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

CityPress - - Voices -

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

PHOTO: PETER ABRA­HAMS

A CON­DUIT?

The sex­ual ha­rass­ment charges against ANC leader Mar­ius Frans­man re­flect a greater so­ciopo­lit­i­cal prob­lem

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