In the Aftermath of the Presidents Club Party

On BBC this morning I caught the end of an interview with a vaguely attractive young British woman who was struggling to make a coherent point and seemed to be rambling. This might be because she was unused to doing live TV performances, or it might be because she was a bit dim, I don’t know. From what I could gather she was one of the hostesses working at the now-infamous Presidents Club dinner, or had worked at similar events, and was rather upset by what had happened to her.

So straight up, I have some sympathy. I don’t believe this girl was lying or hamming it up for the camera, I think she was genuinely upset at something and wanted things to change. Where I suspect we differ is what we would like to see changed.

I confess I’ve not delved too deeply into the story, but amid all the outrage there seems to be a distinct lack of actual complainants. I understand that the journalists who broke the story for the FT identified one girl, but the outrage seems to be coming almost exclusively from people who weren’t there. This ought to tell us something, which I’ll get to later.

For now, let’s focus on what people are complaining about. A bunch of rich men attend a dinner where they grope and sexually harass the women serving the food and drinks. There is nothing wrong with this per se, provided the women knew in advance what behaviour to expect (and acquiesce to), and they were paid the money they’d agreed to. The company doing the organising could have easily hired a bunch of out-and-out prostitutes who the men could shag silly all night, or they could have hired a bunch of nuns with wooden rulers to ensure the men didn’t do so much as tell a dirty joke. They’re the two extremes; what they actually tried to do was something in the middle.

They put on an event where some degree of sexual harassment was permissible – flirting, suggestive comments, ass-grabbing, etc. – but not sexual assault. (The difference between one and the other was quite obvious for generations, until recently when placing a hand upon a woman’s knee became synonymous with full-on gang rape. Thanks, feminists.) What should have happened is the people employing the women make it very clear to them what they are expected to put up with, and where behaviours cross the line and they have grounds to complain. The organisers of the function should in parallel have made it very clear to the attendees what behaviours were allowed and what were not. This, after all, is how any strip club works and the rules are so universally well-known they’ve become a cliché. If there is so much as one complaint from any of the women, this should be investigated properly and, if their complaint is valid, somebody ought to be disciplined. This really isn’t difficult.

So did the women get fair warning? I don’t know. Yes, they were told which knickers to wear, which suggests this wasn’t an ordinary party, and I suspect most of the women knew full well what would happen, but I’d not be surprised if this was not spelled out as well as it should have been and someone a bit slow on the uptake got an unpleasant surprise. I’m not prepared to dismiss a woman’s complaint as coming from a feminist harpy on the make, not if she was there wearing the clothes and being groped in person. The organisers could have ensured there were no nasty surprises by explaining things more clearly, or hiring actual sex-workers, but the former requires principled managers and the latter requires spending money. I can’t imagine those who run such businesses specialise in either.

What I don’t agree with is the ludicrous levels of moral posturing in the aftermath of this article. Nowhere amid all the wailing and gnashing of teeth is an acknowledgement that the women who worked that party had any agency whatsoever: according to the feminists now beating the anti-male drums, they were all poor, exploited women who thought they were turning up to a kids’ birthday party only to be sexually assaulted by a bunch of old, white men in dinner suits. A brief Google search one shouldn’t perform at work would tell you that London is absolutely chock-full of highly attractive Eastern European and other foreign women willing to do pretty much anything for a few hundred quid. They’ll even be a few Brits in there too. Unless we’re willing to believe the bullshit spouted by women’s groups and Theresa May that they are trafficked and there exists a thriving, multi-million pound market for men raping emaciated, weeping prisoners chained to beds, these women in the adverts are working of their own free will.

So who’s to say that none of the women at the Presidents Club dinner were also working of their own free will, and happy with the terms and conditions? I can imagine there is no shortage of women in London willing to earn a little extra cash for listening to lewd remarks and having their asses grabbed. The only question is how much extra cash and whether the women are well-informed in advance that sexual harassment will be on the menu.

But we’re back to the contradiction I mentioned yesterday: one minute feminists are telling us modern women are tough, strong, and independent and should be free to engage in one-night stands, orgies, polyamory, and any manner of other supposedly empowering acts of promiscuity; but at the same time they’re clutching their pearls because some women they’ve never met are working in a manner they believe is demeaning. By launching such moral crusades in a manner their Victorian ancestors would have endorsed, they are denying these women any agency whatsoever.

Of course, we already know the reason for this contradiction. Modern feminism is a political movement aimed at maximising the sexual capacity of women while eliminating it for men. Any woman who bucks the trend by cooperating with men in their quest for sexual gratification on mutually agreed terms – as opposed to the ever-changing terms of the woman only – is therefore deemed a problem, and their agency must be denied if they are to continue to demonise men.

There might have been problems with what went on at the Presidents Club, but they are not the ones being talked about. Those foaming at the mouth while attempting to reshape society on the basis of non-existent problems ought to be mocked or ignored.


