“Plenty of women enjoy it, it’s fun, there’s free alcohol, they have a laugh, sometimes they make friends, they got job offers … some women on the night told me they had multiple job offers from men in the room that night.” – Madison Marriage
On Tuesday 23rd January, Madison Marriage published her article in the Financial Times following an investigation into the Presidents Club, a charitable fundraiser attended by rich men, which allegedly revealed how hostesses at the event were groped, sexually harassed and propositioned.
There has been a great deal of furore since the publishing of the article, people have lost jobs, the club has disbanded, it reached Prime Minister Theresa May who was “frankly appalled when [she] read this report of the Presidents Club event”. Jess Phillips whinged in a jealous rage about how “women were bought as bait for men, who are rich men, not a mile from where we stand”. The moral grandstanding from someone who openly laughed about suicide is hypocritical to say the least.
This article comes at a time where the Narrative on sex and consent has been thrown into the air: ten cases of rape and sexual assault collapsed in five weeks over December and January, exonerating sixteen men. All rape cases are to be reviewed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), totalling in the thousands. The nation has been shocked, false allegations and corrupt prosecutions are real and “it happens every day”. The feminist narrative of “rape culture” and the everyday normalisation of rape has been utterly destroyed. Thus, in a frenzied attempt to bring the discussion back under their control, they have launched this infantile attack on the Presidents Club so to prove their Narrative and to be able to continue promulgating their misandry … and it has worked.
Because, at the end of the day, the article wasn’t about protecting women, it was about lashing back. If they really were worried about women and sexual coercion, they could have collected their evidence, handed it to the police and reported on the investigations and arrests that would have come of it. But they did not because trial by social media -court of public opinion- is so much better (and so much easier to sway).
And now there have been calls to ban all ‘men-only’ events. Kate Palmer, writing for BBC NEWS, asked ‘Should men-only business events be a thing of the past?’, citing Jo Swinson and Maria Miller who both find all-male gatherings unacceptable. Nadhim Zawahi, who attended the event, tweeted “I do unequivocally condemn this behaviour. The report is truly shocking. I will never attend a men only function ever.” According to Laura Pullman in The Times, women-only events hosted by hunks are fine because women look but do not touch. Perhaps I should remind her of the men who worked in the Hootananny pub in Inverness who had to stop wearing kilts because women couldn’t help but sexually assault them. The same happens with Adam Watters, who impersonates Braveheart’s William Wallace, he is constantly sexually assaulted by women who put their hands up his kilt.
Above: The Bény-sur-Mer ‘all-male club’ which ‘boasts’ a total of 2048 ‘members’
There have been many critical responses to the piece, 600dfella’s excellent rebuttal of the article mentions how Ms Marriage says a woman “reported being repeatedly fondled on her bottom, hips, stomach and legs. One guest lunged at her to kiss her. Another invited her upstairs to his room” but, the same woman also remarks “she had never felt uncomfortable or, indeed, frightened”. So why are we being led to believe these women are helpless victims when they clearly don’t perceive themselves as one!?
The key argument from feminism is these women made the wrong decision. As Naomi Firsht asked, in response to the news darts bosses have scrapped their famous walk-on models: “What kind of feminism gets women sacked??” The answer is hilariously simple: the kind of feminism that believes women can’t make their own choices. Ask Anita Sarkeesian & Meagan Taylor, who believe feminism is not about giving women choice because women make bad choices which can support patriarchy (shudder!) and the idea that more choices automatically equate to more freedom is a falsehood. It doesn’t matter the women doing these jobs want to do them, they are wrong to want to be doing them! Even the Women’s Equality Party weighed in on the problem of women’s choice:
"There’s been a huge hoo-ha about whether those women at the Presidents Club just made bad choices and we’ve got to change this narrative that, whenever something happens, it’s the fault of women."
— Women's Equality Party (@WEP_UK) January 25, 2018
The process is simple:
- Find or fabricate an issue to be enraged about
- Infantilise women and remove their agency
- Blame men
- Ignore any and all women who live the ‘problem’ and are actually fine with it
- Capitalise on this Narrative, even if it harms women
- Rinse & Repeat
Some women want to be dancers, some want to be prostitutes (which means, cue shock & horror, they want to have sex with men) and some want to be hostesses at parties for rich men. These women want to defy feminism’s puritanism and authoritarian censorship – this cannot be allowed. The idea feminism represents women is dead.
