[Marxism] How "sex scamdal" culture victimizes women (yes, even rich women)

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Aug 22 14:34:54 MDT 2010

I think this interview from the Guardian (UK) provides a very rich picture
of the way the "sex scandal culture" specifically disparages and degrades
women in these situations in very deep and very social ways. At any rate I
think it is well worth reading and I am providing it in full.

I include one further comment in the midst of the text which highlights the
particular "backwardness" of British ideas of sexual misconduct among
celebrities (none of which is likely to have taken place in this context.

I assume there will be further coverage when the estranged couple reconcile,
as seems likely off the top of my head. He thinks she betrayed him, she
still loves him and apparently didn't. Watch that space for further

But the key point is to see the social relation of women in these
Fred Feldman


Interview: Vanessa Perroncel

In January, it was "revealed" that the England captain John Terry had had an
affair with a team-mate's ex-girlfriend. [An athlete allegedly had an affair
with another athlete's EX-girl friend? And this is sexual misconduct which
can ruin the careers of one, both, or all three? Obviously, this would never
fly, on the New York Post and Daily News. Not worth more than a paragraph,
with no wasted indignation. No requirement at all for an encyclical from
Sports Pope Mike Lupica. But apparently the English are at an earlier stage
of Puritan Celebrity Degeneration -- FF} 

But nothing was heard from the woman at the centre of the scandal, Vanessa
Perroncel. Here, the 34-year-old mother finally sets out her (very
different) side of the story

Vanessa Perroncel Vanessa Perroncel: 'Nothing good has come from this. All I
want now is for my son never to read these stories'. Photograph: Gareth
Cattermole/Getty Images

Vanessa Perroncel – the woman at the centre of the sex scandal that lost
footballer John Terry the captaincy of the England team and kick-started a
bumper year of celebrity infidelity splashes – has always denied the affair.

In September 2009, the 34-year-old, routinely described as "glamorous
brunette French lingerie model Vanessa Perroncel", says that a long-standing
friendship with Chelsea defender Terry did not develop into a sexual
relationship. This would suggest that Terry (who was, and who remains,
married to Toni Poole) and Perroncel (who at the time of the alleged affair
had recently split from fellow England footballer Wayne Bridge, father of
her three-year-old son Jaydon and former team-mate of Terry's) did not meet
twice a week for sex at Perroncel's £2m, five-bedroom mock Georgian house in
Oxshott, Surrey (as was breathlessly reported in the News of the World on 31
January this year). It would also mean that Perroncel did not become
pregnant and did not have an abortion at a private London clinic, arranged
and paid for by Terry. It would mean that Terry didn't give Perroncel
£20,000 after the procedure so that she might "cheer herself up".

There is no reason not to believe Perroncel. Evidence for the affair comes
from journalists with a vested interest in it being true, from a number of
nameless, faceless and unsubstantiated sources (ah, the unimpeachable
credibility of the anonymous "close friend"). It also comes in the context
of the super injunction Terry sought, and then lost, in January, which
prevented the press from reporting the allegations.

Why did he do that if there was nothing to hide, I ask Perroncel. "I don't
know!" she says. She is exasperated. "No one asked me whether or not I
thought it was the right thing to do. If they had, I'd have said no. Let
them publish it, then sue. I suppose they were worried about negative press
about John Terry."

We know Perroncel did not "tout her story round Fleet Street – for a figure
in excess of £250,000" (Daily Mail, 4 February). No Perroncel-authored
tabloid "tell all" ever ran. We also know Terry did not buy Perroncel's
silence for figures estimated to be anything from £400,000 (Times) to
£800,000 (Evening Standard). We know this because she's agreed to talk to
the Observer, for a sum of precisely £0. So Vanessa Perroncel is the girl
who didn't kiss and didn't tell – and got trashed in the tabloids anyway.

For the first three months of this year, Perroncel was ripped apart by the
press. Her reputation was destroyed, her public profile one of the most
tarnished in the country. Journalists delved deep into her sexual history,
running stories based on rumour. They printed satellite images of her home
and maps of where and how she might be found. They raked up the details of
her parents' divorce, and her father's suicide. "There is a word the French
use for women like Vanessa Perroncel," wrote the Mail in an "examination" of
Perroncel which ran in early February. "The word is effronte, and it means
barefaced or shameless."

