update: my coworker thinks I’m being abused – I’m actually into BDSM

It’s update season! Throughout this month, I’ll be printing a slew of updates from people who had their letters answered here this year.

Remember the letter-writer whose coworker spotted some bruises on her and thought she was being abused, when the real explanation was that she was into BDSM? Here’s the update.

This is going to sound crazy, but my coworker reads your blog. Upon further reflection, I think I actually might have been the one who told her about it a long time ago.

Anyway, when I approached her the day after your post, I started the conversation with “This is kind of awkward, but can I talk to you about something?” and she sort of nodded and I said something very similar to what you suggested about how I appreciate her concerns but am really fine. She paused for a second and was like “You wrote Ask a Manager, didn’t you” and told me she had read about it that morning!

It was kind of awkward at first and I’m still pretty embarrassed, but by now it’s kind of funny.

We’ve decided to keep the flyers up in the bathrooms, and our (mostly female) office has picked a women’s shelter for our holiday charity project.

We obviously haven’t shared the joke with the rest of the office, but they were pretty easy to get on board with the charity project. I’m still not sure how I feel about a coworker knowing so much about my sex life, but she’s resumed acting normal around me and I don’t think she’s the type to judge. In the end things could have been a lot worse, and honestly I’m glad you inadvertently worked as an icebreaker.

{ 194 comments… read them below or add one }

    1. Lil Fidget

      Yikes. This was one where I’m not sure what kind of obfuscating details you could have added to make it less clearly you, either (and still made sense, I mean). Sorry OP!

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Sometimes throwing in insignificant fake details can help — ones that won’t impact the answer — like mentioning you’re in California when you’re really in Maine, changing genders or ages, etc.

        Reply
        1. Mine Own Telemachus

          I’m a writer, and this is legit what my publisher told me to about personal stories or interviews with folks who aren’t public figures/I’m saying something negative about a story with them. Obfuscate identifying details so no one else reading the work could figure out who it is. Someone in Maine suddenly becomes Canadian, their age changes by a couple of years, etc etc.

          Reply
          1. Green

            Uh, make sure you disclose that details have been changed to protect identities. It’s a bit different if you’re a writer publishing interviews/news stories, etc. as fact vs. writing in to an advice column…

            Reply
        2. Gadfly

          I’ve always figured that would be how I’d plan the perfect murder. Get stuff to move the body from a dirty thrift store, pick up some random cigarette butts and beer bottles off the street to go with the body, dirt from several random locations, etc. Instead of trying to remove all evidence, try to drown it.

          Reply
      2. Friendly neighborhood kinkster

        I like Alison’s ideas… But it certainly adds verisimilitude to their story, right? Any abused person could pretend it was BDSM, but not write in to AAM and hope the co-worker happened to read it. I’m sure the co-worker believes you now!

        But also… Well over 100 million people worldwide are titillated enough by the subject to have bought 50 Shades*, and that’s not counting library loans (and audiobook and Kindle loans) and second hand purchases. How many of them have incorporated some of that stuff into their own lives? I’m guessing many. So OP, you’re far from alone!

        *which book I very much do not endorse – anyone doing that kind of abusive tactics in real life would be barred from any reputable BDSM scene. There is much better edgy erotica out there, and good manuals like The New Bottoming Book.

        Reply
        1. Friendly neighborhood kinkster

          Let me clarify 50 Shades is fine as pure erotica, but if it strikes a chord and you want to put it into practice, look elsewhere. It’s playing with heavy dynamics, so do your research first on negotiation, safe words, common ways it can be abused (by tops and bottoms) so you can avoid it, and how to avoid inflicting real damage. It’s an art and like all art, requires study and practice to do well.

