom de plume "Belle de Jour" about her secret life as a $450-an-hour call girl, and her ex-lover Owen Morris.
In her series of books, Magnanti writes about fucking countless men and women as a broke twentysomething graduate trying to survive in London. The adventures of Belle de Jour spawned the long-running TV series Secret Diary of a Call Girl, starring Billie Piper.
But in 2013, Morris—known as "the Boy" in Magnanti's book The Intimate Adventures of a Call Girl—claimed she had lied about her history as an escort and sued for defamation and breach of privacy. Morris claims that the books were actually based on the pair's love life and that his career has been damaged by their publication and her subsequent revelation of her true identity.
However, VICE just learned that according to papers lodged at Edinburgh's Court of Sessions, Magnanti is now countersuing. She claims that Morris's assertions that she was never a prostitute are defamatory to her reputation.
It could be the first case of its kind ever brought in this country.
Magnanti's books pissed a lot of people off for a lot of reasons. Many felt she glamorized the lives of sex workers, while others argued that an educated woman such as she—Magnanti has a PhD in forensic science—shouldn't have entered the sex industry.
After the release of her first book, Magnanti said she experienced a backlash against her choice of work. Speaking to VICE last week, she said, "It was frustrating, I can remember being at talks during book festivals and people telling me I didn't have to turn to prostitution. I used to think, Nice one, Good for you.
"People always think about sex workers as addicts or troubled. Well, if I had an addiction it was education, finishing my PhD."
But prudes at book festivals were the least of her worries. In 2008 Magnanti and Morris separated, and soon after, Morris claimed Magnanti had lied about her sexploits with elite clients. He says she was writing about her sex life with him instead.
Bringing his case in 2013, Morris claimed Belle de Jour's call-girl escapades were nothing but "fantasy"—something Magnanti vehemently denies. She took to her blog Sexonomics at the time, writing, "I have no choice but to defend this… But am happy to do so even though it will almost certainly mean losing everything I have even when I win."
Morris has previously accepted "substantial" libel damages from the Sunday Times over false claims that he threatened Brooke with violence when their six-year affair came to an end.
Magnanti has been advised not to talk. A statement given to VICE by her legal team read, "I can confirm a counter-claim has been lodged. I have been advised by my QC to offer no further comment pending the resolution of this litigation."
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