GOTN Avatar

There’s something wrong with sex and morality

I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but we have a big problem with sex and morality. If something is sexual, we seem to want to attribute a moral action to it even when one is not necessary.

There are some acts which, by whatever standards of morality you hold, most of us can accept are inherently ‘good’ – helping people who are vulnerable or suffering, for instance, or sharing resources when you’ve got more than you need. There are some we can label ‘bad’ fairly easily: hurting a person deliberately and without any reason, etc etc.

However, with sex we seem to want to label things ‘good’ or ‘bad’ when – at best – they’re morally neutral. Masturbation, for example. It can be good for your health (mental and physical) but is it morally good per se? Not really: it’s just a wank. Some sex acts are morally bad, but they’re morally bad because they have other characteristics which are ‘bad’ – they exploit or hurt people.

All this is to say that I don’t think ‘sex’ is inherently good or bad. Like eating, sex is just something we do. It can be good (a delicious doughnut to sate you after a hard day’s shagging) or bad (eating the flesh of an animal you’ve just tortured for fun). But food is a good example, because we frequently apply moral actions to eating, as we do to sex. You’ll have a ‘naughty’ slice of cake. Or ‘be bad’ and eat a second biscuit. Realistically, there’s no moral quality to these acts, as there’s little moral quality to the inherent act of sex: it’s just a fuck. The context is what gives it moral weight.

On that general foundation rests my default position whenever ‘sex things’ come up in the news. I’d always rather be extra careful when making moral judgments about sexual things, because of this tendency we have to leap towards ‘that sounds icky to me therefore it must be immoral.’

Brooks Newmark and the nude pictures

And so, the story that prompted this blog: Tory MP Brooks Newmark has resigned because he sent some nude pictures to someone who was not his wife. The pics went to an anonymous reporter who had explicitly requested the pictures, so there isn’t an issue of consent there. He did a sexual thing that someone had asked him to do.

I do not think that was morally wrong.

However, what was morally wrong is that he (from the sounds of it) did something that was not acceptable within his relationship. He and his wife did not have an agreement that naked sexting was OK. So that’s pretty crappy.

But I don’t think he should have resigned. I don’t think he should have been fired. And I certainly don’t think that his inability to resist the urge to send naked pictures of himself to someone who asked for them means he is incapable of being a politician. If we held politicians to high standards of morality in their private as well as their public life, based on the decisions of an angry mob/press, then the number of us who’d be qualified to be politicians would be vanishingly small. But it’s not just practical reasons that make me a bit uncomfortable with the torches and pitchforks that come out whenever there’s some sort of sex scandal.

It’s the fact that this argument is so often thrown out:

It’s about integrity!

Well, sure. We want politicians (and other people who work in roles that affect us) to have integrity. My doctor, for instance, should have great integrity. I expect her to be honest with me, to choose the right treatments, and not to sell out to Big Pharma for a fiver if she knows the better remedy is cheaper. Integrity is vital. But there’s a massive and overwhelming difference between saying to someone: “You are in an important job, and we need to trust you to perform your role with integrity” and saying “by the way this includes everything you do from now on even when you’re not on the clock.”

I’m sorry, but bollocks to that.

Allow me to clarify for those of you who’ll think I’m excusing any kind of immorality outside the workplace: I’m not. I’ll happily join in a bit of chit-chat calling someone a bastard if they cheat on their partner (and I’ll put my hand up and call myself a bastard too, for I have made myriad mistakes and cock-ups in my life) but there’s a big difference between saying ‘I don’t like that’ and extending it as far as ‘you’re fired.’

Here’s the thing: it’s the easy answer. I get that it’s far simpler and more satisfying to say ‘this guy sounds like scum, so he doesn’t deserve a job.’ But I’m suspicious of easy answers, particularly around sex, because I think with anything sexual we’re so desperate to assign morality to every single act that we forget what I said above: sex isn’t inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – it’s something for which the moral consequences must be weighed up depending on the context.

Simple answers sound awesome, which is why they are often the best way to deprive people of freedoms. Saying ‘if you’ve nothing to hide you’ve nothing to fear’ is a nice, simple, memorable way to get people to agree to quite drastic infringement of their liberties. Likewise saying ‘well, if you’re in a position of trust you need to be held to higher ethical standards’ may well be a great way to curb politicians who do things we find icky.

