I’m A Man, And I Was Sexually Harassed
The very first time I met my supervisor, I caught her eyeing me in a way that can only be described as … inappropriate. Something about her just made me uncomfortable.
I brushed off my discomfort, but little did I know how much worse it would get.
It began with subtle flirting and compliments:
Her: “We have a lot in common. Isn’t strange and unfortunate how people meet?”
Me: “I guess we kinda do.”
Her: “If I only knew you 10 years ago. “
Me: “Uhh, ew. I would’ve been 16.”
Her: “Haha. You’re right!”
I was flattered (for the time being), so I went along with her innuendo. I figured it was harmless.
But then, the inappropriate IM’s started to pour in. Over the next month, her dresses became more and more revealing. And as her cleavage emerged, so did the sexual undertones in her messages.
One day, she hinted that we should fulfill each other’s physical needs:
Her: “God. I need to get out of here and have a drink!”
Me: “I’m kind of stressed out, too.”
Her: “I’d love to flip off our boss right now.”
Me: “Want to talk about it?”
Her: “Not really. Why are you stressed?’
Me: “You know why. This place and the people I’ve been interacting with … Can’t do anything about it.”
Her: “Hmm. Maybe we could relieve each other’s stress?”
Her: “You know … Relieve each other.”
Me: “Uhh … Can you elaborate?”
Her: “Well, is there anything I can do to release your stress?”
By this point, I knew exactly what she was hinting at. But I pretended to be clueless and tried to give myself an out, literally:
Me: “Yeah. Let me go home early.”
Her: “Sure. But is there anything else I can do?”
Me: “Uh, still not sure what you’re referring to.”
Her: “Physically … What do you want?”
Me: “I don’t know what you’re referring to. What do you want?”
She didn’t reply.
A few weeks later, I was eating lunch in her office. As she sat there, practically on the edge of her seat, she finally gave up any pretense of subtlety.
And she said, quite bluntly, “We should have sex.”
In that moment, I was every combination of speechless, lightheaded, dirty, taken aback, and extremely uncomfortable. The only thought that came to mind was, “How do I tell this woman that I don’t want to sleep with her?”
I think I rambled on about how it would be inappropriate, since she was married with kids. As a man, I never imagined that I would be sexually harassed by a woman, and that left me with no idea how to respond. How could this even have happened? Aren’t men the ones who do the sexual harassing? Wasn’t I the one who was supposed to want sex?
Sure, I wanted sex. Just not with her.
But she wasn’t ready to give up. Three weeks later, as I walked by her and a co-worker in the midst of a conversation that wasn’t exactly safe for work — specifically, one about desires — I joked how I always managed to walk in on inappropriate conversations.
Ignoring the awkwardness of the moment, she proceeded to tell me what she was into sexually. And she described how she liked being choked.
I could only laugh uncomfortably and say, “Too much information.”
Yet, she was adamant. I fixed her portable vacuum cleaner a few weeks after that, and she offered to reward me with sex in the backseat of her car.
I brushed it off with a simple, “I’m good,” as politely as I could.
That seemed to be the turning point. And eventually, the harassment fizzled out. I guess she finally got the hint that I wasn’t interested. And not long after that, I was laid off.
Ironically, that was the best thing that could have happened to me.
As much as I wanted to go to HR, all I could think about were the repercussions she would have had to deal with. How would this affect her relationship with her husband and children? And would this have gotten her fired? I was shocked by her actions, but I certainly bore her no ill will. I had no desire to get her fired.
I thought about sexual harassment cases in the media and how they unfolded. If I went to HR, she would have been fired and publicly embarrassed. She would also have to face her family. I believed she would be emotionally and financially crippled, and I didn’t think it was worth the trouble.
Another reason I didn’t file a report with HR — I had no idea if they would even believe me. After all, sexual harassment cases usually involve men sexually harassing women, right?
Looking back, I should have been more firm with my supervisor. I didn’t realize how much power I had, and the evidence was indisputable. I should have reported her, with a screenshot of her messages, and requested a transfer to another office. I should have also filed suit with the company, as this had happened to other people.
At least I know what I’ll need to do now, should it ever happen again.
Even today, I’m still coming to terms with having been sexually harassed. I guess I never realized how prevalent harassment was in the workplace until I was a victim myself. I understand now why some people may not report sexual harassment, and why it’s difficult to say “no” outright.
I knew it always existed, but I never knew how uncomfortable it would make me feel, even as a man.
Hmm.. Well that quite different post.