          Reply
          1. Time Out From Regular Name

            +1. Quasi-related, when I was a teen I loved Twilight significantly more than I loved other popular “strong female protagonist YA novels” (like Hunger Games, etc). I couldn’t articulate it then, but I enjoyed escaping into a fantasy where the protagonist was well aware everyone was stronger than her and hotter than her, and rather than mock her insecurities, they accepted her and protected her from danger. I felt bad that I related to a “damsel in distress” character, and that Bella’s anxious inner thoughts felt so much like mine, which is why a fantasy where I (Bella) didn’t have to do the seemingly impossible work of being strong or particularly smart in order to have (safe!) adventures was so engaging. I also loved that Bella wanted to have sex more than Edward did, but they were equally inexperienced, a situation that, unsurprisingly, never came up in my real teenage life.

            I kinda wish so many adults hadn’t ragged on Twilight so hard (and, subsequently, 50 Shades of Gray) when it’s already embarrassing to admit that the “wrong” thing is a turn on. As an adult, I’ve learned that having a damsel in distress fantasy life doesn’t actually mean I want to be controlled irl or end up in an abusive relationship. So, I admire that there are people like you doing the world a solid and pointing out the differences, rather than either saying, “This relationship dynamic is A-OK!” or “This book is Bad and Unfeminist and you should read something else.”

            Anyway, I definitely agree that there are probably a lot more people out there nowadays who are open to a range of sexual desires and are aware that fantasies aren’t the same as what we want in general. So, yeah! Glad OP isn’t alone :)

            Reply
            1. Toottoot

              The problem with Twilight, and why so many people ‘ragged’ on it is it’s a text book example of abusive, controlling behavior. Plain and simple.

              Reply
    2. paul

      Oh yeeeesss
      Harmless mild awkwardness, no one got (non-consensually) harmed, everything worked out, what’s not to love?

      Reply
    3. Foreign Octopus

      Oh my god, this is hilarious!

      I’m glad things worked out for you in the end, OP, and maybe some good will come from having those posters around the office. It can’t be a bad thing to have them up.

      Reply
  1. TK

    Has there ever been an update like this before?? With the popularity of the blog these days it was bound to happen sometime. What an embarrassing example to discover it with though..

    Sounds like things worked out fine, though.

    Reply
    1. Paige Turner

      People have been speculating for years about whether someone who reads AAM would ever recognize an OP and of course this is the letter where it happens…big tip of the hat to OP and OP’s coworker for handling it so well.

      Reply
      1. Trainer

        I recognized myself/my new hire once in a short answer post. The new hire wrote in about how awful his job was, the “unbearable” pressure of training (which he described as “administrative work” when it was in fact training exercises I was giving him, not actual work? Like the exercises for learning our software were literally in the fake training server and not even the real server) and how he quit on the third day. His question was if he needed to be paid for the time he worked. The truly bizarre thing on top of that was that based on when the question was published, it hadn’t been a pay period yet. It was published I believe 2 days after he quit. And of course he was going to be paid? I don’t even know why he was questioning that.

        Reply
        1. AMD

          Wow! How did you recognize it? Were you tempted to leave a comment? I guess there’d be no temptation to talk to him about it if he quit before publication…

          Reply
          1. Trainer

            He mentioned the state we were in, and just the timing and whole situation there was no doubt he was talking about me. I certainly don’t think that my training was “unbearable pressure“ !! but it was clear that this guy had a much different understanding of what the job is going to be and was not prepared to have to learn anything new. I didn’t have anything to do with hiring him, I was just there to train him on the basics of our products and how to use our software. He literally said to me that he didn’t need to learn about our products, because his customers would know what they were looking for. It was a sales job. Yeah, I was sort of tempted to write back in the comments. I don’t even know if he would have read the comments, I really really doubt that this person was a regular AAM reader. My guess is that he did something like googled “do I have to be paid for training?“ And then ended up on AAM. It was #4 at the link: http://www.askamanager.org/2013/11/company-wants-my-past-performance-evaluations-and-tax-forms-and-4-other-is-it-legal-questions.html Yeah, I don’t even really know what to say about most of this. Like… He didn’t have customers because it was his 3rd day and I was still training him? He would have gone to five days of training and then had some customers assigned to him. And obviously it’s a sales job, you’re supposed to go out and get customers not just get the existing accounts assigned to you. I don’t know, there were some serious confusion about what the job was which I’m sure was not solely his fault. But it was also very apparent that he did not actually want the job (as he makes clear in the letter). I don’t know why he thought he should have been calling customers on his first and second day. Maybe that is wildly different from other sales jobs, but in our company, we actually thought he should maybe know the first thing about our products before he started trying to sell them to people…?

