An interesting sidebar in the case against Raj Rajaratnam that ended May 11th with his conviction on all fourteen counts of insider-trading, is the case of Danielle Chiesi. Chiesi was the only woman in Rajaratnam’s network of corrupt insiders leaking information to get the edge on the stock market. Not unusually for women, she received the lowest compensation for her efforts to obtain information, though the information she provided was equal if not superior to the information Rajaratnam received from his male, mostly Indian, informants. And yet, she’s the only one who performed sexual acts to get the information.
So the question arises: why were the men able to get information without fucking, but not Chiesi? Is it possible she wanted to have sex with her sources? Or was this a case of a woman using her sexuality to make up for own lack of position or prowess in other areas: lack of connections, access, intelligence.
Typically, people think that sleeping with someone for some kind of compensation, aka prostitution, is playing below the belt. (so is insider trading.) Men particularly don’t like it, and often complain of the unfair advantage women have because they have the option of selling their sexuality, whereas men really can’t (unless it’s a same-sex relationship). But do women want to sell their sexuality? Chiesi’s initial claims were that she enjoyed the power of the inside trade, that it turned her on sexually. But that sounds so pathetic – a woman trading a good orgasm for millions of dollars isn’t a good trade when the silver bullet costs $21.95.
Rather, the Chiesi case speaks to issues regarding the tiny minority of women employed in the top levels of the financial sector. Clearly, Chiesi enjoyed power, and was willing to do what she could to amass it by adopting a casual “male” attitude towards sex. Weeks after her arrest, however, she had dropped the orgasm excuse and accused her boss of sexual harassment. Maybe she had a change of heart. Most likely, she did not enjoy having sex with older men just for the sake of it – the gut, the saggy skin, the hard to stay hard penis (without Viagra that is) – but was trying to succeed and saw a way to do it. As the only girl in a boys’ club, she was somewhat successful in this endeavor.
Women clearly don’t want to feel that selling their sexuality is the only way to get ahead, particularly as they get older and find that their sexuality is harder to sell. But if doors don’t open any other way, is selling your sexuality empowering or humiliating? Chiesi seems to have embraced the empowerment aspect, and as a former beauty queen this choice could have been in her DNA already, only to fall back on her humiliation as a victim as a kind of last resort. But beyond Chiesi, who after all is only a single, idiosyncratic person, is the larger question regarding what women ought to do when they find themselves outnumbered and trapped by the glass ceiling. On this, the jury is still out. It’d be nice to have more choices.
And though Chiesi is far from being a role model to young women, it is interesting that though men are thought to be more honor bound than women, Chiesi was the only one arrested in the Rajaratnam case who refused to name names. So though she acted immorally by trading and passing on inside information, in this instance, she took the moral high-ground. Ironically, her lack of cooperation in this could keep her out of the boys’ club – in jail.