This isn\’t sexism, this is sex

Slightly more intimidating was the time, ironically at a political party conference, when a man who was then the editor of a national newspaper started propositioning me in the bar, despite knowing I was in a long-term relationship, and despite my making it patently clear that I wasn’t interested. I quickly made my excuses and left, as did the women allegedly targeted by Lord Rennard, but the minute I got up to my room, my phone rang. It was the very same editor asking if he could share my room because he had omitted to book himself into a hotel. I gave him short shrift, but the experience was intimidating and unpleasant.

The worlds I inhabit are politics and the media, but women in all walks of life know that this kind of routine sexism exists in any workplace.

This isn\’t sexism. This is sex. This is how male mammals behave.

This isn\’t discrimination against (or among) women on the basis that they are women and not men. This part of the dance around the perpetuation of the species.

And yes, the reason that men of high status do it more often than those of low is because in that very dance high status means you\’ll get your leg over more often. That\’s, at least in part, what drives men into seeking high status. Expensive watches, sports cars, lavishing cash on expensive champagne, being a boss, these are all (however some will laugh at them) signifiers of high status. And thus more legovers. This is why they are done.

No, really, there is good academic research to show that splashing the cash in front of the laydeez does indeed gain more sex from them. As does pretty much any other form of status. Guitarists and singers in rock bands are higher status than the drummers in them (drum stools are often higher status than drummers) and yes, they do get more groupies.

Seriously: I\’m all in favour of the birds getting a fair go at doing all these lovely jobs. Would be a pity to leave half the talents of the species at the stove really. But a little more attention paid to reality would be welcome.

All of these male behaviours might indeed be boorish: possibly even caddish. But if they didn\’t work they wouldn\’t be done. And the simple truth is that they do work often enough that men will carry on doing them. High status gets more gonad massaging. Thus men pursue high status as a way of getting more gonad massaging. And at the end of it all there\’s this: if there weren\’t women who rewarded high male status with gonad massaging then men wouldn\’t pursue it and the behaviour would simply stop.

44 comments on “This isn\’t sexism, this is sex

  1. I can’t see what Cathy Newman’s problem us. man asks her for a shag, she says no. This has happened to me, both as the asker and askee, lots of times, as it did for Cathy’s mum and dad and most other human beings. What the fuck does she want?

    Additionally, if it is so heinous, and assuming (as she must, unless she thinks there is something particularly alluring about her) that this former national newspaper editor is a likely repeat offender, why doesn’t she name him? You know, to prevent other future victims being created?

  2. Yeah, all very true. That being said, fondling people is way beyond prepositioning them; that comes afterwards if you are successful.

  3. Rupert, I think you’ll find a preposition generally comes before.

    To be serious for a moment, did this editor fondle Cathy Newman?

    Either way, it’s clear he is a desperate man and poses a danger to literally any woman with a pulse.

  4. It seems Ms Newman has an interesting and rather nuanced position – female sexuality good, male sexuality bad.

    I wonder what she thinks of handsome Italian men propositioning her. I expect that this is mostly a comment on the charmless nature of British men when they try to hit on women. But she is not sufficiently self-aware to see beyond the standard conventional language that makes this all about sexual harassment. If Omar Sharif had propositioned her – even with a little physical contact – I wonder if she would have had the same response?

  5. But if they didn’t work they wouldn’t be done.

    This is also true, in my experience, for the “treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen” theory. It’s sad, but I’ve seen a lot of men treat women very decently yet get seen off, and a lot of men treat women badly yet have them eating out of their palm. It’s a generalisation, but one that applies far more often than it perhaps should. If decency is not rewarded, then don’t expect decent behaviour.

  6. Also, this post by Pootergeek from 2006 is worth reading, particularly:

    Let’s imagine a British man has to choose between writing a love sonnet for a woman or getting her drunk and groping her at the office Christmas party. Which course do you think would be more likely to lead to his colleagues laughing at him for the duration of his contract with the firm and which one is more likely to get him laid?

    Boorish behaviour works, much more often than it should.