Monday Morning Funny

Anon in the comments remarks:

I thought your narrator was dating a divorcee.

In which case her being a virgin would surely set off far more alarm bells than it would silence.

Which reminds me of a joke.

A man and woman meet, fall in love, and get married. On the wedding night the man places his new bride on the bed whereupon she says, “Please be gentle with me, for I am still a virgin.”

The man looks at her in surprise and says, “But how? You’ve been married three times before.”

The woman wipes away a small tear and says, “Ah, but it’s a sad story. You see, my first husband was a psychologist; all he wanted to do was talk about it. My second husband was a gynecologist; all he wanted to do was look at it. My third husband was a stamp-collector … oh, how I miss him!”


Inside the Mind of a Polyamorous Woman

Oh look, another puff-piece on polyamory, this time from The Guardian:

It was the hardest thing I’d ever had to say to my husband, Marc. Three years ago, I sat down and told him: “The idea of having sex just with you for the next 40 years – I can’t do it any more.” But I had come to realise that my life was built around something I didn’t believe in: monogamy.

We had been together for 12 years and had two children, now nine and seven.

Can you imagine a guy saying this to the mother of his children? Well, actually I can, it does happen, often following an assignment to Russia or a golf trip to Thailand, but such stories rarely get featured in The Guardian.

I love being a mother and I set the bar high from the start – cloth nappies and cooking from scratch. But I needed something more in my emotional and sexual life.

Oh, so it’s all about you. Got it.

Marc’s reaction was remarkable; he agreed to support me and open our marriage to other partners, although it wasn’t really what he wanted.

Perhaps he was concerned you would initiate a divorce leaving him penniless, homeless, and unable to see much of his children? At the end of this piece, Marc gets his say:

I did a lot of reading around the subject of ethical non-monogamy. It makes a lot of sense intellectually, but it doesn’t resonate with me emotionally. It didn’t feel right. I was prepared for our marriage to continue, with me being monogamous and Anita having other partners, but that proved more difficult than we envisaged.

So he dreaded the prospect and found it was even harder than he imagined? This I can believe. Why is his wife putting him through this, exactly? Oh, we know already: she doesn’t give a shit about anyone other than herself. As she says:

Sex is a big part of a relationship, but it is only a part. We didn’t want it to scupper us.

The only thing I can see scuppering this relationship is her sense of entitlement.

I quickly embraced the dating scene and discovered another side of my sexual self.

I’ll leave my readers to guess what she means by that.

I think most people’s reaction was that Marc should have kicked me out.

If the divorce laws weren’t so stacked against him, I suspect he’d have done just that.

People who choose to be polyamorous often do so after delving deep into themselves and their desires, so it runs close to the kink scene, which was also something I wanted to explore. There’s a temptation to think that, had Marc and I explored these things together, our marriage might have worked without opening it up. I’m not sure that it would have, though, given that he wasn’t into it. It can seem quite intimidating, but I was so ready for it. The first time I went to a fetish club, I felt like I was at home – that I’d found my people.

I can’t help thinking people ought to work all this stuff out before they get married and have kids.

I now have a partner of two years, Andrea.

Oh, she’s hooked up with a swarthy foreigner. How original.

We work as a couple, but we also have sex with friends. He’s the only partner I have introduced to my children. I love Andrea and I’m very lucky to have him, but I don’t want to live with him – we both value our solitude too much. He and I can flirt with other people and ask for their number, but I still feel jealous sometimes. He went away with another woman and, yes, it was difficult.

My research on polyamorous people has led me to believe they engage in the practice to address issues which might better be dealt with in other ways. The above paragraph doesn’t do much to convince me I’m wrong on this.

Meanwhile, Marc and I realised we were no longer compatible. I had changed too much. We still share the family home and parent our children together. We still get on. We have counselling together, we spend Christmas together – we are still reading and learning as we used to. We wanted to keep all the bits that worked.

I suspect in reality this woman has told her husband they are no longer compatible, and “the bits that worked” are those that she relies on him to pay for.

We have had to learn so much about communicating better, and I think the children have benefited from that. We have explained that Dad needs one person to be with and Mum needs more people to make her happy. The talk is ongoing; we won’t wait to sit them down when they are teenagers, expecting them suddenly to get it.

And if they don’t? Well, who cares? Let’s see how they turn out after spending their teenage years with their mother chasing multiple lovers around.

You can craft your own polyamory, but I’m not sure I would want more than two or three other partners. I’m hoping two people I met recently will become lovers, but there’s no rush. People assume that I’m constantly having sex, but it’s not as simple as that. I want an emotional and mental connection with someone, so it takes time to build up to that.

But it is, mostly, about sex.

Monogamy, meanwhile, feels more like a competition where you need to bag someone before anyone else does. None of that applies in a poly setup, which is incredibly liberating.