"Vanessa Perroncel is a she-devil in John Terry's dirty game," Sue Carroll
wrote in the Mirror on 23 February. She was a "maneater", a "football
groupie". She was "money-hungry" and "gagging for it". Claims that Perroncel
had slept with five members of Chelsea surfaced; one red-top paper printed a
team photograph and circled the men concerned in marker pen. "Maybe she'll
make it a full 11 by the weekend?" the Mail wondered. When anyone reported
Perroncel's denials of relationships with anyone other than Bridge – which
occasionally, they did – those anonymous sources piped up. "To say she's a
Chelsea girl is a bit of an understatement. By the time she got to John
Terry, she'd achieved her own five-a-side football team,'" said one
particular unidentified "close friend", choosing to speak in a tabloid-ready

"A prostitute. Gold digger. Slut," Perroncel says, wearily. It's now early
August, just over six months since the scandal first broke; a couple of days
before news of Peter Crouch's alleged sexual transgressions makes the front
pages, ensuring the Terry scandal is invoked once again. "There was a joke
going round. It was: 'What does Vanessa Perroncel say after sex?'" A bitter
pause, before the punchline. "'So do you all play for the same team?'" She
laughs, angrily.

Perroncel has agreed to talk to us because she wants her version of the
truth to be in circulation "before my son is old enough to read any of these
other stories". She wants to raise her profile as a human being in the hope
that the pantomime scarlet woman version propagated by elements of the media
might be diminished. She is suing everyone who ever published an especially
unpleasant story about her. Perroncel and her lawyer, Charlotte Harris,
sifted through the press clippings, ordered them in terms of the most
offensive, most damaging and most outrageous, and began addressing them, one
by one. "I felt better when I started the legal action," she says. But
beyond that, she has to find ways to move on, to redefine herself; and
interviews like this are, perhaps, a starting point.

So we meet. I'm fascinated to see Perroncel in the flesh. I followed the
story at the beginning of this year, along with everyone else, and though I
was annoyed at her treatment (so typical, I thought, to vilify the woman), I
also bought a lot of the received wisdom. I never doubted a relationship had
happened, or that cash had been paid in exchange for her silence. It wasn't
until I started researching in advance of this interview that I realised
Perroncel had consistently denied the affair.

I watch her pose for pictures: she is reserved, circumspect, compliant, a
good model. She is, of course, physically lovely. If Perroncel hadn't been
quite so gorgeous, in quite such an aloof and unattainable way, she wouldn't
have been such excellent paparazzi fodder; nor would she have been so easy
to dislike on principle. Beyond that she is cautious, considered, smart. Her
English is extremely good. She has a baccalaureate in philosophy and
languages, so perhaps that shouldn't be surprising. She says "at the end of
the day" a little too often, but apart from that, she is
cliché-confoundingly eloquent.

There's a toughness to her. I ask her if she felt vulnerable in the early
stages of her scandal, when her home was besieged by journalists "buzzing,
buzzing, always buzzing on the door!". She says, coolly, "Vulnerable – it's
not a word I use about myself. It's not really my character." She's not
without humour. She tells me she fantasises about blowing up the offices of
the News of the World, and describes herself wearing a hard hat and grinning
cheesily for photographers as she plunges the cartoonish charge on a
detonator. But she is also brittle, defensive and incredibly angry. A
bassline of fury pulses through Perroncel. "I do rant, sometimes," she says,
and her eyes glint with something very raw and very dark.

She was born in Bandol in the south of France in 1976; her parents divorced
when she was five and she moved to Paris with her mother. She worked as a
model in Paris in the 1990s – she was scouted as a teenager – and she
enjoyed it although, "I didn't like it when we were expected to have dinner
with older men
" She is referring to the industry executives, photographers
and money men who can assume that socialising with the beautiful young
clothes horses in their employ is a perk of the position. "It seemed
exploiting and I saw the drugs and the sex
 I didn't like it. I was always
causing a drama about it, threatening to leave my agency! Ranting about why
do I have to spend time with these fat, ugly, old men! When I wanted to be
off out with my friends and the male models my own age!"

