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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business Gets a Lesson in Sex Ed

Business leaders gathered Wednesday for an unprecedented public discussion on how to harness their libidos to maximize profits.

Between dirty jokes and rounds of giggles, some 30 dapper entrepreneurs also raised the possibility that President Vladimir Putin's so-called power vertical is a sign of repressed sexuality.

The round-table event, titled "Business and Sexuality," was organized by the Association of Managers, a management-training organization with over 1,000 Russian and international member companies.

The purpose was to provide a forum for "everything you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask," said the association's executive director, Sergei Litovchenko.

Litovchenko acknowledged the sensitivity of sex-related topics in Russian public life, saying he decided to hold the round table after members repeatedly suggested the topic get some open discussion.

The three themes of the round table -- attended in equal numbers by women and men -- were straightforward enough: sexuality as a resource for business success, sexuality as a management tool, and sexuality as a source of barriers and problems.

Many speakers seemed to have trouble sticking to the agenda, however. One speaker, Novgorod region Deputy Governor Vladimir Podoprigora, apologized for a possible lack of focus.

"There are so many beautiful women here," Podoprigora said. "I don't know if I can discuss such a burning topic because I'm thinking about something completely different."

Podoprigora's speech ranged from the Biblical story of creation and instances of patriarchalism in Russian proverbs to an American professor who attributed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to a repression of sexual drives.

A clamor erupted when the next speaker, Mikhail Chernysh, chief researcher at RAN Institute of Sociology, said that research tying repressed sexuality to authoritarian forms of government was relevant to modern Russian life.

"The very term 'power vertical' is closely related to our discussion today," Chernysh said, referring to the term describing Putin's consolidation of power.

"As a rule, verticals are a certain form of the realization of repressed sexual drives in life."

"Don't forget who you're talking about," interjected Dmitry Zimin, honorary president of mobile phone giant VimpelCom.

Further disputes arose over the nature and role of female sexuality in business.

Marina Shakalova, managing director of Management Training International, told of being pelted with tomatoes at a U.S. conference on women in the workplace when she suggested that "using femininity can be a great resource."

She cited U.S. management guru Tom Peters in her defense, echoing his belief that "the 21st century will be the century of female management thanks to the flexibility and improvisational ability women have in solving problems. Women are naturally more creative than men."

Agency PR Inc. (BBDO Group) managing partner Olga Dashevskaya disagreed.

"Unfortunately, the statistics show that men are more creative than women," she said.

Calling on her experience in the advertising industry, Dashevskaya said the most successful advertising campaigns were made by men and claimed that more men had been nominated for Oscars in gender-neutral categories.

A conciliatory note was sounded toward the close of the event by Anatoly Kupchin of Agentstvo Kontakt, a recruiting firm, who claimed that both men and women should be able to use so-called masculine and feminine styles of leadership regardless of their gender.

"A good manager should be able to switch roles at any time," he said.

Several managers giggled.