There’s no doubt being free to fuck around as much as you please is liberating; the problem is in doing so you lose the benefits of a monogamous relationship. It’s a trade off, and one that most people figure out in their mid-twenties.

Think how strange it would be to have only one friend. You can’t get everything from one platonic relationship. Why would you try with one lover?

The few hundreds of millions of people who do just that might argue certain benefits come from a monogamous relationship, and trying to “get everything” is a fool’s errand. But what would they know?

On top of that, the amount of work involved in maintaining multiple relationships, sexual and platonic, is huge.

I’m sure none of this will impact the care and attention she gives to her kids.

Andrea and I look to the future, but there are no expectations.

I imagine Andrea made that point very clear from the outset.

I don’t see myself sitting on a park bench at 80 with one other person.

Oh, nor do I. I imagine you’ll be very much alone.

We seem to want a silver bullet for everything.

Says the woman who thinks polyamory is the answer to what looks like normal marriage blues combined with quite staggering selfishness on her part.

Appetite, a novel by Anita Cassidy, is published by RedDoor at £8.99.

Oh, this woman has a book on polyamory to flog? As it happens, so do I. Do you think The Guardian will run a puff-piece on my novel?


Another Profile of a Modern American Woman

This story appears in the New York Times:

I was 37, single, unemployed and depressed because in a couple of months I was going to be moving out of my studio apartment on East 23rd Street in Manhattan and in with my mother in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Since taking a buyout at my Wall Street firm, I had devoted myself to two activities: searching for a new job and working out. And I spent a lot of time in my apartment.

One day historians will come up with a term for the cohort of women who thought Sex and the City was a documentary providing lifestyle advice.

My 23rd Street building was near three colleges. When I signed the lease, I didn’t realize the place had so many student renters, people who understandably liked to party. Yet it was the least social time in my life. Most of my friends were married. I had no income, and rent was almost $3,000 a month. I wasn’t dating because I hadn’t figured out how to positively spin my unemployment story.

That’s why you weren’t dating? Uh-huh. Sure.

One afternoon in the elevator, I saw one of the guys from next door in jeans and a T-shirt, his dark hair slightly receding.

“How old are you guys?” I said. “Like, 23?”

“Yeah, well, I’m 23,” he said.

“I’m 37. So I hope you get a younger neighbor the next go-round.”

“I never would have guessed 37,” he said. “I thought you were, like, 26.”

Was he sweet-talking me? I looked the same age as my friends, but maybe the dormlike context had fooled him.

37-year old doesn’t know when a young shitlord is dishing out flattering comments about her age in order to see if she’d be up for a shag. Later, we’ll find out this woman worked in HR and has a Masters in Psychology.

Two weeks later, my friend Diana and I were sitting at a nearby bar, drinking vodka sodas and looking at her Tinder app, when my 23-year-old neighbor popped up.

“Swipe right!” I said. “Tell him you’re out with me.”

She swiped, they matched, and she told him I was with her. I followed up with a text, proud to be out on a Saturday night. Here was proof that I, too, was fun.

Growing old is compulsory. Growing old with dignity is very much optional.

We messaged back and forth; he was on his way home. When I asked if he wanted to join us back at my apartment, he said yes.

I bet he did.

Twenty minutes later Diana and I arrived, and he showed up with a bottle of vodka and cans of Diet Coke.

Some women get given flowers.

Soon he was laughing, saying, “My roommates can’t stand you. And I was always so confused why a 26-year-old was upset about our parties. I thought you were just an old soul.”

As if a 26-year old working in New York doesn’t need to get their head down at night.

Diana and I danced to “Jump” by the Pointer Sisters, a song he didn’t recognize. Before Diana left at 4 a.m., she whispered to me, “He likes you. Hook up.”

Ah, where would women be without the advice of their best friend?

I offered a hushed protest, insisting he was too young. But apparently the neighborly tension had been building, because he and I started kissing right after she left.

When we woke up, hung over, a few hours later, I begged him not to tell his roommates. My transformation from puritanical noise warden to Mrs. Robinson embarrassed me; my dulled brain screamed, “What just happened?”

But I won’t lie: It was also an ego boost. I may not have had a job, a husband or a boyfriend, but at least I could attract an adorable 23-year-old.

Doesn’t take much to boost the ego of a woman pushing forty in New York, does it? Flatter her by lying about her age, match with her mate on Tinder, then turn up at her door with a bottle of vodka. Frankly, most women who aren’t utterly hideous could attract a 23-year old, even an adorable one. What is more difficult is encouraging them to stick around afterwards.

Over the next few weeks, we texted constantly and kept getting together to talk about our dating and employment searches and to fool around. When I asked him if I seemed older, he said, “Not really. Mostly because you aren’t working and you’re around all of the time.”

Not only did she believe him, she recounted it in the New York Times.

I said: “When I graduated high school, you were 4.”

