Flirting With Danger

Sydney Donald wrote this article on 8th November 2017 and has very kindly given us permission to reproduce it here.

Kipling told us that “the female of the species is more deadly than the male” and recent events at Westminster may have added credibility to that saying. We are told of a young woman’s knee being “almost” fondled in 2015, triggering off a cascade of demands that the alleged perpetrator be ejected from public life. Ministers and backbenchers are being accused and condemned before the evidence has been forensically presented and the public is left to assume the official world is heavily populated by predatory males of the Casanova variety. The media of course are having a field-day.

I hesitate to draw general conclusions from this fracas and from the concurrent revelations about show-biz misbehaviour. Parliament is its own closed world, rightly given many privileges, but it is wildly untypical of normal domestic life. Members of Parliament are often from the ranks of the abrasive, the unscrupulous and the self-regarding so that type is over-represented. Bored to tears by the committee stage of some obscure legislation, depressed by the neo-Gothic, quasi-ecclesiastical gloom of their surroundings, they stumble into the oasis of the Members Bar. If they can elbow past the SNP members, apparently almost permanent fixtures at this watering-hole, they can booze away cheaply and after, say, their sixth shot, inevitably their true character comes to the fore and the ladies should run for cover. Pumped up by the booze and by their ineffable self-importance, they easily believe they have a divine right to exercise droit du seigneur upon young (and even the not-so-young) women in Westminster.

Show business is another closed world whose antics are Byzantine. Actors, male and female, are for ever seeking better parts (or even a first role) and will literally do anything to secure their goals. Those with the power to dispense patronage are an irresistible magnet to the profession. “The casting couch” is rightly a by-word and a few squalid moments may be all that is necessary to get that part. Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey probably did behave disgracefully and crudely – they may be candidates for police investigation. Nobody is deeply shocked by this kind of behaviour by “artistes” – nothing better is expected, however much indignation is generated.

Politicians and actors are not regarded as role models but the life-style of the leading lights in their profession is often enviable. It probably does not help this delicate situation that the leading light in global politics is none other than Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the USA. He cannot be looked upon as a role model as his groping predilections are well documented and his locker-room opinions on women have embarrassed him and his family. An oaf, a blowhard and an ignoramus, Trump is not qualified to inject an element of decency into the debate, which his predecessor Barack Obama actually could.

Flirting is innocent

The great majority of citizens behave in a relatively civilised way. In the workplace sexual advances are restricted by the hierarchy required in any business. Predatory bosses are rare and, if power-mania afflicts them, these days there will normally be some kind of complaints procedure to deter them. Out-of-hours dalliances are no doubt widespread, but there we are talking about the actions of “consenting adults in private” which is not the law’s business. Date-rape, indecency and violence are clearly against the law and the police and courts can dispense justice to victims.

More difficult to avoid is the cloud of innuendo and pre-judgement surrounding these matters. The “perpetrators” may be unpleasant people without many supporters and the “victims” may be fantasists with an axe to grind. Hard evidence of the truth can be elusive, and accusations must be tested.

How sad it would be if a young man pursuing a “cracker” finds that she is an explosive firework in disguise, responding to his conventional wooing with wild assertions, complaints and law-suits. Boy- meets- girl is a human rite of passage – it does not need parliamentary approval, whatever noisy Amber Rudd may want. Self-righteous lectures from Ruth Davidson, Yvette Cooper, Caroline Lucas and Nicola Sturgeon are not welcome and merely encourage a busy-body political culture. Of course the physical and psychological integrity of all women and all men should be defended – that is a given – but witch-hunts, hysteria and lynch-mobs can have no place in a civilised society. Let’s calm down!

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