23 February 2022
And the Grace of God.
By John Watson
It is not just a tragedy; more of a fraud really. Food stolen from their mouths, poor lambs. Surely a class action must follow? Of all the rip-offs of recent years nothing pulls on the heartstrings so much as the way in which the gutter press have been deprived of their lawful prey by the settlement of the Prince Andrew; Virginia Giuffre legal action.
So now we will never know. Was there an encounter or has the Prince decided to pay up simply to avoid hearings which, however innocent he may be, could have done untold harm? No, my little furry friend putting his hand up at the back, the fact that he has paid doesn’t prove anything. Ask a lawyer. Litigation of this sort is a very uncertain affair and can go wrong regardless of the merits. American jury, English Prince not skilled at PR, voracious media, it is not the starting position you would choose.
What we can say, however, is that Epstein was a pretty dreadful man and his homes a lethal honey trap for those who went there. And he is not the only one to have spiced up his parties with sex. A Bunga Bunga party given by the then Prime Minister of Italy would have been a fairly lively affair and it has been alleged that these were based in turn on parties given by Colonel Gaddafi. No doubt there are many similar party givers around, all mad, bad and dangerous for anyone who drifts into their ambit.
Still, it is not necessary to bump shoulders with the rich and famous to be tempted into destructive sexual activity. The divorce courts are full of those who have ruined their marriages by adultery. Teachers lose their jobs because of relationships with their pupils. Doctors lose theirs because they have affairs with patients. Executives are sacked for sleeping with their staff. And so it goes on. Behind each betrayal or act of folly there is a balance which has come down the wrong way, an urge or a lust which has proved too strong for the constraints which should have suppressed it. A desire stronger, say, than loyalty to the Montagues or Capulets.
And each time there are conflicting forces. On one side of the scale sits sexual attraction, lust, affection, love perhaps, and all the rest. On the other, the constraints, the loyalty to family and other loved ones, the risk of consequences if all is discovered and a reluctance to get involved in something which it might be difficult to stop, and into this balance one has to throw the nature of the individual. Some people are more highly sexed than others and that will weigh down the lust side. Others are less impulsive or more careful. That will weigh down the other. There are many factors and whether you find yourself at a Bunga Bunga party or merely struck by the attractive man or woman who comes up to you at a party, a balance will have to be reached as to whether to take things forward and that decision will depend on many things: Are you undersexed by nature? How “easy“ is the opportunity? Do you have a happy home life you could not bring yourself to betray? Is he or she rather young? Would your breach of the rules or conventions have consequences? Is there an angle here you do not understand, which might suggest some form of procurement, or gold digging, or whatever? You, good reader, will be able to think of lots more.
Changes in these factors can tip the balance one way or the other and indeed their weighting can change from day to day with general health, with vulnerability, with frame of mind; if you are lucky, really dangerous temptations will only occur when you are well placed to resist them, so when you read of someone who disgraces themselves at a bunga bunga party, or with the wife of a colleague or who commits adultery, remember, before you voice your disgust, that their constraints may have been different to yours at least on the day which counted.
Does that mean that we should regard an overdeveloped sex drive or an unhappy home life as some sort of excuse for sexual misbehaviour mitigating the legal or social penalties normally incurred? Clearly not. If sanctions exist to prevent particular conduct it would be nonsense to exclude those most tempted by it. Actually the point is rather a different one. When you read that someone else has become involved in an inappropriate liaison, reflect on the anchors which make you proof against such conduct and on how things might be if you were not lucky enough to enjoy them. Then in the watches of the night bury your face in the pillow and recite:
“There but for the Grace of God go I.”