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            1. Annabelle

              I remember this letter! I also recall thinking how unusual it was for someone to expect to be calling/selling to clients within their first week on the job.

              Reply
            2. Observer

              Does anyone remember if we got a follow up on #5? In the case of Trainer, once you look at it, you can see that there might be two sides to the story. But, #5 – I cna’t see any way to spin that. And like most of the other commenters I was horrified by that one.

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            3. Kathleen

              I just looked at the letter, Trainer. He’s kind of pitiful and annoying at the same time. I think maybe quitting was good for both him and your company. :-)

              Reply
            4. Calliope

              > He literally said to me that he didn’t need to learn about our products, because his customers would know what they were looking for.

              No. Customers never know what they’re looking for.

              Okay, that’s a bit too sweeping, even for my usual tongue-in-cheek snark — but his belief that he doesn’t need to know the products he sells? Wow. No.

              When I worked as a waitress in a restaurant, we got to taste the food the restaurant sold, so we could answer the customers’ questions about the stuff on the menu.

              When I worked in a call center taking orders for the catalog sales division of a department store, we not only got to look at information that generally wasn’t included in the catalog copy (usually measurements and care instructions, which, to be fair, doesn’t make for an alluring sales pitch but is good information to have), they’d also bring out a rack of whatever garments were on special that week so we could pitch those as well. And if that cute little cashmere sweater wasn’t in the current catalog, well, we could describe it because it was *right there* where we could see it.

              And if this guy was selling something more complex than cardigans or lasagne, like software, or proprietary equipment, his customers are gonna have questions before they shell out their $$$$$ for it.

              Reply
              1. paul

                Even if I know what capabilities I’m looking for, that doesn’t mean I know which products are best suited to meet my needs, yikes.

                Reply
                1. Jessica

                  Not to mention that having a thorough knowledge of one’s products makes for excellent opportunities to make recommendations and increase one’s commissions. Jeez. That dude must hate money.

      2. irritable vowel

        I was on a search committee at work and was pretty sure I recognized someone who wrote in with a question about their interview as someone we had recently interviewed, based on their description of the work environment. This was confirmed to me by something the person said shortly after they started working here – I have never let on that I knew they had written to AAM about their interview, though. (Hence my being as vague as possible here!)

        Reply
                1. Sarah

                  Can I just say I love YOUR username? I’m listening to those books on audio right now with my kids!

    2. Naomi

      Well, it was likely to happen on one of the unusual letters; it’s harder to spot if your co-worker writes in with something generic like “how do I negotiate a raise?” But yeah, this is a particularly awkward one!

      Reply
    3. SignalLost

      I feel like there was suspicion that the woman having a relationship with her married coworker may have read the letter – at any rate, she approached OP about it the day the letter was posted, as I recall.

      Reply
    4. Purplesaurus

      I’m waiting for the day when two people independently write in about the same shared situation. (Or has that happened?)

      Reply
      1. JHunz

        It has probably already happened, although it’s unlikely that she’d post both of the letters in that case if she recognized the common ground.

        I think I also remember her taking down one post because a couple of the people involved emailed her afterward to provide sufficient proof that the account in the letter was significantly falsified.

        Reply
        1. Lil Fidget

          There’s also the element that people in the same social community are more-than-statistiscally-averege likely to read the same blog, I’d guess. Maybe the same friend recommended it to both of you, or you one mentioned it to a mutual friend and they later mentioned it. Or you’re just both in circles where the blog is especially relevant.

