Editor-At-Large: Is Rooney's Juicy Jeni so different from Belle de Jour?

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Sex worker or silly slapper? Wayne Rooney cheats on his wife and pays Jennifer Thompson for a series of brief encounters in a luxury hotel. She sells her story to a Sunday newspaper and gets pilloried. If Jennifer had been poor and uneducated, feminists would describe her as a victim, forced to flog her body to make ends meet. Another worker in an unregulated sex industry where women are routinely exploited.

Instead, this privately educated, middle-class 21-year-old has been called "a flag-bearer for our celebrity-mad culture", summing everything that's wrong with young people today. We know about her risqué photos on social networking sites, how she had sex with a professional footballer at 17, and signed up with an escort agency under the name "Juicy Jeni". Her parents have apologised to Coleen and won't be doing any interviews. Jennifer has been hung out to dry.

Why be so judgemental about a pretty girl's "lifestyle option", to coin George Osborne's favourite new phrase? If she was paid, it's her choice. As for "poor" Coleen – she decided to marry the unsophisticated Mr Rooney in the first place.

Sections of the media who got in such a froth about Jennifer are the same people who enthusiastically ran pictures of glamorous actress Billie Piper a couple of weeks ago, when she was spotted filming in a London street for the next series of Belle de Jour. Millions tune in to ITV2's popular portrayal of the brainy hooker who worked as a prostitute to fund her doctorate at university in London – it has been sold to 27 countries and is currently a hit in the USA. The fourth and final series is currently in production, and there are plans for a movie.

If Jennifer Thompson wanted a career role model, she should look at Brooke Magnanti, the real Belle de Jour, who turned her blog about working as a prostitute into a lucrative publishing franchise. Ms Magnanti has written national newspaper columns and five books about her spell as a hooker, and will be receiving a fat fee from the creators of the telly series.

Currently working as a researcher at Bristol University and writing a novel, she decided to go public when a former boyfriend threatened to reveal her identity last year. Her mother claimed to be proud of her, and she has continued in her job, untroubled by criticism about her past. ITV continue to promote the series as "a look into the world of the glamorous and intelligent Belle" – implying that flogging your body is just another job, like being a receptionist or a chemist.

So what are Belle and Jennifer? Victims or opportunists? New-style feminists or traitors to the sisterhood? I'm not that keen on the politically correct term "sex worker" either. Sex workers don't clock on and off, many don't pay tax, and it's not exactly a job you get interviewed for or offered a nice pension for sticking at. Calling prostitutes sex workers makes this risky activity seem humdrum and more akin to stacking shelves than facing unpredictable and potentially violent customers. There's another myth too, that selling sex means you aren't in control, that you have no self-esteem, and you are subservient.

There's plenty of evidence that these days middle-class women have a completely different attitude. New research indicates that a quarter of the women working as lap dancers in the UK have degrees, and earn up to £48,000 a year. The majority interviewed said they enjoyed their work and on average take home £232 a shift, after they've paid their club a commission. A survey of women working in the sex industry by Newcastle University found that a third had degrees. Escort agencies seeking to recruit girls routinely target students (like the original Belle) who are falling into debt and cannot pay their fees.

There are downsides. Getting highly paid for having sex is addictive, because it's easy money for quick work. And in the end, ugly fat men will be the norm, not the young and attractive. And you've got to look the part. But don't criticise those who do it, when every day sex is used to sell newspapers and TV series, and pretty girls are the ultimate marketing tool.



Wonderful to watch, and they play tennis too

Women's tennis has been criticised as boring, but top players have fans in some unlikely places. Cookham Wood young offenders' institution in Kent has been widely criticised – the number of inmates was capped last year after safety fears, and prison inspectors heard that prisoners were so frightened of bullying they won't leave their cells. Last June, a riot by 32 inmates caused £10,000 worth of damage and took five hours to bring under control. The reason? Wardens turned off the communal television and refused to let the lads watch Vera Zvonareva and Kim Clijsters compete in the ladies quarter-finals at Wimbledon. Three teenagers have been charged with violent assault and appeared in court last week. If they're that keen on the game, it might be a good idea to provide free tuition – after all, our men's team is in dire need of new stars. Sadly, I doubt it was the girl's ground strokes that were the attraction.

Giggling won't save the planet

I won't be attending Prince Charles's eco-garden party (cost £15 a ticket) in London this weekend – this patronising event claims to highlight sustainable living, and takes place in the lavishly maintained (at our expense) gardens of Clarence House, where you can ogle the royal vegetable plot (watered with the waste water from his bath), admire the royal compost and, like the prince, giggle at the musical cat organ. Can anyone in the land not know about the need to cut waste, recycle and grow vegetables? It's just an opportunity for a lot of sponsors to ally their brands with the royal family. Prince Charles is a ludicrous figure trying to find a role for himself.

Tony airbrushes his book tour

Tony Blair cancelled his book signing at Waterstones and the publication party at Tate Modern, after anti-war protesters planned to mount demonstrations at each.

He complained from the sofa of ITV's This Morning that it "was sad. You should have the right to sign your books or see your friends". Adding "I don't mind going through the protesters, but for other people it can be unpleasant and a bit frightening."

Has he forgotten that in February 2003, a million people peacefully demonstrated in London against the invasion of Iraq? In a democracy, as opposed to a Tony Blair dictatorship, they have every right to continue to make their displeasure felt. You can't just airbrush them out of existence. As for seeing his friends in a congenial setting – why not invite them around to his secure multimillion-pound London house for a cocktail?

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