I don’t mind living in a man’s world as long as I can be a woman in it – Marilyn Monroe
I work in an office full of guys. Dreamy, right? It’s part and parcel of working in a male dominated industry. I have zero problems with it whatsoever. In one of my offices, most of the guys didn’t know how to speak to women anyway so no one really bothered me. In my last job, an office full of girls, it was full of cliques and bitching and gossip and I second guessed everything that I said or even wore to work. Luckily in my new office, everyone’s lovely and chatty and I don’t have to bat an eyelid when chatting to any of them.
I love banter. I speak solely in innuendo. And I’ll eff and blind as much as the rest of them. So I fit in pretty well.
I play up to the girly thing as well, mostly because it breaks the ice for everyone else. All my stationery is pink, I talk about manicures on my lunch break, I make sure everyone’s getting their breakfast and leaving for lunch on time like the annoying office mother that everyone hates but secretly loves. I fit into the industry just fine.
Well, that is until somebody thinks you want to shag them, or decides that you joking with one of the others means you are shagging them instead. A universal problem in offices, school playgrounds, online, doesn’t matter – if you talk to a guy, you wanna fuck them. If you reply with a wink emoji on Twitter, you want them to slide in the DMs. If you follow a guy on Instagram, they’re then allowed to message you and ask you about your day. Am I asking for it by being too polite?
Thing is, mostly, I want my friends and colleagues to think we can join in together. We can share comedy and humour and joke about sex and dating and girls and boys without them having to worry or panic or not put x’s at the bottom of their texts or not want to ask me for a drink. I still want all of that. And I want it without having to worry what rumours are gonna be thrown around in my absence.
Just because I talk about sex doesn’t mean you are entitled to it.
I blog about sexy stuff too. I write about sex and dating and men and all that funny stuff that my fellow female friends love and worship. Is that suggesting I’m a slut? Is that inviting inappropriate attitudes? By saying I like sex does that mean I’m opening myself up for men to join in? By being overly chatty and funny is that encouraging people to gossip about me?
A previous colleague of mine became a good friend, even though he made it clear from the start he wanted to sleep with me. I promptly declined.
He read my infamous Cosmo article (containing ‘mild’ erotica) and thought the best way of showing his appreciation was to text me out of the blue to tell me he “had a throbbing hard on” reading it. It made me feel sick. I immediately told him it was inappropriate and got the obligatory “It’s just a joke for fuck sake.” And then he ignored me.
I tweeted about it for #MeToo last week. And did I get the apology I was really only asking for? No.
Instead I got an hour of explanation why it was my fault. About why I’m a such a terrible person who “uses” people. About how he did “so much for me” so that I owe him my attention and that me standing up for myself is a joke. That I deserved his unwanted sexually aggressive messages and didn’t deserve an apology. Shaming me for “being a drama queen” and that “it’s not sexual harassment” because we’ve often had banter in person. In fact, he said “Look how inappropriate you are when we’re with each other.” Which, to clarify, included constant confirmation that I didn’t want to sleep with him, never any inappropriate images, never any sexually explicit messages, and certainly never, ever any thoughts about his “throbbing hard on.”
He’s supposed to be a friend. Was it my fault? Had I encouraged it? I told him I felt uncomfortable. I told him to stop but he felt like he deserved to speak to me like that, and that I didn’t deserve a simple ‘I’m sorry, that was really inappropriate of me.’ Thankfully, even the guys I told about this assured me that I wasn’t overreacting.
It all just makes me incredibly self conscious. Guys are becoming concerned that they can’t be friendly because it’ll be accused of sexual harassment. But here I am concerned that I can’t be friendly because it’ll invite sexual harassment. I want to be chatty and innuendoy and banty but then people think certain things and say certain things. Just because I talk and write about sex doesn’t mean you are entitled to it.
Being the only girl around puts a lot of pressure on you to be funny, but not flirty. To be sarky, but not sexy. To have banter, but not breasts.
I want to be one of the guys. I want to join in with them. I want to talk about sex and girls and boys and dating and all that shebang. I love it. But I’m more conscious than ever that it’s going to be me who’s “asking for it” if I ever have to tell them they’ve crossed the line.