  7. But it’s not “fancy a shag?” is it? It’s, “fancy a shag?” multiple times ignoring the person’s negative responses. Then in Newman’s case the same bloke she already rejected calls her in her hotel room. IME, there are relatively very few people who object to “fancy a drink?” even if they don’t fancy a drink, and generally speaking no-one should find it objectionable. But it’s completely understandable that a woman would object to “fancy a shag?” over and again from the guy she already said no to.

  8. >But its completely understandable that a woman would object to fancy a shag? over and again from the guy she already said no to.

    Sure, he is an ass and a pest. But I do not like the way that making a pass is becoming a criminal act.

  9. @ukliberty – how is it clear that this idiot propositioned Newman over and over again? She quickly made her excuses and left. OK, he then rang her up – hope springing eternal – but she put the phone down on him.

    More interesting to me is how this (I assume) strong-minded and intelligent woman allowed herself to be bothered by this.

    Rape it is not.

    And I say again, why is she not naming him now?

  10. @Trig ‘Sure, he is an ass and a pest. But I do not like the way that making a pass is becoming a criminal act.’

    Eventually men will need a pass-pass granted by a committee of prune faced harridans, all of who are vindictive and bitter about the fun the good-looking (and even not so good-looking) gals with less of the ideology and more of the good times are having.

  11. Trig

    But I do not like the way that making a pass is becoming a criminal act.

    It really isn’t.

    Interested,

    how is it clear that this idiot propositioned Newman over and over again?

    I inferred that he propositioned her multiple times from “the editor of a national newspaper started propositioning me in the bar [etc]” and “the minute I got up to my room, my phone rang”.

  12. @ukliberty

    OK, if ‘multiple times’ means ‘twice’, I accept that – though it’s rather literal.

    Of course, all we actually *know* (if this actually happened as described) is that the second time he rang up and asked to kip on her floor.

    I’m not naiive, but if we’re applying a literalist approach here, that’s one proposition and a request to kip on her floor*.

    But really – if every man who got knocked back the first time left it at that the human race would have become extinct a very long time ago.

    My wife knocked me back the first time, and the second, and the third but gradually saw sense and, if you asked her now, is rather happy that she did. (/modesty)

    *(I still can’t see what’s intimidating about that? In fact, the use of words like ‘intimidating’ by intelligent, professional women who have undoubtedly trodden on more than a few necks to get where they are – Channel 4 news TV reports are not shrinking violets – amuses me. Mostly because I strongly suspect it’s newspaper article bullshit, and that she wasn’t *actually* intimidated by this, for a dictionary definition.)

  13. ukliberty, if you take a literal interpretation I suppose that’s twice, and I suppose ‘twice’ is ‘multiple’.
    Though, if you’re being literalist about this, the second time all he did was ask whether he could kip in her room – perhaps on her floor?

    OK, I’m not naiive, but if every man who got knocked back the first time left it at that the human race would be extinct.

    Mrs Interested – like others before her – knocked me back the first, second and third times but she wasn’t ‘intimidated’ – more mildly amused at my shambling attempts at seduction – and eventually gave in, more out of pity than anything, I suspect. But now she’s very glad she did. That’s life, in the real world.

  14. It appears my comment was eaten.

    how is it clear that this idiot propositioned Newman over and over again?

    I inferred he propositioned her multiple times from her claim that he “started propositioning me in the bar, despite knowing I was in a long-term relationship, and despite my making it patently clear that I wasn

  15. hmm… it wasn’t eaten after all. But a bit of 24 has been eaten.

    Interested, I inferred multiple times from “started propositioning…” not just the bar (1) and phone ring (2). IOW, I inferred three or more propositions.

    Mrs Interested – like others before her – knocked me back the first, second and third times but she wasn’t ‘intimidated’

    OK, but that tells us nowt about the context / circumstances and therefore the ‘acceptability’ of your efforts. Is this over a longer period than a chat in a hotel bar? In what way did she say no? and so on.

    At one end of the spectrum, creepy stalker, and at the other end, smooth Casanova, with shambling seductioner somewhere between, but nearer to Casanova than creepy.

    if every man who got knocked back the first time left it at that the human race would be extinct.

