One woman says an MP touched her knee; another says she was raped. One male MP has been suspended for unspecified “serious allegations”; another is under fire for groping someone’s buttocks. Sex pests lurk; sexual harassment abounds; sordid kinkiness permeates, and there are even rumours of pimping and prostitution. Splash after dirty splash; smeary innuendo, tittle-tattle and lubricated prattle. The tabloids love it, Twitter juries are having a field day, and Remainers are revelling in the distinct possibility of the weakest government of modern times falling and Brexit being
postponed abandoned. It’s End of Days stuff.
It’s nothing new, of course: sex fused with power and the sexual abuse of power (and the powerful abuse of sexuality) are as old as sex, sexuality and the exercise of power. And then there’s pleasure, because power affords pleasure, and sex affords a much greater one. When the pleasure of sex is divorced from marriage and the begetting of children, we are left with sex for recreational enjoyment. You may consider that vulgar, but who are you to cast the first stone? Sexual depravity is now in the eye of the beholder: if it feels good, do it. This is the view of the many, not of the few.
When sex becomes the overpowering pursuit of an individual by someone in authority or with power, that power becomes corrupted by the lust for dominance. The world sees the power operating and influencing naturally, like gravity, for no human interaction is free of the exertion or exchange of power. But beneath the surface there is oppression and offence: a flirt becomes harassment, harassment manipulation, manipulation bullying, and bullying the most depraved abuse of the individual. Thus does domination become a pleasure, rather like sex.
The problem arises when all assertions of power are called ‘harassment’ or ‘bullying’, and all flirtatious words and gestures are deemed ‘inappropriate’. This seems to be the case in the Westminster sex scandal, which is really no scandal at all, for it is simply the ages-old tale of sex and sexuality commingled with power. Touching someone’s knee is not oppressive. Sending someone a flirtatious text is not violent. These things are ordinarily called ‘making a pass’ or ‘hitting on’. It is the natural hormonal stuff of the procreative urge, even if procreation is not the objective. But lunging at someone’s face and forcing a kiss is oppressive, and raping someone is violent. There is cruelty, hate and sadism. How many MPs are actually guilty of this? How many are actually being investigated for serious assault or sexual abuse?
If all the complex human interactions in Westminster are now to be scrutinised to ensure peace and edification, there would be no politics or government, for there could be no exchange of power: all language would be sifted to ensure safety; all actions and gestures screened to ensure refuge and assurance. If it has become ‘inappropriate’ to wink at a woman or send her lighthearted flirtations by text, then it has become impossible to interact naturally or intelligently. If you are surprised to have your shirt un-tucked or your buttocks felt, say so firmly or slap them in the face. It is still possible for intelligent and mature human beings to speak truth to power, and if speaking does not work, a short sharp shock usually does.
But it’s funny, isn’t it, how the media is now piling on every allegation against every accused MP as though they were all as depraved and morally warped as Cyril Smith. That is real bullying and abuse. Rape is real bullying and abuse. Coercing a junior member of staff into having a date to secure political advantage is real bullying and abuse. If 10 or 12 politicians currently stand accused of ‘inappropriate’ behaviour, the most serious charges are reserved for just two or three. Just as it was in the last parliament, and just as it was in the parliament before that, and in the ones sometime before that.’Twas ever thus.
It is all about sex and politics; power and the abuse of power. It happens in all human institutions, because the human heart is inherently sinful: ‘For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world‘ (1Jn 2:16). We might like to imagine that Parliament might be a place of perpetual kindness, altruism, compassion and consideration, but this is not Utopia. Nor is it the Church, where bullying is endemic and the abuse of power rife. Nor is it the media, where dog-eat-dog rivalry and moral hypocrisy conspire to sit in judgment on our political leaders, pretending to shine the sunlight of disinfectant into our national life and presuming to speak their version of the truth to elected power – in order to disrupt (or preferably derail) the most complex and contentious political set of negotiations since Home Rule for Ireland.