Okay, so…

With him, my usual romantic anxiety disappeared. Instead of projecting my insecurities onto him…

By, for instance, constantly bringing up the age gap?

…and wondering if I was enough, I just had fun because I knew our age gap made a future impossible. And I was moving out soon.

Not that my mind was entirely free of concerns. I worried people would think we were ridiculous. But when I told my coupled-up girlfriends, they said I was living a fantasy.

The first paragraph is rather inconsistent with the first. Was she really having fun, or pouring out her anxiety to everyone she met?

“At least you’re having fun,” a soon-to-be-divorced friend said. “None of us are. I didn’t even want to touch my husband at the end.”

Can we hear from the husband?

Even so, the chasm between my new friend and me was no more glaring than when he said, “Dating is fun. I get to meet lots of people.”

Here’s a tip, ladies: trawling through Tinder looking for a shag is a lot more fun for a 23-year old man than a 37-year old woman.

Dating, for me, was about as fun as my job search. And that was because I approached both in almost exactly the same way: with a strategy, spreadsheets and a lot of anxiety about presenting my best self and hiding my weaknesses.

Including a 277 bullet-point list of requirements every partner must satisfy.

Our honest exchange was so refreshing. Dates my age disguised their fears with arrogance. Within an hour of meeting me, one had boasted about the amount of sex he’d had, and another, on our second date, gave me a heads-up that his large size had caused many of his relationships to end. How considerate of him to warn me!

This is a useful illustration of the dating pool which 37-year old New York women can expect to swim around in. What, there’s no Mr Big in his limousine?

With appropriate romantic prospects, I had been overly polished and protective. Just like the men, I spun stories broadcasting fake confidence.

Those with genuine confidence got their lives in order a decade previously.

But I confided in my neighbor about how hard the year had been and how worried I was about finding a job and a man to love.

Can we check with Manhattan hospitals whether a 23-year old male was admitted over the past year having gnawed off his own arm and survived a three-storey jump from a window?

With nothing at stake, I was charmingly vulnerable.

Or, more accurately, desperate.

One evening as we cuddled in my apartment, with me droning on about my man troubles and career fears, he said, “We get so fixated on the job we want or the person we’re dating because we don’t think there will be another. But there’s always another.”

Sounds as though he had one lined up already.

I thought that was so true. Even wise. But it’s easier to have that attitude, about jobs or love, at 23 than at 37.

I suspect the reason you’re in this predicament at 37 is because you blithely assumed “there will always be another” when you were in your 20s. Wise? Hardly.

Then one night I came home a little too drunk…

Such larks! Only she’s 37 and miserably single. Any idea why?

…and encountered him in the hallway. He was the one who almost always decided when we would hang out, and I complained it wasn’t fair that everything seemed to be on his terms. I was pressuring him, reverting to my worst dating default behavior, and he fled into his apartment.

I’d love to hear the conversation that transpired with his mates after this.

The next day he texted: “maybe we should chill with this. you’ve been a good friend … we complicated it a little though haha.”

This is what’s known as being dumped. By text. How’s that ego holding up?

I knew “haha” was just his millennial way of keeping it light, but here’s the thing: In our “light” relationship, I had let myself be fully known, revealing all of my imperfections, in a way I normally didn’t. With him I was my true self, and it was a revelation.

Is that how you’re gonna spin it? Okay, but recall that the woman who shagged her way around Europe ended her article by saying how much she’d learned from each one-night stand and how it taught her she didn’t need a partner to be happy. I’m about as convinced this time around.

And a conundrum. Because I can’t seem to be my true self when I’m seriously looking for love, when all I’m thinking about is the future. To win the person (or the job, for that matter), we think we have to be the most perfect version of ourselves. When our hearts are on the line, vulnerability can feel impossible.

No wonder sonny-boy scarpered and locked himself in his flat if this is what he had to listen to after each sweaty, drink-fuelled romp. I expect he’s using the fire escape for general egress these days.

I followed up this article by doing some research on the author, and her career history is illuminating:

– English Degree

– Masters in Clinical Psychology

– 5 years in HR, holding onto a position for a maximum of 2 years and 5 months

– 4 years Vice President Equities COO, including “Led projects in business strategy, communications, morale building, hiring, placement, and training”

In short, she’s an HR power-skirt who hopped from one job to another and somehow ended up as a VP in Equities leading projects in business strategy at a major bank. One can imagine what the real bankers thought of her elevation to this post.

What’s amusing, at least to me, is that the car-crash of an article coupled with her career history ticks just about every stereotype I can think of. All that’s missing is a few more years and a bunch of cats.


But he doesn’t look the type!

After reading my post about Lindsay Shepherd, my research assistant (the small one) said something to the effect of:

“Those guys look like complete weirdos! The one on the left looks like the sort of person who appears in your posts on polyamory!”

