Thursday, 28 February 2013

A sex-free sex scandal

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Rod Liddle sums up perfectly a story that is even less important than the one about horsemeat, the story of a Liberal Democrat peer repeatedly (and unsuccessfully, it appears) propositioning women.

Peter Oborne in today's Telegraph says it is an apparently sex-free sex scandal. Indeed. 

Think how Asquith would have fared nowadays. No young girl was safe with him. I am sure Mr. Gladstone was perfectly altruistic in his attempts to save fallen women but he would not be believed nowadays. As for the caprine Lloyd George, well. I am not sure whether Liberals are made of sterner or less stern stuff these days. 

Anyhow, what a lot of fuss about very little, whether it is horsemeat in convenience foods or this fat man targetting women who had long term boyfriends - is this what politics in our feminised welfarist age is going to be like for the next few decades? The answer is yes, until something seriously worrying happens, but that might be soon. Let's hope that by that time the wind will have blown the Liberal Democrats away.

This analysis from the BBC is interesting but it assumes that the intervention of the law in the office is a good thing. Sexual harassment seemed a ridiculous concept, I recall, when the phrase first came in in the early 1980s and Romanian women nowadays tend to giggle at the expression. Some things are better than then and others worse. I did find this sentence scary:

"From the 60s until relatively recently, there existed a pervasive attitude that unwanted sexual advances were an irritant rather than a disciplinary matter or a crime."  

Sex of course was one of the arguments used by men who wanted to prevent women having careers and the absence of women does prevent the atmosphere of low level flirtation which one woman friend told me was one of the charms of work. I personally like sex and flirtation kept out of the office completely. I enjoyed the clubbish calm of my first job, in the House of Lords, where most people were men. But should all unwanted advances per se be disciplinary matters or, save the mark, crimes? The world must be peopled and who is to know an advance will be unwanted? But this comes from America, where office relationships are considered very wrong. 

In Romania, things are at the other extreme, office affairs are taken for granted, everyone flirts and women are certainly pressurised to have sex with their bosses every day. This is wrong (the pressuring and the adulteries, I mean). But I do not think legal sanctions are the solution, in Romania or elsewhere. We have far, far too much employment law, and far too many restrictions on freedom. Romania already has very restrictive employment laws and having got away from one kind of authoritarian socialism, she is about to have a lot more imposed on her, by the EU. But that is the beginning of a long discussion.

On the subject of sexual harassment, this article by that delightful minx Petronella Wyatt is well worth reading.

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