But ‘a position of trust’ is easily interpreted to include headteachers, teachers, bankers, doctors, lawyers, journalists, carers, anyone who leads a team of more than two people…. etc etc ad infinitum. We all have responsibilities, and we all need to have integrity in order to perform particular tasks in life. The issue I have is with treating people as if they cannot possibly distinguish between different areas. That if they’re dishonest in one area – that has nothing to do with their job – they will naturally be dishonest elsewhere. That if they spank people in their spare time they’ll be a sex pest in the office. People aren’t that misguided, and even if they were I can think of far better institutions to police it than their employers.

In conclusion, then: I don’t think we should sack people for doing sexual things outside of work. There are plenty of immoral acts for which I’d want a politician to be fired. Sexual harassment, for instance, is not only immoral but has genuine and serious ramifications for how that person performs their job (it implies a deep lack of respect, and often actual harassment, of people they are working with) – it’s also illegal. But unless a politician is going to make a cast-iron pact with their colleagues or the electorate to never send nude pictures of themself to another consenting adult, then holding them to account for a private promise they’ve made to their loved one makes no more sense than firing them for getting divorced.

I appreciate some of you might disagree vehemently with me on this, and please do feel free to: I’m particularly interested to explore the grey areas of this to see if my gut instincts hold up to scrutiny. So disagree, tell me I’m wrong, and get all angry in the comments if you like: just please don’t have me fired.


  • FarmerDan says:

    Hmm. Let’s hypothesise for a moment that as a blogger you have a certain obligation (let’s call it coherence) to your adoring public. But only a few hours ago – late last night – after an unexpectedly stressful evening, somebody offers you some kind of substance to relieve the stress but will cause you to fail that obligation. How strong would you be?

    I’m not defending the guy, I just think you’re being a bit hard on him. Most guys with a libido would own up to an incident or two they’re not proud of.

    There’s a bigger question here which you are well equipped to answer: would anybody who is biologically female actually request a dick pic? I’ve read plenty of profiles and posts by women begging guys not to send them, never one asking for them.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Yep, I’ve requested them before! I know a fair few others who have as well. Never send them to someone who hasn’t asked, of course- I think that’s mainly what people complain about, and rightly so!

      The substance example is a good one, although I’m not sure it’s the same category. Two possibilities:
      1 they’re illegal drugs, in which case I don’t think they come under this umbrella, but fwiw I think it’s fair for employers to fire you if illegal drug use has significant detrimental effects on your work
      2 they’re prescription drugs, in which case context is key. I wouldn’t necessarily want to say it’s responsible or irresponsible without knowing context.

  • J. Constance says:

    You wouldn’t believe how gutted I am that I can’t do webcam porn because of my profession.

  • Hyacinth says:

    I can’t agree with you more if I tried, actually. Here in the States, teachers regularly lose their jobs because nude photos are found — that they sent to consenting ADULTS. Just the proof that they’re sexual causes them to lose their jobs. There’s one instance in particular that I’m thinking of where a middle school teacher didn’t realize that when she upgraded her iPhone iOs it automatically connected to the iCloud when she went to her classroom. Her students, unbeknownst to her, were able to access some boob pics she sent her boyfriend. She was immediately fired. I just don’t get that.

    To expound on that, I know that anyone who deals with ethics for a living (doctors, therapists, lawyers) are upheld to strange personal standards of morality and ethics. God forbid they do anything — ANYTHING — they help their clients and patients to correct, avoid, or change.

    It is bollocks. We’re all human and our professions are not at all reflective of personal tastes and/or struggles.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Yes! “We’re all human and our professions are not at all reflective of personal tastes and/or struggles.” – lovely way of putting it =)

      I think the teacher thing is a really good example of how this stuff can creep through into every profession. As soon as we assume that humans are unable to make distinctions between work and private life, we end up policing their private life as if their ‘vocation’ is a mask they must wear at all times, which is weird. Teachers are just as capable of being sexual beings as the rest of us, and to insist they’re not is bizarre.

