My Greatest Mistake: Lauren Booth, columnist for the 'New Statesman'

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The Independent Online

My greatest professional mistake was agreeing to be the sex agony-aunt of Front magazine. The job offer came at a time when I was still finding my feet as a journalist. I'd been writing for about a year and a half, and was trying to show people that I wasn't just a hedonistic girl-about-town but a serious reporter who was interested in politics. I was finally starting to hang out in the right circles; getting to the point where I could tease Alan Clark and shake hands with Michael Portillo.

So, when I accepted the agony-aunt job, I was inching in the right direction. The way Front was described to me, I thought it would be a good laugh; all about trying new things, having fun and being daring. But actually, it was just nasty smut for 15-year-olds - extremely denigrating to women. It was a magazine that peddled the idea that women were tarts to be got drunk and shagged. And I found myself being its sex agony-aunt. I couldn't quite believe it.

When I discovered that my fan mail mostly started with, "From Her Majesty's Prison in...", I felt awful. This wasn't quite where I had imagined I would be when approaching 30: writing porn for murderers.

I still went to the political social events, but I got laughed at quite a bit - and quite rightly. Men such as Alan Clark would see me and think, "Ooh, she'll talk to us about sex..." I managed to take it in my stride because I just drank my way through it.

After six months, the Front editors felt that I wasn't dirty enough, and I was stood down. I was relieved, but it still took me a year and a half of really hard slog and decent work after that, just to get back to square one, professionally.