    But there are creepy ways and non-creepy ways to go about it, surely?

  16. “But I do not like the way that making a pass is becoming a criminal act.

    It really isnt.”

    There looks to be a concerted push to move things that way to me.

    But in Rennards case I suspect there are some more creepy details to come out about him.

  17. The question isn’t whether Rennard, this editor, whoever, should have been more gentlemanly, more polite, less creepy – dammit, more competent.

    It’s why is this behaviour – in Rennard’s case -requiring the Met “Special Operations Command” to meet with the LDs? Either a clumsy pass is now a criminal act (and I agree that it isn’t – although s3 SOA03 may apply if you touch somebody up – although the case law between a sexual touching and merely touching while asking for sex could be amusing, especially given the near-infinite variety of human predilection and perversion); he did it and it’s not a criminal act – in which case, wtf is it police business; or he didn’t do it, in which case it is a civil matter for defamation.

    Any road – if there are allegations of criminal behaviour, why the flying #### were these reported to the party not the police? It doesn’t matter whether you are Trots or scheming and mendacious statist greens. You’ve no business investigating this sort of shit.

  18. ukliberty ‘Interested, I inferred multiple times from started propositioning… not just the bar (1) and phone ring (2). IOW, I inferred three or more propositions.’

    We’re in danger of making more of this minor (twice or more?) element of the main point than necessary, but I read that as, he started propositioning her in the bar (that’s once, perhaps for a few moments – call it a continuum of proposition if you like) until she ‘quickly’ left, and then rang her (that’s twice).

    I agree re the difficulty of working out ‘the context / circumstances and therefore the ‘acceptability’ of [a given man’s] efforts’ but that is precisely the problem.

    The man thinks he’s being witty, the woman thinks he’s being boorish: the only answer to that, given that being boorish isn’t (usually) against the law is for the woman to walk away or give as good as she gets.

    Involving the police, whining about it in the papers etc etc – none of that makes any sense at all.

    And again – if it really was a serious problem, as Newman seems to think it was, why is she not naming this guy?

    Even as we speak, some poor young thing might be being propositioned somewhere, when she might be warned to keep well clear. (Said semi-seriously.)

  19. There is no concerted push to criminalise making a pass.

    Rennard allegedly went further than words, continually stroking or touching the women he was propositioning, despite their indications or statements that they weren’t interested. If a woman keeps moving away and saying no, the man really ought to try his luck elsewhere.

  20. Interested,

    I agree re the difficulty of working out ‘the context / circumstances and therefore the ‘acceptability’ of [a given man’s] efforts’ but that is precisely the problem.

    The man thinks he’s being witty, the woman thinks he’s being boorish: the only answer to that, given that being boorish isn’t (usually) against the law is for the woman to walk away or give as good as she gets.

    How many times and in what myriad ways should a woman have to say “no” before that answer is accepted? And Newman did walk away, didn’t she? Then the guy phoned her room with the flimsy excuse that he hadn’t booked a hotel room. As if he wouldn’t have a decent expense account or credit card or nous to get accommodation even at a late hour. Or any other friends / colleagues to bunk with. No, the first resort is the woman who rejected him!

    And again – if it really was a serious problem, as Newman seems to think it was, why is she not naming this guy?

    Perhaps the Telegraph’s legal department advised against it?

  21. It may not be criminal to ask a girl to sleep with you more than once, or in a less than competent manner, but it sure looks like a career ending move. Or at least the Sisters concerned seem to want to make it that way.

    Let’s see what the consequences are for the man concerned. Presumably those “in the know” know who he is already in the same way Andrew Marr could get a superinjunction but everyone knew anyway.

  22. ukliberty, yes, she walked away, and when he called her room she put the phone down on him. So what’s the big ‘intimidation’?

    I’m not particularly defending this guy – I said he was an idiot, and we’ve all met them (and sometimes been them); it’s just not worth a huge scare story piece in the Telegraph if she won’t even say who it was.