          Reply
          1. Cercis

            Or you could be like me and describing a letter to a friend only to have a mutual friend sitting nearby say “oh hey, so funny story – I actually went to high school with Alison, I didn’t know you read her site.” Which, I’ll admit has made me more cautious about posting, and I almost changed my posting name (because it ties to my email address that she knows).

            Reply
      2. SignalLost

        That happened in Etiquette Hell once! The letters were years apart, so the admin didn’t twig, but both letters led to the inescapable conclusion that the first writer had behaved very badly.

        Reply
            1. LadyL

              WHOA. You were right, that did not disappoint!

              And yeah, one paragraph in and I already knew which side I was on.

              The best bit to me was “The bride… where do I begin? She was about a foot taller than the groom,” Yeah, why didn’t that bride have the decency to get some leg removal surgery done before her wedding?? So gauche to allow yourself to grow bigger than 5’5″!

              Reply
              1. Friendly neighborhood kinkster

                That… Was awesome. I’m so glad Tay is well rid of the LW, they sound awful, and the wedding sounds amazing. This part made me giggle: “Most of the guests wore black. Some even had black hair and makeup. Even male guests. I couldn’t believe it.” Oh my gosh, they had black hair AND makeup, the boys too?! The shock of that would give me vapors too.

                “So I wrote two notes, one saying they should be disgusted at what they’re doing to the tradition of marriage, and another breaking up with Tay, and then went to the bathroom and climbed out the window.”

                Bummer about the cowardly acid-note attack on the married couple, but how great that they crawled out the window instead of just using the door. They are a winner.

                Reply
            2. Elizabeth West

              That wedding sounds AMAZING. I would have LOVED it.

              I know someone who got married in a locally famous haunted hotel, on Halloween, and it was a masquerade. I was invited, but I didn’t have any money and couldn’t even buy them a gift. I’m still gutted that I missed it. :(

              Reply
              1. Nonyme

                I would have loved that wedding!

                A few decades ago, I attended a small science fiction con where a couple fans had a Klingon wedding in one of the hotel ballrooms — the service was in Klingon, and even the justice of the peace they hired to do the ceremony got into it and dressed up and learned his part in Klingon. I’d say about half the guests were in costume. It was awesome.

                At the same hotel, at the same time, there was a traditional wedding party and the bride of that party threw a fit worthy of any bridezilla at full screaming volume in the hotel lobby about the con, the fannish wedding, and the whole sacrilege of it all. Basically, she felt her wedding was ruined because another wedding and science fiction convention was being held at the same venue — even though her wedding was supposed to be held outside (and the area was roped off) and the Klingon wedding was inside in a ballroom.

                Reply
            3. Murphy

              I was getting really angry reading that (How could AAM readers support this??) and then I got to the second letter. Haha. What a jerk.

              Reply
            4. Traffic_Spiral

              Man, the only thing I’d be angry about would be if they hadn’t told me the dress code ahead of time so I’d have the chance to rock some goth clothes. Other than that, this wedding sound like a hoot!

              Reply
    5. One of the Sarahs

      I think Alison once ran a letter then took it down when co-workers got in touch saying “that’s not how it went down”?

      Reply
      1. Annabelle

        I remember something like this happening. My nosier side was/is very curious about what actually happened, though it’s obviously none of my business.

        Reply
    6. CAA

      There was the letter from the professor whose student lied when he posted on social media that she gave extra credit because he asked in a cute way. The student commented on that one. The whole thing had been covered by other media and was semi-viral before the professor wrote to Alison though, and it wasn’t hard to identify the student from other accounts, so it’s not surprising he was told about it.

      Reply
          1. Don't Blame Me

            CAA was correct about which letter I meant, but I don’t remember seeing the one that Allison linked to either – thank you Allison!

