Power, and why sexual relationships in politics are so problematic
A25-year-old friend started a job working for an influential MP a few years ago. One day, a fellow parliamentarian popped his head round the door. He was there to see his colleague but cast an eye around the full office first, eyes alighting on the new young woman, then said: “If you’re not shagging this one, can I have a go?”
Westminster is full of MPs sleeping with their researchers. And those who aren’t doing it are joking about doing it. Jokes are part of every workplace culture, but this culture signals to young women exactly their status in the ecosystem.
It signals similarly to young men. Gay men, or those who seem particularly vulnerable to male-on-male harassment, experience significant unwanted attention in parliament. Young queer people are, as ever, objects of fascination.
This month, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution banning congressmen from having sexual relationships with their employees. In Australia, a similar measure has been imposed in the wake of a scandal involving the deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, after a tabloid newspaper published pictures of his pregnant mistress – an employee of his when their affair began. (He also has a very publicly angry wife.) While admitting he is “not any form of saint”, Joyce has argued that his love life is a private matter. Many sympathise. Read More
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