      I feel so sorry for the teacher who got sacked for that photo. To be honest I think that’s a borderline case where perhaps – if she was really careless and/or ignored warnings/training about that, then there’s potential culpability for which I wouldn’t necessarily condemn a boss for sanctioning her. But yeah, ultimately the fact that she took the pics is no reason to fire her – many people do, and there’s nothing immoral in it. Definitely a warning to schools/teachers/anyone about tech though – and making sure that anything sexy is kept under as good a wrap as possible. There’s no way we can guarantee these things, but in that situation I’d always say that if the school needed her to use tech for work or connect to the cloud for work, they should give her a phone she can use just for that purpose. I’ve always refused to put work stuff on my personal phone, because… well… I wouldn’t want to accidentally put GOTN stuff on a work email!

  • Codex says:

    Unfortunately when its comes to what you can and can’t do in the work place it isn’t always about morality. Its neither moral nor immoral to say turn up to work late or scruffy but if it reflects badly on your employer then you might find yourself with something to answer to. Like it or not there are some professions where public perception is everything and if you are seen to be damaging a brand or a company’s trust in you don’t be surprised if they find a way of showing you the door.

    This does preclude some people leading lives that others wouldn’t think twice about. My wife is a teacher and is in charge of the IT policy in her school, as such she is prohibited from using facebook, storing files on cloud services, she has to be careful about getting photographed on a night out because of other peoples facebook profiles – in short it sucks. An MP of course would know this but then that doesn’t stop people trying anyway and hoping they get away without anyone finding out.

    • Girl on the net says:

      I agree but re scruffy etc then that’s in the workplace itself, so fair enough even though I don’t like it. Also agree that brands will probably find a way to get rid of people if they damage brand perception. But to me that’s another reason why it’s important to challenge it: companies you work for having this much influence over you? V scary, and difficult to control. Leaves vulnerable people even more vulnerable.

    • Azkyroth says:

      These expectations (at least some of them) are unreasonable. Reiterating that they exist is not a rebuttal of that.

      • Girl on the net says:

        What Azkyroth said! And sorry my comment was weirdly garbled – I wrote it on my phone and, on re-reading it doesn’t make much sense =)

  • Yingtai says:

    This is an AWESOME blog post, and I’m afraid I’m only addressing the first half directly.

    If you have read The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, you may remember that the neo-Victorians are incredulous when they hear that people used to believe morality was relative, and therefore the worst sin was hypocrisy. It’s obviously absurd when you put it that way, and yet I think he’s right, that’s what we do believe. I’ve come to the conclusion that the worst sin is not to try to be ethical at all – which is the stance of too many finger-waggers.

    About eating and sex, I wish it was just Christian hangups about pleasure. But when people say it’s sinful to overeat, it sounds much more like one of their ethical values is to be attractive and get sex. And elevating sex to that status is just as awful as calling it a sin. I want it to be normal again for teenage girls to make solemn vows to be nicer to grandma – not to lose weight!

    By the way have you seen this awesome article on self-control? I was really surprised that gratitude helps with long-term thinking. Which I think it says a lot about how traditional religion used to foster self-control. We godless ones need to figure out our own equivalent.

    • anonymous says:

      That is an awesome article. Fascinating and useful. Thanks for linking to it!

    • Girl on the net says:

      That’s really interesting – thank you! I have a weird relationship with self-control in that I fully get its importance, and wave flags and shout all over the place that self-control is vital for a whole bunch of stuff. But I also smoke, drink, eat shit food, and do loads of things that – with a bit of self-control – could be cut out of my life and make things generally better. Some really interesting examples of willpower experiments in there – thanks!

  • Fiddy says:

    It’s funny I see this because my wife is a manager at a local grocery store, and one of her employees got caught sexting. Some of the others demanded he be fired, but she just shrugged and told them to come bother her with something that actually mattered.

    (Knowing her she was probably trying to shoo them away because around noon she tends to enjoy a phallic object around then, AKA she probably wasn’t wearing pants under that desk)

    But really most people are just hypocrites.

