So a lot of talk today is about the unveiling of Belle de Jour, the upper-end prostitute portrayed by Billie Piper in the TV programme you may have seen.
The picture of the real Belle de Jour, an elegant blonde woman, dressed in a coffee-coloured silk dressing gown, adorns the pages to a mixed response. She is now a scientist, specialising in childhood cancer, and explains that she worked as a prostitute to fund her PhD.
Now I know prostitution is a very tricky issue, with the constant balancing act between freedom of choice and exploitation. Hers is clearly meant to be a freedom of choice demonstration and she profited immensely from it, admitting she was “very lucky” to have had no bad experiences. The problem is this misrepresentation that she comes from a higher caste of sex workers. Yes, it is a very different ball game to wear a Valentino dress and sit poised and confident in a hotel bar until your C.E.O appointment turns up. But the idea is the same and the act is the same as those sex workers on the streets of Ipswich, just swap a plush leather chaise-lounge for the back seat of a Ford.
It is the class system which seperates these women, certainly not anything else. An activist from the International Union of Sex Workers said: “Loads of people who work in the sex industry are academics – education is a very expensive habit.” Getting to university itself is expensive enough and not achievable for many. Getting a PhD is a luxury available to a further minority.
Looking at this woman in her dressing gown with her coiffed hair does annoy me, because she is not the truth. The truth is the masses of women, the world over, who find themselves in exploitative and very dangerous situations, due to sheer desperation. Whether its the desperation of drugs or feeding their children and family, they are not afforded the luxury of being desperate for education. Education is a dream beyond the perameters. Cycles of poverty and low aspirations mean this carries on.
The idea that this woman was ‘desperate’ enough for her PhD to put herself into their shoes willingly is a mockery to all the women fighting to be given fairer chances to education, careers and most importantly, freedom.