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Are women unfairly blamed for leading husbands astray?

Linda Kelsey (pictured) argues Lily James doesn’t deserve the brutality from social media trolls

YES 

By Linda Kelsey

At 51, and old enough to be her father, actor Dominic West nuzzles the neck of beautiful Lily James, 31, at an alfresco restaurant in Rome, unaware that the paparazzi are on the prowl.

Ironically, the one who gets it in the neck — even months later, and in particular from women on social media — is James, while West gets off almost scot-free. At least as far as the trolls are concerned, though I doubt West’s wife failed to notice her husband was involved.

Lily James is a gorgeous, fancy-free, single woman. West is a supposedly committed married father of four. And yet it’s James — the minx, the siren, the marriage-wrecker — who should be boycotted, according to the Twitterati.

She shouldn’t get work, no matter that she is a talented actress. But West, well, how could he resist?

How could he be expected to stave off such a seductress or remember his marriage vows or his lovely kids who might get hurt by his public dalliance? Men are such hopeless darlings when it comes to sex.

As a feminist, I have to acknowledge there is one area where support between women falls short. Because, when it comes down to it, women are in competition in finding and keeping a man.

Women were not only furious with James for seeming to want to steal another woman’s husband, but also jealous of her gall. I’m sure I would have succumbed to ‘a holiday romance’ if the devastatingly charismatic West were up for it.

That guilty knowledge of desiring a man off limits makes us feel bad, so we lash out at those who commit the crime by putting ourselves in the position of moral superiority.

The double standard takes my breath away 

This has always been so, but social media has exacerbated it. It has become a cesspit of judgment. It’s not only ‘slut-shaming’, it’s weight shame, looks shame, style shame at every opportunity.

I don’t think these trolls empathised with West’s wife, but they were subconsciously panicking that their man could be prey to a sexual hussy.

The double standard takes my breath away. A man can be as much of a roué as he likes, and still get away with it, as long as he does that nauseating thing of wheeling out the wife for a photographic show of unconvincing solidarity.

Lily James was foolish and badly behaved, but she is no more complicit than West and doesn’t deserve the brutality she’s still receiving. From women especially.

Melanie McDonagh argues ‘slut-shaming’ is another way of saying women are showing solidarity with the wife back home

Melanie McDonagh argues ‘slut-shaming’ is another way of saying women are showing solidarity with the wife back home

NO 

By Melanie McDonagh

Lily James’s friends have rallied to defend her against online trolls who continue to call her a homewrecker for those photos taken with co-star Dominic West while filming in Rome.

The two say they are good friends and that’s all there was to it, so Lily is no marriage-wrecker, just a bit indiscreet. I have to say, though, had I been Catherine FitzGerald, West’s wife, kicking my heels in Glin Castle, Co Limerick, with the children, and looking at pictures of my husband conspicuously close to his new friend on the back of a scooter in the Italian sun, I’d have given him a pretty dusty reception on his return home.

There is, in the young feminist’s lexicon, no worse charge than that of ‘slut-shaming’ — which Miss James’s friends say is happening to her — for two reasons.

One is that a woman’s sex life is her own business; the other is that there’s a double standard; while the woman is called bad names, a man isn’t. Men are envied for promiscuity, women condemned for it.

Personally, I’m an equal opportunity judgmentalist: if someone undermines a marriage or seems to, girl or boy, then they’re causing hurt and can’t complain if people say so. Because, that’s the point about adultery, and perceptions of adultery, isn’t it? Not that someone’s having a good time, but that it’s causing pain to someone else.

She knew he was married, but they still flirted 

So, yes, Lily James may be a free agent, but it is by no means unfair to criticise her behaviour, nor that of Mr West. She knew he was married, but they had a public flirtation anyway.

In the very different case of Prince Charles and Camilla, who admitted to an affair lasting years, they were both married and both culpable.

Their adultery had a devastating effect on an already fragile young woman — Diana was open about how much it hurt — and Andrew Parker Bowles was publicly humiliated. In that case, it was overwhelmingly women who rallied round Diana and had it in for Camilla. (And they were right, although Prince Charles must share the blame.)

Of course, most people will say that people’s private lives are their own business and who am I to judge?

In practice, women are often hard on other women who have affairs with married men. That is, I think, because women, certainly older women, have an idea of how devastating infidelity can be for a family.

‘Slut-shaming’ is one way of putting it; another is that it’s women showing solidarity with the wife back home.


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