“Received wisdom in the business world is that sex does not belong in the office and should never even be talked about – despite the huge amount of clandestine sexual activity that goes on in offices all around the world, and the infinitely huger amount of sexual harassment (of which more anon).
But that viewpoint is wrongheaded. Bringing sex into the office is critically important to business for a number of reasons. Here are my top three:
1. Comfort in your own sexuality drives peak business performance
Society’s conflicted attitude towards sex – we all enjoy it, we don’t talk about it – means that sex is defaulted in the public consciousness to an act, a thing we do. But sex is personality. Who we are sexually informs everything to do with how we feel about ourselves and how we feel about others; it informs our relationships, our lives, our happiness. And yet no other area of human existence is hedged around with so much shame, embarrassment, guilt and self-torment.
When you lose that sense of shame, when you feel comfortable and confident in yourself as a sexual being, it transforms your outlook and approach to life, and to work. Being happy with yourself sexually is a key part of unblocking your ability to operate at the top of your game. I was touched when Jonathan Mildenhall, chief marketing officer of Airbnb, recently told Campaign:
“The second agency I worked for was BBH and it was there that Cindy Gallop marched into my office and said: ‘Jonathan, you are gay, aren’t you?’ Oh God, I thought, the time has come. ‘Er, yes, I am,’ I stuttered. ‘Good. I’m having a party on Saturday and I want you and your boyfriend to be there!’ And with that one exchange, I found my true self and my true voice. A voice that was never closeted again.”
2. Creating a culture of openness around sexual values stops sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is endemic in every industry – because every industry is male-dominated, particularly at the top, and that creates an environment where many men feel it’s fine to harass. Sexual harassers thrive on secrecy, shame and embarrassment around sex, because that’s how they’re able to get away with it – they rely on their victims’ reluctance to speak up about what is happening.
And so, every year, companies lose talent (female and male) because they’re forced out of intolerable environments, they reject and are retaliated against – or they stay, and under-perform in impossible, demotivating working conditions. Sexual harassment ceases in gender-equal work environments – but it also ceases when we inculcate good sexual values.”