She acted a little ("in TV programmes like the French version of Saved by
the Bell") and spent the summers working in expensive night clubs in St
Tropez. "There was a scene, we were a close group; they were my friends and
we looked out for each other." When she moved to London, in 1999, she
modelled some more; in 2003 she took up a job as a VIP table runner at the
Elysium nightclub in central London: a glam, upmarket venue that attracted a
footballer clientele, among other VIPs.

This is how she met Wayne Bridge in 2004, "when I was working, by the way,
because I wanted to earn extra money, not because I was plotting to meet a
footballer. Not because I was studying the back pages for fixture lists and
transfer lists or any of this crap the papers made up. There are girls who
do that, yes. I am not one of them." I hadn't suggested otherwise, but you
can forgive Perroncel if she gets preemptively defensive from time to time.

Perroncel and Bridge never married, but they were together for five years,
during which time she gave birth to Jaydon. In the grand scheme of these
things, theirs was a low-key life.

"Wayne was private, I am private; we never did any magazine deals, never had
anyone take pictures in our house. I never did the whole: 'Oh! Here I am
pregnant' thing," she says. Perroncel turns to one side, strokes her hand
over an imaginary belly and smiles an empty Hello! magazine-friendly smile.

Perroncel encountered some of the press frenzy associated with footballers
and Wag culture during the 2006 World Cup in Germany. She was papped
shopping in Baden-Baden with Elen Rives (ex-girlfriend of Frank Lampard and
mother of his two daughters); she read a couple of erroneous reports about
her own movements. "But then it was just: Wayne and Vanessa were spotted in
such and such a restaurant, when really we were somewhere else. So it was
not true, but

Inconsequential? "Yes."

In January 2009, Bridge transferred from Chelsea to Manchester City. He,
Perroncel and Jaydon shared a suite in a Manchester hotel while they looked
for a more permanent base; after six months, Perroncel took Jaydon back to
Oxshott. Their relationship floundered, then ended. She was miserable. "I
loved him. I wanted the happy-ever-after, the fairy tale. My parents'
divorce was awful, this was not what I wanted for my son." 

As Perroncel tells it, John Terry offered support in the weeks and months
following her break-up from Bridge. Terry had been close to the couple;
Bridge and Terry were said to be best friends at Chelsea. She says he
thought he knew how they might salvage the relationship. Perroncel, who was
still very much in love with Bridge, met with him and listened to his
advice. "It was based on good intentions. It was a friendship," she says.

A News of the World journalist spotted Terry visiting Perroncel at home. A
series of unpleasant tabloid stories concerning Terry had run over
proceeding months: stories about his father supplying cocaine, stories
accusing Terry of selling private tours around the Chelsea complex. But
until that point there had been nothing of a sexual nature. "I suppose they
wanted a 'John Terry in kinky sex' story," she says.

What was the first you knew of it?

"When my ex [Bridge] rang me up and said: 'There's a journalist outside my
house. He says you've had an affair with another footballer.' He didn't know
who. A few minutes later, he rang back: 'It's John.'"

Perroncel was perplexed, panicked, upset.

"I said: 'It's not true!'"

Which it really wasn't?


Terry was never anything more than a friend?


Your relationship with him was never physical?

Perroncel looks directly at me. She looks cold and hard and exhausted by
repeating it while wondering if anyone will ever believe her. She takes a
steadying breath.

"No," she says.

In the latter stages of January 2010, Terry applied for and got the super
injunction; it was overturned within 10 days by high court judge Mr Justice
Tugendhat who said, damningly, that: "The nub of the applicant's complaint
is to protect his reputation, in particular with sponsors." 

>From then on, the salacious tabloid splashes – the revelations and
investigations and thoughts and theories of all those close friends – came
thick and fast. "More and more every day! I couldn't keep up!" Did she read
them? "You try not to, but
 you hear about them anyway, from other people."

What was the worst thing she read about herself?

"All of them! All of them! And you get to the point where you don't even
know which of the lies to correct first. Or who you even ring up! There were
so many, and they were so random! Or part true, which was worse. For
example: well, yes, you're right, my father did commit suicide! But you're
wrong about him gassing himself

The day after the story first broke, when Perroncel was reeling and shocked
and besieged by members of the press, she asked Max Clifford for help. 