She is referring to Nathan Rambukkana, Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University:

Let’s take a look at his biography:

My book, Fraught Intimacies: Non/Monogamy in the Public Sphere (UBC Press, 2015) explores the increased mediation of non-monogamies since the early nineties—in every medium from television, to film, to self-help books, to the Internet—and how such convergent mediation opens these discourses up to societal scrutiny, as well as transformation. By exploring the privileged logics that frame our conceptions of intimacy, I explore the political and cultural implications of how we frame non-monogamy broadly in sexual discourse, as well as how the public sphere presences of three major forms of non-monogamy (adultery, polygamy and polyamory) display a complex relationship with “intimate privilege,” an emergent state in which one’s intimacies are read as viable, ethical or even real.

Now there’s a surprise, eh? If the media wants us to buy the line that polyamory is now mainstream, we’re going to have to overlook the fact that most people involved with it are complete weirdos and many of them have serious issues which urgently need addressing.


Polyamorists of Yore

Well, whaddya know? Another article – this time in The Guardian – telling us how perfectly normal and mainstream polyamory is (thanks to my research assistant for pointing me towards it. No, not that one. Nor the other one. This one is, erm, heavier.)

How movies brought polyamory into the mainstream

Why, it’s so mainstream you get a free extra partner with every third box of washing powder!

Non-monogamous relationships used to be portrayed as disastrous in film.

Thank goodness for audiences’ ability to suspend belief, eh?

Last week, a very different period drama hit cinemas. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women concerns a real-life love story between a professor and his academic wife – and their teaching student, Olive. From the late 1920s onwards, they begin sharing a workplace, a bed, a home and eventually a family.

Angela Robinson’s biopic of the creator of Wonder Woman, American psychologist William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), may be the most positive depiction of polyamory – the state of being in love with more than one person – in mainstream film to date. It posits that the comic-book superheroine was inspired by a happy, long-term union between the feminist Marston, his brilliant, acerbic wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and bright young student Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), as well as their dalliances with S&M, a theme that worked its way into the comics. Despite the controversy the latter caused at the time, it is an accessible, occasionally moving film that treats the three-way relationship much like a typical movie coupling. This makes it decidedly atypical in the history of cinema.

Now I’ve had a brief look at the story behind this chap and his two lovers and unless what I could find online has been sanitised, it seems the three of them made a proper go of it. Well, good for them. I’ve never said polyamory can’t work, I’ve just said that it is very unusual and most examples I’ve heard of are based mainly in sex/shagging around and end in disaster after a very short time. In fact, I think it’s telling that in order to make a film about a polyamorous relationship that didn’t end in disaster they’ve had to go all the way back to 1930 to find an example of one. If this was so mainstream one would have thought they’d have used a more modern example – or not bothered to make a film of it at all.

Also, none of the accounts I have read of this particular case indicated there was any sex going on outside the trio, i.e. it was a locked-down version of polyamory. Most other accounts involved one or more of the partner being free to go off and have sex with someone else, provided the ground rules are followed (and they’re often not), which isn’t quite the same thing. The relationship depicted in this film seems to differ from contemporary accounts of polyamory by virtue of it not, at least on the surface, being centred wholly around sex and shagging around.

This line in the article amuses me somewhat:

It posits that the comic-book superheroine was inspired by a happy, long-term union between the feminist Marston, his brilliant, acerbic wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and bright young student Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), as well as their dalliances with S&M, a theme that worked its way into the comics.

An alpha-male with a wife and a mistress who are into threesomes and S&M is a feminist, is he? Wikipedia goes further:

Marston had 2 children each with both his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston and his live-in mistress Olive Byrne. Elizabeth supported the family financially while Byrne stayed home to take care of all four children. Both Olive and Elizabeth “embodied the feminism of the day.”

Now I have no reason to think this Marston chap was a bad ‘un, and his women appear to be happy with the arrangement so good for all three of them. But two women agreeing to be part of a harem is an embodiment of feminism? Are the multiple wives of Mormons feminists too?

In my previous post I wrote about how modern-day feminists seem happy to let all sorts of weirdos and scumbags into their circles provided they are on-message with the latest progressive pronouncements. We can add to that a bizarre habit of calling anyone a feminist if their lifestyle meets with their approval. No wonder so many of them come across as barking mad.


The Feminists who Enable Sex-Pests

I’ve written before about my theory that many feminists take a dim view of men because those they choose to associate with are low-grade scumbags. Only recently we had a woman saying that all men were sex-pests and a few minutes later labelling men who weren’t sex-pests as “boring”, and I have written several posts on how Laurie Penny’s views of men tell us more about who she befriends than it does about men in general. Just in case one or two of you were thinking this theory doesn’t hold water, let me share this tweet from Laurie herself:

Now there’s a surprise, eh? But let’s just bask in the irony of someone who befriends and partners-up with a serial rapist presuming to lecture the world on the dangers of men and The Patriarchy.

