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Sex in the workplace

(26 Posts)
Medea Thu 28-Jul-05 11:43:04

I've name-changed for this one.

I work part-time in an arty/academic sort of profession where there's no money & people have way too much time on their hands &--so I gather--affairs are rampant. So maybe I shouldn't have been surprised by this: My new boss, an incredibly kind & soft-spoken chap, invited me to his house for lunch (we don't have an office; we all work from home) under the pretext of getting my input on a subject on which I have expertise. In my innocence, I arrived loaded with documents, books & materials for his perusal, & took the whole lunch very seriously. But then, after lunch--which he cooked with a lot of care--he kissed me passionately, and urged to me to "stay a while. . .there's another train in an hour!" But I said I had to go, and practically ran out that door.

For some reason this experience, which I actually found physically upsetting, is causing me a whole "world view" shift. Does this sort of thing happen more often than I think? Does it happen a lot in the corporate world too? I feel incredibly naive. I'm from America, where we love litigation and people tread very carefully around this sort of thing. I wonder if sex in the workplace is marginally more acceptable here? I don't really need advice on this (I'm pretty sure I'm just going to ignore this incident)--but I just don't like feeling so in the dark about what really goes on.

Toothache Thu 28-Jul-05 11:45:51

Medea - In the Construction Industry where lots of men stay away from home through the week affairs are RIFE! Quite scary actually. Its almost acceptable to have a bit on the side to keep you occupied during the week. Horrible! Don't know about sex at the work place though.... these men carry out their affairs outside of work.

Fio2 Thu 28-Jul-05 11:47:07

god how awful for you

no it is not normal, but it does happen. You have been unlucky

Caligula Thu 28-Jul-05 11:49:37

I think we are problably less puritanical, less litigeous and less disapproving of workplace sex. And we're also less accepting of the idea of your employer having any right to have a say what you do in your private life outside work.

Having said that, i would have thought your experience is pretty rare and your boss has been pretty unprofessional and wanky about it - most men are able to read signals and wouldn't dream of making a pass in this context, unless they thought it would be positively received!

There's more of a grey area in Britain - I think some US workplaces have actually tried to ban employees from having relationships and in the UK, that simply wouldn't stand up in court; but there's still an awareness of the need for professional distance and people tend to go in for workplace relationships only after knowing each other for quite a while and knowing the other party is actually interested, because of the fear of a sexual harassment accusation.

expatinscotland Thu 28-Jul-05 11:50:12

It's pretty commonplace in some fields. There've been several long-term liasons, even marriages, between former students and staff at the uni where I work.

It's deffo different from America, particularly as some affairs happen at holiday parties and other office do's.

WideWebWitch Thu 28-Jul-05 11:54:44

I'd say it is common but where I've worked it was always much more 'let's go on a date and then maybe have a relationship' type thing. Or a drunken shag after after work drinks. But this is all when I was in my twenties and all parties involved were usually single. I'd be shocked at his approach, it's awful and insulting and unprofessional. It's wrong no matter the industry or country imo. Can you complain? Presumably you're married? Have you told your dh?

MaloryTowers Thu 28-Jul-05 11:56:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

marialuisa Thu 28-Jul-05 11:58:08

DH and I both work in H.E. sector and it's commonplace. You could argue that DH and I are a workplace romance (as well as other couples we know who have formed lasting relationships). There's always at least one academic in a department who is notorious but tends to be regarded with fond eye "oh, well you know Tony and his fondness for pretty young postgrads" rather than problematic.

Medea Thu 28-Jul-05 11:58:26

www: I'm married, but taking the first steps towards a divorce. Boss is divorced. No, I didn't tell dh--I saw no point.

Interesting feedback, so far. Thanks, everyone.

Listmaker Thu 28-Jul-05 11:58:36

Affairs might be commonplace in some workplaces but both parties are up for it! What happened to you seems totally out of order to me and he wants to be careful you don't sue him for sexual harassment because that is definitely what it was. You should tell him that you are NOT interested in that way before he gets any more ideas! And meet him in a restaurant next time!

sallystrawberry Thu 28-Jul-05 11:59:19

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sweetheart Thu 28-Jul-05 12:06:03

I work in construction too and agree with Toothaches comments - unfortunatly I have found that it does sometimes spill over into the office too. It's the reason I left my last job.

I was alot younger then and defianlty more naive. I was working for 2 companies, one of which had a boss who was a complete womaniser and would put mistletoe around the office at Xmas time. The other was (I thought) a stand up family man - until he made several passes at me.

I resigned from both jobs and got one full time job. It didn't take me too long to relise that what I had though was a one off was actually really really common and being a newly wed at the time it really shook my beliefs about marriage and affairs.

It's something that really upset me for a long time. I felt betrayed by my new company for allowing this to happen.

However, I have since grown up and relised that this is common all over the place. I have learned to live with it and accept that this is the way some people will conduct themselves.

Once you get past the initial shock and learn to live with it you'll feel better. Just because others do it - doesn't mean you have to - thats how I look at it.

Hope this helps a little - I can sympathise with how awful your feeling right now!!!

motherinferior Thu 28-Jul-05 12:26:58

Well, I'm shocked. I don't think that kind of behaviour is permissible or indeed would be the sector where I've mainly worked (I worked in the non-profit sector before going freelance) and would indeed be grounds for a sexual harrassment case no question.

