Should We Ever Judge A Woman By Who She Chooses To Have Sex With?

Melania Trump, Carrie Symonds, Hailey Bieber - are their partners a reflection of themselves, or should their romantic choices be left alone?

Melania Trump

by Rebecca Reid |

'I really can't stand Hailey Bieber' a friend said to me recently, over a glass of wine.

'Why not?' I asked.

'She's married to Justin' the friend told me. 'He left that monkey in a German zoo, he spat on people and he's anti-abortion. He's a weasel' she explained.

'But that's him' I argued. 'Not her. They're different people.'

Ever since the conversation I've been going back and forth on a thorny issue. How far does the man a woman chooses to have sex with, or have a relationship with, define her as a person?

My naturally sex-positive, no judgement feminist side wants women to be free to sleep with whoever they like. The idea of judging a woman based on who she is sleeping with feels naturally very wrong.

But, that said, the people who we surround ourselves with are a reflection of who we are. The company we keep reflects our values and our morals, and as such, surely whoever you're romantically entangled with has to be considered a reflection of your character?

The real problem here is that it's not just celebrities who do this. There are so many women in my life who are funny, kind and generally wonderful, who choose to share a bed with blokes who have about as much moral fibre as Jafar from Aladdin.

If a woman sleeps with someone who treats women badly, makes sexist comments and thinks that doing a Nazi salute is funny while drunk, doesn't that say something about her?

Carrie Symonds is the latest head scratcher. She's a very talented, very successful woman. Her work campaigning against plastic is inspirational, and her work on getting the parole of rapist John Worboys overturned was nothing short of heroic (in case you missed it - Carrie Symonds forwent her anonymity in order to help secure a longer custodial sentence for a man who police believe probably assaulted around 100 women).

Reading about her campaign work, you'd think that Carrie was a brilliant woman. But then there's the fact that she's in a relationship with a man who has used the words 'piccaninnies with watermelon smiles' to describe People of Colour and endangered the life of Nazanin Zaghari-Radcliffe with his incompetence.

Melania Trump is another head scratcher. She, admittedly, doesn't have Carrie Symonds' track record of helping to change the world, but she hasn't done much actively wrong or hurtful. That said, she shares a bed (or at least a house) with a man who keeps children in cages.

Do these women condone their partner's behaviour by continuing to be in a relationship with them? And if so, should be condemn them by extension? Or is it outdated and sexist to hold a woman to account for her husband's actions.

When Hillary Clinton was running for president, tapes were leaked of Donald Trump saying that he 'doesn't even ask' before he kisses women, that he 'grabs 'em by the pussy.' Unsurprisingly Clinton condemned his vile language.

The Trump campaign's comeback? To cite Bill Clinton's very public oral sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky. The Trump team suggested that Clinton had abused his power, that he had taken advantage of a teenage girl and that saying no to the leader of the free world would have been nigh on impossible for Lewinsky. They were (sadly) probably right.

Hillary didn't have sexual contact with the extremely junior member of staff, and yet her campaign was blighted by being held responsible by association for her husband's sexual misconduct. Which hardly seems fair.

I've slept with some very morally questionable people in my time, and I'd ideally prefer that they weren't used as a barometer for my personal values. That said, I've also cut friends out of my life for making racist jokes, continual low-level misogyny or thinking that Hitler is funny. So perhaps the deciding factor here isn't who we have sex with, but who we have relationships with - romantic or platonic.

Maybe behind closed doors these women try to change the men they love. Perhaps Melania tells Donald to shut up about his wall, maybe Carrie sends Boris on diversity training courses and there's a small chance that Hayley Bieber has tried to explain to Justin that abortion is none of his business unless he grows a womb.

If you love someone it's easy to convince yourself that you can help them to change, that your influence might lead them to become a better person.

In the end, however unfair it feels to judge a woman by her husband, boyfriend or friend with benefits, the company we keep is a reflection of who we are. Of course it depends what kind of behaviour we're talking about and whether it's an isolated incident of an ongoing pattern of behaviour. But, if like Melania Trump or any number of other high profile women, you attach yourself to someone who makes continual, conscious and deliberate bad choices, then I'm afraid you might well be part of the problem.

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