Just stop it

How to avoid workplace witch hunters

5 minute read
See what I mean? It's creepy. (Illustration by Hannah Kaplan for BSR.)
See what I mean? It's creepy. (Illustration by Hannah Kaplan for BSR.)

The great 2017 male (and, sure, statistically insignificant female) workplace reckoning still seems to be going strong. In its wake, lots of men (and, sure, some women) wonder (loudly in public, and everywhere on social media) when this “witch hunt” will end and how anyone can navigate such rocky, siren-laden shores.

Nobody handed me a rulebook, but I feel I’ve done a pretty good job respecting the autonomy of my writers, my editors, my coworkers, and the subjects of my writing (even the attractive ones!) during my roughly 25 years of employed life in Philadelphia. Witches don’t exist, at least not magic poppet-wielding ones. But sexual assault and harassment do, so the confused can use this partial list of things I’ve instinctively never done at work, with or without anyone’s consent, as general guidelines for their own workplace behavior.

To not-do list

I never groped, kissed, or fondled anyone. I never groped or fondled myself in front of them. I never commented on the way their ass or other parts look in whatever they’re wearing. I never trapped them in a corner and asked if they’re attracted to me. I never called or texted to ask what they’re wearing right now. I never texted them naked or partially naked photos of me. I never made a pass at their children. I never asked what kind of porn they like. I never tried to show them porn I like. I never referred to them by using a gendered (or other) slur, or described them by taking stock of their physical/reproductive attributes. I never casually showed my private parts to anyone in the office. I never deliberately excluded anyone from a work get-together because of their gender, and never planned a work-related event that would cause anyone discomfort because of their gender.

I never asked anyone to dress in a way that would allow me to see more of what they have under there. I never told anyone to lose or gain weight or start working out. I never told anyone I could change their sexual orientation or asked how they knew for sure if they'd never tried the other side. I never asked if they'd had bottom or top surgery. I never told anyone I could help their career if they just did this thing for me. I never unloaded my relationship troubles on them hoping they’d feel sorry for me and let me go somewhere private with them. I never got real close to them so they’d get the hint. I never gave them a shoulder or any other kind of massage. I never asked them to give me a shoulder or any other kind of massage. I never told them their race or ethnicity was the sexiest or that I always wanted to try it out with one of them. I never grabbed them by the pussy or the dick or anything else or asked them to do so to me. I never emailed them dirty jokes and asked what they thought. I never got drunk or high and propositioned them. I never told them I found them attractive. I was never hostile to them after they rejected me, which I never gave them the opportunity to do anyway.

Sure, you could, but you (probably) don't, because you're a grownup and you know better. (Image via Creative Commons/Wikipedia.)
Sure, you could, but you (probably) don't, because you're a grownup and you know better. (Image via Creative Commons/Wikipedia.)

I never punched a wall or anything else to intimidate them. I never slipped anything in their drink. I never touched them when they were unconscious. I never asked for a key to their hotel room. I never told them it was their fault I was acting this way, and I never acted that way. I never raped them. I never blocked or locked the door so it would be harder for them to leave. I never held a one-on-one meeting in my hotel room. I never asked them to meet me after work so we could be alone. I never asked them to pose suggestively for a photo. I never installed a secret video camera in the bathroom or anywhere else or took photos of them without their knowledge. I never asked them to provide an alibi for me. I never asked them to cover up my misconduct. I never provided an alibi for them. I never covered up their misconduct.

I'm sorry, sort of

To reassure the anxious, please note: I still dated, had fun, made friends, and got wild along the way, all while managing not to do these things. In fact, it was super easy not to do them. I didn’t even think of them, really (at least not the examples I haven’t already experienced), until I sat down to write, and then I felt creepy, because it’s such a creepy list.

So, I’d also like to apologize if this list made anyone uncomfortable, but only if you’re the anyone who also never did these things. If you did them — even if it was only one and nobody saw and you work in the arts and it was the ‘80s — I hope you feel very uncomfortable.

No matter where or when you worked, other people at your workplace (even some of the male ones) also did none of these things. They wanted you to stop doing them so they could just make some money, go home, and not have to shower right away to remove the stink of your cologne.

Undoubtedly, someone may feel this list infringes on their rights, and to them I say: nobody's stopping you from defecating in the middle of a crowded conference-room table, but you (probably) haven't done it. Why not? Exactly. Anchors aweigh, my boys and (far fewer) girls!

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