Is It Still Okay To Date A Co-Worker?
It began with Harvey Weinstein, next a member of the British cabinet fell, then Kevin Spacey was fired from House of Cards; in the weeks to come Matt Lauer, Al Franken, and John Conyers would be forced to resign; and in the last twenty-four hours Russell Simmons and Tavis Smiley have come under fire. All of these men face charges of sexual assault or harassment—charges that led, or will lead, to the ending of their careers.
I write a lot in this column about the ways in which you can up your game with the opposite sex and how you can establish the kind of relationship you want with the women in your life. But I feel compelled to take some time to point out what ought to be obvious truths. You should not at any time force or coerce a woman to do anything against her will. Sex should only happen if she is willing; it should not be the result of her being intoxicated, drugged, or physically forced.
When it comes to sexual harassment, the most common context and place for it to happen is the workplace. In the wake of all that has occurred in the last couple of months, a number of men have spoken against dating in the workplace on social media: their main point being that women nowadays are too sensitive to what they perceive as innocent overtures and harmless fun.
This is a bullshit assumption and a bullshit denunciation.
Every man knows what is appropriate and what isn’t, when it is okay to flirt and when it isn’t, when it is okay to ask a female colleague out and when it isn’t. Everyone who has been to high school knows when a girl is into them, and I venture to guess that even the homeschoolers have managed to pick up the signs somewhere.
The fall of so many powerful men in such a short period of time has nothing to do with women becoming all of a sudden more bitchy and hysterical and everything to do with men who care for neither romance nor sex but power—that is, the power to abuse others at will.
You can still date women in your office. All you need do is mind your manners. Here are a few pointers to help you along the way.
Intimate touching is off limits. Just because you haven’t grabbed her ass or fondled her tits doesn’t mean you have not been inappropriate. Touching her leg—rubbing it and keeping your hand on it for a long period of time—is too intimate; that sort of thing will make your work colleague uncomfortable.
Watch also the shoulder rubs. Too many men have a habit of doing this at work. Many see it as an innocent act. It is not; it is much too familiar. Some women succumb to it because they don’t want to make a scene; but if you do this sort of thing, it might come back to bite you in the future.
Only when you are out on a date with the work colleague you like is it okay to touch her in such an intimate way.
There is a raging debate over this on social media. Some say that men and women who work together and are comfortable with one another can have a relationship in which such banter is okay. My own view is that even if that is the case it should be done outside of the office. Again, there may be women who go along with it because they don’t want to be seen as a problem.
The bottom line is this. If you are trying to use sexual humor to break the ice between you and a co-worker you like you are, first of all, probably not going to get the date (she will in all likelihood see through your ploy and lose respect for you, but may find you amusing enough not to object to the joking).
Second, you should really take it somewhere that no one who might be offended can hear you. After work drinks with the men and women colleagues that know you and are cool with it is an okay place for dick jokes.
Even if you have nothing but the most honorable intentions, it is better not to date someone whose career depends on your advice and assessment. It is much too tempting to use your power, however subtly, to get her to do something that she doesn’t want to do.
We do not all have the power that Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer had; but when a pretty, young, hard-bodied girl who is completely new to the company, and perhaps even to the industry, is put under our authority and looks to us for direction and help with her career we can all be tempted to do what they did.
It is better to date someone who does not report to you. Hitting on the new girl is fine if her career does not depend on your views and recommendations.
About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.