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

Share
Related Topics

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?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Helpdesk Team Leader / Manager

£45000 per annum + pension,medical: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable gl...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Project Manager

£35000 per annum + £5k bonus, car: Ashdown Group: A successful business that h...

IT Infrastructure Project Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A large and well established business is look...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes