By now you will have heard about the New York City intern whose sexual harassment suit was chucked out because her position was an unpaid one. If not, check it out here. The gist: boss gropes intern in hotel room. Intern, grossed-out, rebuffs incursion, is subsequently passed over for job. Coincidence? She thinks not. The court wouldn’t hear the case, though, ostensibly because “significant remuneration” was not a condition of the victim’s internship.
Thus harassment may be legally recognized by the city of New York only when its victims are paid in coin of the realm. Absent the exchange of cash, unpaid interns are apparently considered to be exempt from civil rights. They’re fair game. They should just shut up and be grateful for the opportunity to get their butt squeezed by their boss. Any negative consequences arising from their uppity assertion of fully human status are their own fault.
This may seem arbitrary and absurd to you, a reasonable person who possesses a normal sensitivity to social injustice, but you know what’s going on here: the intern was merely adjudged to have been fairly used per the Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women.
You know what’s funny? The Global Accords also contain a provision wherein the opposite condition obtains. This provision states that women who are monetarily compensated for sex, i.e. prostituted women, are also fair game. These women cannot be sexually abused any more than an unpaid intern can, since they are paid be be abused*, and abuse is known to be consistent with the essence of prostituted women. Prostituted women may not assert personal bodily sovereignty, because they are considered to have sold those rights to the dude who pays for access to their bodies. The intern can’t claim sovereignty rights, either, as she is considered to have signed them over to her non-paying exploiter of a fuckface boss in return for, I guess, the singular privilege of basking in his reflected magnificence.
Not surprisingly, a Neanderthal victim-blaming commenter on the aforelinked Think Progress article objected to the characterization of the intern as a harassment victim. He suggested that because the woman voluntarily agreed to meet with her employer in the hotel room, she was askin’ for it. Which presents an interesting conflation of the two Global Accords provisions under discussion. The introduction of the hotel room — internationally acknowledged as the traditional venue of illicit sex on the DL — instantly recasts the intern as a sexbag with no rights. Just like that! (Female + hotel room) ÷ (douchebag) = whore.
Thus we observe that the Global Accords cram women in between a rock and an even bigger rock. Unpaid interns cannot be sexually harassed, paid prostituted women cannot be raped. From these conflicting contingencies we may deduce that the issue of payment is in fact a red herring. Pay’em, don’t pay’em: whether it is a condition of a business transaction or not, money is just an excuse to rationalize discrimination and abuse based on the power differential between DudeNation and the sex class. It’s a tool of the institutionalized misogyny that permits and sanctions women’s exploitation. The system is entrenched, immutable, codified, sanctified, and virtually ungameable. Everyone is subject to its impossible conditions. That’s because all women worldwide, including those of us in this supposedly enlightened, patriarchy-free American society, are indistinguishable from sex itself.
* By the way, sexual harassment is abuse, and should be a considered a crime, not merely some minor workplace impropriety.