So did our gal know what was going on? Did she cover for him? Alas, we don’t know and she isn’t saying:

Frankly, I’mm not surprised in the least that at least one of Laurie’s friends have turned out to be a rapist. She already told us this:

So, I’ve got this friend with a shady past. He’s a clever and conscientious person who grew up in the patriarchy, and he knows that he’s done things which may not have been criminal but have hurt people, and by people he means women. My friend has hurt women, and he doesn’t know what to do about that now, and from time to time we talk about it. That’s how it happened that, a few weeks ago, halfway through an effervescent confession in a coffee shop, the following words came out of his mouth: “Technically, I don’t think I’ve raped anyone.”

And as I said about another former friend of hers:

Why do I get the impression that this individual is not half as normal and decent as Penny is letting us believe. At a guess, I would say he is a slimy fucker of the first water who hangs around lefty circles hoping to get into the knickers of women, usually much younger and with low self-esteem and few morals, throwing out leftist and feminist platitudes to get himself accepted with no further scrutiny. Penny, at nineteen years of age, ought to have stayed well away from him even if she didn’t think he was a rapist.

For a self-declared feminist warrior who pops up in the national media to denounce misogyny and demonise men in general, she seems to befriend an awful lot of rapists and serial abusers. But as I say in the paragraph above, these types will gravitate towards people like her. Consider this tweet I read today:

Erika makes a good point. Abusive people deliberately target dysfunctional communities – such as hardcore leftists and polyamorists – knowing they won’t be turfed out on their ear. Instead, by spouting the right political platitudes, they’ll be liked and respected and can count on the support of the rest of the group if anyone lodges a complaint against them.

All of this is obvious, none of it should be a surprise. It seems a lot of these people complaining about sexually-abusive men are enabling and protecting them. For now I’ll charitably assume they are doing so unwittingly.


Al Franken is an arse, but he shouldn’t resign over this photo

Earlier this week, a judge by the name of Roy Moore stood accused of sexually assaulting a teenage woman in Alabama, the state for which he will shortly run for senator as a Republican. The accusations date back decades meaning we’re never going to find out what happened, but the guy comes across as a slimy bastard at best: he did an interview with Sean Hannity which only served to make him look shiftier, and the comments from his lawyer can’t have helped much. If he had any sense he’d withdraw from the race, and Republicans would back someone less dodgy.

The trouble is, Moore has become the trench in which many Republicans have selected to fight what they see as Democrat hypocrisy, particularly over Bill Clinton. Why should Moore resign over ancient, unproven allegations of sexual assault when the Democrats defended Slick Willie for decades and still wheel him out at fundraisers and election campaigns? The Republicans have a good point, but defending Moore is an odd way to go about it: certainly, I’d not want to be among those defending him. Innocent until proven guilty is an important principle to uphold when dispensing justice, but I am happy to accept a lower burden of proof when someone is merely running for office.

But things took a stupid turn yesterday when former comedian and Democrat senator Al Franken was accused of forcibly kissing and groping a model by the name of Leeann Tweeden when they visited Iraq in 2006. A picture has emerged of Franken allegedly groping Tweeden as she sleeps:

This photo – taken by Franken’s brother – is being held up as being proof of Tweeden’s allegations and a lot of people are now calling for his resignation. The way things are going, they’ll probably get their way.

Now I really don’t like Franken. I didn’t know of him until I saw him question Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court pick, during his nomination hearings and he came across as a deeply ignorant partisan fool. If he resigns it’s hard to see how American politics would be worse off, but to do so on the basis of that photo is stupid. Now it’s clear Franken is an idiot and taking photos like that is not the wisest thing to do. But it was before he was a senator at a time when he was a comedian, or what passes for one these days, and it was obviously meant as a joke. Tweeden is asleep but wearing a flak jacket, and it’s not even clear that Franken’s hands are touching it. It is humiliating for Tweeden, and Franken should have been given a bollocking for it, and perhaps Tweeden’s claim that he forcibly kissed her should be taken more seriously – but to say this photo is proof of sexual assault on the same level as that which Moore is accused of is absolute nonsense.

It’s probably been a long time coming, but America is in the middle of a moral panic over sexual assaults both real and imagined. Unable to deal with it sensibly, everyone is just digging political trenches and lobbing hand-grenades at the other side when this ought to have nothing to do with politics at all. Unfortunately, everything is about politics these days and as such we’re being subject to ever-more bizarre displays of political posturing. The worrying thing is I don’t think we’re anywhere close to rock-bottom yet, and moral panics rarely end well.


Who knew what?

Via Twitter I came across an astonishing quote from one Bernard Godard, who served as an expert on Islam in the French ministry of interior between 2007-14. His remarks were made in relation to the recent allegations against Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss scholar specialising in Islam who from what I can tell gets wheeled out frequently for commentary and blessed with cushy positions in institutes of higher learning such as Oxford University. Apparently Mr Ramadan is now being accused of raping minors, which seems to be quite a regular occurrence among mildly famous people these days. But what is extraordinary is the statement of M. Godard, who obviously knew Mr Ramadan well (emphasis mine):

“That he had many mistresses, that he consulted sites, that girls were brought to the hotel at the end of his lectures, that he invited them to undress, that some resisted and that he could become violent and aggressive, yes, but I have never heard of rapes, I am stunned,” he told French magazine L’Obs.

