Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sexy Harrassment

So here it was... day two of new employee orientation. (No, not a new job... just finally ran out of excuses to avoid attending.)

At the end of day one they had said "On day two, please sit at a different table with different people." So I did my part and sat at a table with two women my age. Eventually the table filled up... with more women my age or slightly older. Granted, this is a female-heavy employer, but still... I didn't mind, except that I quickly remembered that a big portion of the morning would be spent on the state-mandated sexual harassment anti-training. I guess the big key to whether or not it's sexual harassment -- at least the "hostile workplace" type -- is if it's (a) unwanted and (b) repeated, intimidating or severe, as determined by a "reasonable" person.

Not a huge deal, I guess. But there was some table discussion time and they began to all talk about how they'd been harassed at previous jobs. I think they were overdoing it. But eventually they realize I was sitting there fiddling with my pen and so they all turned to me and inquired as to whether or not I'd ever been sexually harassed.

I thought about it and then said "Well, I guess if 'unwanted' is the operative word, then no." They asked me to elaborate and I stumbled through an explanation of how guys enjoy the attention. They were surprised and one, brand new to the company, about my age said "So if I came in tomorrow and said 'Hey, James, you're looking sexy today -- that wouldn't offend you?" I said "I might think it inappropriate, but I'm going to still appreciate the comment." They were surprised by that.

As always, I was able to better unpack my thoughts on it long after we'd moved off the topic.

But as far as I see it, there are only a few ways that a guy can really be sexually harassed, at least in the "hostile workplace" version. (The other "this-for-that" is probably more of an equal opportunity offender.) But for "hostile workplace," you'd have to be (a) negative in an embarassing way (in the video they showed two women giving a guy a playboy magazine and a bottle of enhancement pills) or the aggressor would have to be (b) a dude.

For me, the rule is... "how pissed is my wife going to be if I relate [whatever] to her?" And she trusts me to shut down anything that's questionable, if women out there want to stroke my ego, I don't think anyone's going to have a problem with that.

Seriously, this session had them scared. Fortunately, I was able to educate at least the women at my table of how guys are willing to be treated. And now you.
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