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Undercover Reporter Spotlights Sexual Harassment in Men-Only Fundraising Event

In the aftermath of a scandal exposed by the Financial Times, a British organization known as The Presidents Club Charitable Trust has announced that it will be distributing its remaining funds and then shutting down. There has been an uproar surrounding a recent charity fundraiser that was referred to as “the most un-PC event of the year” by the event’s auctioneer, Jonny Gould.

The men-only, black-tie gala was held at the Dorchester Hotel in London. There were 360 prestigious businessmen, politicians, and financiers present at the event. In addition, 130 hostesses were hired for entertainment purposes. Among those women, some of whom were college students looking to earn a little extra cash, was Madison Marriage, an undercover reporter for the Financial Times.

Little is known about the Presidents Club. According to The Sun, the organization emerged sometime in the mid-1980s shortly before the financial boom known as the “Yuppie Years.” The secretive Dorchester charity dinner has been club tradition for the past 33 years. In the past, the event has raised around £20 million for causes such as Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Caroline Dandridge, founder of Artista, an agency that specializes in supplying hosts and hostesses for special UK occasions, was tasked to hire women for the event. The potential hostesses were warned that the men in attendance may be “annoying.”

“It’s a Marmite job. Some girls love it, and for other girls it’s the worst job of their life and they will never do it again . . . You just have to put up with the annoying men and if you can do that it’s fine,” Dandridge reportedly told the girls.

In her report published on January 23rd, Marriage detailed her experience as a hostess at the event.

She explained that those who were deemed “tall, thin, and pretty” enough were instructed via email to wear sexy black shoes, black underwear, and do their hair and makeup as if they were going to a “smart sexy place.” The job paid £150 and all hostesses were required to sign a 5-page non-disclosure agreement on the night of the event in which they were not allotted adequate time to read. The women were then given uniforms: a short black bodycon dress, black stilettos, and a black belt that resembled a corset.

Throughout the night, the women were subjected to verbal harassment, non-consensual groping and touching, flashing, and men attempting to solicit sexual favors. One 19-year-old hostess reported being asked by a man in his seventies whether or not she was a prostitute. “I’ve never done this before, and I’m never doing it again,” she said. “It’s f***ing scary.”

Artista had an enforcement team responsible for monitoring the ballroom and encouraging less-active hostesses to engage with the guests. The charity auction, which began at 10 p.m., drew attention away from the hostesses and allowed them an hour to recollect themselves. Once the women had returned to the ballroom, they were told that they should spend the remainder of the night drinking and searching for desirable men.

One woman reported being approached by a man who poured champagne in her glass and berated her for being “too sober,” then demanded that she drink the alcohol and then remove her underwear and dance on the table. Marriage herself told BBC that she had been groped at some point during the night.

In response to the exposé and subsequent assault allegations, the Presidents Club released this statement: “The Presidents Club recently hosted its annual dinner, raising several million pounds for disadvantaged children. The organisers are appalled by the allegations of bad behaviour at the event asserted by the Financial Times reporters. Such behaviour is totally unacceptable. The allegations will be investigated fully and promptly and appropriate action taken.”

Less than a day after the Financial Times article was published, the Presidents Club officially announced that it is disbanding and will not be hosting any further fundraising events.

Featured Image on Kent Wang on Flickr

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