Right, so a pal of yours is known for inviting girls to his hotel room, demanding they undress, and getting violent and aggressive if they resist but when you’re informed of rape allegations you’re “stunned”? Look, I know the French have a rather odd interpretation of what constitutes sexual assault if the man in question is a well-connected older man (see Dominic Strauss-Khan for example), but does this Godard really think everyone’s that stupid? If the British government is being rattled by allegations of inappropriate knee-touching fifteen years ago, Lord knows what we’re going to uncover if the French lift the blanket on the behaviour of their politicians.

I was thinking about all this the other night, and cast my mind back to Hollywood and Harvey Weinstein. Entry into Hollywood is difficult and one doesn’t just arrive and immediately get invited to Weinstein’s hotel room for an audition; there is a process and it takes time. For a lot of people, that will involve turning up and touting around for roles as an extra just to get you on set, building up to a minor walk-on role perhaps with a few lines of dialogue. For others, family connections get them onto a set and shoved up the ladder a bit quicker. Unless I’m missing something, this lifestyle will involve little other than talking to agents, socialising, putting yourself about, and spending hour after hour hanging around either on set or off it with other wannabe actors and actresses in just the same situation as you. You’ll also be surrounded by thousands of other studio workers, e.g. electricians, make-up artists, wardrobe assistants, etc. many of whom will also be working hard on their careers.

Apparently we’re supposed to believe that none of these people engage in gossip or, when a greenhorn arrives in their patch, they spell out how things work and what’s expected of them. If the celebrity stories are to be believed, they navigated the lower rungs of Hollywood for years without getting a single whiff of how it worked, and only at the moment Weinstein jacked off into a potted plant did it all become clear. Right.

Regardless of the industry, newcomers are almost always subject to being pulled aside on day one and educated by the experienced hands as to how things work. Half the time they’re making sure a potential rival doesn’t get above their station, but the other half they’re just engaging in natural paternal or maternal behaviour mixed with the fun of gossiping about people. Anyone arriving on the periphery of Hollywood would have learned very quickly how things work closer to the core. Rumours would abound as to why actress X got that role in film Y shortly after she met with producer Z, and a young aspiring actress would soon learn what was expected of her sooner or later. Some would quit the industry, some would choose to hang around on the periphery or take a less-prominent role which didn’t require the same compromises, but others would choose to press on anyway. This is fair enough, but I find it extremely hard to believe any actor or actress did so without having received dozens of warnings, listened to hundreds of stories, and heard a thousand rumours.

Is this any different in politics? Are those who hang around on the periphery not pulled aside and subject not only to endless dark warnings about how they should behave, but also about the nature and characteristics of the powerful men and women who control the hierarchy? Of course they are. Stuff a tenth as juicy as this becomes office gossip in every organisation, it simply isn’t possible to keep serial debauchery, harassment, sexual assault, or rape under wraps and out of the rumour mill. Every organisation has a load of people who absolutely live for this kind of thing, and they make sure whatever goes on is common, if unconfirmed, knowledge. Exaggerated and embellished of course, but usually based in some sort of truth.

What I feel is getting left out of the “everyone knew” narrative is that this is probably true of the victims, too. Who in their right mind would go to a hotel room of an old creep like Tariq Ramadan or Harvey Weinstein other than to sleep with them? Or did these young women proceed anyway, perhaps thinking they possessed some rare special talent that would mean the meeting would be strictly professional? I could easily believe half of them were dim enough to think that, but the rest? They probably knew damned well what they were getting into.

The minors though, that’s different. My guess is guys who prey on people less powerful than themselves get a kick out of it, and once they’ve been through several dozen willing adults it starts getting boring and they move onto something more edgy. One thing’s for sure, celebrities wrapped up in sexual assault allegations or kiddy-fiddling allegations seem to have an abundance of willing, adult partners on-tap so it’s not driven by frustration. That’s probably reason enough for an organisation to nip this sort of behaviour in the bud as soon as the management hear about it; sure, the university administrations probably thought it was a right giggle that Ramadan used to bed the prettiest girls from the audience immediately after his lectures, but they probably find it less funny now he’s accused of raping minors.

Which brings me onto my final point: in among all this talk of minors being abused in Hollywood or by dodgy Swiss scholars, where the hell were the parents? Nobody seems to want to ask that.


Sexism at Work

Some time ago I worked in an office with limited space, so the coffee machine was put in the same room as the printer. This meant you’d often find someone getting themselves coffee when you went to the printer and vice versa. The room was small so you’d have to squeeze past one another, which involved a bit of cooperation.

