Sexual Harassment Equality: A How Not To Guide

A recent study by the UK employment law firm Peninsula shows that 80 percent of 2,300 men surveyed had been subject to sexual harassment by their female colleagues, mostly in the form of "witty" banter that two-thirds of them found inappropriate. A separate survey by the firm finds that companies are much less likely to take men's complaints of sexual harassment as seriously as those coming from women. I think we can all agree that this is not a good thing, and not the kind of equality we want. But I am (or, at least was) part of the problem.

When I was 19, I was given my first supervisory position, as the summer superviser for a campus job I worked during the school year. As you can imagine, summers are rather quiet times on college campuses, and while school-year supervisors had 10-12 employees under their thumbs, I had two. We mostly sat around and watched movies on our 8-midnight shift. When they couldn't make it, they hired one co-worker or another who was generally happy for the hours. One of those co-workers was "Brian," an extremely cute local kid who'd just finished his freshman year and who was as quiet and shy as I was brash and loud.

During the year, we hung out some during our shifts, but mostly he played cards with the guys stuck in the office and I was out and about. So, thinking he could win, he challenged me to a game of Rummy. I won. We cycled through Rummy, Gin Rummy, Hearts and Blackjack, flirting all the while until I had beaten him at everything and he looked at me with his big, innocent puppydog eyes and said, "Good thing I didn't ask to play strip poker."

That was the moment I should have quit while I was ahead. But I was 19, and not used to "managing" someone and thought of Brian as a colleague more than my employee. I challenged him to strip poker. We locked the office door, pulled the blinds and commenced playing hand after hand until we were sitting there, him in his boxers (minus even his watch) and me still fully clothed. I jokingly offered to stop, probably sounding to him as though I was daring him to continue more than offering to stop, and we played the last hand. He lost. Not knowing what else to do, I began giggling uncontrollably with embarrassment, and said he "could" keep his shorts on, rather than stopping him. He took them off. I kept trying to maintain an eyelock, to stop laughing at the absurdity of being in the office with a cute naked guy and his big eyes got all beseeching and he asked, "Is it that small?" You can't help yourself in that situation, your eyes will dart down and I was suddenly looking at his (very impressive) erection and then had no idea what the appropriate thing to do is in the most inappropriate work situation of my life. I giggled like a 19 year old. After that shift, he never worked with me again, and didn't speak to me at all for 2 more years.

Looking back, I was completely in the wrong (and I still feel guilty about it). I dodged a huge fucking bullet there that Brian didn't tell. Even if the flirtation was mutual, even if the suggestion of the strip poker was his, I was his boss that night and I should've known better. That it happened when I was so young (and when I'd had no supervisory training, and in 1997) are probably the only things that would've saved my job - let alone my education - had he told. So, view my tale as a cautionary one, please. Don't play strip poker with your subordinates even if they ask nicely and you wouldn't mind seeing them naked.

Oh, and "Brian," I'm really sorry. And it wasn't remotely small.

80 Per Cent of Men 'Face Female Sex Pests' [This Is London]