My female supervisor sexually harassed me — and I’m a man.
I’ve heard trouble can be sensed from a mile away. In regards to sensing whether a person is trouble, maybe it’s the person’s demeanor, how they treat others, their aura, or the look in their eyes. When my ex-supervisor first lay eyes on yours truly, a very unsettling feeling came over me. Little did I know I she’d sexually harass me.
It began with lite flirting and complements throughout the workday and during lunch breaks, which I initially went along with as I was flattered — thinking it was harmless. But as the inappropriate IM’s started pouring in, I realized how wrong I was.
At first, the flirting was innocent and subtle:
[Her]: “We have a lot in common. Isn’t strange and unfortunate how people meet.”
[Me]: “Yeah, we do.”
[Her]: “If I only knew you 10 years ago. “
[Me]: “I would’ve been 16. That’s wrong.”
[Her]: “Ha ha. That is!”
As time went on, her dresses were more colorful and revealing, showing more cleavage. As her breast emerged from her dress, so did the sexual undertones in her messages. At one point, she indirectly suggested that we fulfill each other’s physical needs by probing for my sexual desires:
[Her]: “God, I wish I could leave! Today’s been too stressful.”
[Me]: “Why’s that? In theory, you can walk out whenever you want. Yeah, I’m kind of stress out, too.”
[Her]: “Work. Home. The usual.”
[Me]: “I see. Want to talk about it?”
[Her]: “Hmm. Maybe we could relieve each other’s stress?”
[Me]: “I’m not following.”
[Her]: “Tell me what you want.”
I did my best to brush off her comment by pretending to be clueless and replied:
“I don’t know what you’re referring to. What do you want?” But she didn’t reply.
A few weeks later, I was eating lunch in her office as I did most days. Amid conversation, my ex-supervisor leaned toward me — who was now practically on the edge of her seat — said, “we should have sex.” When those words hit my ears, I crumbled as a plethora of feelings rushed through my body; I was speechless, felt lightheaded and dirty, taken aback and extremely uncomfortable. My first thought was, “how do I tell this woman that I don’t want to sleep with her?”
I rambled on how it would be inappropriate since she was married with kids. This reason — as valid as it was — wasn’t the solution. But I was taken aback by the situation; as a man, I never imagined being sexually harassed by a woman, which left me unsure how to respond. After all, isn’t it the men who do the sexual harassing? Sure. I want sex, but not with her.
But she was adamant; weeks later, she was at it again. What did I say when my ex-supervisor told me what she’s into sexually?
Laugh uncomfortably and say, “too much information.”
How about when she indirectly offered to reward me with sex in the back seat of her car after I fix her portable vacuum? Politely brush it off with, “I’m good.”
Eventually, the sexual harassment fizzled out on its own. Not long after that, I was laid off. As much as I wanted to go to HR when I was sexually harassed, I didn’t because of the repercussions I thought she would have ensued, such as complicating family matters with her husband and children, and the possibility of her being fired. Another reason why I didn’t file a report with HR was because I no confidence department; they skimmed on performing their departmental duties, so how could I trust they do a good job with something serious as this? Additionally, HR did a poor job in investigating a sexual harassment case within the company years’ back — so my ex-supervisor said, before she sexually harassed me. The irony.
Looking back, I should have been more firm with my harasser as I didn’t realize how much power I had; I had evidence — inappropriate messages from her insinuating sexual advances. I should have reported her to HR with a screenshot of them and requested a transfer to another office. I should have also filed suit with the company, as this has happened to other people who’ve worked there.
All in all, I’m still learning to cope with the idea of having been sexually harassed. Moreover, I never realized how prevalent sexual harassment was in the workplace until I was a victim of it. I knew it always existed, but I never knew how uncomfortable it would make me feel, as a man.
Other potential titles:
A story about sexual harassment: A man’s perspective.
A story sexual harassment story: a man’s perspective.