I sit across the cube wall from 4 hipster type web designers – all guys. (I’m a nerdy female data analyst). The guys are all conservative republicans, so I usually tune out the political talk or put on my headphones.
As you mentioned, a video went out with Donald Trump talking about how he just starts kissing women – and grabs them – and gets away with it. The video was awful, Trump is awful, whatever. But on Monday morning, my coworkers all agreed that it was total normal ‘guy talk’ and they don’t understand why someone would be upset about a ‘bad word’. I tried to explain that it was the whole non-consent thing that most find upsetting but they truly seemed not to get it.
Now for the first time I’m really alarmed about my coworkers. I guess the issue is, I feel safe with them: I don’t think any of them would make unwanted sexual advances to me, but what if some other creeper tells them they are planning to grab me and start kissing? Are they going to respond with, “Haha go for it”, or would they have the wits to say, “Actually Sarah is married and I don’t think she wants to kiss you”.
And the married dorky data analyst is one thing, but what about the cute young marketing intern that just started? Should I worry that if my coworkers hear about someone’s plan to just grab her and start groping her, they’re not aware that the correct response would be, “How about you ask her first. Rose smiles at everyone, that doesn’t mean she wants us all to touch her.”
Should I go to HR with my concerns, or should I assume that the guys are just being political and wouldn’t actually condone sexual assault talk in real life? Should I try one more time to explain to them why this is a concern? The video has been out for a week and a half now, and they still discuss daily how it’s not a big deal.
First a couple of things, just because I’ve developed a nervous twitch over this election: Trump is not a conservative. Sure, he’s running as a Republican, but he’s not a conservative.
Second, I’ve never met any conservative hipster types, but that is completely irrelevant, but it makes me wonder if hipsters are, in general, more liberal or more conservative.
Third, just to make things clear–I’m a free market capitalist and a strict Constitutionalist. Basically, I have no good options in this election, but no bother because I NEVER have any good options. I just throw that out because often when I write about politics I get nasty emails saying, “You only said that because you love/hate [insert candidate of your choice]!” I am not supporting Trump and I am not supporting Clinton.
Now that that is all out of the way, let’s address the issue.
The video is horrible. Trump is horrible. Your co-workers are complete jerks if they don’t realize how horrible the actual video was.
However, as to grabbing women and kissing them without consent? I’m not in favor of that, but most people are. What??? How dare I say that? Well, because I like to watch television and movies and we consider lots of movies where that happens romantic. See these clips:
If I had many hours of time, I could pull hundreds of movie clips where men kiss without asking and often with visible resistance from the woman–although she generally gives in and is completely happy to do so. There are also plenty of examples of aggressive women. Kissing without asking first is the norm in showbiz.
Why do I say this? Because I just want you to take a second to consider where your co-workers are coming from. You’re married–to a good man, I suppose. Did he ask your permission before he kissed you the first time? (Or did you ask before you kissed him?) My guess is no. This whole concept of verbal consent for every romantic and sexual act is a new thing. In the good old days, you went off people’s signals and sometimes someone got slapped or told to stop. But sometimes they didn’t.
So, what I would do, if I were you is ask them your questions directly. “You guys, I have a question. If someone came up to you and said, ‘I’m going to grab Sarah and kiss her!’ how would you respond?”
If they treat that at all like a joke and say they would encourage that, then yes, go to HR and say, “They make me uncomfortable because…” and explain what is happening.
If they say, “Of course not!” then you move on, “Is it because I’m married? What if it was about the unmarried intern? Is it okay to grab her and kiss her?”
They will probably (hopefully) say no. If not, then off to HR you go, and they’ll provide a sterner lecture.
I would also tell these yahoos to knock it off if they bring up the video again. Directly. But, I don’t think you need to feel panicked about your safety.