    And no way the lawyers legalled it out – who on earth would sue over this, and go to court over it… assuming it was true?

  23. >There is no concerted push to criminalise making a pass.

    How can you seriously say that? Theres been a gradual movement over the last decade in that direction. Of course its not made explicit, its a case of gradually shift the boundaries. The police get involved in situations they never used to — like Rennards, for example. All sorts of sexual harrassment rules have been put into place in the workplace, for example, which send out the message that its not just serious sexual harrassment thats out, its any sort of trying it on, especially if, heaven forbid, you should be a male in power and the female is supposedly unable to resist because of your seniority. Im glad the harrassment is disappearing, but Im uneasy about the way things are gradually moving.

    As a result men generally dont make passes like they used to (except old dinosaurs). Women make more passes than men these days. (I say this as a man who doesnt and has never gone around making passes, so its not like this is something I have any personal interest in).

  24. This isn’t a case of just making a pass and trying to ‘propagate the species’ though, is it?

    This is a man repeatedly ignoring the rejections of a married woman in his advances, knowing she’s married. I’d imagine Newman is more hard-boiled than most, but this kind of thing must be intimidating.

    It’s a shame because I’ve got into these articles through the Telegraph and Forbes pieces as so much of it cuts straight through the usual bull and states economic reality.
    This behaviour isn’t the cold hard facts of how we reproduce – this is justifying harassment.
    The article, and some of these comments reminds me of the Sean Connery skit on Family Guy – “Three noes and a yesh is yeah.”

  25. To expand on Tanks point –

    You see posters in car parks saying don’t leave your valuables on display – that’s fine… but issue the advice that women shouldn’t go out in mini skirts and get legless.. then you’re advocating rape…

    If a women shags indiscriminitely and you make the observation that she’s a bit loose – you’re a sexist pig and the women in question is just “exploring her sexuality”

    If a womne has ten kids by ten blokes, then we’re not supposed to judge etc…

    Now some bloke makes a few clumsy passes (when he’s not their employer)… and now it’s time for the police to investigate to assess whether a crime has been committed…

    This is just such utter misandrist bollocks….

  26. All, the talk so far has been about the pestering politician’s alleged failures of seduction. Without considering the possibilities of his successes. Maybe the noble lord is a positive charmer around the fair sex & these are his mere failures. A man used to having women clamoring to get between the sheets at his slightest glance could easily be confused by the rare rejection & just presume they were playing hard to get. Seductively teasing him rather than flinging themselves at him in the normal routine.

    Do you not think we could give him the benefit of the doubt?

  27. ‘Twice’ isn’t really ‘repeatedly’, Tom, and married, schmarried. She’s a lefty – what care they for marriage?

    It really is not ‘harrassment’ to say to a woman, ‘Fancy a shag love?’

    Or, if she says no the first time, to ring her room and say, ‘Look, I’ll give you one more chance…’

    Plenty of women might say no in the bar in public, but yes on the phone in private.

    Harrassment is when you persistently do it for days and weeks, and can rightly be a criminal offence.

    On the timescale of 30 minutes, while it may not be very gallant it actually works, sometimes, and it absolutely is how the species reproduces.

  28. @Interested. It just isn’t worth the risk…

    I wouldn’t want to be standing in front of H.R./my boss in the cold light of day admitting “yes I’d propositioned a colleague in the bar and she’d said no” which I reckon I could get away with; but then following up with “and yes, then I phoned her private room after she’d already clearly said no and repeated the approach” – which I think would have me done for, especially if I start trying to use the public/private behaviour explanation.

  29. Talking with my other half about it last night (who generally works for big multi-nationals), she said the cultural work bonding with Brits of getting plastered and trying to cop off with colleagues would be hilarious if acted out on a US secondment. She thought your morning-after diary would be filled in for you as :
    9 a.m. Substance abuse counseling
    10 a.m. Workplace harrassment disciplinary hearing
    11 a.m. Sexual predator registration

  30. Because I’m skinny I get hit on a lot by men. I have to pity women because in my experience, men’s pickup technique severely lacks.

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