Wherein I get to live out my lifelong dream of playing advice columnist

The lovely Kate Carraway let me weigh in on her advice column this week in response to a question about workplace sex-talk — that is, someone wrote in to complain that they feel their co-workers are judging their sex life. You can read Kate’s response, with a few thoughts from yours truly, here. The summary: Have whatever kind of sex you want, but STFU about sex when you’re at work. Even if your workplace is cool.

19 comments for “Wherein I get to live out my lifelong dream of playing advice columnist

  1. September 20, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    I haven’t even read it but I just had to comment that I opened the article and saw Kathy with a K and Cathy with a C and I squeeeed! Love Kids in the Hall, ever so much.

  2. September 20, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    That being said, I agree that it’s probably never a good idea to talk about your sex life at the office, not least because it opens doors to some really questionable scenarios in the harassment vein. There’s the possibility she could open herself to some legal trouble by discussing her sex life in a work setting.

    Romantic and/or dating life? Sure. But leave sex out of it.

  3. Michael Leuchtenburg
    September 20, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    I’m really uncomfortable with the closing statement: “No workplace sex-talk means no workplace sex-judgment.” That seems awfully close to “if you don’t like being shamed for it, don’t talk about it”. The same argument applies in cases of, say, homophobia. If you don’t like being shamed for it, stay in the closet.

    • September 20, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      Eh. There’s a difference between identity and action. I don’t think anyone should be “shamed’ for anything, but I do think it’s inappropriate to talk about your sex life at work. And if you feel “judged” because of your sex life, not talking about it is an appropriate solution. Also: Sex talk at work can make other people feel extremely uncomfortable. It can lead to a hostile workplace. It’s a bad idea. Simply being gay and out is not nearly comparable.

      • September 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm

        The unfortunate thing is that a lot of people still equate being gay and out to be ‘flaunting their sexuality’. Teachers have been fired and/or faced reprimand (I don’t have a citation off-hand) for mentioning to students that they lived with/married a same-sex parter.. because it was ‘inappropriate’ to discuss with school-aged children, even though sex was never part of the conversation AND even though no one would bat an eye at a heterosexual teacher mentioning their wife/husband/opposite sex parter.

      • September 20, 2012 at 1:05 pm

        Right, and that’s ridiculous. I’m not talking about flaunting one’s “sexuality” or sexual orientation (and at the end of the column I explicitly say that if the judgment is because of sexual orientation, they should go to HR). But the author of the letter said that they “felt” they were being judged for their “sex life.” Which to me pretty clearly means… sex life. As in, their co-workers apparently know details about their sex life, beyond what gender(s) they’re attracted to. And that kind of conversation is inappropriate at work. And, for the record, has been classified as inappropriate largely because male-dominated workplaces were often heavy on the sex talk, to the exclusion of (and discomfort with, and discrimination against) female employees.

      • Katya
        September 20, 2012 at 2:22 pm

        I agree with the no sex talk at work. It’s just not appropriate. Really, I don’t want to know that my co-workers are having sex, with who, or under what circumstances. I don’t even want to know that they aren’t having sex. It’s just not an appropriate topic, for anyone. Both the gay and straight employees in my office mention their spouses or partners in casual conversation — “My husband and I are planning a trip to Hawaii,” or “Mary and I went to that new Chinese restaurant last night” or whatever — which is totally fine and doesn’t make anyone uncomfortable even if, if you think about it, people are probably having sex with their spouses and partners. But the details of someone’s sex life? Totally out of place. You’re at work, not having drinks with your BFF.

      • deadleaf
        September 20, 2012 at 11:19 pm

        — “My husband and I are planning a trip to Hawaii,” or “Mary and I went to that new Chinese restaurant last night” or whatever — which is totally fine and doesn’t make anyone uncomfortable

        everything makes somebody uncomfortable.

        This is one of the reasons I hated working in an office setting, I was never sure if the next thing I said would be herd and deemed offensive 4 cubes down by somebody I didn’t even know.

        Actually, come to think of it, the last time I had a quarterly review for a job in an office I was reprimanded for avoiding non essential communication with my co workers and thus “contributing to an unfriendly work environment”

        I wasn’t punished or anything but I was clearly encouraged from there on out to “trust” my co workers to tell me if they were offended and not run off to HR.

  4. Athenia
    September 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    I had a friend who was in a similar situation. I told her it was ridiculous that that was a topic in the workplace. But, part of the problem was, she’s a Christian waiting til marriage so she wanted to sign it from the rooftops. I told her the reason why she was waiting wasn’t to make her the Best Christian in World ™.

  5. Joe from an alternate universe
    September 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    And that kind of conversation is inappropriate at work.

    Spot on. In all of the companies and governmetn agencies I’ve worked for talking about the details of your sex life will earn you a trip to visit H.R., and it won’t be a happy visit.

  6. September 20, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    I agree about eschewing sex talk at work. But nothing in the question refers to sex talk, she just says she’s being judged for her sex life. They might all go out for cocktails twice a week and the LW goes home with different men every night. I really don’t get the revealing sex talk angle from the original question.

    • Tracey
      September 21, 2012 at 8:09 am

      Yeah, I don’t think there was really much to go on in the question unfortunately. The person could just be mentioning dates they had and by extension that it wasn’t the same person as last week, or there coworkers could be making guesses about after-work activities, or the worker could have found that it was a topic discussed by everyone else and didn’t bring it up in a vacuum, or……any number of things. The rule about no sex talk might very well have to extend to with any coworkers at all, even after hours, but that wouldn’t cover the possibility of them going off rumor, cocktail hour, dating patterns, etc.

  7. September 20, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    I’m also on the “no sex talk at work” side, especially after my last job, where my boss would speak loudly and graphically about her own sex life. Middle aged women can have sex lives, that’s great and super, but holy God, being forced to stand around and hear it conveyed in such an enthusiastic manner constantly is harrowing.

  8. September 20, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Yep, oversharing makes people uncomfortable. I second, third, and fourth that.

  9. September 20, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    Matt, I am not sure you have submitted one helpful or constructive comment here in the past several years. You only seem to post in order to be an asshole to me in particular. I am officially tired of it. Goodbye!

  10. SWNC
    September 21, 2012 at 11:01 am

    I’m a firm believer in the “no discussion of sex at work rule.” Boundaries, people, boundaries!

    I hope that everyone has a fabulous sex life in whatever way works best for them, but I don’t want to hear about it. Discretion is not the same thing as repression.

  11. FYouMudFlaps
    September 21, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Glad I don’t work in an office after reading these comments… those people must really hate themselves if every little thing they may say is deemed “unprofessional.”

  12. September 22, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    My tolerance for “sex talk” in the workplace (by that, I mean any conversation more sexually charged than the admission that you are in a relationship) ended on what had been a good day. Long story short, my flight commander asked all of her male subordinates one question, “My husband, after we have sex, it takes him 45 minutes to get it up again. How long does it take for you to get it up again?”

    Prior to that day, we had a relatively loose environment. Guys would comment on the prettiest Airmen. Girls would talk about going to the local gay club to see if they could find guys who aren’t “all the way” gay. Risque, yes. Personal, no. However, she threw off the entire dynamic. When she wasn’t questioning the guys about their erectile issues, she was asking the girls about their dating choices (eg. “I see that two of you are dating black guys. Have the text of you guys e ER dated black guys? If so, are they really big?”) After six months of that, I spent the text of my career treating all of my workmates like eunuchs.

  13. shfree
    September 23, 2012 at 1:03 am

    We had a great deal of sex talk at the clinic. But, well, we were an abortion and gynecological clinic, so we tended to overshare amongst ourselves. I know which condoms one of my old coworkers favors, for example, and I knew another one’s favorite lube, because I sold it to her every time she ran out. And I knew when someone was dissatisfied with the nuvaring, because she inserted it, found it uncomfortable, took it out and told us all about it. At work. DAMN I miss that job.

    But at my current job, I think I’ve mentioned that I’m even IN a relationship to maybe one or three of the roughly forty odd people I’ve worked with since transferring between three stores.

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