End the deep-seated, dangerous sexist man-bonding in federal parliament

March 24, 2021
Federal Parliament House, where allegations of sexual assault continue to be aired. Photo: Caroline Jones / Flickr CC by 2.0

The ABC reported that a male Coalition staffer had allegedly “pleasured himself” over a female Liberal MP’s desk, filmed himself in the act and then shared the video on March 23. He has now been dismissed.

The initial media reporting of this as “lewd behaviour” used the archaic language of Victorian morality.

Alison Pennington takes aim at the reporting and contextualised the incident in light of the growing allegations of sexual assault inside Parliament House.


It’s not a “sex act”. It’s an act of violence intended to humiliate and disrespect and make clear she doesn’t belong there. It’s territorial marking that unifies cultural bonds between men based on the exclusion of women (even members of parliament). It’s why the staffer filmed himself and shared it.

The act is consistent with systemic gendered violence: the notion that men control the public domain — streets, workplace and politics — and women belong in the private home.

Male perpetrators of violence often say “she wasn’t in her right place” and parliament is for big swinging (and ejaculating) dicks!

The Liberal National Party is dripping with deep-seated and dangerous sexist man-bonding. It serves a clear purpose! It unifies small unrepresentative groups behind an agenda of corruption, upward redistribution to private actors and austerity.

Women’s cries are now piercing this anti-democratic exclusionary program.

Scott Morrison cannot stop fucking this up because he really believes the man/public and woman/private divide.

The only way he can empathise with women is via sanctity of the family (through relationships to men). He can’t “see” women as a public social force, so can’t fathom political responses to this crisis.

[Alison Pennington is Senior Economist at the Centre for Future Work associated with the Australia Institute.]

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