To the outside observer, Parliament is supposedly a hothouse of sexual harassment, lewd antics and predatory behaviour. Young researchers can't walk down the corridors of power without being propositioned by those who hold the future of their very careers in their groping hands.
As a female aide in my mid-twenties with political ambitions of my own you would be forgiven for assuming that my two years in the Commons have been fraught with unwelcome advances and uncomfortable propositions. Indeed, it's in the name of young women like myself that Brooks Newmark was deliberately lured into the virtual 'relationship' that has led to his eventual resignation.
And I'm disgusted. But I'm not disgusted at Newmark, whose behaviour with supposedly consenting adults is his business, and does not merit being splashed across red tops. I'm disgusted at the despicable 'journalism' that was carried out in my supposed interest.
Because the truth is, I have never experienced less harassment than I have in Parliament. I have no doubt that others have had less positive experiences, but - without offering any excuse for them, because I don't - they are not scenarios that are not replicated in almost every other context.
As a sixteen year old schoolgirl, I was the recipient of multiple inappropriate comments and approaches from teachers. As a financial journalist fresh from university, I had married men proposition me. At one business dinner, I was asked by the compère - in front of the rest of the group, who bar one other female were all older male banking professionals - to "give us a Meg Ryan moment" and fake an orgasm for the room to show my appreciation for the whisky we were served. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I declined.
In my two years in the Commons, I have had none of this. Some others have been treated badly, and, again, there is no excusing that, but to suggest that it is worse than many other workplaces is a fallacy.
The Brooks Newmark sting also shows a complete misunderstanding of the nature of the relationship between younger females and older males, whether in the political world or any other. It is simply wrong to assume that the predatory half of any one coupling must always be the powerful man. Young females are well aware of the potent effect that their sexuality can have on the vintage male, and the control that this can exert. We can be as single-minded in our pursuit of a conquest as anyone else. There is little doubt that 'Sophie Wittams' was the predator in this case, and to suggest that Newmark was chosen because of his proclivities ignores the fact that others were unsuccessfully targeted too.
Numerous people have questioned how Newmark could possibly have thought a younger female could be sexually interested in him. Again, this makes assumptions that have little basis in reality. History is littered with couples - Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, Aristotle Onassis and Jackie Kennedy - with a significant age differential. The truth is, some of us would rather go to bed with an Oxford mind than a David Lloyd six-pack. Henry Kissinger was never more right than when he said, "Power is the great aphrodisiac."
A female in her twenties who instigates a relationship with an older male, or accepts the advances he makes upon her, does so knowing that she has a choice. To suggest that young women feel forced to enter sexual relations in order to advance their careers is incorrect and, frankly, patronising. We are old enough and wise enough to know that we can open doors by opening our legs, but also to recognise that there are plenty of women who have got to where we want to be, as quickly, without doing so.
Brooks Newmark is not a bad man. He adds much to the Commons and to politics in general, and it is a great shame that he is retiring under these circumstances. Women2Win, the organisation which he helped to set up to encourage more women to stand for Parliament, has helped me and hundreds of other women to embark upon a complex career path, and it is entirely wrong that those years of good work should be deleted from the public consciousness because of a private indiscretion.
And that's the sort of help that we, as young women, welcome - so much more than we welcome honey-trap operations being carried out by those who patronisingly assume we cannot navigate ambitious workplaces and consenting adult relationships by ourselves.Suggest a correction