Emma Cowing: This little student went to market …and will cry all the way home

FIRST, a confession: I no longer have any idea what the word feminist means. Furthermore, I do not know what it means to be a feminist, whether I am one, and if so, if there's some sort of ointment I should be using.

The reason for my confusion centres upon a 22-year-old student from San Diego called Natalie Dylan. Natalie thinks she is a feminist. She also thinks she is smart, empowered and incredibly business savvy. Why does she think all this? Because she is selling her virginity on the internet to the highest bidder in order to pay her way through college.

The auction is taking place, after a wise rejection by eBay, on the website of the Bunny Ranch, a legal brothel in Nevada. Apparently, Natalie's sister Avia worked there as a prostitute for a few weeks to earn money for her degree, "attracted a lot of clients and made several thousands dollars". So that's all right, then.

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"I am not being sold into this, I'm not being taken advantage of in any way," says Natalie. "Me and the person I do it with will both profit greatly from the deal." (And, hopefully, shoehorn some lessons in grammar.)

Certainly profit seems to be the order of the day. Bids, having started at a modest $200,000 (135,000), have soared to 2.5 million. More than paying her way through college, where, with glorious irony, she is studying for a masters degree in family therapy and marriage counselling, Natalie may never have to work again in her life.

Still, it's one hell of a first job. The hours are bad, the customer demanding and there's also a very strong chance you'll lose that very thing you try to walk into work with every day – what is it again? Oh yes, self-respect.

And that's just the start of it. Aged 22, I'm not sure Natalie has considered the possibility that men will never truly respect her again. After all, she'll always be the girl who sold her body for cash on a brothel website and bragged about how clever she thought it was. Sure, men will want to sleep with her, but has she thought about why? Fame by association, amusement, a good story in the bar the next night? Undoubtedly it will be because they see her as an object – after all, she must think she is too, if she sells herself on the internet.

But all that is nothing compared to the judgment of the person Natalie will have to face in the mirror every day for the rest of her life. What might seem like a good idea now when there are a few bills unpaid and nights out with the girls to be had is the sort of thing that can eat away at your very core for life. Selling yourself to a stranger and renting your body out for pocket money are the actions of a woman with no respect for herself, her body or her future.

If that's being a feminist, count me out.

Let's keep outrage over Harry's comment in context

IT HAS never taken much persuasion to convince me that Prince Harry is a bit of an idiot. He's cute, yes, but not the sharpest tool in the box.

That said, I do not think for one second that he is racist. Nor do I think that many of the politicians who have been queuing up to berate him think that either. They just think it's the right thing to do. The term 'Paki' is no longer accepted in our society. This is a good thing. It shows our progress as a nation in becoming a multi-cultural country. But there is such a thing as context, and in the context of the British army, where Scottish soldiers are Jocks, Irish soldiers are Micks and female soldiers are often named Princess, it does not have the same resonance.

Anyone who has seen the video of Prince Harry can see that he uses the term with affection and is talking about a friend. That there has been such outrage is a positive reflection of our changing attitudes, but in this case it is unwarranted.

MOVE OVER, Kenneth Branagh. Your role as

Britain's No1 luvvie has just come to an end. Kate

Winslet's performance at the Golden Globes was,

in every sense of the word, astounding. OK, she

won two awards but honestly, you'd have thought

she had found a cure for Alzheimer's, or scooped

the Nobel Peace Prize, or met Barack Obama (I

would totally do the hyperventilating thing,

wouldn't you?). Winslet has always prided herself

on being a down-to-earth Brit whose head has

never been turned by Hollywood fame. Now,

though, she has proved herself guilty of

something much worse – luvviedom. Calm down,

dear. It's only an award.

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