They just don’t get it, do they?
‘One longstanding attendee said it was “a boys’ night out” and compared it to “a rugby club dinner”.’
‘These are not underage girls. They are all over 18 ... They all know it’s a bit racy.’
‘The girls were told to wear short skirts and sexy underwear and sign a non-disclosure agreement. Where on earth did they think they would be working, a vicar’s tea party?’
And more, much more, in the same vein following the Financial Times story on Wednesday about a men-only charity dinner at the Dorchester Hotel in London.
So let us try to imagine what goes on inside the head of a man who thinks there is absolutely nothing wrong with telling a young woman whom he has never met before and who is a paid worker at a dinner he is attending that he wants her to ‘rip off her knickers and dance on a table.’
This same man presumably thinks it is perfectly acceptable that, in the words of the FT’s report: ‘Many of the hostesses were subjected to groping, lewd comments and repeated requests to join diners in bedrooms ...’
I am trying to imagine the life this man has led. Perhaps he went to a boys-only school, where as an adolescent, he got into the habit of making smutty jokes about girls and boasting about his (fictional) sexual exploits.
He played in boys-only sports matches, followed by booze-fuelled, boys-only after-match parties. If he went on to university, perhaps he joined a men-only drinking club, at which adolescent behaviour was not only accepted, but expected.
Perhaps now that he is middle-aged, he has a teenage daughter of his own. What would he say if she were to be subjected to the sort of behaviour he indulged in at the Presidents Club dinner? Oh, but she wouldn’t be, would she, because she would never do the sort of job for which the young women at the Dorchester were being paid the princely sum of £150, would she?
Look back at one of those comments I quoted earlier. ‘The girls were told to wear short skirts and sexy underwear ...’ In other words, they knew perfectly well what they were being paid for: to be groped, fondled, and propositioned.
Er, no, actually, they weren’t. Just as actresses in Victorian England weren’t prostitutes, nor are hostesses in 2018. Women who dress to be attractive to men, whether on instruction or otherwise, are as entitled as everyone else to be treated with respect.
Two simple words are the key to the non-mystery of why some men insist on behaving boorishly: money and power. (‘Presidents Club’: interesting name, don’t you think? Exactly what did these men think they were Presidents of, I wonder?)
The men at that now notorious dinner would have us believe that they were there for no other reason than to give some of their wealth to charity. What could possibly be more deserving of our praise and admiration?
I am (just about) prepared to accept that for some of them, it went no further than that, although I confess I fail to understand why it requires a men-only, black-tie dinner at the Dorchester to donate to good causes. Most of us manage it a good deal less ostentatiously.
But for others, the dinner surely provided a wonderful excuse to feel entitled: ‘Look at me, I’m giving away some of my money ― so surely I deserve some fun in return?’
They were there (all right, some of them were there) because they knew that they would be out of sight of their mothers, wives, girlfriends, sisters and daughters ― free to indulge in the sort of adolescent behaviour which had become second nature to them. The charity bit was no more than a figleaf with which to hide their guilty consciences.
They were, in their own eyes, at least, men who had made a success of their lives. They had amassed enough money to buy them the right to behave however they liked, especially towards younger, less wealthy women. It is only one remove from the medieval droit de seigneur, which supposedly entitled feudal lords to have sex with the brides of their vassals.
So how about someone trying to teach adolescent boys how to behave appropriately towards their female fellow-humans? How about those much-mocked PSHE (personal, sex and health education) lessons involving something more than slipping a condom onto a banana?
Some schools are trying ― one day a year, perhaps, devoted to relationships ― but they plainly need to do more. Too many men, of all ages, still don’t get it. Ill-educated adolescent males are still growing up into ill-educated adult males.
Yes, they can behave as badly as they like in the privacy of their own homes, as long as they harm no one else. If they want to sit in front of the TV getting pissed with their mates, shouting rude remarks at every attractive young woman who appears on screen, by all means, let them go ahead.
But here is the message they need to hear, loud and clear: No, you can’t do it in the workplace, or at a charity dinner. You can’t assault, grope, harass or intimidate anyone. It doesn’t matter how they are dressed, or how much you’re giving to charity. It doesn’t matter if you’re a hot-shot film producer or merely a Loadsamoney property developer.
I can even boil the message down to two words: Grow. Up.