London - At this time of year, usually between the crisp and lush pages of a new autobiography, celebrities do battle to out-confess each other with ever more lurid personal disclosures.
Why? For a start, the Christmas market is coming up fast and competition to get on the best-seller lists is intense.
One of the most dependable ways to ensure that your life story stands out on the shelves is to lard it with a revelation or two that will both shock your fans while also neatly encouraging their sympathy.
My Binge Hell. I Was a Love Rat. My Secret Marriage Woe. You know the sort of thing.
And strangely enough, these headline-grabbing divulgences always tend to follow a trend.
They track unfathomable tectonic shifts deep below the crust of the celebrity world, which somehow finds them all suffering from the same thing at the same time.
The recent fad for ‘I was bullied’ confessions follows on from the bipolar confessions of yesteryear. Those were a departure from the bulimia and assorted eating disorder confessions that were once all the rage; a progression from previously popular alcohol, drug or sex addiction confessions.
And now the new black - certainly the new black market - is for shocking sex-attack revelations.
Over recent weeks and months, we have learnt the following: that Amanda Holden was sexually attacked by a “famous comedian” at a glitzy function when she was still married to Les Dennis; that a 20-year-old Madonna was raped at knifepoint on the roof of a Manhattan building.
That Tulisa Constostavlos was drugged and date raped by someone she considered a friend when she was a teenager.
That Danniella Westbrook was gang-raped during a three-day ordeal in South London. That Katie Price has suffered multiple rapes and sexual assaults, including an attack by at least one celebrity rapist.
There are others too numerous to mention - not to forget Ulrika Jonsson, whose 2002 autobiography Honest was one of the first to prominently and explosively feature such an attack.
In her case, it was a sexual assault at the beginning of her career by a television presenter she did not identify.
Famously, media speculation led to former Blue Peter presenter John Leslie being named as the alleged culprit - although Jonsson, to this day, has refused to confirm or deny it.
Following this revelation, several other women went to the police with accusations relating to indecent assault by Leslie.
During the subsequent court case, all charges against him were dropped - and he was never charged with any offences against Jonsson.
Despite this, Leslie’s name was blackened and his career in showbusiness effectively finished.
Amanda Holden, in her new autobiography No Holding Back, seems to have strayed into the same insidious, murky territory.
Yes, any sex attack is sickening and vile. Yes, any decent person will feel sympathy for her.
But one still has to wonder what her motive is in describing her attacker as a “famous comedian’”and locating the assault at a much-photographed media event within a narrow timeframe in the summer of 2000.
Hinting at his celebrity status only invites, as surely it was intended to do, prurient speculation as to his identity - some of which will undoubtedly fall on the shoulders of innocent men.
Meanwhile we can only assume the guilty party is free to carry on molesting other women unchecked. Then and now.
A more responsible course of action for Holden might have been to go to the police and name him - I’m assuming that did not happen - or entirely refrain from dropping vague but still poisonous clues as to whom he might be.
That doesn’t help anyone or anything - except of course her book sales.
So forgive me for being cynical, understand that I do not minimise the distress and misery of female sex attack victims, appreciate that I view any sex attack against a woman as a matter of the utmost gravity.
However, I do have misgivings about this gathering movement, this stormy front moving in from the west, for female celebrities to suddenly reveal sex attacks that happened to them many years ago; attacks that were never reported to the police or officials.
Attacks that have been kept secret from friends, family and even husbands for a variety of deeply personal reasons. Attacks that are now being lobbed into the public domain, with all the subtlety of a fizzing grenade. To what purpose?
Well, that is the big question. What is the point of revealing such shocking molestations years, even decades, after the event, if the victims have no intention of making a complaint or seeking justice for these crimes?
Perhaps the celebrities feel such confessions help other women, especially those who’ve suffered similar assaults?
There is certainly some merit in that, although my worry is that they encourage the notion that the best course of action for a woman who falls victim to a sexual assault is - in the short-term, at least - to put up and shut up.
Keep it to yourself until you have a safe platform, a book to sell, then use the worst experience of your life as a kind of currency to endear yourself to the public.
How is that supposed to help any woman who has been attacked? If anything, it cheapens their suffering.
Out in the real world, there are ordinary women who have been dragged off the streets and viciously raped, who have suffered terrible indignities and worse at the hands of men.
Yet they have had the courage to go to the police, to endure the ordeal of a trial and to hopefully see the men who have wronged them put behind bars, where they cannot harm any more women.
And since it was launched a year ago, Operation Yewtree has encouraged nearly 600 alleged victims, for better or worse, to make complaints of sexual misconduct, against Jimmy Savile and others.
I can’t help but wonder what all those women - and men - who have come forward feel about the bleats made by our celebrity authors behind the safe and glossy barricade of their hardback books. It is one thing to walk into a police station and name a suspect. It is quite another to merely make a toot on the publicity trumpet, throw it out there, get it off your chest and hope for the best.
That is not to say that the reasons these women have for finally going public with their ordeals are entirely worthless.
The motivations for doing so are often difficult and complicated. And they are different in every case.
Amanda Holden kept her attack secret even from her then husband Les Dennis - why? Because she was afraid he would make a scene. “Only when I confided in a family member did I realise it was sexual assault,” she writes.
The incident happened when she was trying to reconcile with Dennis following her brief affair with Men Behaving Badly star Neil Morrissey. This had ended, with much public opprobrium, a few weeks earlier.
Holden writes in No Holding Back: “During our first tentative weeks at trying again, we went to an event together and on my way back from the loo I was cornered by a famous comedian, who tried to kiss me and put his hands in places they shouldn’t have been.
“I was scared and tried to push him away, making light of it so he would leave without causing a fuss, but he wasn’t put off.
“As I tried to fight him off, I caught sight of our reflection in a mirror. My body went limp, and I just stood there as he groped and nuzzled me, observing myself from afar.”
Now married to music producer Chris Hughes, the Britain’s Got Talent judge said the attack left her feeling “cheap and utterly worthless.” It would take a hard heart not to feel her pain.
Certainly many women, particularly those who wrongly blame themselves for their ordeals, will understand Holden’s complex undertow of emotions and self-recrimination.
Four years ago Katie Price, the multi-volumed queen of the confessional autobiography, wrote in her magazine column about a celebrity who had raped her, leading to the usual speculations.
She then let the alleged attacker’s name slip off-camera during the filming of her ITV2 reality show What Katie Did Next.
What Katie Didn’t Do next, at any time, was to report her attacker. She even refused to make a statement to police following her revelations.
Should she be blamed for that? It is a grey area. Many thousands of women have been sexually assaulted and never say a word about it.
In many instances, they suspect they would not be believed.
Perhaps they in some way blame themselves for allowing the bad situation to arise and feel they should have done more to try to control it.
In many cases, women simply cannot face the ordeal of being dragged through the courts - an entirely understandable reaction.
Yet despite this, for celebrities and non-celebrities alike, the experience can burn into their souls for years.
Perhaps there is comfort to be had in the knowledge for victims that other women, other famous women in particular, have suffered in the same way.
However, the danger is that female stars divulging such attacks years after the event, sandwiched between cheery chapters on family and meeting Simon Cowell, can actually do more harm than good.
It might boost their book sales and enhance their noble suffering.
But it does suggest that violence against women is something to be endured, to be shrugged off, to be kept a terrible secret and swept under the carpet - until it has a commercial value that can be cashed in. - Daily Mail