[men] dominate the sexual and emotional agenda, most profoundly by not perceiving they have one and that the sexual agenda is that of women.
Male sexuality underlies the patriarchal culture of professional and organisational life. 'Women work as "women'" (MacKinnon, 1979:9), and as such they are positioned as objects of male desire (see Chapter 3). The fact of gender at work, and the ways in which gender-power relations are conducted within patriarchal cultures overall, makes sexuality a crucial component of these power relations.
In this chapter I re-examine the way in which the construction of femininity and masculinity 'sexes' organisational life and, in so doing, exacerbates the subordination of women to male desire.
I am thus concerned with identifying the processes whereby men and patriarchy exert power over women through both verbal and physical sexual harassment, while imposing constraints on women's own sexual desire and behaviour in the context of the sexed organisational hierarchy. While ambitious and influential men may gain credibility from visible sexual activity and position themselves as active, potent and creative, professional women are assumed to have to choose between being the bimbo/whore or the asexual, serious professional woman. It is no coincidence that sexual relations at work directly resemble sexual relations outside.
This arrangement, which conflates power, influence and sexuality, not only privileges men and heterosexuality, but devalues women's working experiences through the threat or reality of harassment and forfeiture of their own sexuality and expressions of desire.