What was the purpose of the hostesses? Were they aware of what they were doing? Well, as Rachel Johnson eloquently put it: “It’s bloody hard to get people to hand over their cold, hard cash for charity unless they’re either drunk, or showing off, or both. Which is why I refuse to regard the dickie-bowed fat-cats who attended the now-legendary Presidents Club gala dinner at The Dorchester as evil ‘perpetrators’, nor the young women who hostessed for them as the passive ‘victims’. That’s far too simple… If they didn’t want to wear a tight, slaggy black bandage dress, sign a non-disclosure agreement, agree to the lock-in (all clear warnings that something epically ghastly is about to go down) and take the fee of £150 plus taxi fare home, well… we still have ‘agency’, and the ladies should have perhaps made their excuses and left. But they didn’t.”
The women at the event were given the opportunity to leave, many remained and were happy to become acquainted with the men present, as Louise (former hostess) said “Men were summoning girls to sit on their laps. There were some girls who were voluntarily going over and were happy to talk to the guests. It was very flirtatious.”
Considering the uniform requirement sent out via email to all potential hostesses (dress as if they were going to a “smart sexy place”), the hostesses were informed during the initial interviews what to expect and there was a briefing given directly before the event, it is safe to say the women who were hostesses that night knew exactly what was going down. In fact, hostesses wore different nail paint to signify ‘how late they were willing to stay’ (wink, wink). Also, they are young and attractive women asked to dress-up sexy for a party attended by rich men – it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what is wanted. Many of the women knew what they were doing and were purposefully flirting with the men and engaging in sexual behaviours with them – y’know, how adults tend to do.
As certain behaviours and expectations were hinted at (ahem), the women were compensated extra for it. Working a ten-hour shift, paid £150, they received £15 an hour (quick maths), compared to £7.05 for similar jobs (according to The Guardian). As the shift required more, they were paid more.
I would like to add in here a quote from Rachel Reid, who worked as a hostess at the infamous Presidents Club charity dinners for eight years in a row. [This quote was not in the original article as I found it after the article was published.] She said: “I have never seen money like it in my life, the raffle tickets alone would pay off a normal person’s mortgage. It was £100 for five hours work and we could drink if we wanted to, I had some great nights there. And I certainly was not abused or harassed during my time there. What no-one seems to understand is that these events need pretty women to coax the money out these rich men. It is amazing what a smile can do from an attractive woman, the money raised for charity was mind-blowing and we were proud to be a part of that.”
To remove the hostesses’ agency and portray them as hapless-victims is to infantilise them. Whilst some did not enjoy the shift, that does not justify removing the opportunity for those who did enjoy working there. The same can be found for near any field of employment – people who have suffered negatively. I personally could write a book about all the abuse and harassment at the hands of customers that I both observed and endured when working in retail but, it would be foolish for me to use said book to condemn retail as an industry.
An observation both 600dfella and my colleague here at The Backbencher made is the glaring lack of evidence in the article. As Ms Marriage says in said article and accompanying video, the night began at 4pm and she got back just after 3am. She claims she worked a ten-hour shift and was armed with a hidden recording device. Yet, despite being in there for so long armed with hidden recording apparatus, she returned with only thirty-four seconds worth of footage from inside the event. It’s odd, is it not, that she would return with so little footage? Why does she expect us to rely on her written word? Surely, video evidence of sexual assault would be considerably more damning!?
Beginning at 01:47 in her video, we see her walking towards The Dorchester Hotel. The date/time on her hidden camera says “2018/01/19 06:25:35” when it starts. The date/time being wrong is not an issue in itself because, honestly, how often do people accurately set-up the date-time on their cameras? What is interesting is how after playing (with a few cuts & edits) up to about 06:30:31, there’s a cut then footage begins again at 07:09:42 which continues until 07:09:47 and … that’s it! There’s no more footage of inside the event! All we saw in it was the entertainer making a harmless joke about bidding for plastic surgery for one’s wife and some brief footage of people at the party. There’s another segment a little later that lasts for four seconds, no time-stamp but, all it shows is her following someone back through the lobby.
But wait, the footage with timestamps on only shows she was in the event for a maximum of forty-five minutes!!! The earliest time-stamp is 06:25:36 and the latest is 07:09:47. Peculiar!
Also, at 06:25:36 she’s entering the building, the shift started at 4pm and yet it is dark (sunset that day was 16:25). Ergo, footage of her entering the building is not when the event started. Also, the timestamp of her walking through the doors into the party itself is 06:29:58, she spent four and a half minutes faffing about filming that bit – she only needed to walk about twenty yards!