There were quite a few people on the floor: engineers, managers, admin staff, etc. with the last group being mainly middle-aged women. Usually when a dashing young man like me walked into this room, any women present would respectfully make way for me and say a polite “hello”. The men would too, but they’d move a fraction more slowly. I notice these things.

Then one day I walked in to pick something off the printer and I found the way blocked by three or four of the secretary/admin ladies. One of them saw me in her peripheral vision, glanced at me, and didn’t move. Nor did any of the others.

“Ey up,” I thought. “What’s going on here?”

I politely said “excuse me” and they shifted aside, just enough to let me past. As they did I saw they were all chatting with a man, who so happened to be one of the big bosses on the floor. As I waited for the printer to rumble into action I listened to them, clucking like hens around this high-status male in their midst. Had he not been there, I would have held the high status and they’d have stepped aside, but with this chap there I was just a pleb who could be ignored while they gave him their full attention. Once I’d worked out what was going on I couldn’t stop myself from grinning. If any of them noticed it on my way out, they ignored it.

I suspect the women’s behaviour was subconscious, and none would have had any recollection of it afterwards. In other words, it was quite natural. Now men arse-lick bosses all the time, more so than women in my experience, but this wasn’t quite arse-licking. It was more an adjustment of body-language to reflect the relative status of the two men in the room and if you weren’t looking for it you’d miss it.

I’ve been thinking of this incident in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations and the tidal wave of women who’ve come forward claiming they’ve been sexually harassed at work, usually by a man in a position of power over them. I turned on the news this morning to find the British Defence Secretary has resigned for having placed his hand on the knee of a journalist some 15 years ago, despite the woman in question not thinking it any big deal and appearing rather uhappy about what’s happened:

The resignation comes a day after a spokesman for Sir Michael confirmed that he was once rebuked by a journalist, Julia Hartley-Brewer, for putting his hand on her knee during a dinner in 2002.

The spokesman said Sir Michael apologised when it happened.

Ms Hartley-Brewer, a former political editor of the Sunday Express and regular political commentator, told BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight: “If he has gone because he touched my knee 15 years ago, that is genuinely the most absurd reason for anyone to have lost their job in the history of the universe, so I hope it is not because of that.”

If a knee-touch 15 years ago is enough to bring down a cabinet minister, then we’re going to be in for interesting times. For while the world and its dog are demanding men change their behaviour in the workplace (or at boozy parties vaguely connected with work and, going off one example I heard on the BBC, company ski holidays), they are refusing to even discuss whether women’s behaviour plays any part in all this. A couple of months back I said:

It could be that when a woman acts like a “lad” and engages in alcohol-fuelled banter of an insulting or sexual nature – even in jest – it brings out the worst behaviour in the men around her.

So there’s that. Of course, there are plenty of women who’ve not behaved like this but nevertheless been sleazed over at work, because there is the odd lecherous man everywhere and these guys need to be thinned out. Then there is the vast majority of women who behave well and so do the men around them, but they don’t make good headlines.

But what’s interesting is at the margins you’re going to find men behaving well until, almost subconsciously, they make the wrong move or say the wrong thing. It might even be too subtle to notice, unless there is an entire HR and grievance industry forcing women to spot anything that may look like harassment and lodge an immediate complaint. If a bunch of women can subconsciously modify their body-language when a high-status male is in their presence, and change their approach to male co-workers depending on which other men are in the room, then it’s likely men are acting in similar fashion – only for now it’s just one party that’s getting in trouble for it.

What we’re seeing here, at the margins, is human nature working as it’s supposed to. Merely designating a territory a workplace is not going to eliminate all non-professional interactions between men and women, any more than you can stop men making fun of each other in the office. Was Weinstein acting at the margins? No he wasn’t. Was Fallon? Maybe not, but it’s less clear-cut. If things carry on like this, there is only one solution and it’s simple: segregate men and women in the workplace.

Now big companies won’t get on board with this, because the hardcore feminists have other plans, which is to take over the major organisations and ensure any men working in them are cowering with fear of the sexual harassment sword of Damocles hanging over them. But I can see a drift towards segregation in the overall job market. I’ve written before about how smart young men might begin to shun the major organisations and set up in bunches of twos and threes and scoop up the work the big players have rendered themselves incapable of doing. Men being branded sexist pigs from the outset by power-skirts in HR is only going to speed this process up, and with Tinder and other apps it’s not like they need to work among women to meet anyone anyway. Fast forward ten years and we’ll be seeing a lot of tiny outfits working the gig economy made up of men who treat women they meet online like disposable napkins, while women sit in giant organisations holding meetings to find new ways of torturing the grovelling betas who report to them. And complain bitterly they can’t meet any decent men who want to settle down.

How this is a future any sane woman wants is beyond me, but that’s what third-wave feminism will give them.