Dear Lovehacker, I’ve been in a relationship for over four years and I love my girlfriend very much. A few months ago I met a woman at my work that I’ll call Triss. Ever since we first talked she’s taken an interest to me. She would often ask to meet outside to just chat during our lunch breaks but very quickly she started making advances. Nothing too weird but she would try to touch me or hold my hand. I told her that made me uncomfortable and I was in a long term relationship. But things have been getting progressively worse…
As we talked over the months, I learned she’s not monogamous and likes to date around. When she talks with me she always brings up her latest sex story and discusses it in detail. I do find her attractive and my mind did start to wander about any potential with her – but I pulled back hard. I started blowing off our breaks together because I don’t think this was right and I didn’t want to destroy the relationship I currently have. So I would actively try to avoid her throughout the day.
More recently Triss has been doubling down on this approach. She’ll casually ask me when I’ll be joining her in a threesome or she’ll put her hand and head against my chest. Sometimes she even shows me revealing photos of her from her phone. She already knows I’m fairly uncomfortable with her actions but at this point I don’t know to approach this. She knows I’m in a relationship and cheating on them is something I would not do. Any advice? Thanks, Bothered At Work Sexually
So… you know that this is sexual harassment, right? She’s behaving in a manner that is making for a hostile and unwelcoming workplace and it’s affecting your performance and your productivity. If we switched genders of everyone involved, there really wouldn’t be a question about what is going on.
But I suspect it’s the gender thing that’s doing a number on your head right now. I’ve heard from men in similar situations in the past, and it can be difficult for guys to admit that they’re being harassed by someone and harder to be taken seriously when they do.
I imagine if you were to tell male friends and coworkers about this, they’d be more likely to ask whether she was hot, if you had copies of the nude pictures or mention how lucky you are. Hell, odds are you’re going to be hearing from a lot of folks about how they wish that they’d be on the receiving ends of the harassment you’re getting.
But here’s the thing: The fact that it’s being done by a woman – hot or not – doesn’t make it any more acceptable or desirable. The fact that you’re attracted to her doesn’t make it better. It’s still unwanted behaviour and it’s making you uncomfortable. So what do you do?
Start with giving the relevant parties at work a heads up. If your company has an HR department, you want to talk to them. If you don’t, then talk with your manager or immediate supervisor and tell them that this is going on. Letting them know what’s happening now makes things easier in the event that you have to make a formal complaint.
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Then it’s time to talk to Triss once more. Tell her, in no uncertain terms, that you don’t want to hear about her sex life, that you don’t want to be propositioned, you don’t want her touching you and you’d prefer that the two of you keep thing strictly professional. With luck, she’ll recognise she was crossing a line and back off.
That being said, while you’re doing this, you want to do the best practices for handling sexual harassment at work, regardless of gender. That means you want to document everything. Keep a journal with the exact times and dates she was inappropriate, what she said or did, what you said or did in response, where you were and who was around. If she’s sent you emails or texts, print out hard copies and keep them safe – preferably at home.
Do your best to avoid being alone with her or try to have friends around when she approaches you. Looping in your friends so that they know this is going on can be a help; not only can they back you up if needed, they can also provide a buffer or distraction if she’s trying to corner you for more talk about threesomes.
If she doesn’t respect your boundaries and desires to be left alone, then it’s time to escalate things and file a formal complaint. This is where all that documentation comes in handy; the more evidence you have, the less it becomes a matter of he-said/she-said and the more likely that things will work out for the best.
This story originally appeared on Kotaku.
Harris O’Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr NerdLove.
This story has been updated since its original publication.