Additionally, the timestamp of 07:09:43 is shown at the time of the auction, when they’re selling off the plastic surgery. According to her article the charity auction took place at 10pm and the plastic surgery is the eighth item on the list, as shown in the image below. As the auction started at 10pm and, assuming five minutes minimum per item auctioned off, the ‘Chance To Enhance’ was auctioned at no earlier than 10.40pm. Take off the 45 minutes difference from the timestamps and Ms Marriage filmed her grand entrance scene at around 10pm, just as the auction was starting (and thus most people would be distracted, bear that in mind).
She could not have gone outside to film that bit for dramatic effect because “Artista had an enforcement team, made up of suited women and men, who would tour the ballroom” and “Outside the women’s toilets a monitoring system was in place: women who spent too long were called out and led back to the ballroom. A security guard at the door was on hand, keeping time.” The staff would not have let her run-off for an amateur dramatics filming excursion.
Forget it says ‘take years off your life’, only discuss ‘add spice to your wife’, it’ll make better news. Am I right, MSM!?!?
According to the timestamps on Ms Marriage’s footage, we can only confirm she was in the Presidents Club party for 45 minutes, whilst the auction was happening.
But, let’s briefly consider the four seconds of footage sans-timestamp: what does it show? It shows us an older male leading the camerawoman through the lobby of The Dorchester away from the party. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say he’s one of Artista’s security, escorting the camerawoman out. This would explain why Ms Marriage returned with so little footage despite claiming she spent ten hours there. The lack of timestamp irks me (there is reason to suggest it was added in post-production however, the evidence is inconclusive).
Also, look at the two images below, from the Daily Mail and The Sun, of models wearing the dress the hostesses were given to wear. It is highly unlikely Ms Marriage would have been able to conceal the hidden camera plus large battery pack on her person for the entire ten hours (or the six hours in the hall) – see the size of the battery pack in the image beneath the women in the dresses. The battery pack is easily the size of her hand, if not, larger! How would she have concealed it on her person!? This causes me to believe she crashed the event wearing her own dress so as to aid concealment of the hidden camera.
The footage Ms Marriage provides in her article asks more questions than it answers:
- Why return with such little footage?
- Why not show the things that are alleged in the article?
- Why add the timestamp in post-production?
- Did Ms Marriage actually go in with the alleged second hostess or did she not?
- What does the non-timestamped segment of video mean?
- Did Ms Marriage actually work there as a hostess or did she crash the event?
- How did she hide the camera and massive battery pack on her person wearing such a skimpy dress?
I thought investigative journalism is supposed to answer questions, not leave us asking a damned sight more than we initially had!? The only judgments I’m happy to make are:
- Ms Marriage returned with footage that implies she was there for a maximum of one hour
- The footage she returned with corroborates absolutely none of her allegations
In conclusion, I believe Ms Marriage arrived at the event at 10pm, not 4pm as she claims. Her footage of her leaving her ‘base-hotel’, the levels of light around her, walking across the street into The Dorchester and the timestamps on all the footage lends credence to this hypothesis. She spends one hour, maximum, in the event before she is caught and escorted out the premises. She returns back to her base-hotel, records her face, claims it to be nearly three in the morning and finishes there.
In her original article, Ms Marriage failed to provide any adequate corroborating evidence, dodgy footage aside, causing the reader to rely fully on her word. A room with over 500 people in and not one came forward – odd. There are anonymous quotes but, nothing of any validity.
Alas, many people did rely on her word and failed to hold any healthy amount of scepticism – oh well! However, since the article’s release, many hostesses, attendees and other associated persons have come forward to speak about what it was like that night and what previous nights have been like. For a collection of statements from these persons, click here.
From the hostesses (past and current), the responses have been mixed. Many have come forward with horror stories whereas others have come forward somewhat nonchalant about it. Two criticisms of those with horror stories were: it’s easy to find ex-employees of any industry who’s willing to bad-mouth their former-employers (this is nothing new!) and when you put lots of drunk people in a room together, they always misbehave. If you find the events of the Presidents Club disturbing, you’ve never been on an average night out down your local nightclub or never seen what carnage occurs on hen-nights!
Many of the hostesses who allege misbehaviour have stated it did not occur until later in the night. One hostess who was present at The Presidents Club spoke to ITV Good Morning Britain, saying “Initially, it started quite normally and then, as the night went on, I started to notice that this wasn’t normal. There was a lot of groping, a lot of girls sitting on laps, men beckoning girls over to their tables to talk to them. It just didn’t seem right.” Colour me shocked – people start misbehaving once they’re a sup taken!
