The Sexy MP website

OPINION

It’s time to put an end to websites like Sexy MP

It’s no wonder Westminster has a sexual harassment problem when MPs are encouraged to rate each other on sexiness

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By Emily Baker on

By now, you will have seen a redacted version of the so-called “dirty dossier” of MPs known for sexual misconduct – The Sun and The Daily Mail printed it yesterday, with the Mail repeating it again this morning. Details of the alleged behaviour range from “handsy with women” to making a woman have an abortion, though most of the perpetrators names are blocked out. Just yesterday, Labour activist Bex Bailey claimed she was raped by a senior party official and then discouraged from reporting it; an anonymous Westminster staffer says she was pinned to a bed by an MP on a business trip to Europe. A number of MPs are currently under investigation for sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behaviour.

Women MPs started speaking up about their experiences of sexual harassment at work in solidarity with the #MeToo campaign – a response to the overwhelming number of accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Since then, the allegations have turned into a scandal, with some MPs calling for the end of the “witch hunt”. But should we be surprised by the accusations? Not when websites like sexymp.co.uk are still around.

Women in parliament have always been subject to scrutiny in the press – from Theresa May’s leopard print shoes to the now infamous Legs-it photograph with Nicola Sturgeon – but nowhere are they more starkly judged than on this website, where MPs (and the public) are invited to vote on which MP they would “rather have sex with”. The MPs are then ranked in order of sexiness, and users can drill down into the results to see just women, just men or mixed rankings. A column down the side of the page gives results for the “sexiest party”. Even more disturbingly, if you click on the name of an MP, you are taken to google images and presented with thousands of images of their face.

The votes are anonymous and the MPs have no say on whether their pictures are featured on the site, completely eradicating any notion of consent

Every so often, the site, which has been going as early as 2011, garners negative media attention – most recently in May of this year, when Eilidh Whiteford, SNP for Banff and Buchan, topped the new rankings. Staff and MPs are banned from accessing the website in Parliament – an aspect the website wears as a badge of honour – though it is thought that it is mostly peers who take part in the voting. This is where the power imbalance found in Westminster comes into play. The current top five rated MPs are all men – presumably as a result of a “boys club” joke mentality – but when you take into account that 68 per cent of MPs are men, the idea that any women are included is distressing.

The website was created by ex-Made In Chelsea star Francis Boulle. “In addition to my wanting to create a fun and memorable tool to help the British public get to know their Members of Parliament, I thought it would be an interesting opportunity to hold the first ever parliamentary beauty contest and find out once and for all which MPs and Parties have the most sex-appeal,” he writes on the site, “Although I fully expect this to offend some people, this was never my intention and I hope you will see the funny side.” And it seems, many people did, with the top rated MPs gaining thousands of votes.

It’s this “funny side of things” which harks back to Donald Trump’s dangerous “locker room talk”, rhetoric which has become commonly known among male university students in the UK as “banter”. MPs are not only encouraged to see their co-workers in a sexual context, but also to make an active decision on who they would rather have sex with. If you don’t, you’re branded a square, a stick in the mud, a snowflake. The votes are anonymous and the MPs have no say on whether their pictures are featured on the site, completely eradicating any notion of consent. No wonder this has spilt over into real life sexual harassment.

@emilyrbakes

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