Last night on HBO‘s Real Time with Bill Maher, the host addressed sex in the workplace during his “New Rule” segment.
He referenced two particular workplace romances that have been in the media in recent weeks: a relationship between Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka and an unnamed female subordinate and Olivia Wilde‘s relationship with her Don’t Worry Darling co-star Harry Styles.
“The power dynamic associated with a superior’s improper relationship with a staff member was the primary finding and policy violation,” reported ESPN regarding Udoka’s case. This conclusion led to the coach’s suspension for a year and possible termination.
Relationships between superiors and their subordinates has been the cause of a number of firings in some of the highest ranks of Hollywood and corporate America since the start of the #MeToo movement.
Maher took issue with Udoka’s suspension, with the caveat that “if it turns out that he was violent or physically coercive, then his case has nothing to do with what I’m about to say and he should expect the appropriate and severe punishment.”
Putting that aside, Maher insists that we as a society must “review of our war on office romances,” as he put it.
“Who are we to tell other people they can’t have love because when they met they weren’t exactly co-equal?” he asked. “People aren’t always attracted to their co-equal. We’re not robots. What we are, apparently, is lonely. There is a loneliness epidemic out there.”
Maher pulled up a photo of Wilde and Styles, observing “This couple has been in the news lately. Why aren’t we freaking out about a director dating one of her cast members? Power imbalance? Are you kidding? On a movie set, the director is God. But sometimes people fall in love with God. It’s a very attractive position.”
He then proceeded to mention a number of celebrated public relationships that started in an office.
“Under Current guidelines, Michelle Robinson could never have dated Barack Obama, who was a summer associate at her law firm when they met,” he observed about the former First Couple.
He went on. “Wasn’t there a power imbalance when Joe Scarborough started dating Mika Brzezinski? I’d have to say, ‘Yes,’ because the name of the show was Morning Joe.”
Maher also flashed photos of a number of additional Hollywood couples to drive his point home, including Kate Capshaw and Steve Spielberg, Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann, Joel Coen and Frances McDormand, Taylor Hackford and Hellen Mirren, James Cameron and Linda Hamilton and Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton. All of these couples met at work.
“If loneliness is destroying our health…it’s just not helpful to be criminalizing the pool of eligible mates that is the workplace,” concluded Maher. “What happened to ‘My body, my choice?’ ”
You can watch the segment above.