To argue these women were completely in the dark would be false, many of the hostesses made references to how it was implied they would be required to entertain these men. For a start, the skimpy outfits are a huge indicator. Second, in the email that was sent out two days before the event, they were informed there would be an after-party and, if they were to be attending this party, they should wear black nail varnish to show they would be staying late (wink wink). Girls with red nails were allowed to leave at midnight. This was also reiterated in the NDA – this section was marked “important”. Strange how Ms Marriage failed to mention this email – maybe she didn’t receive it!? I wonder why that might be!?
As for the attendees, all who have spoken out about that night have denied Ms Marriage’s allegations. Many say they left at or before midnight, witnessing nothing. This is unsurprising but, useful.
Of the ‘other associated person’, they too denied the allegations. One person, an anonymous friend of Caroline Dandridge, owner of Artista, said the “girls knew what they were getting into”.
Let’s assume everyone is telling the truth so we can attempt to construct a narrative from what is being said: we can state with fair confidence sexual contact occurred but, this did so later in the night. This happened after the auction (after Ms Marriage may have been escorted out) and only happened to girls who stayed for the after-party. Many of the women were happy to engage, to voluntarily sit on men’s laps whereas some, who were less experienced, felt a bit out-of-depth. Many of the hostesses have detailed how there were heavy indications of what was to be expected – to entertain these older men (wink wink) – they were given ample time to consider this and decide whether to work the after-party or leave. The voices of these few women who felt out-of-depth have been used to fuel the Narrative of ‘abuse’ against women, at the expense of the women who were happy to partake with the older men.
In response to many of these allegations put forward by hostesses, the police have announced they are considering investigating these claims. Downing Street has also urged women to come forward. Whilst these allegations are horrendous and it is good the police are looking into opening investigations, as it stands, no official complaint has been made by a hostess to the police.
The allegation of someone exposing their genitalia is still unsubstantiated.
As with the footage, testimonial evidence since the release of the article asks more questions than it answers:
- How many women actually knew the after party would feature intimate behaviour?
- Of the women who were voluntarily approaching the men, engaging in close relations, how many had worked the club before / had previous experience of such nights?
- Of those who are alleging abuse, how many have worked nights like this (that feature secluded, lock-in style after-parties)?
- There’s reference to Ms Dandridge heavily implying to the women such behaviour would occur (and the hostesses would be remunerated for it) – how heavily did Ms Dandridge imply this?
- How does the behaviour of the men at the Presidents Club differ from women on hen nights or the public when out on the town?
- The article makes reference to ‘hands-on-bums’ and ‘propositioning’ – how did the hostesses survive such life-threatening carnage?
- How much of the inappropriate behaviour did Ms Marriage actually witness and catch on camera?
- How come Ms Marriage did not mention the email?
As with the footage, we are left with more questions than we have answers. This is beginning to annoy me.
Therefore, with what evidence we have, what truth can be derived? And, from this truth, what is there to be outraged about? This story has grown to national importance – but why?
As just stated, some women who were new felt shocked by the night. Some who were more experienced went with the flow and were more than happy to engage in close-contact with the attendees. Those who did not want to be there were informed by Ms Dandridge they could leave, as stated in the original Financial Times article. But, to be shocked or appalled at other people’s sex lives does not necessarily constitute a criminal offence and, the women were told at all points that, if they wanted to, they could leave. When one woman complained to Ms Dandridge about the work, she was told just that: you don’t have to stay. You are not compelled to be here. Hm, fancy being enraged about women being allowed to leave situations they don’t feel happy in.
Ms Marriage and many others use the word ‘propositioning’ as if it is dirty but, surely, asking for consent is not dirty? Because, at the end of the day, propositioning is just their way of saying ‘asking for consent’ but trying to make it sound bad/negative. Let’s assume a member of the club ‘propositioned’ a hostess – let’s say he asked her if she wanted to come up with him to his room. He has just propositioned her (cue feminist outrage) but, honestly, all he’s done is ask her consent!? Isn’t that what feminists want: consent!? If she says ‘no’, they part ways, if she says ‘yes’, they go upstairs. Why is Ms Marriage condemning these men when all they did was ask for consent!? ISN’T THAT WHAT THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO DO!?!?!? HOW MANY DIFFERENT WAYS DO I HAVE TO ASK THIS BEFORE IT IS UNDERSTOOD!?
