Men who avoid women at work because of fear of alleged reports of sexual harassment

I have never done this, but when I have helped people on an extraordinary scale (say 10-20 hours of work that is not remotely in my job description) they might say that they will stand me lunch or a beer. I have accepted only if we are already in the habit of eating lunch together in the cafeteria or a fast casual place around the office. Most of the time the other party has been female (most are analysts I have previously mentored but are now nominally peers, and all of them have been female). I’ve never gotten the impression that anyone was creeped out by the offer or acceptance.

If I’m expecting a private three course lunch in Brasserie Le Coze with someone of the opposite sex with whom I never or rarely lunch with otherwise or cocktails at a rooftop lounge after work where no other colleagues are, that’s all kinds of sketchy.

No difference whatsoever. You’d better believe that no one at work wants to hear about your pants.

Exactly, it’s not something I do either but it’s not unheard of. And while I don’t think such a proposition is necessarily sexual harassment I do think it could be or become so in certain circumstances.

These are not the kinds of lunches one asks as a favor in a professional context. It would be doubly unusual if it was a man asking a woman to pay for such a lunch, because despite occasional arguments to dispense with chivalry, in practice the man is expected to pay for a date.


ISTM that the more salient factor may have been that it wasn’t a mixed-gender discussion. A group of all female participants might very well have had a similar bantering discussion about pants-wearing, and a lone male participant in such a group might have felt similarly uncomfortable about it.

A group of male co-workers talking about underwear and bodies etc. is often an uncomfortable environment for female co-workers, because that type of “naughty” male bonding at work has frequently been used to exclude and objectify women. That doesn’t mean that women are intrinsically less comfortable with the activity of talking about underwear and bodies etc.

Naw, I’ve had exactly that conversation in a mixed-sex group.

It wasn’t at work, though. It’s really not appropriate to talk about your nakedness and underwear at work.

Lawyers talk about briefs all the time.

I didn’t make those up at random. These are the exact circumstances where a complaint was made after the male mentor repeatedly asked after being politely evaded the first time. But the mentor seemed to be completely bewildered that this was problematic.

Even so, I highly doubt that the first time asking would have resulted in a complaint, even though I would have regarded it as inappropriate.

In fact I have never seen a sexual harassment complaint that involved a single request for a date or date-like situation. The only single instance complaints I have seen are straight out unwanted touching or full-on proposition for sex.

Much less likely to have been uncomfortable about it than a female in a mixed group having this discussion. (And much of such discomfort that a male would have would be that in the current environment he would have to be extremely cautious about saying anything, since it might be interpreted negatively, and he would therefore would be effectively excluded from the group conversation.)

I tihnk a big part of it is (also?) because it has the potential to carry sexual connotations when made by men in the presense of women, while the same comments are much more likely to be interpreted innocently when made in all-female settings (similar to all-male settings).

The context here is whether it’s true that you can just treat women at work as you would treat men and be done with it, and the answer is that you can’t and that if you’re the type who is sometimes oblivious to how things might vary when said/done in the presense of women, then you might conceivably get in trouble.

FTR, it’s not a big deal at all, IME, but it’s there.

I have mandatory click-thru sexual harassment training every year, and “a guy asks you for a date once” doesn’t make the list, unless it’s your boss or something. Maybe my ultra-legally-conservative employer is just super-lax about that, but I doubt it.

(to be clear, I’m agreeing with you, not disagreeing. Sometimes people see that I’ve responded and assume I must be disagreeing. Tone of voice?)

Not harassment, but certainly can be inappropriate. A lot of companies actually forbid their employees from accepting perks like paid dinners, lunches, trips to night clubs, and other perks that could be interpreted as some sort of “quid pro quo”.

Heh–today during dismissal, my boss told a female coworker, “I’m gonna have LHOD covering the walker dismissal tomorrow, so his station is gonna need coverage, is that a piece you can do?”

The coworker waggled her eyebrows at my boss and said, “Oh, I’m always happy to cover your piece.” My boss laughed at the double entendre and said, “That’s what I always want to hear!”

As the only male involved, I was a little uncomfortable. But it wasn’t exactly a big deal.

Perhaps worth noting that the situation you describe is not at all the same situation I was discussing, and funadamentally different in the specific context of the issue being addressed.

In your case, the comment was - per your description - deliberately intended as a sexual double entendre, and your post was about whether and to what extent you felt uncomfortable with such remarks.

In the case I was describing, the remarks were most definitely not intended as any sort of double entendre and did not contain any sexual element at all. The issue being raised was that the exact same type of remarks might have contained such (very possibly unintended) meaning if made (by males) in the presence of females.

The distinction is crucial here, to the issue of the possibility that a man might get into trouble simply by treating women as he might treat men in such circumstances.

I’m not sure I see it as that different. Do other folks?

Yeah I think it’s a pretty big difference between an innocent comment about only getting dressed when you have to, even though it could be taken as sexual, and one that was intended to be sexual, even though it was a joke. I don’t think I’d personally be bothered by either example, but I’d have more sympathy for someone bothered by the latter.

Interesting. To me, both of them are boundary-pushing jokes, where the humor is that you’re talking about something socially inappropriate (not wearing pants at work/making a pass at your boss) that would get you fired if you really did it. Sure, one was sexual and the other wasn’t, but I think the basis of the humor was pretty similar. YMMV.

I think it’s more than that.

The context here is how dangerous this is for the person (who might be) making the remark.

If you have a remark which is a lot more objectionable in one setting than in another, but at least maintains the same connotations in both settings, then it’s a lot easier to refrain from making it in the more inapropriate setting than a remark where the very connotation of the remark changes from one setting to another. It’s a lot easier to trip up on the latter type, since you know what you mean and your audience typically does as well, but in this specific case part of the audience would be misinterpreting your meaning.

I was just listening to the podcast for Only Murders in the Building and there was a similar comment around 2:15. A writer is the guest. In the initial banter between the host and the writer, the writer says that the writer’s room was over zoom. The female host then jokingly asks “Do you wear pants?”. Everyone laughed and seemed to take it as the joke it was. But if the genders were reversed, I don’t think it would necessarily be taken the same way. A male host jokingly asking a female guest if she wore pants on her Zoom calls would likely be taken as having more sexual undertones. A female host asking about pants is more likely just joking about the social faux pas of not wearing proper business clothes in a business meeting. A man making a similar comment is also mainly based around the same thing, but there’s a greater chance the man is thinking about the sexual connotations of not wearing pants. I would think that if the host were a man and made that comment to a woman, a producer or someone would tell him not to make those kinds of comments anymore. I doubt if anyone said anything (or even thought anything) about telling the female host not to make those comments.