Brooke Magnanti is former call girl who wrote about her life in the blog Belle de Jour. After finishing her PhD, and publishing a couple of books based on her blog, she now works as a research scientist.
On the side, she does some writing and research. Her latest is a green paper [pdf] debunking an earlier study in the UK which argued that the presence of lap dance clubs in the London borough of Camden is associated with an increase in the rate of rape. Her re-examination of the data uses methodology a hell of a lot more sound than the original study [pdf]. For example, she indexes the number of rapes to population headcount, extends the time period from 3 years to 10 to look for a trend, and she includes a comparison with another, demographically similar borough with no lap dance clubs. Her conclusion is that the rate of rape in Camden is actually lower than comparable boroughs.
Compared to her work, it is clear that the original study was in no way scientific, and if you read it, you’ll see that it’s mainly a bunch of argument with a couple of statistics thrown in. Even though it was published in 2003, it was still being cited in the Guardian in 2008 (and here). In 2009, the Guardian issued a correction based on new statistics, yet their own writers were still citing the report in pieces published later that year (here and here).
I don’t know if this latest study will finally put the older, zombie study back in its grave. But if the Guardian can’t kill it, maybe an ex-prostitute working on her own time will be able to get the job done.