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Having Sex with Someone is Worse Than (Fill in the Blank)?

August 14, 2010

Mark Hurd, CEO of Hewlett-Packard, was fired for sexual harassment.

Really?  Well, no, not really.

In fact, HP cleared Mr. Hurd of the harassment charge and fired him, instead, for some violation of their standard of business conduct.

According to the New York Times, HP revenue went up and up and up during the worst recession in recent history:  “Its 2009 revenue was $115 billion, up from $80 billion when he took over. Four years ago, H.P. even leapt past mighty I.B.M.  in revenue, making it the country’s biggest technology company. Its average annual 18 percent profit increases were remarkable given the company’s mammoth size. And the stock price more than doubled on Mr. Hurd’s watch.”

Really? Well, no, not really.

New York Times again: “When pressed, H.P. said that Mr. Hurd had fudged some expense reports. (It also said that his relationship with the woman, a small-time H.P. contractor, was a conflict, even if no sex was involved.) On his way out the door, the board handed Mr. Hurd a severance package said to be worth between $40 million and $50 million, which would seem to undercut the notion that he had done something bad.”

Really?  Well, yes, really.

There’s a long history of Mr. Hurd’s tenure at HP and he was apparently disliked and not trusted by his employees and his board.  But you can’t fire someone for those things.  But there were things for which he could have been fired and they appear to be valid reasons to fire someone.  But they’re complicated and might not immediately engage the public’s sympathy.

But charge someone with being sexual, with having a sexual relationship with someone with whom, perhaps, they shouldn’t be intimately involved, and no one questions you.  In fact, the vast majority of the population sits back with a comfortable sigh of understanding because we’re so used to our sexuality being wrong, dirty, offensive, even something for which you can be fired.

It can be challenging sometimes to realize that we’re still burning people at the stake for being sexual when, in truth, we simply don’t like them or trust them.  It’s a quick and easy excuse and, just in the Salem witch trials and murders, you can quickly stir up public hysteria and censure and proceed with full impunity to punish and eliminate.

In the writing of this article, Prop 8 in California sprang to mind – where loving couples are trying to get the same rights as other loving couples.  What’s the biggest issue that prevents them from having those rights?  Sexuality.  That two people of the same sex might have an intimate, loving relationship just offends some people to the point that they are mobilized to punish and eliminate that reality.



We can have no freedoms without sexual freedom.  Sex, sexuality, consensual sexual expression are not crimes – and we should stop treating them as if they are!

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