Penelope Trunk wrote a thought provoking post yesterday titled When women get power at work, do they use it like men? In it she described meeting an attractive 25-year-old male who she sleeps with and eventually dates. They are in related fields and, since she is well positioned as a career advice guru, she ponders the ethical implications of helping the guy find a job. Also, there is a bit of an age gap (according to her wiki she is 42 ), so she thinks that may be an issue.
It’s a great post, one that intersects work, love, and life, and it’s well worth reading. I love the post because a) it’s pretty hot, and b) it’s complicated and doesn’t fit into any traditional relationship type. There’s even a smattering of pickup in there for you PUA types.
Here’s my take. Sex is used every hour of every day to exchange value and get things done. Trunk correctly points out that men will take sex/love in exchange for career advancement opportunities, and that she herself has participated in this form of opportunism. This is literally the cliche “sleeping your way to the top.” Personally, I have no problem with it because it’s the way the world works and sex is a commodity, like it or not.
Quick story: I once met this cute personal trainer chick. She had recently graduated from college and was just getting started with her business, which was offering her training services on a freelance basis. I enticed her into a date by offering to consult with her on blogging and Internet marketing, two specialties of mine. She bit. We did the date, we did each other, I set her up with a nice blog. She uses the blog to bring in more business. I had a great time. We’re not seeing each other. I think we both got a pretty good deal.
Besides sex, consider how we leverage our social circles and personal networks to create opportunities. We use our friends and families to find us jobs. We use LinkedIn to get recommendations from friends of friends for gigs. We use overpriced degrees to get us interviews even though our actual skill is no different from the fellow with a public school degree. Getting a job is often based on networks and reputation rather than actual merit.
If I’m dating someone, I’m going to help them find and take advantage of opportunities. If I owned a business, I would give my lover a job. I think it’s naive to consider this wrong or unethical. It’s part of the game, and I prefer to play the game well rather than change it.
The main issue is if you manipulate someone (either via sex or otherwise) into getting you something, and then screw that person over once you’ve gotten it. That I disagree with strongly (be sure that karma will bite you in the ass) Fortunately, this wasn’t the case with Penelope and her boyfriend.
I do think that two adults can barter sex for opportunity and make it strictly a business transaction. Read this article where a student exchanges sex for a two week trek through the Amazon rainforest. You might call this prostitution, but I see it as good business. I have zero problem with any consenting adult who transacts sex for opportunity. For me, sex isn’t a sacred thing that can’t be traded for.
Lastly, I think it’s interesting that Penelope points out that men know how to help their lovers find those opportunities in a graceful way, but that her natural reaction is to NOT help him find a job. Here’s her quote:
“I don’t say anything. I don’t want to help him get a job. I want this to not be about all the stuff I could do for him. But all the older men I dated when I was his age were people who helped me with my career; they [did] it gracefully, and I was so thankful.”
She’s right, men do know how to do this. I’ve helped past girlfriends get jobs through my network and it’s a very rewarding feeling when it works out. We fix things, we build stuff, we get jobs for friends, family, and lovers. It’s instinctive and it’s part of being a man. Women, I think, want their men to defend themselves and succeed on their own.
If you or someone you know has slept their way to the top, you might also like these posts: