Prominent men treating women
badly has a long and ghastly history and, based on the current outbreak of
bashings and ‘sextings’ seems assured of an extended future.
This month has been a
particularly bad one for such men. There
are no special inferences to be drawn from this sudden epidemic of misbehaviour
other than that it may be a symptom of the silly season. If it’s something else, I don’t know what it
First, there was the case of
Anthony Weiner, a former United
States congressman, and currently a candidate
for Mayor of New York, who got, and admitted he still gets, his jollies texting
photographs of his aroused member to a female former member of staff, one
Sydney Leathers. (Naturally, Miss
Leathers has expressed her outrage by displaying her substantial physical
attributes on the Internet.)
Now it emerges that an Australian
politician, Peter Dowling, a member of parliament in Queensland, has been at it too. Deploying an interesting variation on the Weiner
theme, he has been caught texting his mistress shots of his penis dipped in a
wine glass. (He now says he and his wife
were planning to divorce anyway, as if that explains it.)
Then there was the odd recent case
of Charles Saatchi, owner of a fortune from advertising, grabbing his wife, Nigella
Lawson, a well-known television cook, by the throat outside a famous London restaurant. Saatchi immediately dismissed his assault as a
‘playful gesture’ (a conclusion with which his wife disagreed in the most
profound way by securing the fastest divorce on record).
Today, the dismal drum-beat rolls
on. Damien Brenninkmeyer, an heir to the C&A fortune, has been charged with
slapping his wife while driving a car, as his two children looked on from the
back seat. And a British barrister,
Robert Colover, prosecuting (not defending) a child abuse case, has been
suspended from participating in future cases of that kind, after mysteriously describing
the 14-year-old victim as ‘predatory’.
The question of why these men, so
successful in their respective professions, fall so easily prey to such dark impulses,
sexual or violent, is a far broader and more complex question than I’m capable
of answering. And I’m not going to offer
any moral judgement on the matter. We’ve
all had shameful moments. What baffles
me is why they all seem to believe that their actions will go unnoticed, and when
caught almost invariably expect to be forgiven by spouses, peers or courts for incidents
which they apparently regard as minor and explicable human aberrations. Is that arrogance or part of a defence
strategy devised by public relations advisors?
Damned if I know.
Weiner resumed the practice of displaying
his member on-line even after he’d been caught the first time – and even now persists,
against rising odds, in his campaign for political office. Brenninkmeyer, after
trying to prevent his wife from calling the police, is said to have admonished
her for “causing a scene”.
In a somewhat different vein, a
British member of the European parliament, Godfrey Bloom, has deplored Britain
sending aid to a place he called “Bongo Bongo Land” – clearly a reference to
Africa and patently an example of underlying racism. Today, he claims plaintively, and in a
childish diversionary ploy that he wasn’t being racist, having merely been
referring to an African antelope called the bongo. (There is such an animal, the Oxford English
Never mind the moral issues in
any of these cases; such scandals have always been with us and always will be. The striking element is, as it ever was, the
sheer laughable stupidity of supposedly intelligent men in places of public
trust, who think moreover that they still deserve it.
I can’t summon a feeling of outrage because, sadly, there is
nothing new in any of this. But with a
shake of the head one despairs for just that reason.