Why My Sexy MP is not just a bit of harmless fun

My heart sank yesterday when I saw courtesy of the Telegraph that reality TV star Francis Boulle had updated his My Sexy MP site for the new Parliament.

This horrible site gives you pictures of two MPs and asks you to choose between them. As the title suggests, it’s not their good works, values or key speeches you are being asked to judge. It’s not even just their looks. This site takes creepiness and objectification to a whole new level, asking its readers “Which MP would you rather have sex with?”

No doubt some readers will just dismiss me as some humourless killjoy wanting to spoil a bit of harmless fun. Is it so harmless, though? During the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, there was a site called My Sexy MSP which had photographs of all the candidates and allowed people to comment on their attractiveness. Or otherwise. One young female Liberal Democrat candidate was so traumatised by what was written about her that she said she was never going to stand for public office again, and she hasn’t.  Bear in mind that people often live close to the areas they represent and may feel unsafe if they have to read comments about what people might want to do to, it’s always to, never with, them.

It’s also worth pointing out that the “results”, as in the last Parliament, have female MPs in all the top positions. That’s really strange when they make up fewer than a third of the Parliament and shines a light on the casual sexism that this site reinforces.

This site is apparently one of the more popular “banned” sites accessed from Parliamentary computers. You might well think it’s a good laugh, but ask yourself how you would feel if it were you people were “voting” on. Treating our MPs (or anyone else, as apparently there’s an execrable Rate my Teacher site) in this way is dehumanising and degrading. Let me just do a bit of straw-man avoidance before someone accuses me of trying to have it banned, I am not. I just want people to think about what they are doing and the effect it can have on people when they engage with a site like this.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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29 Comments

  • John Tilley 8th Jul '15 - 11:48am

    I have some sympathy for the view expressed by Councillor Mark Wright.

    There are more important things to get upset about than this bit of media trivialisation.

  • Wow, that site really does prove that politics is show business for ugly people…

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 8th Jul '15 - 12:18pm

    Well, I’m glad you are happy to be judged on whether people would want to have sex with you, Mark, but please be aware that this comes across as much more threatening and sinister to some women. Men are less likely to be objectified in the same way.

  • Grace Goodlad 8th Jul '15 - 12:30pm

    Perhaps those who think this is irrelevant or trivial could look at this – http://everydaysexism.com/

    More and more women feel like sex and perception of their sexual availability/desirability is intruding into how they are judged and treated in every aspect of their life.

    No-one should be judged on a “screwability” basis in the professional life (unless I suppose they are a sexworker when I guess it might be welcomed) – and it is a criteria applied disproportionately to women. We, who are meant to champion equality and fairness, should stand up to this unpleasant behaviour.

  • @ Stephen W – “I don’t think it harms anyone else.” That wasn’t exactly Caron’s point though, Stephen? It was probably more along the lines of: “one young female Liberal Democrat candidate was so traumatised by what was written about her that she said she was never going to stand for public office again, and she hasn’t.” The site isn’t intended to affect you the bystander but it clearly does affect those being rated. That reason alone is enough to speak out against it. No one running for office (and here I’m also looking at you @Mark Wright) should be judged on anything other than their political beliefs and ability to represent the community. Size, looks etc. has no impact on an individual’s potential or actual quality as a candidate or representative.

  • Antony Hook Antony Hook 8th Jul '15 - 12:41pm

    This is unpleasant behaviour. It should not be banned because it is a question of free speech. If you’re a candidate for office, or doing anything that’s important, it is inevitable that some people will make unkind remarks. They want to unsettle you. You mustn’t let them.

  • @Grace

    Everdaysexism.com doesn’t cater for men at all, is it some sort of hideous ironic joke?

    As for the SexyMP website, it’s a site that I’d never of known about, cared for or visited without reading this article.

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 8th Jul '15 - 1:38pm

    Unpleasant behaviour or in-depth differentiation? For aren’t we all objectified: privately or publically to some degree by others. Anything or anyone interesting is always going to be subject to discussion of whatever kind and judgments on persons will continue; whether you know about them or not. Should their personal comments matter to you? Only if it sets you apart to your advantage. Isn’t it better to be in control of your own sex appeal (from a Holistic approach of personhood) than others carry out an appropriation of it for their own ends.