Clifford issued a statement of denial on Perroncel's behalf ("although, of
course, when you say, 'John Terry is a friend', the press go: 'Oh yeah! We
know what kind of friend!'" says Clifford), and agreed to do his very best
to advise her and guide her and arm her against what he describes as the
"excesses of the press".

It's been an exceptional year for sex scandals. From Tiger to Terry to
Vernon Kaye's texts. From Ronan Keating's dancer to Mark Owen's dancer to
Peter Crouch's £800 hooker. No Sunday has been complete without another
newspaper revelation. Sex scandals are Max Clifford's forte, his gift to
contemporary British culture. All the best sex scandals are stage-managed by

"Although these days," he tells me on a crackly phone line, as he speeds
about some part of the country or other, "my job is much more about
protection than promotion. It's 90% protecting people like Vanessa. For
every story I broker, there's 10 I stop from coming out, because I know they
[the individual] can't handle it. I'll tell them they can't handle it."

You assess the characters of everyone you work with and advise them to speak
out or keep quiet?

"Absolutely right! My job is not only working out what they want, but the
kind of people they are. So you've got
 Antonia de Sancha who hated
everything about the David Mellor situation; still does. Whereas Lady
Bienvenida Buck, who had an affair with Sir Peter Harding, loved every
minute of it! Made a career out of it! And Rebecca Loos [alleged former
mistress of David Beckham]
 Rebecca loved it! Absolutely loved it! Had a
very good year working, television, off the back of it. Quite apart from
making £1m! It suited her. She was a very strong, opinionated person, very
 Suited her down to the ground. You know instinctively from
the start which way they're going to go. You can tell from the way they walk
into the room, from the clothes they wear."

And Vanessa?

"There was no question that Vanessa was ever going to talk. It was clear
that even if she had had a relationship with John Terry, which she didn't,
it would have been totally wrong for her to talk about it. She would have
hated the whole thing. Too private. Exactly the same as Francine, the girl
who had an affair with Ronan Keating, who came to me a few weeks ago.
Everyone is offering hundreds of thousands of pounds. We talked it through.
There is no way she should do her story. Everyone knows they had an affair.
His wife made it public, he admitted it. But no. She doesn't want to. It's
not her. She's coming to see me tomorrow and I'm going to tell her: 'Don't.
Concentrate on your dancing. It's not right for you.'"

Yet there's an assumption that all these women have a price and are
ultimately out for every penny they can get?

"Exactly right."

It's horribly sexist.

"Oh yes!"

Does it make you angry, Max, or are you hardened to it?

"Not hardened. More

I want to know how the classic British sex scandal unfurls. Is there a
procedure, a protocol, a check list that needs to be adhered to?

"Every case is different. But what I do is, I meet them. If I don't like
them, I won't work with them. If I do like them, I do it on a handshake. No
contracts. Never had a contract. Then: if they want to talk [to the press],
I'll tell them: 'OK. Talk to your mum, your big sister, your best friend. Be
aware. Think about it very, very carefully.' I'll tell them: short-term
gain, long-term pain. If you want a career in television eventually, don't
do a kiss and tell. Because no one will work with you. So and so won't trust
you, such and such a star won't work with you because they'll think you
might sell a story on them, too
 If they still want to go ahead, then I will
get them the best possible deal. We won't take £50k if it's worth £200k. And
I know the rates. I get the rates. Then, we want quote approval. As much
control as possible. And before the interview, I'll advise them: 'Don't talk
about that, because it comes across as really cheap and nasty. Keep that

If they don't want to talk?

"Then I have to tell them exactly what to expect. Vanessa, like dozens and
dozens before her, came to me and said: 'Can you help me?' John was nowhere
to be seen. He'd been told by his people, 'Avoid her like the plague, don't
talk to her.' She only lives five minutes from me. So I said: 'Come round
the house, come and have a chat. Talk it through. She came round and talked,
told me what had happened, what hadn't happened



She told you there had been no relationship? 

"That he had been nothing more than a good friend from the start. That he
had come round, but because he knew she was devastated when Wayne walked out
on her. He had only ever been a friend to her."

