Power and sex at work
As long as gender inequality afflicts our society, people like Marius Fransman cannot put forward sexual consent as a defence
Herrick poem To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time. Imagine my shock when, on a campus visit, I was presented with a bottle of Johnnie “Motsamai” Blue Label and a woman to “take care of me”. I am talking here about a living human being.
And so one gets subsumed into the culture. I realised that when other leaders paid our province a visit, it was considered discourteous not to arrange a social programme.
This was justified on the basis that “young people had to be young in all aspects of life”.
Shortly thereafter, I caught wind of allegations that an SRC president had assaulted his girlfriend, herself a member of the organisation. We suspended him immediately and asked the university to investigate.
They seemed reluctant. Nothing came of it. I only fully understood this on witnessing a vice-chancellor write out a cheque from her personal account when we were in need of funds. It seemed a regular occurrence. I was the only one in that meeting who appeared nonplussed.
After my term ended, a comrade confided in me that she had been sexually assaulted by a student leader – alcohol was involved. Although the organisation would have been willing to deal with the matter, the victim was unsure and unwilling to take the issue further. I supported her through HIV and pregnancy tests, and ensured she received counselling.
Such issues overwhelmed me. I had not signed up for them. It was horrendous and I felt helpless.
Today, with the wisdom of hindsight, I realise there can be no such thing as sexual consent between unequal parties. There is also a huge chasm between lawful and moral consent.
Morality requires an appreciation that women are, by mere accident of nature, stillborn into a gender construct that permanently subjugates them to the whims of men.
Spurred by socioeconomic demands and the need to survive, women are at the demented service of men – almost always forced into sexual relations they would not ordinarily desire. Until we reorder these social relations in a way that prevents power, income and class from having an overriding influence over a woman’s choice of partner, it is inappropriate to have sexual relations in the workplace.
Sexual relations should be based on mutual affection and consent. As Engels puts it: “Since sex love is by its very nature exclusive – although this exclusiveness is fully realised today only in the woman – then marriage based on sex love is by its very nature monogamy.” (By the way, this applies to African polygamous marriages as well.)
If you are a married politician and your 20-year-old assistant does the full monty in the office, you must know one thing: “niks-mapha-no-taste”.
Do not do like Oscar Pistorius and fire four shots through the door. See the door as a chastity belt and run. Should you fail to make your escape, you will be found guilty of “sexual harassment by dolus eventualis”.
As a seasoned politician, you ought to have foreseen that unless you had fallen hopelessly in love with your assistant and pledged to marry her, it is par for the course that sex is driven by illicit motive on either side.
If you proceeded in spite of this, you would have reconciled yourself to the obvious dangers. Therefore, if you stack the hay, you must roll in it.
Jesting aside, the fact is, sex at work carries an enormous cost to public services. As economist Joseph Stiglitz warns us, misaligned private uses of public resources can induce government officials to take actions that are not, in any sense, in the public interest.
Accordingly, managers incur wasteful expenditure when they travel unnecessarily with “concubines”. They cannot call out poor performance; people are not hired on merit; the list goes on...
As much as we believe Fransman is innocent until proven guilty, whatever explanation he will give, consent is not one of the options available to him.
Hoveka read ethical philosophy at the University of Cape Town and is contracted as a speechwriting specialist in the
Office of the Deputy President
Can junior employees consent to sex with their bosses?
SMS us on 35697 using the keyword SEX and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50
The sexual harassment charges against ANC leader Marius Fransman reflect a greater sociopolitical problem