Do you ever consider why certain things are considered wrong and others right? Like sleeping your way to the top, which I happen to think is a perfectly acceptable career advancement strategy.
Too often I’ve heard people diminish a woman’s career success by attributing it to sexual favours she bestows upon, male, bosses. Phrases like “she got there on her back” have been wielded as handy weapons for devaluing or entirely dismissing women’s career ascent. I do not think there is anything wrong with sleeping your way to the top.
Why is sex a less legitimate means of achieving career success than say, strong negotiation or even kissing-up skills?
Most people have a few traits or skills they credit with their career success, like intelligence, the gift of the gab, charisma, working hard or working smart.; all perfectly acceptable strategies. I think the only reason sex is unacceptable for this purpose is because of nothing more than a value judgment. Some influential person or people at some point deemed it so and we have happily played along since.
Gloria Steinem, the great American feminist and activist, once wrote a very humorous and thought provoking article titled “If Men Could Menstruate”. She postulated that; “the characteristics of the powerful, whatever they may be, are thought to be better than the characteristics of the powerless, and logic has nothing to do with it. What would happen, for instance, if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not? The answer is clear – menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event: Men would brag about how long and how much. Boys would mark the onset of menses… with religious ritual and stag parties…” My aunt added that they would boast that “my cup runneth over” when menstruating. Before you dismiss this as a fanciful notion, think about it a bit. The only reason that menstruation is deemed an inconvenience, defect or even a curse is a value judgment. It could have gone the other way. It could have been perceived, as it was in some ancient cultures, as divine, biological proof of women’s superiority and distinction. After all, it is this blood that shows our remarkable ability to incubate life.
You may counter that sleeping your way to the top is frowned upon simply because it has nothing to do with the job.
I know a guy, and I bet you do too, who has built a stellar career out of befriending his bosses. This skill, which gets him promoted with mind-boggling regularity, has nothing to do with what he does or how well he does it. He knows that people do nice things for people they like and so he works hard at being liked by the right people. Many people have made themselves a packet by unofficially being the person whose job it is to make the boss look good. Their job titles rarely betray their unofficial job description; to quietly do the job while the boss takes the public glory. Very often career success is arrived at through things that don’t go on your CV.
Perhaps your objection is a moral one, along the lines of sex being a sacred expression of heartfelt love. This is because you don’t and have never engaged in premarital sex nor had sex for any reason other than procreation and the expression of genuine love for your partner. You have? Is that not the pot calling the kettle black? I’ve heard many people, women especially, since I rarely meet men who are explicitly against prostitution; say that using sex to get ahead in your career is akin to prostitution. How is that any better or different from doing a job you hate for money? Many people rise daily to spend hours doing a job they hate, sometimes one they find morally reprehensible like selling a product they do not believe in to people who don’t need it, in exchange for cash. Your legs may be firmly closed, but you are using your body and mind regularly to do something that feels wrong, for money. Which would you like to be, the pot or the kettle?
I have a problem with this innuendo, for no reason other than that it very easily tarnishes reputations and since it is near impossible to prove or disprove it is truly a low down dirty tactic.
It riles me even more because it is a weapon only used against women. Men are hardly ever accused of sleeping their way to the top. I bet they would given half a chance, and they’d probably reframe it as an acceptable strategy. Then again women have an entirely different relationship with sex. Perhaps male subordinates are better of showering us with compliments, chocolates, cosmetics and coupons for fabulous goodies. They’d probably term it the 4Cs of job advancement or something with gravitas.
For now it’s a bad thing because some influential person or people at some point deemed it so and we happily playing along, but we don’t have to. We can reframe this and anything else, which can be employed with such ease to diminish our achievements.