Many people talk about the harmlessness of men who are in positions of power and having sex with their subordinates. They may snicker and treat it as a joke. Or they may say that when sex is consensual it is the business of the people involved and should not be there for the world to view. I disagree vehemently!
Women are wired from an early age to revere, cower or fear male authority even though it might not be discernable or is so subtle it slips by us. The one who has the power (obviously, in most instances men), no matter how much women are raised to be independent thinkers, still represents superiority. When a man wields power and has sex with subordinates the word consensual may be non-existent.
The impression that men are dominant starts at a very early age. Take a look at children’s books and DVDs. For instance, Bob the Builder. A male is in charge of building and giving orders. His helper is a woman. Most of children’s literature shows that the heroes and villains are men and the women are helpers – always placed in aiding positions. Oh, yes, there are the female comic book heroes, but look at them. They are voluptuous and in very abbreviated costumes. Are big boobs necessary to achieve feats of valor and strength?
When in a restaurant I have noticed the waitress inevitably plays up to the male. Often they get even get bigger drinks than the female companion. People will say that men are bigger tippers. I doubt that. It is just so imprinted to dote on men from childhood that they can’t help it. And I don’t mean this is coming from an earlier era – it continues until even today.
In an article by Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times Maureen Dowd, Men Behaving Madly, October 7, 2009, she said: “In an ideal world, bosses would refrain from sleeping with subordinates, so as not to cause jealousy and tension in the office. But we’re not in an ideal world. Otherwise, we’d already have health care for everyone and Glenn Beck wouldn’t have any influence over the White House.
“After David Letterman acknowledged that he’d had flings with young assistants, some commentators talked about it in the same breath as Roman Polanski, who drugged and sodomized a 13-year-old. That’s Sexual harassment entails pressuring or penalizing a staffer or making the office atmosphere hostile. Despite the blustering of the attorney of the alleged execrable extortionist, Joe Halderman, there’s no evidence yet that Letterman was guilty of that.”
Maureen I love your work and agree with 99.9% of what you have to say. I’m sorry to say I disagree with your article in what I perceive as slightly minimizing Letterman’s behavior. What so many men in high positions do is to take advantage of the subtle underlying weakness that is reinforced in women on a daily basis no matter how strong and confident they may seem to be.
I’m not pointing fingers at anyone in particular, but in my opinion men who prey on adoring female subordinates or even non-adoring employees are predators using SEXPLOITATION that to me is on a par with rapists only it is achieved in a much more subtle way.
It seems as though many of these women are put between a rock and a hard place. If she refuses the power monger’s advances he can become hostile toward her. It’s easy for him to claim any number of reasons for his sudden disinterest in her, going so far as to ignore, demote and even fire her. If the hit was subtle she can’t prove he made moves. If she goes for a sexual harassment suit, she might have to kiss her butt goodbye for landing another job in her chosen field or even other areas of employment.
That is not to say that some women are willing to use sex as a means to get ahead, but even that kind of thinking has been a part of the fabric of society’s expectation of women for centuries and has certainly not ended. Look at the news that what we have become accustomed to reading and hearing about almost every day.
Even though men may shudder at the thought of facing a sexual harassment suit it doesn’t necessarily stop them from trying. A woman who has instituted such a suit, no matter how valid, is generally not welcome in a new workplace. They are tainted. The men who do the hiring avoid women who have instituted suits, fearing they’ll be next in line.
Because of that, women often acquiesce to the sexual demands of a boss and keep quiet. I am sad to say that I believe we have not moved into a new, enlightened era where men, no matter how much they fantasize, exercise reason and caution and refuse to indulge in such horrific abuse of power. For my part, I’d call this kind of behavior as far from innocent, but rather CONSENUSAL RAPE.