Gender Bender: What Kind of Person do You take Me for?

Madame X - John Singer SargentMadame X by John Singer Sargent


The other day someone decided that it was an extremely good idea to interrupt me whilst I was doing something frightfully important. I can no longer remember what this frightfully important doing was, however I do recall the interruption and the consequences of it – which is ultimately (for me) this post.

The interruption was spurred by this:

Man: Madam, would you sleep with me for a million pounds?

Woman: My goodness, Well, I’d certainly think about it.

Man: Would you sleep with me for a pound?

Woman: Certainly not! What kind of woman do you think I am?!

Man: Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.

This anecdote has been attributed to a gaggle of famous gentlemen (for more on that – click me), and has been relayed through word of mouth and written form from person to person for several decades (time based on the varied attributions). Obviously we, the people, like this story enough to pass it along. Why?

We like it so much we’ve made popular films about it. Remember Indecent Proposal? Remember all the conversations amongst partners, spouses, lovers, friends, strangers, the media, which that film inspired? Maybe you are too young to recall that time, maybe you’re youth reflects… that perhaps you’re the offspring of one of those conversations. That kind of discussion can get quite heated…

I’ve never been on the receiving end of that kind of an indecent proposal.

I’ve never given anyone one of those either.

So I have no way of knowing what my answer would be to the first question. Sure, I can conjecture my heart and mind out… but I know myself well, and what I think and feel I would do, would like to do, would imagine that I would say… is usually different from what I end up doing and saying if a fantasy should happen to manifest as a reality. Because the reality has context, whereas the fantasy keeps changing its context based on what mood or frame of mind I am in.

I used to fly a lot during that period when planes were being hijacked all the time (or so it seemed) and regularly practiced in my mind the best way of handling such a scenario. Whether that practicing would have made my reaction perfect, I thankfully have never (up to date) had to find out.

I have always had a penchant for preparing myself through fantasy for worst case scenarios. I’m not particularly adept at preparing myself even in fantasy for best case scenarios. We all have our weak spots, that’s one of the many which I possess (proudly?). However when I actually end up facing a worst case scenario… I tend to react to it by being grateful that it isn’t as bad as I imagined it could be, and that’s my silver lining.

Is being indecently proposed a worst or best case scenario? Knowing that would be very useful to my fantasy of it… until I know that element of it, I can’t fantasise about it, which is probably just as well.

I have had quite a few indecent (according to how I felt and what I thought when they were offered to me) proposals in my life, but they were not of a sexual nature.

Being a female I was aware from a fairly tender age that the gender of my body could cause a few social problems. I was made aware of this before I understood what it was all about. My mother warned me repeatedly with awful stories of vanishing children and the white slave trade before I knew what sex was. Then one day I met a pedophile, and the stories my mother told me stopped me from showing this man the way to the park and the colour of my underwear (he said he was an underwear salesman doing research, and that he was new to the neighbourhood and could not find his way to the park… so would I show him).

As my body progressed through its growing pains, I had awkward experiences of being what is now known as ‘sexually harassed’ by men who thought they were oh so… debonaire?, and being groped by random strangers who passed me in the street, on an escalator (my very first grope – the groper (not me) was walking down the up, how very clever of him!), or elsewhere. The grope which I was least prepared for (as in get used to this kind of shit and learn to deal with it) was an old wizened crone in a tiny sewing shop who decided that the answer to my search for a specific sewing-related matter was to slap my tits with her hands and cackle with a dirty glint in her beady eyes.

A female prepares herself to deal with males and their possibly lascivious ways, because she is constantly told that she should do so, by her parents, her peers, the media, and such… but is never really prepared to deal with females who behave the way that only males are supposed to behave. Females are usually told that they can trust other females… experience is a bit more ambiguous and ambisextruous…

Not only have I never been on the receiving end of that kind of indecent proposal (and I have to admit that there have been a few times in my life when such a thing would have been a welcome solution to a financial problem), but I can’t actually recall a man ever asking me if I would sleep with him.

It’s me and not men. Men have told me so… and upon investigating whether their word was reliable, I have concluded that it is so in this particular case.

I’ve never had a woman make that kind of proposal either, but women tend to be more frugal than men in some ways… at least that was what I was taught when I worked in the luxury goods industry. Never let a husband ask his wife whether he should splurge on a product which he doesn’t really need – that was the advice which experienced salesmen (especially the female salesmen) passed onto me during training.

Of course a husband would probably not ask his wife if she approved of his indecent proposal… or would he? Perhaps she encouraged him to do it… but wanted to make sure he got the best possible price for it?

One of the thoughts which always pops up in my mind when I think of this type of indecent proposal is – Why do you want to pay me for sleeping with you? Is paying me for something which I might do for free more meaningful somehow?

Which then leads to… more advice which was given to me during my stint in the luxury goods business – Never give anything away for free, people don’t value it as much as what they have to pay for through the nose (don’t they have a wallet?) to acquire… and they often think there is something wrong with a product which is given away for free or at a bargain price.


When sex and money meet… the problems escalate (with the gropers hustling their way down the up to get what they can).

If someone ever was insane enough (which is probably why this has never happened) to ask me such a thing as – would you sleep with me for a million pounds? – I would say…

…‘No’ in all probability. Not because of moral highground stuff and nonsense, but because it nips a huge knot of problematic consequences in the making in the bud. I’m a lazy sod at heart (not so much of the mind)… and I avoid problems when I can (even when I can’t) because they demand too much effort to solve, and all I want to do is fall asleep in the warm sand under a basking Sun on a deserted beach (and hope that the tide doesn’t come in while I’m kipping).

However reading this version of the indecent proposal makes me reconsider my answer, possibly though not probably, turning it into a ‘Yes’, because I absolutely love the witty banter which ensues.

The retort which the man gave the woman after she had accepted his indecent proposal is definitely worth it. In fact I would have slept with him right there and then on the spot for displaying such mental acuity. However I would not have been tired enough to sleep, on the contrary, his cleverness would have stimulated every atom of my being and I would have felt compelled to stay up for days indulging in conversational sparring. When someone bares their naked wit, I want to grope them. Which usually makes people want to run as far away from me as they can… come back here, I call after their retreating figure as I give chase, you can’t start something like this then escape the consequences of your actions and words.

But of course people do and can escape the consequences of their actions and words. That’s what excuses are for, it’s the place where our imagination excels at making fantasy a reality, and we’re all experts at deploying those ejector seats with their built-in parachutes.

I must dash now, I have a frightfully important thing to attend to…



George Bernard Shaw.


*This was written for The Daily Post’s writing challenge: Genre Blender. I misread the title of the challenge and proceeded from there, so it doesn’t fit the brief at all, but it doesn’t really matter as that is the sort of mistake and problem which comes with consequences not included.