Sex and Politics

22 Aug

Once upon a time I had dinner in the House with family members invited by a Labour Lord.  The lord was old-school of humble origins and had worked his way up with self-taught alacrity.  One thing he said always stuck with me: ‘Politics is what happens when there’s more than one person in the room’. It’s rather a good reminder that how we relate to one another (or not) quickly becomes about judgement, relative status, rules and conventions, and, yes, power.  What makes the whole shebang so interesting.

Sex, on the other hand, does not automatically happen when there’s more than one person in the room: but listening to the Assange extradition controversy – in particular the ramblings of Galloway (and his depressing echoes elsewhere) you begin to wonder if a surprising proportion of the male establishment really thinks so.  The fall-out from Akin’s rape comments in the USA is similarly unedifying. Rape is defined as sex without consent – that’s it. How sex comes about is by consent: if that’s not there, the act is reduced to one of power.

Those who champion Assange at the expense of the women bringing charges in Sweden show that they have confused sex and power – and that they see it all as power politics – ironic for all the talk of free speech and open democracy. Whether you think there is a conspiracy or not is irrelevant to the sexual assault charges: the charges must be answered. Is it a coincidence that those defending Assange most vociferously are predominantly male, while those speaking out for his need to answer charges have been predominantly female?  Surely that’s not politics is it?  It certainly isn’t sexy.

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