Sex at work

Friday’s Financial Review carried an article entitled “Sex Case: It was friendly”*

The article is about a sexual harassment case brought by a partner in one of Australia’s (and the world’s) largest companies “alleging ‘a culture of discrimination, harassment and bullying’, claiming numerous male partners sexually harassed her while management failed to adequately adress her complaints.”

Regular readers will know that Spiral Path has regularly become passionate about the elimination of all forms of sexual harassment. The AFR article goes on to say:

“[The company] admits that at a young leader’s conference in 2004, a video was shown including a woman sunbathing topless after which a partner asked: ‘Christina, is that you sunbathing on the beach?'”

We know a lot of men would complain about Christina’s reaction. We can hear
them complaining “You can’t say anything anymore.” But what was the subtext
of the partner’s comment? What he was really saying was “I would like to see
your breasts.” Put that way it was clearly an offensive comment.

But we wonder what the subtext to the subtext was. Why do we men make comments like that? Our guess is it is because we really want to say “I find you attractive” or “I think you are quite beautiful.” But that would put us in a vulnerable position. We have expressed our inner selves and face rebuttal. To say either of these things is not to say “I’ve fallen in love with you.” It’s not an advance. It’s just stating how we feel. The problem is that we fear your response. So to protect ourselves we put you down and try to make you feel powerless. That’s because from the time we first began to notice girls, we have never had (or made) the opportunity to talk about how we feel. So we have no language to talk about how we feel about you.

Spiral Path believes we need to find that language. We men need to learn to express our attraction with dignity and respect.

*I can’t post a link to this article because AFR requires payment even to get to the link now. If you would like a copy of the article, contact me and I will send it to you.

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