            Reply
          2. Lurker

            Aww, I got all excited about that link because I thought it was about a boss using coupons in an office gift exchange to fire someone. Open a gift bag: “Good for one free firing!” Also, there’s a smelly candle.

            Reply
    7. CR

      Not an update, but a friend of mine wrote in a question before and I recognized it was her right away because we had just been talking about her problem!

      Reply
    8. Someone Else Needs The Wood

      Pretty sure I recognize the boss who pushed out the older employee with the beer runs as my last workplace.

      Reply
      1. paul

        As in seriously think that was your boss, or you’ve had a workplace a lot like that? I’ve seen things that strongly paralleled parts of our workplace but never one I thought “Hey I know that person!”

        Reply
        1. Someone Else Needs The Wood

          As in I work in the same building for the same company. I work on an adjacent team that had a ton of change in the summer which in turn made our team twice as busy. The manager and 4 of her direct reports were fired all within a week of each other.

          Reply
    9. Ask a Manager Post author

      One thing that happens ALL THE TIME is that someone says “oh, I think I recognize this workplace” but they’ll say it about a situation that’s so common that I’ve had dozens of similar letters over the years. Based on watching how often that happens, I’d say that the majority of the time, people tend to be wrong when they think they recognize a situation, unless it’s something really unusual (like the liver boss or something like that).

      Reply
      1. Connie-Lynne

        Me, SparklyLibrarian, and a Susan all recognized each other as former coworkers (and SL and I are FB friends) on a comment thread, but not from a letter.

        Reply
    10. spock

      I wrote in once and someone who was involved (not the person I was asking for advice about though) recognized the situation and told me about it. He wasn’t one of the “bad actors” in the story but it did make me not want to post an update because I knew people involved would be reading it, and I would guess I’m not the only one uncomfortable with that so we’re not likely to see too many updates like this even if recognitions do happen from time to time.

      Reply
    11. Baska

      I did, in fact, have one of my colleagues recognize a letter I’d written in. (It wasn’t about her, but she recognized all the people involved.) She took me aside and pretty much said, “Some of us read Ask a Manager. Just letting you know.” Enough people had already replied to the original post that I asked Alison to take down my follow-up responses and pretty much just had to grit my teeth and bear it. Thankfully, I don’t think anyone else recognized the letter… or if they have, they haven’t told me about it. I’ve tried to be much more careful since then.

      Reply
  2. No Parking or Waiting

    This is a crazy update. Thanks for doing it. If we get an update from the office poop patrol, my day will be complete. Particularly if said patrol person has gotten shot down from above.

    Reply
    1. Specialk9

      The pooping in lunches (/pooping at people from catwalks), and setting up IEDs for the ditch brush flame team, and car bombs guy? Aaron English?

      His boss Steve Fletcher was fired, and the board member who defended him did not rerun for reelection after the storm of publicity. Aaron English was either fired or promoted (no mention of him on their website but still listed as the chamber of contact site as exec).
      http://www.kjct8.com/content/news/367466211.html

      His boss Steve Fletcher was fired:
      https://m.facebook.com/MontroseDailyPress/posts/965498103528448

      And the president, George Etchart, didn’t run for election that following year, for the Colorado Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association.
      http://www.montrosepress.com/news/troubled-water-users-manager-steps-down/article_6817ff2a-d607-11e5-96e5-474a2c98f46e.html

      The water authority still has pooper-bomber Aaron English listed as an employee , but now as “executive”.
      https://www.chamberofcommerce.com/olathe-co/25520262-uncompahgre-valley-water-users-association

      But the actual website has no results for his name.
      http://web.cowatercongress.org/Water-User-Agencies-Colorado/Uncompahgre-Valley-Water-Users-Association-772

      And

      http://web.cowatercongress.org/external/wcpages/wcdirectory/results/results_mobile.aspx?keywords=english

      Reply
  3. MuseumChick

    So glad everything worked out. And as someone far removed from this situation, I can’t help but laugh a little because this seems like something out of a movie/TV show.