  • No one running for office (and here I’m also looking at you @Mark Wright) should be judged on anything other than their political beliefs and ability to represent the community

    You can say that, but haven’t they done research (by having descriptions of fictional candidates’ policies etc, and swapping around the photos) that proved that people do in fact vote significantly more for the better-looking candidates (even while they are denying that they would ever let a candidate’s looks influence their decision)?

  • Grace Goodlad 8th Jul '15 - 3:36pm

    So an article is written about how mysexymp is more sexist towards women – “It’s also worth pointing out that the “results”, as in the last Parliament, have female MPs in all the top positions. That’s really strange when they make up fewer than a third of the Parliament and shines a light on the casual sexism that this site reinforces.”

    In the comments section 9/12 are from men, with a strong tinge of “don’t get too worried about it” – including a complaint about everday sexism not catering for men.

    Remarkable.

  • I have never heard of Francis Boulle reality TV star – what a sheltered life I must lead. It sounds like a silly site that’s best ignored.

  • John Tilley 8th Jul '15 - 4:47pm

    I maybe did not make my point clearly enough.
    Yesterday 47 people were killed and many more injured in a Boko Haram outrage in Nigeria.
    Yesterday in Kenya a similar number were killed in another terrorist attack.
    The Saudis are bombing Yemeni civilians when they are not beheading or beating to death their own citizens.
    The undeclared war by Russia on Ukraine has taken 5,000 lives in the last year.
    It is the first anniversary this week of the Israeli “action” in Gaza where the UN reckon more than 500 Palestinian children were killed.
    I have not got this week’s number of deaths for Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya etc or the number killed by Mexican Drug Barons today or the number of unarmed black men shot by the police in the USA

    Some people around the world are lucky enough to Iive outside a war zone but yesterday the UN report noted that world poverty is not as bad as it was because only 836 million individuals live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.25 a day.
    795 mllion people are undernourished.

    Nobody has to look at this stupid website.
    Why draw attention to it?
    There are more important things in the world to get upset about.

  • Mark Blackburn 8th Jul '15 - 6:25pm

    I’m totally with Caron. This seems to show that (and admittedly this is a generalisation itself) after a certain age male liberalism stops when it comes to feminism. But don’t let’s rock the boat.

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 8th Jul '15 - 7:03pm

    Mark Blackburn: “certain age male liberalism stops when it comes to feminism.”

    As there are many different types of feminism, which particular branch are you referring too, just out of interest? What makes them “stop” when it comes to feminism? Is that because of a certain kind of feminism has been spouted out over the years, such as those who believe in social or radical feminism. If that is what you subscribe to in your agreement with Caron, that would be understandable where you are coming from with your above comment.

    Women nor men don’t always follow the same ideology politically, same as women don’t always follow the same feminist concepts either. Which feminist one’s do men follow today? Or does Greer, bra-burning still hold sway?

    However, in self-disclosure, I myself am an I-Feminist (Individualistic Feminist) of the 21st century. And I believe in a woman (or man’s) right to explore and be empowered by his or her own sexuality and/or sensuality.

    Nor does the New Age Feminist reject certain male practices like chivalry and sexual dominance, that is, as long as they are performed consensually. For as with anything, perspective is everything, for example, in sexism, in the broadest virtuous kind, it can be, that there is in another sense of a sexual appreciation of the female form, which is too often ignored, to the detriment of femininity and masculinity and what this means for personhood in the modern age. Why does the -ism of Sex being a Sexism be a bad thing when the behaviour can be found in both genders, I think therefore, there needs to be a balance/open minded approach.

    For a New Age feminist does not demand women be treated the same way as a man, but rather that the differences between men and women be recognized, understood, and accommodated even while those differences are treated with equity.

    So hey, surf in the new wave – if you dare, rather than rocking the boat!!!

  • First of all, I had not come across this site and did not know it existed. I’m dismayed by it, but unsurprised.

    The question is, what is to be done about it? I think if there are websites where people are making foul comments on another human being, the rest of us should post comments back exposing how contemptible such views and comments are. Perhaps if the lady who was so traumatised by the comments about her that she stood down from public life had seen a barrage of comments challenging the vile behaviour and sticking up for her, she might not have been left scarred by it.

    The only way bad behaviour continues is if decent people do not stand up to it.

