Gagging orders: women being muzzled by rich men

// 28 April 2011

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Gagging orders are back in the media again with one high profile male celebrity after another seeking to protect their anonymity amid accusations of illicit sexual behaviour.

Imogen Thomas’ appearance on ITV’s This Morning yesterday has started some interesting discussions about the apparent gender imbalance in the way these injunctions are being granted.

There are no hard and fast figures on how many gagging orders have been granted in the UK since they first came to prominence in 2007 but the figure is rumoured to be more than 30, of which apparently only 3 have been obtained by women.

This isn’t simply about gender – it’s about wealth more than anything else – but the women involved in these situations are far less likely to have the disposable income needed to bring these cases to court so clearly gender does play a massive factor. I also believe that men are more likely to get themselves involved in these sorts of situations although I’m not sure I can evidence that – just call it a hunch.

Conservative MP Louise Bagshawe concurred with the view that the law is treating men and women unequally, saying that women are being ‘muzzled by rich men’.

Interestingly, Baroness Deech, a leading female lawyer, has come out in defence of the men involved – blaming the women for wanting to sell their stories purely to make money. She said:

“This is no doubt an unpopular point of view on my part, but I feel quite ashamed by these women’s behaviour, although some say they have the right to ‘speak out’ and ‘set the record straight.’ What word do we have for women who make lots of money from illicit sex?”

Hmmm… and what word to we have for men who pay for ‘illicit sex’? More to the point, what opinions do we have of men who sleep around and then pay huge sums of money to keep it quite, while allowing the women involved to be slated all over the media and their families to be none the wiser. I can think of a few names for that as well.

Baroness Deech hasn’t exactly got a great track record of sticking up for women’s rights so is she being deliberately provocative or does she have a point? Did Imogen and others bring this on themselves to some extent?

Personally, I don’t think secrecy should be the privilege of the rich and the few and this is smacks of a ‘gentleman’s club’ arrangement. Who are the real victims in this? Not the men but the women involved – who are largely seen as ‘easy’ or ‘gold-diggers’ (whereas the men are seen as simply doing what men do). The other victims are the men’s partners/wives/families, who are often expected to stand by their man and carry on life as normal.

And it’s all fruitless in any case – a quick Google search quickly reveals the footballer concerned.

Comments From You

peace // Posted 29 April 2011 at 7:50 am

I was hoping someone would cover this. I think the only victims in these situations are the families of the cheating guys. As someone who has had something like this happen to them (my dad cheated on my mum with some woman), i do not feel any sympathy for the other women. I think it is a totally different story if the other woman is a prostitute because i think she is just as much as a victim as his family. I have never understood and never will understand why people cheat on someone they supposedly love. I personally don’t understand why anyone would feel any sympathy towards someone who sells their story to the media. I can’t imagine how horrible and humiliating it must feel for the partners of these cheaters or their kids to read or hear about what happened. It reminds me of the whole Wayne Rooney situation with the two prostitutes. If the two prostitutes had been dragged into the whole thing without their consent then i would feel totally sorry for them, but i t wasn’t like that. I also do not think it is about gender but money.

“I also believe that men are more likely to get themselves involved in these sorts of situations although I’m not sure I can evidence that”. Do you mean men in general or celebrities? i also have a hunch that men and women cheat as much as each other.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 29 April 2011 at 12:32 pm

Actually it is about gender or more precisely about the maintenance of male sexual power and control over women.

All those men who have taken out injunctions have money and this, together with their social positions of power enables them to ‘enage in sexually promiscuous behaviour’ and ensure such behaviour is kept secret from the public sphere.

Women however, have always been blamed for men’s sexual behaviours and that is why yet again the women involved are being called ‘gold diggers’ because it is essential men’s sexual accountability must not be questioned or even made public. Male created sexual double standards again – men must be never be held accountable for their sexual behaviour whereas women are always blamed and simultaneously expected to gatekeep men’s supposedly uncontrollable sex drive. A win win for men and continued lose, lose for women.

