“It is possible to end nights out for slimeballs and stop sexual harassment at work. But it relies on each of us helping to change the culture that lets them happen.”
— From The Guardian editorial, Jan. 24
(Columnist’s note: A high-powered men’s only organization in London, U.K., the Presidents Club, is folding after news reports that its annual charity gala last week was a hotbed of sexual impropriety. This is a reimagining of that story with the gender shoe firmly on the other foot — the point being, any way you tell it, it’s repugnant.)
So, what, exactly was the big deal?
The long-running women’s charity, the She-E-O Club, held its annual fundraising gala and auction last week.
It was a fancy-dress ladies’ night out — a good time for a good cause, as they say.
OK, granted, not all guests were ladylike. Some had a few drinks and got a bit raunchy.
But they raised a couple of million for a children’s hospital, which was, after all, the point. They’ve been doing it for years. It’s all about the children.
Here’s what the fuss seems to have been about.
So, yes, a certain type of host was hired for the evening to fetch drinks and chat up guests. Tall, taut, young and handsome men, was what I believe the advert called for.
And, yes, they were scantily clad. Tight leather pants with G-string underneath. No shirt. Black bow tie.
They were all given a non-disclosure statement to sign, which they did. Granted, they didn’t have much chance to actually read it, and they didn’t get to keep a copy.
But it was above board. They were paid well for their night’s work, and She-E-O members were told there was to be no harassment. Many of the hosts were students or actors or models looking for a lucrative gig. They were all given a non-disclosure statement to sign, which they did. Granted, they didn’t have much chance to actually read it, and they didn’t get to keep a copy.
After being given a glass of wine to loosen up, the 130 hosts paraded across a stage, stopped briefly in the middle and then took the steps down either side, fanning out into the audience in two streams, a man for each table.
The women members were into the drinks and fired up. Some held their host’s hand and flirted shamelessly.
Undercover reporters who attended — having landed a couple of the host jobs — said they saw the men being groped and pinched, subjected to off-colour jokes and sexual invitations. One She-E-O Club member exposed her genitalia, according to the press.
But let’s try to keep this in perspective; no one forced the men to be there, and surely once they were aware of the dress code and the fact that it was a women’s only event, they might have expected some good-natured naughtiness, right?
Some of the hosts were reportedly put off, especially after the women started getting touchy-feely. One was heard complaining of feeling “objectified.” But if they edged away from their table, there were staff hired expressly to nudge them back. Ditto if the boys lingered in the loo — a monitor was there to keep them on pace and get them back to the tables.
Around 10 o’clock the auction began. You could win naming rights to a character in a children’s book, or have a hospital wing named in your honour. There was a night out for 100 guests at a posh male strip club — free lapdance, glass of champagne and a smoked salmon bagel thrown in. Oh, and free plastic surgery, with encouragement to have your tired old husband use it to freshen himself up.
It was a screaming success.
But thanks to our über-politically correct climate and the #HeToo campaign, guests at the gala have been publicly maligned, the children’s hospital won’t accept the proceeds, and the She-E-O Club is shutting down.
Years of philanthropy, down the toilet.
All because some tenderlings’ delicate sensitivities were offended.
Some people have no sense of humour.
(Background on the actual event is from “Men only: inside the charity fundraiser where hostesses are put on show,” Madison Marriage, Financial Times, Jan. 23)
Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s associate managing editor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: pam_frampton