Clifford warned Perroncel the papers would feel thwarted by her refusal to
speak, and that they'd become more aggressive as a consequence, and more
reliant on gossip and lies. "I told her: 'You're damned if you do, and
damned if you don't.' I said: 'This is how it will play out' – and it did.
I've done it so many times already! Loads and loads of times! I was able to
forewarn and forearm her. Although it didn't help. She was having a dreadful
time and getting a dreadful time from Wayne, who was being very critical and
very nasty. Or, so-called close friends of Wayne

What can you say to someone in that situation?

"You're not a criminal. You've done nothing wrong. It will blow over."

I ask him how he makes money out of a situation like Perroncel's – when
there are no deals to be brokered and no cut to be taken. He says he
doesn't, and it's not the point. "I've got more money than I can spend in a
lifetime. I've got a £4m house and a brand-new Bentley. It's not about the
 Vanessa can't afford me anyway."

Clifford is a flash git who has made millions manipulating one of the least
seemly functions of the modern media, a vocation he freely admits to loving
– but perhaps there's something noble about him, too. I tell him I'm shocked
at the wrong that's been done to Perroncel.

"There are so many of them, Polly," he says. "Dozens and dozens."

I am shocked at the wrong that's been done to Vanessa. Whether or not you
believe her denials – and oh, it's tempting, isn't it, to keep believing the
worst, the most malicious rumours. But Perroncel did not deserve those
months of unmitigated trashing. And now it's calmed down for her somewhat,
I'm not sure what she's got left. Clifford says it probably would have been
better for her if she had slept with Terry. "Take Terry away, and what have
you got? No interest. It is going to be very hard for her, building a
career. Very hard."

Why you, I ask Perroncel, at the end of our interview.

"Why me? Why me?" she says. "It doesn't do me any good to think: why me?"

She pauses.

"Why do you think me?" she asks.

The fact that you wouldn't speak, wouldn't play the tabloid game, I say. The
usual heady mix of misogyny and racism. Plus, I think, there's a celebrity
class division at play here. The non-famous women who fall in love with, or
are associated with, famous men, are automatically objects of suspicion.
Their motives and their morals are questioned; they're considered complicit
in any wrong that's done to them. What else did they expect? They knew what
they were getting into, etc. It's wrong, but it happens.

What next?

"I don't know. Settling up with the newspapers."

You seem like you're on a mission in terms of amassing apologies.

"Ha ha! I am!" 

Are you happy?


Can you imagine being happy again?

"No. But – I hope to be."

Did anything good come from this?


What do you want most, now?

"For my son never to read these stories. For Wayne to know the truth."

Wayne Bridge doesn't believe you?

Perroncel looks terribly sad. "I don't
 you would hope, wouldn't you, that
someone you loved so much would know you better
 I loved him very much. I
still do. I don't want you to go and write that Vanessa Perroncel wants to
get back with Wayne Bridge, but

You do want to get back with him? 

"I can't imagine being with another man and raising our son with him. It's
all a bit

You aren't in another relationship?

She looks at me as if I'm mad. "Nowhere near it."

We say goodbye and I wish her luck.

The problem with sex scandal culture – quite apart from the issues of
privacy and press intrusion and whether or not it's good to feed our
collective appetite for the very sordid – is that it will always propagate a
horrible notion of women. Not just the women who go out with celebrities, or
those who kiss and tell, or those who don't kiss or tell but get caught up
in it anyhow; by extension, all of us. The basic nature of women, each and
every sex scandal suggests, is always this: cynical and money grabbing,
inclined to view their sexuality purely in terms of the financial leverage
it offers, lacking in dignity, open to exploitation, never really anything
more than the adjunct to a man.

I tell a friend about the interview, about how disturbed I am by her
treatment. He listens. He is clever and evolved and not especially bothered
about football, but once I finish speaking he says: "Doesn't she feel guilty
about Terry losing his captaincy?" Kate Garraway asks Perroncel something
similar during a GMTV interview screened the week after I meet her. There is
still, it seems, an overwhelming sense that she has done wrong somehow,
somewhere along the line; that she has committed some crime. We're extremely
attached to that idea as a nation. Yet if anyone should be feeling guilty,
it's probably us.

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