I should adds I've had several affairs with colleagues, or sort-of-colleagues - one of whom had commissioned me to do some work for him, so I suppose he was in a way my boss - but there was no power stuff involved unless you count the commissioning bloke. Who was in fact so embarrassed he told his colleagues in a 'you should know this in case it has a bearing on our work relationship'.

He's now the father of both the Inferiorettes , btw.

Blu Thu 28-Jul-05 12:31:35

Medea, I work in an arty sort of field and I would say that sexual relationships are certainly rife - affairs less so, actually, because poeple don't tend to settle down until later in life when they are totally 'affaired out'!

But whatever may or may not be common workplace cary-on, what is NOT acceptable about what happened to you is the luring you to his house on a pretext, and pouncing on you with no reciprocal signals from you that it would be welcome. Might it be possible that because you wouldn't expect any sexual contact amongst collegues, that you missed his signals? But even if you did, your arrival with conscientious mountains of professional material, rather than in a matching lingerie set under your coat, should have given HIM a strong messgae - and it is still no excuse.

Handle it in your own way - if it was me, I think I would send him an e mail saying 'I don't know what you thought you were doing the other day, but it wasn't what I either expected or welcomed. As long as this is understood, I am sure we can forget about it and I can look forward to resuming a wholly profesional relationship, best wishes, Medae.

I am assuming he wasn't unpleasant or forceful when you made your hasty exit?

What an idiot! (him, of course!)

kama Thu 28-Jul-05 12:34:38

Message withdrawn

Medea Thu 28-Jul-05 13:16:05

These further comments are really interesting, too.

Blu: Your advice is incredibly sensible--about sending the e-mail--but I'd rather not make a thing about it. I still really like him--in fact, maybe he was misreading my enthusiasm for him as a person and artist as romantic interest? And he was clearly mortified after I rebuffed him.

God knows what signals I'm putting out these days because I've been getting loads of random attention from men over the last few months which is otherwise unusual for me. But as for missing his signals: I've been examining and re-examing my memories of his behavior over the time I've known him and I just can't think of any signals he's given me to prepare me for that advance. I mean, he signs e-mails with an "x" but doesn't everyone? Otherwise, I just don't know. Maybe I'm just tone deaf to these things.

It's so interesting, by the way, to hear your stories.

triceratops Thu 28-Jul-05 13:51:09

Affairs are rife in the school where I used to work. I don't know where they get the energy.

I would be a little concerned about the conflict of interests where the pass was made by your boss. But bosses are human too. So long as it does not affect you professinally I would be tempted to make light of it. It was only a kiss after all and he did stop when you made it clear that you were not interested. I would not want to be alone in a house with him again after this though.

Marina Thu 28-Jul-05 13:57:14

Also in the HE sector and also surrounded by carryings-on.
Agree with Blu though that the circumstances of the romantic overtures were way off-beam and totally unacceptable IMO.
Dh and I met through work contacts but were free agents, and as lowly drones in big institutions could be quite open about our relationship as we had zero power and influence .
I don't have any problem with unattached people forming consensual relationships at work but where people are managers or working with young people I think it is not ethical.
So sorry you had such a shock Medea.

liandme Thu 28-Jul-05 14:22:53

i work in a shop and my boss has just been sacked for having sex in his back office with 4 different girls 3 were employees and one was 34 weeks pregnant, i think it was like a staff bonus scheme or something and he was quite boastful about it.

pindy Thu 28-Jul-05 14:25:12

Yes please - but then again I do work from home with dh, so I suppose that is a bit different

morningpaper Thu 28-Jul-05 14:26:28

It's definitely one of the advantages of being a working mum ...

runtus Thu 28-Jul-05 14:49:03

Nothing like that going on here, but seeing as nearly everyone around me is a pasty faced, weirdo programmer I'm quite pleased. Just the thought makes me feel queasy...........

NotQuiteCockney Thu 28-Jul-05 14:54:21

Oi, I was a pasty-faced weirdo programmer for years!

Seriously, I worked in IT for ages, one company in North America was full of people having liasons, but mostly single people, so that was ok. Here in the UK, I worked in investment banking, and wasn't aware of anybody getting up to much. But then there were generally so few women about anyway, I think opportunities for men were a bit thin on the ground.

morningpaper Thu 28-Jul-05 15:22:36

Oooh I agree runtus, I worked in IT for years and no one had sufficient social skills to embark on office affairs.

juicychops Thu 28-Jul-05 20:13:45

i think this kind of thing happens everywhere. i started my first job when i was 16 in a shop and somehow i started sleeping with a manager. before i knew it he was pressuring me to doit all the time and because i was so young and naieve and scared of what would happen if i didn't do it, i carried it on for half a year! and at the same time i was sleeping with another manager who i was totally head over heels in love with. It kind of blocked out what was happening with the other one. but this one was just using me too but i let him cos i was so in love with him. He also knew what the other one was doing with me.
so basically there will always be managers who abuse their position to get what they want and take advantage of others and belittle them. Thats just the way it is i think. It has totally messed me up but i've learnt a lot from this about what people are really like and i will try not to let any man treat me like that again.

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