Finally, a confirmation email sent from Ms Dandridge to the hostesses actually informed them they would be required to sign an NDA (this, we can assume, is the same nail-paint email). It said: “Nothing must be discussed/disclosed before, during or after the event to anyone, your flatmates, boyfriends, work colleagues – ever.” Bizarre Ms Marriage would forget to mention the hostesses were informed of the NDA two-days before working the event but would mention phones would be locked away. The email also detailed the dress-code. Essentially, this email, sent two-days before the event, provided sufficient notice these women would be entertaining these men. I’m sure you can understand the word entertain has multiple facets to it.
The main allegation is some of the men acted inappropriately but, honestly, put 300 people in a room, supply them with alcohol and of course debauchery is going to happen!!! This is not news! Quoting Ms Marriage’s article, as she argued the point wonderfully for me: “One experienced hostess acknowledged that a portion of the men were likely to be “arseholes”, but said others were “hilarious”. “It really depends on the luck of the draw,” she added.” This is just like any night with lots of people drinking – some are great and some are not. The best part is: women are adults. They, just like us men, know how to deal with drunkards when they act inappropriately. Anyone who’s ever been outside knows this.
So, really, what is there to be outraged about? Or, do I need to adopt some Victorian Puritanism so to understand what all the fuss is about?
Frankly, both the article and the supporting video reek of the same stench Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s Rolling Stone article, A Rape on Campus, is now infamous for. The 9,000 word bomb wildly claimed a student, Jackie, had been violently gang-raped on campus. It reached international fame, drawing unimagined levels of attention and hate towards the University of Virginia, the so-called scene of the crime, as well as Nicole Eramo, the Associate Dean of Students at the time who handled Jackie’s case. It was soon found to be utter bunk, landing Rolling Stone with one of the worst lawsuits it had ever seen. Considering how easily Rolling Stone printed A Rape on Campus, I have no issue with believing the Financial Times would also sink to such depths. I don’t deny that some women felt uncomfortable with what was happening but, that does not justify shutting down the event and preventing those who enjoyed it from returning.
There is one other thing I found to be of interest: one of the lots on auction was a night at Soho’s Windmill Strip Club. Weird how they just the week before the FT article dropped they were stung by an anonymous Women’s Rights Group which allegedly infiltrated them, caught them misbehaving and then attempted to have them shut down. Now, coincidentally, The Presidents Club has just suffered a similar attack. Fascinating.
An attempt was made to contact the Financial Times via the email provided on Ms Marriage’s article but, it failed. In the auto-response, I was informed the contact (investigations) may not exist! Strange the very email address they provide on the article would fail! An attempt to tweet Ms Marriage failed because she has locked her account. I emailed the media request address because that was the only email address on the Financial Times website that seemed appropriate – I’ve had no response. Why have they gone into hiding!?
Several attempts to contact Artista were made, all to no avail.
Overall, Ms Marriage’s claims are mostly unsubstantiated. Her undercover video shows she was in the President Club meeting for a maximum of one-hour. Statements from previous hostesses have provided weak supporting evidence, attendees outright deny the allegations. Some hostesses say they were uncomfortable, some say women were voluntarily flirting with the men and engaging in sexual behaviours with them. There was an email sent two days beforehand essentially spelling out what was going to happen. Thus, evidence corroborating Ms Marriage’s version of events are few and far between.
What also perturbs me is how there is considerably more print-space in the original FT article dedicated to naming and shaming the men who attended, rather than engaging with the hostesses and telling their stories. Yes, allegations from them are put forth but, they almost feel like an afterthought. It comes across as if the article is designed for attacking the attendees rather than defending the alleged victims. Hmm.
What I think happened was Ms Marriage was made aware of the Presidents Club event, previous problems there and decided to write a story. She then failed to infiltrate the company but, was able put enough together from her friends who told her about the company. As this sort of work normally has a high staff turnover, it is unlikely Artista, a fairly large company, will remember one tall skinny woman from another thus aiding the illusion Ms Marriage once worked for them.
Ms Marriage gate-crashes the event at 10pm, slipping in whilst everyone is distracted by the start of the auction, she is present for an hour before she is found out and is subsequently ejected. The after-party occurs where the women who actually read their emails stay to entertain the remaining male guests and those who do not wish to entertain leave.
Ms Marriage returns to the base-hotel, possibly with some extra inspiration having spoken with other hostesses present at the Presidents Club. She builds her article using the information she gained from her friends, the hostesses she spoke to there and what she personally saw. She fills in any gaps with her imagination and sends her article to her editor. The rest is history.
That’s what I think happened.
I think she has done a great job of fooling us all and, honestly, I almost admire her for it.
[Update 09-02-2018: I added an extra quote from Rachel Reid that I found after publishing. Some minor edits]