Not Surprisingly, The French Are Just Plain Wrong About Vertical Dating

..and so is blogger Amy Alkon, who launched her objections to vertical dating prohibitions with this report  by Ibtissem Guenfoud at ABC about the French reaction to McDonald’s CEO being sacked for having a sexual relationship with a subordinate, in violation of the company’s policy:

Some are calling it the latest case of American puritanism, “far from French ways,” and reminding the French public that, at least in France, employees and bosses are free to date and protected by their right to privacy… in France, the company’s rule not to date “employees who have a direct or indirect reporting relationship to each other” is seen as anti-freedom, including sexual freedom.Therefore, to exclude sex from the workplace as a means of protecting women is perceived as an exclusion from the sexual realm that they fought so hard to have access to, thereby reducing them again to the status of objects who need protection from men. “We are putting walls in places where it is not necessary,” Rudisuhli said. “The sexuality of people does not concern the company. Women are big enough to know what they want. All women do not dream of marrying their boss. There is contempt for women as if we were venal and we need to protect them. It’s contemptuous.” Rudisuhli voiced the concern that women in France risk being victimized in the wake of the #MeToo movement and reduced to an inferior position of needing protection, in the sexual realm as well as in the workplace. It is through this lens that many consider McDonald’s rules to be patriarchal….

Sure. In reality, it is through this lens that bosses who want to abuse their workplace power to get laid and employees who think they can use sex to get an edge on advancement see a threat to their unethical and destructive agendas.

I get it: the French culture embraces sexual harassment. That’s their choice, but don’t insult everyone else’s intelligence by trying to justify it by using a wave of rationalizations so high it would drown Marseilles.

The issue isn’t protecting women in the workplace. The purpose of policies against vertical dating is to stop the Harvey Weinsteins of the world and the would-be Weinsteins from getting “consent” from those who depend on their good will for their livelihood and career viability. As Weinstein admitted in one interview, “I was born poor, ugly, Jewish and had to fight all my life to get somewhere. You got lotsa girls, [but] no girl looked at me until I made it big in Hollywood. Yes, I did offer them acting jobs in exchange for sex, but so did and still does everyone. But I never, ever forced myself on a single woman.”

I have seen this exact attitude in supervisors where I have worked (and not always with men eexploiting subordinate women) and it is a common one. Sexual relationships between subordinates and supervisors warp fairness and the perception of fairness in the workplace, and any organization that permits it either wants sexual perks for its executives at the expense of a healthy organization, or has a death wish.

Amy, who is usually very sensible but has a blind spot here, applauds this comment to the article regarding another commenter’s reference to “power disparity”:

What utter nonsense! So now it is ‘improper’ for a person to ask another person for a date, just because he might have a more high powered job? We are now setting rules on who consenting adults are allowed/not allowed to ask out based on employment status? This is really is turning into puritanism intolerance.


  • Yes, it is improper, because it impossible to give genuine consent to when someone who has control over your job and livelihood makes a personal request that will make a refusal seem like a personal rejection.
  • The request is an abuse of power and position. Employees aren’t serfs. Do I really have to explain why Sally Hemmings couldn’t give meaningful consent when Thomas Jefferson wanted a roll in the hay?
  • The rules are not about who can date whom. The rules are about preventing and prohibiting conduct in the workplace that doesn’t belong in the workplace,  that is destructive to the workplace, and that experience and history shows invites abuse.

Amy says, “I think we’ve gotten too used to puritanism as usual in the workplace — which is in the company’s interest (lawsuit avoidance) but not the employee’s. Many people spend ungodly amounts of hours at work. When are they supposed to run into potential partners — in their sleep?”

Again, UGH.

  • This has nothing to do with “puritanism”; that’s a straw man.  Amy has apparently never heard of third party harassment, when a happily “consenting” underling sleeps with the boss and the relationship conveys the message to everyone else in the office that the workplace is the boss’s dating bar.
  • We are talking about vertical dating here, not co-workers having social relationships. As long as the latter are 1) in a work environment where they do not impair judgment and performance and 2) are not concealed, they don’t pose problems in the workplace.

8 thoughts on “Not Surprisingly, The French Are Just Plain Wrong About Vertical Dating

  1. Interesting that most of the comments on Amy’s blog do not agree with her. There’s a lot of people who see the inherent problems with vertical dating.

  2. I really like that image of “vertical dating” on the left.

    That said, I do think the practice is a bad idea, as are defending and promoting it.

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