  • Bigfoot says:

    At law college you have to do a course on professional standards, and I had a debate with the lecturer after we were told that as lawyers we shouldn’t go in to strip clubs. I made the point that if any of the people in the room went in to a strip club, chances are they would not be doing so as a lawyer, but as a human being. The lecturer couldn’t see the distinction. Acknowledging that humans have sexual desires is likely to bring the profession into disrepute apparently. What a load of old tosh.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Yep, that’s bloody weird. I can see the not going to strip clubs *as* lawyers (e.g. for work outings) but the idea that as a lawyer you give up a right to be a sexual person? Bloody weird.

  • M says:

    A few points of note, I reckon:

    1. We don’t sack ministers for being terrible at being charge of their portfolios, but they feel compelled to resign for falling foul of an entrapment exercise which essentially boils down to the Mirror saying “he’s a dick; he’ll send naked pics in response to receiving them—sod what his partner might think, because we’re going to opinionate”

    (I used opinionate as a verb; I’m so sorry)

    1a. One of these days, we’ll have somebody who aspires to be the Minister for Education, because she or he actually gives a shit about teaching and schools and students.

    1b. Until then, I couldn’t give a shit about ministers’ personal lives (unless they used them as a campaigning platform disingenuously); but I would like to see the Minister for, say, Health, sacked because he’s terrible at looking after the NHS.

    2. What the fuck does the girl whose photos were used in this entrapment exercise have to say about all of this?

  • jdgalt says:

    We’re never going to get perfect privacy, so I’d like to see a law protecting employees against sacking for most forms of private behavior that is none of the boss’s business.

    Then again, we already have plenty of laws against other kinds of discrimination (for instance age) that are impossible to enforce. (The manager who won’t hire me because I’m too old can easily say he just doesn’t like the way I look, or sound, etc.) Probably the only way around this is to have the government making the hiring decisions, the way it does in Germany, and that could easily turn out worse if the next PM or President is a prude.

    I suppose the ultimate answer will have to be public ostracism of persons (and companies) who sack people for unfair reasons.

  • Snags says:

    Sticking my head above the parapet here and going slightly against the flow, so bear with me.

    I’m not really speaking to whether or not this was a resigning issue, but picking up on some of the ideas of integrity, and whether or not “this kind of thing” matters in general and in this particular context.

    The zeitgeist seems to be that there’s a clear delineation between “personal” and “professional” (or “public”) and that one never speaks to the other regarding integrity and so forth. As GOTN points out, in this instance Brooks has done something crappy in relation to his wife. That does, however, speak to general integrity. One would hope that your marriage is one of, if not the, most important relationship you have. When you get married you make a bunch of promises, and effectively go from being two “me’s” to one “we” (well, assuming you have the same understanding of marriage and that’s what you both sign up to). There’s an acknowledgement that both individuals will do what’s best for the pair of you, not just what suits out of selfish interest. And generally people invest a shedload of emotion, trust etc. into that.

    So if you’re prepared to do something that craps all over that relationship, particularly something which is on one level trivial and easily turned down, it does raise the question of how readily you’ll crap all over other things or people for the sake of a quick return. (I guess it also raises the question of how you really view your marriage, too). Not that people can’t be complex and multi-faceted; fiercely constant in one area whilst compulsively or pathalogically incontinent in another. But the flag goes up, things are connected, character isn’t that compartmentalised.

    Also, in the case of a politician or someone in a position of influence/power, there’s the wider issue of leverage or blackmail. Do you want someone in a position of power if they will so easily and readily, without any thought to checking things out a little, put themselves in a position where a third party could exert undue influence (yeah, yeah, I know, politicians, MegaCorps etc., but go with me here)? It’s a legitimate question, even if ultimately you decided that actually you don’t care.

    Of course, there’s a far wider question embedded in the above: should sending a few ill-advised knob shots be the kind of thing that gives a third party undue hold over you? Or should you be able to shrug it off with a “nothing to see here” (bit of a knock to male pride, but hey ;) )? But right here, right now, there’s an actual context for it all, and it’s not just a bit of sexting in a vacuum.

    Personally I think the Mirror have sailed exceedingly close to the wind, and bloke’s a twat; nobody comes off well. But if we all lose our jobs for being twats, the unemployment stats are going to go through the roof. So should he have resigned? I dunno. Can you say the sexting doesn’t have any connection to his wider life? Not so much, without knowing a hell of a lot more.

