Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Sexual Weirdness in the Workplace
Ever since my beloved co-blogger, Tearfree, posted about the Potential Park Perv, I have been thinking about the nature of workplace sexual harassment. Mostly how if it's a playful hot guy with abs saying suggestive things at the office, most women will flirt right back or instant message their closest office friend to breathlessly report that the hot guy just complimented her clavicle. Remember Daniel Cleaver in "Bridget Jones Diary?" What woman among us didn't "schwing" at that scene when the elevator doors opened and there was his bad ass, the man who devilishly messaged Bridget a few scenes later: "Your tits look great in that top." Had Daniel Cleaver looked and behaved like Mr. Titspervert, or a similarly greasy-haired guy with Coke-bottle glasses and his pants pulled up to his nipples at any workplace? Immediate sexual harassment complaint.
There is a dear man at my office, a big, husky bear of a guy, who has always made the most politically incorrect jokes and offered neck rubs routinely to the women in the office. I have known him since we were both in our 20s, when such office humour was commonplace. He is a work friend -- we usually try to go out for lunch once a month or so and I gratefully accept the neck rubs since I suffer from chronic concrete-neck. When I was a real mess earlier this year, he found me sobbing a few times in stairwells or outside the office in the back alley, and he gave me big, comforting hugs as I literally sobbed on his shoulder. He was kind, gentle and smart, and sweetly assured me I was going to be OK eventually.
The younger women in the office, however, think he's a perv due to the ribald jokes and the offers of neck rubs.
This hurts me. Because I know what a kind heart he has. He means absolutely no harm and has never once, in all the years I've known him, hit on me. Yes, he has told me I have great legs, commented on my outfits and declared I have perfect feet in the summer when he can see my toes. I guess I am complicit, because I am a sucker for a compliment and always thanked him for his comments instead of saying: "It is highly inappropriate for you to comment on my pedicure and I am going to complain to Human Resources immediately."
I guess it is a whole different world now, when people are sometimes unable to see the grey areas and only see the black and white. I fear for my friend and what might happen to him, and I fully intend to go to bat for him if he finds himself in any serious trouble. But I find it all very sad, and I know he very likely wouldn't be in this position if he looked like Enrique Iglesias.