Julie Burchill: Selling sex... why be coy about it?


Julie Burchill
Monday 10 October 2011 00:00

Recently we've had to endure actors behaving in an eye-wateringly embarrassing manner in bids to be both deep (poor "raped" Johnny Depp) and matey (Kate Winslet effing and blinding her way through a Vogue interview), so what a relief that Thomas Jane, the toothsome thesp, has been talking to the Los Angeles Times about being a bisexual prostitute who would do anything for money. Yes, but what about BEFORE he was an actor?

Seriously, it would be a lemon-sucking priss indeed who looked down on Mr Jane for his sexually generous past. I certainly wouldn't. Since I've lived in Brighton I've been mates with quite a few hookers – and by mates I don't mean using them professionally or deigning to buy them a drink in order to get a cheap low-life thrill, as some sad hacks do when they claim to to be tight with tarts – but actual going-on-holiday-with, character-witness-in-a-courtroom mates. (Though I did say to one of them before I got up into the witness box, "Are you sure that your reputation is ever going to recover from publicly acknowledging ME as a friend?")

Mr Jane elaborated that he was at the time "homeless, I didn't have any money and I was living in my car. I was 18. I wasn't averse to going down to Santa Monica Boulevard and letting a guy buy me a sandwich. Know what I mean?" Don't we just!

I would never judge someone for selling sex (though I would be inclined to point and jeer at anyone who bought it), but I wish they would hold off with the special pleading, which tends to make me judge them as self-justifying wusses. Marilyn Monroe's claim that she needed the money from her nudie calendar to buy food isn't half as cheering as Ursula Andress saying coolly, when asked why she stripped for Playboy, "Because I'm beautiful." But on the whole Jane seems quite happy about the experience: "Probably because of my middle-class, white blue-collar upbringing, I would have never had the opportunity to confront some of my own fears and prejudices had I not been hungry enough to be forced to challenge myself in that way."

Isn't that refreshing? To hear an actor admitting to being a prostitute instead of pretending to being a politician, philosopher or philanthropist? How much more straightforward, honest and dignified than, say, Vanessa Redgrave, who has spent the past three and a half decades, weirdly, standing up for various minority groups which find homosexuality an abomination – the Chechen nationalists, the Palestinian goons, those in favour of Irish unification and now the Travellers.

It's only a short while since "actress" was another word for prostitute and, in the case of most film stars of both sexes, the parallels with the sex trade are obvious; highest paid when young, paid better the more flesh they reveal, going to desperate measures to retain their physical appeal. Let's hope that deep dumbos like Depp and Winslet take a cue from the charming Mr Jane and find a way to face up to the awful truth that we like them for the way they look, not the things they say.

Only dumb people need smartphones for company

For many couples, the eternal triangle is now composed of two humans and a smartphone, according to a new poll. This made me feel smug, because even though I snore like a pig, swank like a show pony and eat like a chimp at a singularly ill-mannered tea-party – all things which might be thought injurious to a marriage – I've never had a mobile phone and never want one.

My husband doesn't have one either, and though I know that neither of us would object if the other wanted one, I can't see the situation arising. The fact that we live across the road from each other is probably an indicator. Neither of us is needy, neither of us is scared of our own company and neither of us has had so much of the other in their face 24/7 that we need a mechanical device to keep them at bay.

My earliest memory is of hiding under my infant bed, begging my mother to send away dullard children who had called on the off chance of "playing" with me, if you please, and my opting out of smartphone fever is probably a continuation of this perverse pursuit of loneliness. No doubt my refusal to carry a tracking device, or to buckle down to the daily drear of cohabitation are signs of some regrettable semi-detached psychopathy. But I doubt whether anyone will look back on their death-bed and think "Dammit! I wish I'd spent more time playing with my smartphone!"

Why flirting is one of our greatest pleasures

A lot of people who refuse to watch Big Brother don't do so because they're more intelligent than me. Fair enough! But a lot of people who HATE Big Brother are sex-starved, seat-sniffing sourpusses who are just jealous that, somewhere, young attractive people are enjoying themselves.

The received wisdom is that the BB house is a den of sexual incontinence, and its inmates total strangers to modesty. Ha! The current kick-off stems from the fact that Aaron, a tasty if tearful single dad, has been "leading on" two girls and a boy – by KISSING them, the he-hussy! This has caused most of the members of house – led by his erstwhile flirt-mates – to unite against him, and portray him as some sort of loose-living Anti-Christ.

Honestly, when did leading someone on become a crime? All across the sexual spectrum, there seems to be a carnal consensus that it's just about the worst thing you can do with your clothes on. But leading people on, only to cruelly dash their hopes, is surely one of the greatest pleasures known to humanity. Forget what Dr Johnson said about London – he/she who is tired of leading people on is truly tired of life.

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