Just when you think it is no longer possible to be surprised by stories of misconduct in the workplace, Representative Trent Franks comes along.
According to one report, it was not made clear if Franks was requesting to impregnate them by having sex with them or through IVF. Another report describes how he allegedly offered one of the women $5m (R133 million) to carry his child.
He became the third US politician in a week to step down over allegations of sexual misconduct.
n a statement, Franks acknowledged the discussion, apologised for making his staffers feel uncomfortable but added that he “absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff”.
That statement made me really angry.
Because, whatever his motivations for the request, Franks failed utterly to acknowledge his real offence, which was the pure and simple exploitation of relationships in which he held all the power, and the aides had little.
These women relied on Franks for income, status, and professional development. In that kind of dynamic, just the act of discussing surrogacy was coercion of sorts. The fact that it wasn’t “physical” is irrelevant.
Franks should have known that. It’s possible that he did and ignored what he knew to gratify his own needs. But it’s also possible that he didn’t think about it.
That’s more worrying, and an indication of how deep this problem goes; that among far too many people there is an ingrained sense that women’s bodies are not their own, and that when they are vulnerable, they are to be exploited.
To me, this is what underpins the whole spectrum of behaviours, from sexual misconduct in the workplace, to pimping women in the street.