The Week In Sex: Wikileak Sex and Case Study Wal-Mart: Sex, Salary and the Workplace


In searching for my topics for this weeks recap, it seemed "sex" was everywhere and in the headlines of every major publication or media source, typically tied to the phrase "sex by surprise." So even though I feel pretty well versed in sex terminology, I had to scratch my head a little at this phrase. Without context it almost sounds like something fun, spontaneous or a feature in a sex scene of a romance novel or in a Sex in the City episode. But no, this turn of speech is being used to talk about one of the most serious violations a person can experience, rape. This week, Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, was arrested for  allegations of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion not for "sex by surprise."

In the past few weeks, Wikileaks itself has established itself as a controversial entity in its own right, now further compounded by sex. It has inspired not only misinformation, sensationalism, anger and conspiracy theories, it has also established itself as a lightening rod for our views on the definition of consensual sex. Opinions are split, with some people thinking these women made up these allegations or why did these allegations come out at the time they did? Was the Swedish government forced by external factors, i.e. the US government, to use sex as the scapegoat of arrest?

True or false, these questions are so dangerous for women. Rape is real, and while it is true that some women have falsely claimed rape, this is in no way the norm. If these women have lied, this is a grave crime against women. If they have not lied, it is a grave crime for all those that question their stories. The crux of the questioning emerges from the fact that the alleged molestations and rape began as consensual  sexual experiences. Does a woman have a right to stop sex, if her partner refuses to use a condom or if the condom breaks, making her vulnerable for disease or unwanted pregnancy? When does no count as no? Is it only before the first penetration and after that all bets are off?

Assange is accused of pinning one woman's arms and using his body weight to hold her down during one alleged assault, and of raping a woman while she was sleeping. In Sweden, it's a crime to continue to have sex after your partner withdraws consent. While the mainstream media would find great difficulty featuring many of the topics I feature here on the, sexual violence or politics (in this case, even better for the combination) are headline gold. Some are just milking the sensationalism, while some journalists such as Jessica Valenti, editor of Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape and the founder of, are making connections to laws that have been on our books not that long ago:

"It was only two years ago that Maryland overturned an archaic court ruling stating that if a woman withdrew consent, any sex that followed wasn't rape. In 2007, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals justified this old ruling, explaining that anything after the initial "deflowering" of a woman couldn't be rape because "the damage was done" to her virginity and she could never be "reflowered." In fact, the injured party, according to this ruling, wasn't even the assaulted woman, but the "responsible male's interest" - that of her father or husband. It took until 2008 for the state's highest court to change this."

To learn more about the allegations against Julian Assange:  and

On Friday, 16 Days of Gender Activism came to a close, with the notorious economic gender gap mentioned more than a few times in my coverage. So in this post, I'm using the giant of Wal-Mart to discuss some of the gender imbalances that still exist in the American workforce. In 2001, a case was filed by six former and current Wal-Mart female employees, who believe Wal-Mart discriminates against 500,000 to 1.5 million of its female staffers in terms of both pay and promotion, in over 3,400 stores and 170 job classifications.

The lawsuit was initiated by Betty Dukes, who began working at Wal-Mart in 1994. After years of frustration, in 1999 after a small disagreement over a change transaction, Dukes was demoted and given a pay cut. Believing she was being treated disproportionately due to her race and gender, a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, she saw this one act as an extension of a systematic promotion of men over women, with men in equivalent positions being paid more at Wal-Mart. This one little event was the breaking point of her accumulated frustrations and years later she has remained dedicated to the legal battle.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case regarding the establishment of this class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart, which if successful would be one of the largest class action suits in history. If approved, the class action suit will demand back pay and punitive damages for female employees that could amount to billions of dollars. In England, the Equality Act 2010, which launched in October is pushing for gender gap transparency. It is currently requesting that employers submit employees salaries to better determine where the gender gap may exist.

Study after study have been conducted on issues surrounding gender and the work place. Particularly with the Wal-Mart case in the news, it has been interesting to note that many of these studies relate to a feeling that women need new means to break out of the categories they are placed in, which are often classified as "competent/unlikeable" or "likeable/incompetent". Research with both male and female participants have given women who do not behave in stereotypical ways negative evaluations. Simply translated, assertive women in the workplace are viewed negatively. This same study went on to cite flirtation as a tool that would not impact perceived competency levels, but would indicate the perpetrator to be untrustworthy. Is this telling us the only tool of advancement is flirtation?

Israeli researchers at Ben Gurion University conducted a study which showed attractive women who include a photo with a job application, a typical act in Israel, have a lower call rate for interviews than women who do not attach a photo. However, attractive men have a much higher rate of interview than those that do not attach a photo or are more aesthetically average. Does this mean attractive women are being excluded because they are perceived to be more incompetent? Is it female jealous on the part of interviewer or are men under rating the intelligence of attractive women? What are the messages we are sending about gender and the workplace?

To learn more about "flirting at work":

To learn more about being attractive and getting a job study:

 To learn more about the Equality Act 2010: and