Undercover Exposé From Secretive “Men Only” Event for the Rich and Powerful Reveals Everything We’re Fighting Against
The “President’s Club Charitable Trust” is an elite fundraising dinner, raising millions of British pounds for various children’s charities. For the 33 years of its existence, it’s also only been open to men. The only women allowed in are employees–specifically “hostesses,” sort of a cross between a waitress and general companion with model looks. Last week, the Financial Times sent in two female reporters, posing as hostesses. What they experienced was, as reporter Madison Marriage described, “pretty shocking and depressing.”
The black-tie event was attended by 360 male bankers, politicians, businessmen, and the like, along with 130 female hostesses who were required to fit the description of “tall, thin, and pretty.” Hostesses were reportedly hired through an agency, given a five-page non-disclosure agreement they weren’t given time to read, and supplied with a skimpy black outfit: “short tight black dresses, black high heels and a thick black belt resembling a corset.” (They were told to bring their own black underwear and “sexy shoes.”)
Marriage writes that, “Over the course of six hours, many of the hostesses were subjected to groping, lewd comments and repeated requests to join diners in bedrooms elsewhere in the Dorchester [Hotel, where the event took place].” At least one man exposed his penis to a hostess.
She describes how “one 19-year-old hostess recounted a conversation with a guest nearing his seventies: who had asked her, directly, whether she was a prostitute. She was not. ‘I’ve never done this before, and I’m never doing it again,’ she said later. ‘It’s f***ing scary.'” Marriage says that “according to the accounts of multiple women working that night, groping and similar abuse was seen across many of the tables in the room.”
According to the Financial Times, most of the women were also required to attend the after-party, where the groping and harassment continues until 2am in a smaller, more tightly packed room.
One “society figure” reportedly told a hostess, “You look far too sober.” Marriage writes, “Filling her glass with champagne, he grabbed her by the waist, pulled her in against his stomach and declared: ‘I want you to down that glass, rip off your knickers and dance on that table.'”
The women, by the way, received about $200 for the night. That and, I suppose, the gratitude they were supposed to feel at the opportunity to fraternize with such powerful men.
It’s important to note that these accounts very clearly do not depict the rogue actions of individual men. This sort of treatment of women, this entitlement to their sexuality, would likely appear to most to be built directly into the fundamental purpose of the night. During the evening’s auctions, alongside cars, lunches with powerful politicians and financiers, and the opportunity to have wings of children’s hospitals named after themselves, other items up for bid included cosmetic surgery treatments. In the video above, the emcee declared, “This is what your missus could look like,” and it was billed in the brochure as a chance to “add spice to your wife.” Another prize was a private party at the exclusive Soho Club with 100 guests and 50 exotic dancers. That last one comes with “the first lapdance free, a glass of champagne and a smoked salmon bagel.”
Even the guests’ guidelines for the evening seemed to come with a wink and a nod, as Marriage describes the dinner’s “accompanying brochure included a full-page warning that no attendees or staff should be sexually harassed. The glossy auction catalogue distributed to attendees during the evening included multiple images of Marilyn Monroe dressed in revealing, tight dresses.”
The Financial Times published their exposé Tuesday, and already, there’s been a huge uproar. The chairman of the event immediately resigned from his position as the non-executive director of Britain’s Department for Education and, according to the Washington Post, “At the same time, both donors and recipients of donations, as well as politicians, were scurrying to distance themselves from the scandal.”
And that’s good. They should distance themselves. I hope they feel genuinely ashamed to be associated with this event.
This is why it’s so perplexing and sad when men get outraged whenever women hold a women-only comedy show or movie screening. They cry “sexism!” and demand equal treatment. They deride these events as “safe spaces,” as if these stories weren’t exact descriptions of things we need to seek safety from—as if women-only events are reliant on the subjugation of men in the same way this sort of men-only party preys on women.
Yet as the conversation around sexual harassment and abuse grows louder, and men complain that you can’t even say hello to a woman these days as if they actually believe that’s true, I imagine men like these see parties like this one as their own form of safe space—the only places left where “boys can be boys,” where they are free to objectify and demean women emotionally and physically, where women are merely a prop designed to make them feel more powerful.
From these posh London charity dinners, to the happenings in Hollywood, to Silicon Valley’s notorious, drug-fueled sex parties, men are clinging to these spaces. And we’re coming for all of them.
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