  • A Social Liberal 9th Jul '15 - 2:49am

    Does this site only judge men? Or only women?

    Does this site value the looks of one gender of MP over another?

    Yes, this site is sleazy – but having glanced at the male part of the site it appears to be equal opportunities sleaze. I really don’t see anything for feminists to be outraged about.

    As John Tilley said, there are many more things happening around the world which should be receiving our outrage. For Gods sake, today has seen a budget that will see the uptake of food bank parcels shoot up after next April and yet this silly website is given space on the forum? The Nasty Party rises once more, destroying the lives of the poor and yet we are asked to comment on a tacky site which shouldn’t even have impinged on our collective consciousness.

    Please, let my post here be the last – get loud, get angry but shout about the right thing and not this garbage.

  • A Social Liberal

    It’s not just one ‘tacky site’ though, is it. Vile stuff posted anonymously on the Internet about real people is a huge and growing issue, I don’t much care if it is about men or women, it all adds to people feeling very threatened and can lead to anxiety and depression. I myself was targetted on LDV for a day or so (thankfully LDV Mods stamped on it when they realised ) but in the intervening time I felt extremely anxious at what this individual was (falsely) saying about me – and I was nowhere as exposed as Parliamentarians are. If it leads to talented people being hounded out of public life then that is a real concern – and where does it end? Is that the sort of thing we should turn a blind eye to?

    As for ‘more important things to talk about’ , well LDV has a lot of different ‘textures’ to it on any given day. We can actually be ‘outraged’ about people saying vile things about what they’d like to do to other people and at the same time, be outraged about the need for food banks, the end of maintenance grants and the needless deaths of so many people around the world, all at the same time.

  • @Mark Blackburn
    We’re in a political party with no female MP’s, I think that website completely unimportant comparatively – there are enough elephants not to be too concerned about the flies.

  • ChrisB the fact that there are no women LD MPs is not helped by sites such as the one you are dismissing :-

    “One young female Liberal Democrat candidate was so traumatised by what was written about her that she said she was never going to stand for public office again, and she hasn’t. “

  • I have a confession to make. Before reading LDV I looked at Mark Pack’s article on core voters which contained a photograph of a young David Owen and I must confess that my first thought was “oh he was so sexy” rather than thinking back to the dark days of the Alliance breaking up. I’m afraid people do judge on physical appearance to a rather concerning extent in any situation in which they need to make a choice. It’s the way we tell if we will find things in common. I belong to the bra burning generation of feminism and for me a way of fighting back at male sexism was to exhibit some female sexism. It is horrible when people say revolting things and the more we complain the more they’ll do it because they are succeeding in their purpose which is to stop us from succeeding. Don’t let them! Get back up there and fight back!

  • Jayne Mansfield 10th Jul '15 - 9:35am

    I was unaware that this site existed. and now that I do I wouldn’t watch it. Awful as it seems to be, what exactly can one do about it?, ban it? Do people on this site want to do that and where does one draw the line when it comes to banning?

    I once watched a Jeremy Kyle show to see what people were talking about and found it disgustingly exploitative. I felt cheapened watching the little that I could bring myself to watch. But as far as I am concerned, the answer is for people not to switch on or tune into these things. While ever there is a market these programmes and sites will continue to exist.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 10th Jul '15 - 9:52am

    Jayne, you can’t ban these things, but I think it’s always important to call them out when you find them to make people think about the harm that they can do.

  • Peter Watson 10th Jul '15 - 10:13am

    I think the website in question is definitely not a good thing, but the MP who received the most comments, criticism and jokes about their personal appearance in the last parliament was probably Eric Pickles. John Bercow might have been a close second.

  • Jayne Mansfield 10th Jul '15 - 3:56pm

    @ Caron,
    You are of course right, one should call them out.

    I think that there should be consistency though. I was shocked when I read a post by Joe Otton recently about the Labour leadership hopefuls. He referred to Andy Burnham as ‘a good looking Ed Miliband’, and no one called him out.

    When casual comments like that are allowed to pass unremarked, on quite serious websites such as this one, one can hardly feign surprise when websites like the one you mention pop up and people think it is a bit of harmless fun.

    Commenting on a person’s looks rather than their substance, is demeaning and must be hurtful to the victim and those who love them

    So there, I am belatedly calling you out Joe Otton.

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