    Right, I’m off to put on my asbestos suit …

    • M says:

      People’s marriages fail, for various reasons. That does not mean they’re incapable of being trustworthy in (a) future relationships, (b) money, or (c) policies.

      There’s serious risk in conflating them all which puts us back to the 1950s in terms of social values, and that was not a good place: it was one where people would much rather lie than be perceived to have failed at a “trust” issue.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Hi Snags! You’re not sticking your head above the parapet – constructive debate is always welcome and I won’t call you a twat for disagreeing. I think M’s spoken to your general points (and broadly I’d agree with M) but I wanted to pick out one of your examples in particular as I think it’s really interesting:

      “Also, in the case of a politician or someone in a position of influence/power, there’s the wider issue of leverage or blackmail. Do you want someone in a position of power if they will so easily and readily, without any thought to checking things out a little, put themselves in a position where a third party could exert undue influence (yeah, yeah, I know, politicians, MegaCorps etc., but go with me here)? It’s a legitimate question, even if ultimately you decided that actually you don’t care.”

      Yep, I think this is something that – in particular jobs – may well be considered very important. I know that there are certain roles for certain organisations that require you to either a) be squeaky clean (which is unlikely!) or b) divulge your darkest secrets to your employer, so that the possibility for blackmail doesn’t come up. For instance (and this is all off the top of my head: I don’t work for MI5 or anything) if you’ve a very kinky past and you do a lot of BDSM play in clubs etc, working for certain people you would be expected to divulge that, or employers would be expected to do a bit of digging to find it out.

      Now. I don’t think that this stuff should necessarily preclude you from having a job, however I can see why the fear of blackmail can be potentially important to certain employers. My gut instinct on this is to say that as long as these hiring practices are transparent, and clear about what does and doesn’t count as ‘blackmailable’, then to a certain extent a lot of the problems can be headed off to start with. If you’re kinky, for instance, and the company says ‘we’ll need to know, but we’ll keep it confidential, and here’s why we need this info’ then I think that’s far less worrying than a company that has no stated policy on this stuff over and above a blanket ‘we’ll fire you if you do something we don’t like.’

      However, there’s still the problem that they’re essentially going to be discriminating on hires based on personal life. It’s perhaps less of a problem because it’s up-front, and so open for debate and criticism if they go too far (and if they go too far they’ll get no candidates, so to a certain extent it’ll regulate itself), but I still don’t like it.

      Bottom line is I think companies need to take responsibility for what they’re actually asking of their staff. It’s all very well having blanket rules that ‘protect the company’ but they need to be fair, transparent, and 100% justified. Anything that blanket states ‘if you bring our company into disrepute we’ll fire you’ is not even close to good enough, because it’s open to interpretation, and therefore the whims of management.

      • Snags says:

        Actually, I think M.’s response is a bit of a brush off and not wildly pertinent :) Marriages do fail, for many reasons; and people who are married don’t necessarily negotiate the ‘standard’ terms of behaviour for said marriage. However, as far as we can tell in this instance the marriage was supposedly alive and kicking, and appears to be operating on ‘normal’ lines. So it still speaks to integrity, as he’s still crapping all over something that shouldn’t be crapped on (without further info). If they’re separated, have an open agreement, whatever, then obviously that tells a different story.

        As to the rest, yes, I broadly agree.

        One interesting thing that’s been pointed up elsewhere is the power dynamic in the not-a-relationship which is “interesting” in terms of the specific example, although not the more general points. Again, without knowing a bit more one can’t comment with huge confidence, but e.g. the Fleetstreet Fox article was quite thought-provoking.

  • Thrasy says:

    Couldn’t agree more.

    This story gave me a bit of hope when I first read it (I can’t find the original UK article I read – this one has less on the supportive views given by parents).

    Though I’d say, in this instance, had it been a male teacher (especially if he had been with another man in the video) the response from the schools and parents would have been less…”understanding”.

    Though, thats all rather hypothetical I guess. Just kinda glad it didn’t destroy her career/life in the end.

