Long-time reader Ginger Nelles of Knightdale, in a letter to the editor Wednesday, says our Sunday story about sexual tension at the legislature was offensive and sexist. The story, "Power, temptation a seductive mix at the legislature," by reporter Mandy Locke, said sometimes at the legislature, the lines between work and play get blurred.
The sexual tensions are subtle yet palpable, Locke wrote: "The lobbyist who addresses a lawmaker as 'sweetie.' An arm brushed. A rear end admired. The off-color joke shared." Among other things in the story, Nelles objected to "a rear end admired." I don't know why that sentence would be sexist: It didn't say who was doing the admiring or who was being admired. It just said a rear end was being admired.
Which was true, I'm sure. Locke's story helped explain the recent news about social relationships between lobbyists and legislative staff. Anyone who spends time with legislators and their staff members (I covered the legislature for five years) knows there's a strong nightlife culture. Locke gave various reasons in her well-reported story for the sexual tension: The legislature can be an intense workplace with long hours. Legislators, many of whom have big egos, are away from home, usually with time (and many social opportunities) at night. "There is down time and alcohol and egos," said Rep. Deborah Ross of Wake County. "It's easy to see what happens."
"What happens" isn't purely social. The relationships among lobbyists, legislators and staff members can affect public policy. As one lobbyist told Locke, "If the person you know is a lobbyist and is a personal friend you are sleeping with, you are going to take their call and hear what they are doing." That's why this story was worth publishing. --John Drescher