Hello everyone. I suppose you have never been so puzzled/excited to open one of my blog posts. Because I do not talk about sex at work unless I am talking about how to avoid sexual harassment and other forms of power abuse. To those of you who have attended one of my professional conduct trainings (a.k.a. “code of conduct trainings”) in the past, this title may hence sound familiar.
In that case, you’ll have an inkling of where this one is going. And so, now everyone has. Ha!
So, here is the deal: under no circumstances it is a good idea to use your professional environment as a flirting playground and casual dating pool if you are committed to contribute to more gender diversity in your field. If you care about it and still go about flirting and making sexual advances to anyone you find attractive, you are actively working against diversity. How so? Keep reading… 😊
Now, I’ll start with an anecdote. An anecdote that is not extraordinary, and as a matter of fact it is unfortunately quite ordinary: someone I have unequivocally no sexual interest in, someone I barely even know beyond our professional connection, suddenly tried to see if I was open to engage in casual sex. And so, for the 2,365th time in my professional life in male-dominated fields, I was recently sexualized by a colleague for no other reason than they felt like it and entitled to share their feelings. Even if they admittedly knew it was “almost inappropriate”. Well, I’ll give it to you right now: it was not “almost inappropriate”, it was inappropriate. And I am confident this professional contact would share this opinion if it was not about him.
In professional contexts, I mostly get hit on at conferences and by people on LinkedIn I have never met (40% of my contact requests at times). And by “people”, I mean men. Sometimes colleagues signalize interest. And at times it has been consensual. One can meet a partner at work, of course! This is not what I am talking about though. I am talking about unwanted sexual attention. And we all need to learn how to make sure there is mutual interest before directly or indirectly suggesting spending some sexy time with a professional contact. What if we are incapable of telling if there is mutual interest? That’s a clear sign that the person is, in fact, not interested. One of my favourite principles in such cases: In case of doubt, don’t. What’s the bigger issue?
In case of doubt, don’t.Smart people invested in more diversity in their field.
First, if we are attracted to someone while barely knowing them, chances are many others feel this way about them too, and they get hit on often. Some may enjoy the attention, but for most of us, it is exhausting. And despite traditional beliefs, being sexualized is only fun when there is consent. Otherwise, it feels objectifying, hence dehumanizing. And so, it is a powerful deterrent for women wanting to participate in male-dominated communities, for instance. So, if you are a man working in a male-dominated field, I am sorry to tell you that even if it makes your casual dating perspectives worse to exclude the few women you meet at work from your dating pool, please do. Leave your colleagues and professional acquaintances just be colleagues and professional acquaintances. Unless you want to end up with even less women around you, in your team, in your field and otherwise.
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