  • chris says:

    The MP, in a position of power and responsibility, sent dick pics to someone he thought was a Tory PR girl he hadn’t even met and had no idea if he could trust, expecting the whole thing to remain a bit of private fun. Maybe he was totally naive and trusted her, maybe he gets off on risky behaviour. Either way it was a total lapse of judgement and it reflects on his decision-making abilities. As he said himself, he’s been very stupid but there are other consequences too.

    He’s lost his role as a minister but not his job as an MP, so he’s still getting paid 67 grand to represent his constituency. It’s up to them what they make of this.

    I’ve never understood why the personal integrity thing stops at the office door, and it doesn’t matter whether someone is an emotionally abusive bully, or unfaithful (which means betraying and lying to those you are most intimate with). Personally I don’t believe that somehow people who have serious character or behavioural flaws in one area are capable of controlling it to the extent it doesn’t leach into their working life. Either they are weak in that area across the board, which does raise questions about their personal integrity or judgement in other areas, or they can control it at work and they’re actively making a choice that the way they treat people in their private life matters less.

    As for “genuine and serious ramifications for how that person performs their job” – I’d never want someone who was so ruled by their downstairs brain that they could do something reckless to be in charge of procurement for example: far too suggestible.

    • Girl on the net says:

      “I’ve never understood why the personal integrity thing stops at the office door, and it doesn’t matter whether someone is an emotionally abusive bully, or unfaithful (which means betraying and lying to those you are most intimate with).”

      So would you advocate people being fired from work for cheating in their home life? Not hiring someone who has cheated in the past? At what point do our personal mistakes stop being the business of our employers? If, for instance, I cheated on my partner 2 years ago, would that mean you should not hire me for something today?

      And what other immoral behaviour would you fire people for? If an employee got a parking or speeding ticket, for example, surely that displays either an inability to follow basic instructions (parking signage) or a deliberate and wilful breach of the law. Are these things that you’d want in your workplace, or can you trust that the person knows the difference between a personal life fuck up and a permanent character flaw? And – most importantly – why are you (or, indeed, any employer) qualified to decide exactly which activities in someone’s personal life will necessarily impact on their behaviour in work?

      Final point, because I mentioned it in the blog and I’d be really interested to hear your answer (or indeed from anyone who disagrees with me on this): divorce is, to a certain extent, a breach of a huge promise that you’ve made to another person, who you’ve promised to be with for the rest of your life. It’s a breach of promise in a similar way (although obviously not in the same spirit) as cheating. Do you think that someone who is divorced has demonstrated inconstancy such that you wouldn’t want to hire them?

      • Snags says:

        It’s worth noting that he resigned, he wasn’t fired. Although I’ll accept it was probably one of those “I’ll be accepting your resignation now …” resignations.

        I think to some extent there’s a bit of a straw man here, with extreme and simplistic positions being taken quite quickly and easily. So on the one hand there’s the “X was in my personal life, it has no bearing whatsoever on my professional life, and it’s a gross affront to even consider that it might possibly speak to my character, probity, or suitability for anything. These things should be utterly isolated and separate.”

        On the other, you’ve got the (apparent, I’ve not seen anyone actually argue this for real ever) “When you were 9 you stole 20p from your dad to buy sweets; even though you cracked and confessed and got punished for it, you are clearly I’m unemployable now because you are a THIEF and a DECEIVER!”.

        It seems to me that both positions are bollocks, and the reasonable truth is somewhere in the middle, and often held in uncomfortable tension between pragmatic reality and idealised positions. Unfortunately for people in the public eye, it’s complicated by a media shit-storm which means any chance of a fair or balanced hearing goes straight out of the window.

        Ultimately, it’s a big fat grey area, and each-case-on-its-merits. Which will leave all of us pissed off.

        • Girl on the net says:

          I’m all for agreeing that there are grey areas, and this is clearly one of them. That’s why I haven’t said ‘no one should ever be fired/feel compelled to resign for a sexual thing’ – there are certain instances where I can see that there’s a strong case for it, as in possibly the blackmail example above. So forgive me for suggesting that I think your comment might be a bit of a straw man… =)

          Here’s what I’m saying: we are naturally disposed to make moral judgments about sex, even when they are unnecessary. And so, when something sexual comes up about which we want to make a knee-jerk judgment, we need to take extra care to ensure that our judgment is actually fair rather than just the easy answer. What I’m saying is: we too often reach for the easy answer, particularly when it comes to people in a position of authority making sexual mistakes (or even just having sexual behaviour that is perfectly legal/moral but a bit out of the ordinary). We do have to wade through the murky grey area and draw a line somewhere, but I think we’ve drawn the line way too far over towards the ‘sack the sex pest’ side that it realistically should be.

