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  • SARAH OAKES: Good afternoon.

  • My name is Sarah Oakes.

  • I'm the Editor of 'Daily Life'

  • and it's my enormous pleasure to welcome you here today.

  • Some housekeeping before we begin:

  • our special guest speaker

  • will talk for around 40 minutes.

  • At the end of that time, you might like to take the

  • opportunity to move to 1 of the microphones beside the

  • seating and, ah, and take the opportunity to

  • ask a question.

  • Today's speaker is Brooke Magnanti, whose beautiful

  • Italian surname I fear I may have just butchered.

  • She is a truly fascinating woman.

  • As Belle de Jour, the creator of

  • 'Secret Diary of a Call Girl', the blog that became

  • the book, that became the TV series, Brooke gave us a

  • tantalising account of work in the sex industry.

  • Today, as a scientific researcher, she now takes on

  • the private and public myths surrounding sex and why we

  • believe them.

  • Brooke's book 'The Sex Myth'

  • unpicks the hysteria around media reporting, the

  • research, the assumptions, rumours and wives'

  • tales that we have around sex.

  • Sex isn't and easy subject to debate; personal history,

  • politics, fear, years of oppression get in the way.

  • But, Brooke's funny, fearless and fact-based way of

  • writing, finds a way to cut through all of that noise, as

  • you are about to find out.

  • Please give a very warm welcome to Brooke Magnanti.

  • (APPLAUSE)

  • BROOKE MAGNANTI: My God, there's a metric

  • fuck-load of you

  • (LAUGHING)

  • It was only a couple of ago, I actually thought to

  • ask someone.

  • I was like:

  • "Sydney Opera House is pretty big isn't it?"

  • "And, you know:"

  • "How many people are going to be there?"

  • "Mm, don't know, hundreds?"

  • "And I thought: "Well, the audience participation of

  • the bit of the talk might not go as well because I can

  • just about see people if I shade my eyes. But, hi

  • (LAUGHING)

  • Oh, sorry, that's not me.

  • Um, obviously I'm Brooke Magnanti and I'm going to be

  • talking about just a couple of the sex myths that I wrote

  • about in my book.

  • Um, first off, I should make clear:

  • this is this is Billy Piper.

  • Um, she is a really lovely lady; a fantastic actress.

  • Last year, I was giving a talk at'Sceptics on the Fringe'

  • ah, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and, little did I

  • know there was actually a reviewer in the audience who

  • wasn't familiar with my secret double life as a, ah,

  • child health scientist.

  • (LAUGHING)

  • And so, when I read the review he said:

  • "I went going- I went to this talk expecting Belle de Jour

  • and I got statistics lecture."

  • "So, I just want to make clear, I'm not actually Billy

  • Piper, as you've probably guessed by now."

  • But, ah, what I can claim to be trying to do

  • (LAUGHING)

  • is 'making statistics standards sexy, one standard

  • deviation at a time.'

  • And, I look forward to the next series of

  • 'Secret Diary of a Call Girl' which, ah, for some reason,

  • I've heard nothing about, so far, in which she is revealed

  • to be, ah, an incredible nerd who spends her days hanging

  • around by the computer, incessantly tweeting about

  • little mistakes that she finds in other people's

  • scientific papers.

  • So, what are some common sex myths overall?

  • Things that we tend to hear in the media and tend to just

  • take without any particular evidence for whether or not

  • they're true?

  • I'm just going to go a few through a few of them: ah,

  • 'Women don't want sex they want companionship?'

  • The, the myth that if, ah, women are sexually active,

  • they're only using it to get something from men.

  • The idea that 'All men are potential rapists'

  • and they just have to see a naked woman and then that's

  • it; they go crazy, they go mad and they attack anybody

  • they see.

  • That there are 'Many women who are

  • forcibly trafficked for sex' and I'm sure that one will be

  • coming up on Q & A on Monday.

  • The 'Drug-addicted streetwalkers are more common

  • than call girls?'

  • This is one that I actually get a lot.

  • There's a lot of people who say:

  • "Well, there aren't many people in the sex industry

  • like you."

  • "And, while it's probably true that there aren't too

  • many people in that sex industry who specifically

  • work in child health epidemiology" go figure.

  • (LAUGHTER)

  • Um, there are, actually, obviously a lot of people who

  • are in a similar situation to I was, which was, ah, being a

  • migrant student who ran out of money.

  • And, realising that I was on a visa that severely limited,

  • not only the kind of work that I could do, but the

  • number of hours I could work.

  • So, there're actually quite a lot of us. Ah,

  • 'Porn is the biggest entertainment industry'

  • is another myth we get quite a lot of, and that sex

  • addiction is a growing disease.

  • And, I'm going to be talking about 2 these today.

  • Mainly, sex addiction and the idea that women don't want

  • sex, they just want companionship and that as

  • soon as they're married, sex is just off the table.

  • Now I've been married for 3 years now, so you

  • do the maths.

  • Obviously I haven't had sex since 2010.

  • (LAUGHTER)

  • This is the wonderful poet Philip Larkin, chewing on his

  • pen, rather fetchingly, ah, famously he never married,

  • but kept about 5 Mistresses, secret from each other.

  • And in one of his poems he says:

  • "Where do these innate assumptions come from?"

  • "And that was the thinking that I went into writing"

  • 'The Sex Myth' with.

  • Not only just that, there are some of these ideas, and, and

  • to what extent are they right or are they wrong, but where

  • do they actually come from?

  • And, I have to say, um, I blame myself.

  • And, I blame myself as someone who is now kind of,

  • by circumstance, ah,a columnist; a member of the media;

  • somebody who has to produce 500 to 900 words 3

  • times a week on topics that I sometimes only know a little

  • bit about but I've got really strong opinions, damn it.

  • (LAUGHTER)

  • So, I came up with this thing called

  • 'The Feedback Model' and The Feedback Model sounds

  • really, you know, portentous.

  • Um, it's just 'a' feedback model.

  • It's how some of these things could happen.

  • The way it starts off at the top is that somebody spots a

  • shock statistic of some kind, maybe in a medical journal

  • or, more likely, in the press release for a medical

  • journal, ah, often without any context.

  • Often it'll be somebody who does not specifically have

  • the background in the topic that's being written about

  • from an academic perspective.

  • You can often take a statistic like that and just

  • sort of fit it into a predetermined message.

  • So, if you're a writer and you have an editor who comes

  • to you and says: "We really need something on

  • sex addiction because there's a famous person who's

  • admitted to being a sex addict and we need some great

  • sounding number."

  • "And you go, and you Google it and you find that number

  • and you whack it in there," just as, just as a throwaway

  • almost, which means that little or no critical thought

  • is applied to: who were the people that were

  • actually involved in making this statistic?

  • But, also who are the people that are the statistics

  • themselves?

  • If you hear about some percentage of women, ah, who

  • give up on sex after marriage or, some percentage of men

  • who are sex addicts and, and just not really

  • thinking about:

  • "Well, who actually were the people that they pulled to

  • get these numbers?"

  • "But, very often, you know, where there is smoke

  • there is fire."

  • Ah, they are people who experience huge losses

  • in libido.

  • There are people who experience problems with, ah,

  • restraining their sexual activity within

  • a relationship.