That is why these men are using the law because they want to maintain their pseudo right of sexual access to any woman and yet maintain their hypocritical fake public respectability.

Which is precisely why the law is being used by these men, because it was created by men to benefit men and to maintain their power and domination over women.

katy // Posted 1 May 2011 at 4:13 pm

This behaviour allows rich men to behave badly without having to face the consequences. People who cheat should not be shielded by money they should be subject to the same consequences as everyone else. The ability to buy silence will only encourage these people to push the boundaries of decent behaviour even further. It’s a licence to get away with murder.

Maureen Jeffs // Posted 1 May 2011 at 7:21 pm

I was about to comment on this matter when I read an excellent article by Carol Midgley, columnist, which is pretty good. She, like me, disagrees strongly with Baroness Deech. Here is part of it:

‘Many of the women silenced by these injunctions are not prostitutes. As far as we know, some of them never intended to speak out anyway. The former lover of Andrew Marr could now tell her story but has not. Imogen Thomas, who had an affair with a Premier League footballer, wept on This Morning recently, saying she felt ‘thrown to the lions.’

‘I had no intention of ever speaking about the man. I just wish that my name was protected,’ she said. ‘I didn’t have £50,000 to get an injunction.’ Nick Freeman, the celebrity lawyer sitting beside her, replied that because she once went on Celebrity Big Brother she was ‘fair game’.

Ye gods. Criticising women when famous rich men use the law like a moral morning after pill – shagging her one day, gagging her the next to flush away evidence – beggars belief. These men want it all ways: the cosy family life and the right to hump whoever they like without fear of exposure. Mostly it doesn’t matter. Who cares if a footballer or a TV personality has jiggity jig? It’s life. It happens. But no man should be allowed to use his money to behave like a sexual Bluebeard.

Besides, how stressful to live under your own superinjunction, never knowing if one day it will be challenged successfully. Andrew Marr doesn’t look like a man who got his money’s worth from his….

Much better for the famous married man to tough it out and say nothing when caught with his Y-fronts down. These things soon blow over.

Or, wisest of all, keep them pulled permanently up.’

I agree with all that Ms Midgley says.

I would also add that gagging the media is a very serious matter. It is a pity that, unlike the USA, we do not have a Bill of Rights, the first Amendment of which is the right of free speech. The right of free speech is so important. If we do not have it, the powers that be are able to cover up very serious matters; matters far more serious than that of any celebrity getting his leg over.

Vicky // Posted 4 May 2011 at 3:21 pm

I’m a bit out of touch with the UK news, as I’m living in Palestine at present, but this story caught my attention immediately – it’s similar to something that is happening in Israel right now. A judge has granted a gag order in an alleged rape case, and now it looks as though the case may be dropped quietly before it even gets to court. The accused is Yoav Even, an Israeli journalist who evidently has a few friends in high places.

The gag has been broken by blogger Richard Silverstein, and a group of Israeli women have issued a video response. I hope it’s OK if I link to it here. I know the F-word is a UK blog, but I think that the silencing of women is a global feminist concern, and I want to get the word out.

Blog post on the gag:

Video response:

makomk // Posted 9 May 2011 at 5:57 pm

It’s not just celebrities – for example, according to Private Eye there was a recent injunction by a large corporation which sacked a more junior female employee for breaking up with someone more senior and male, that prohibited said company from being named by the press in relation to said sacking, using the exact same justification.

On the other hand, parts of the tabloid press were getting seriously out of hand prior to judges clamping down. For example: one of the things you probably don’t know about the Max Mosley case unless you read the full judgement from his lawsuit is that the NotW was essentially trying to blackmail the other women involved into selling their stories (and helping the NotW sell papers) by threatening to put their names and faces on the front page unless they did. That’s just plain evil, and I don’t see any way it can be even remotely compatible with feminism.

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