  • Ian says:

    I always come back to the idea from Robert Heinlein (I hasten to add I don’t agree with all, or even most of his ideas, but his books always made me think): Sin is hurting other people.

    It’s really rough for people in professions where their own lives are assumed to be fodder for colleagues, customers or managers to discuss. I’m in such a profession and get really tired of others assuming they have a right to comment on what I do of-duty.

    I quote: “Teachers should never do anything that they could be criticised for by parents or pupils.” *Anything*? Really? Because there’s always someone who can complain. The important question is who is *harmed*. With this MP, the reporters and commentators didn’t really have a position in which to complain.

    I like to think that the proof of being liberal is when you end up defending people you really don’t like. Politicians. Yuck.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Good point. And *Tory* politicians at that =(

      Agree that a lot of it is about ‘harm’ – I think one of the interesting distinctions is that, while there are things you could do personally that would harm your colleagues or other individuals, would ‘harm to the company’ be included? I think there are large-category harms that of course should be included. If, for instance, you work for an animal charity that’s campaigning against foxhunting and at the weekends you run your own hunt: that’s pretty direct harm, and it’s hard to see how there isn’t an argument there for losing your job. If you work for a vegan charity and you eat a ham sandwich at the weekend? Definitely not firing behaviour, imho.

      I’m waffling a bit, but basically I think the ‘harm’ issue can always be applied to individuals, but when applying to companies I think it needs to be qualified in some way: significant, deliberate, forseeable harm or something along those lines.

      • Ian says:

        Absolutely, I think of harm as either physical or emotional. Although… would financial harm apply to a company? Reputational, perhaps – because you could argue that politicians harm the party ‘brand’ when caught doing something like that.

        Of course, you would also have to put this harm in the context of, say, slashing benefits, selling the NHS and cutting taxes for your mates in top end companies. Just to think of a few examples.

        At the moment lots of people (and companies, come to that) get to define after the fact what is acceptable and what isn’t. Maybe a specific ‘behaviour list’, shared beforehand, would mean it was all out in the open.

        As far as this MP and errors of judgement go, I have to say it’s a non starter. Being a total idiot has never disqualified people from political office. MPs, like everyone else, are entitled to make stupid (human) errors without professional penalty. Burris Johnson’s hair for example. I see those like David Tredinnick, who allow stupid made up nonsense like astrology to affect their professional lives, to be a much bigger problem.

        Sorry, ranty comment over!

  • Whilst I agree that breaking the rules for your relationship or other arbitrary rules around sex should not be a reason to sack someone I think the sexting did show something more than just breaking marriage vows.
    It was not “stupid” behaviour, it was a politician with power who believed he was sexting a very young, very junior researcher in his party. As the Reynard fiasco showed far too often male politicians abuse their influence to get sex from people they have power over. People have talked alot about entrapment, but not about what Newmark believed was happening. He thought he was sexting someone who was unlikely to have to ability to report him if things went wrong, who was hoping for a career where he had power.

    All too often predatory behaviour is excused as a momentary act of stupidity, as if mens brains switch off the moment they get an erection, it is a dangerous defence that helps no one.

    • Girl on the net says:

      I don’t think that’s quite right – it was a tabloid sting. This guy didn’t DM a lady and ask her for naked pics: he was repeatedly messaged by a journalist posing as a young researcher, getting more and more keen. Honestly, I’m 100% with you on abuse of power, and that is obviously a situation I’d condemn. But that’s not what happened in this case – it took a LOT of persuasion and chatting and more persuasion before this guy sent a naked pic. I think it’s dangerous to see any man who does this as ‘predatory’ – have a look at what happened, he definitely wasn’t preying on anyone.

  • Lee says:

    What’s messed up here is the flawed concept that 1 incident proves a lifetime of flawed behaviour.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.