I told you a funny story involving a half-dressed man at my desk, so now I will tell you a story that I keep hoping will become funny in retrospect, but still hasn’t. Some of you will have heard the story before.
I was working for a company, and had a superior who was inappropriate about 60% of the time. If he wasn’t being outright inappropriate, he was serving up the innuendo. I was at about a 50/40/10 split of trying to deflect with humor, or saying some version of, “You are making me uncomfortable,” or just pretending not to have heard/understood what I had heard.
There came a day when this superior grabbed me in a headlock and ground his pelvis into my backside. He ground himself so hard against me, that I could feel his junk. I struggled and howled, and he thought this was funny, and he held me tighter and ground harder. When I did wrench myself free, he was laughing and telling me to calm down, and I was doing nothing of the sort.
I walked away to compose myself, and when I got back into my area (which was full of people for a staff event being held at that time), I tried to keep away from him. He was having none of that, and kept forcing himself next to me.
I went home, told B what had happened, and didn’t go back. Then came the process of having to explain to people of varying importance why I wasn’t going back, and being informally deposed by men, in a roomful of men, a group of which kept insisting that a) it had been a poorly delivered joke, but a joke nonetheless, b) that I had misunderstood the intent, and c) that I must have imagined part of it because that superior would never, ever do anything untoward.
My short answer was repeatedly, “I don’t think I could misunderstand his penis grinding against my buttocks.”
Having someone–someone who directly controlled my finances–assault me was one thing. Having to sit and be told that this person thought it was just a joke to assault me, and having to sit and be told that I had imagined being in a headlock while someone ground his pelvis into my backside was something else entirely. And having to do it with only men in the room–men who (save for the one who was representing me) had the best interest of the company and the company’s bottom line at heart–was like having my face rubbed in a big, hairy, corporate crotch.
I hate confrontation, but I’m no wilting plant when it comes to standing up for myself. Ask any HR department…ha! I also had two or three things on my side that meant I had legs to stand on, should my chair be kicked out from under me–one of those things being a husband who had a good job. I worry for women who are less able to confront, who don’t have the luxury of the Father-in-Law I have, and who aren’t married to spouses who can make ends meet until they find another job. I worry for women who are truly at the whim of the smegma who think it is funny to sexually harass their underlings.
Now, though, to cleanse the palate, I will leave you with a list of things that have become funny in retrospect–actually, these things were pretty funny when they happened. Funny=not threatening, by the way. As long as it isn’t threatening, it can be funny.
- The time a boss who was wearing pantyhose, but no panties, pulled her skirt up and asked me if it looked like her thighs were rashy.
- The time I walked in on a manager fondling a coworker’s new, naked breasts.
- The time a coworker came up, bit me on the neck and said, “That’s how I ask girls out.”
- The time my boss’s wife called me from the bathtub to tell me how sexually satisfied her husband (my boss) had just left her, only to have him come around the corner whistling. I literally fell out of my chair onto the floor, trying to avoid eye contact with him. He thought I was a moron.
- The manager who used to walk up behind me and sit her belly on top of my head. For fun? I don’t know. Nothing quite like being Fat-Hatted in the middle of writing an email.