    With the AAM becoming more popular this was bound to happen eventually.

    Reply
  4. Hills to Die on

    Hey, everyone has sex. So who cares how you like it? Ultimately, people are really more interested in themselves. Glad it worked out, and thanks for the amusing update!

    Reply
      1. ThatGirl

        No, not everyone, and it’s worth recognizing that… but it’s still a very very very common part of adult life.

        Reply
      2. Myrin

        Come on, guys. I’m asexual as well (never had sex before, don’t know if I ever will) and HtDo clearly meant her comment in a way that says “it’s not at all unusual for adults to have sex so there’s really no need to be horribly embarrassed about this, especially as the coworkers seemed cool about the situation in general”. We don’t need to analyse and get into a fight over a well-intentioned comment on a website that someone wrote down in thirty seconds and probably didn’t think about much further.

        Reply
          1. Hills to Die on

            Yes, my apologies for coming across as excluding. I meant that people in general have sex and it’s common enough that it shouldn’t be a big deal to know that someone is Doing It.

            Reply
        1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian

          I don’t see anything indicating a fight on this, but I think it’s worth the push-back that no, not everybody has sex. It’s not just asexuals that are sex-avoidant forgoing sex either. I personally would be very happy to have less “off-the-cuff” remarks in that vein going forward.

          Reply
      3. Casca

        I know this thread has kinda stopped but just wanted to say that it doesn’t just exclude asexuals, but also many people with different types of disabilities or people who are isolated.

        I certainly know people who are not asexual but are not seen as ‘desirable’ and so don’t have people wanting to have sex with (or even date) them.

        Comments like these do make people feel excluded so just for people reading to bear in mind.

        Reply
  5. Amber Rose

    Which makes you wonder if AAM could be used as a passive aggressive way of addressing issues. “Oh hey, you ever read Ask A Manager? You should… maybe like, three days from now in particular.” =P

    Reply
    1. AMD

      I feel like the idea of printing out the page with comments and leaving them on a ccoworker’s desk has been mentioned many times (and usually dismissed as too passive-aggressive,) but I think somebody mentioned in an update they had actually done that once?

      Reply
      1. Lil Fidget

        I have sent links to articles to coworkers, including articles in which I commented about the specifics of a situation with that very coworker. But I assume most people don’t read each of the 400+ comments on a blog!

        Reply
      2. Annabelle

        Someone definitely had an update about doing this. I can’t remember the specific letter, but it was one of those “I need to approach my coworker about a terribly awkward thing” letters.

        Reply
      3. Cristina in England

        I remember that. It was something where a co-worker was food shaming or diet policing or something bullying and obnoxious. I think the LW left the letter and something like 32 pages of comments on the co-workers chair. The co-worker stopped talking so much with people in the office and eventually left.

        Reply
    2. Lil Fidget

      I have sent links to articles to coworkers, including articles in which I commented about the specifics of a situation with that very coworker. But I assume most people don’t read each of the 400+ comments on a blog!

      Reply
      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        See, I assume everyone would get as sucked in as I have, so I only recommend the site to a couple of trusted people and not a single co-worker! Though I often wonder if anyone I know reads the site and recognizes me in the comments.

        Reply
      1. JessaB

        Yes but that was in the day when you couldn’t just say “go read Ask a Manager.” Not only were they unlikely to be able to get a past column unless they went to the local library, some papers didn’t carry her stuff at all, choosing to carry her sister Ann Landers or some other agony aunt. So “send it to someone who needs it,” was a logical thing to suggest. Nowadays even with Dear Abby you can go in and read years of columns and just send someone a link if you want to.

        Reply
        1. Specialk9

          I don’t think Mrs Fenros was necessarily suggesting sending a print version rather than a link. I believe they were suggesting passing it along in some manner, and giving a reason why it is not passive-aggressive, as mentioned upthread.

          Reply
          1. Mrs. Fenris

            Yes. I meant that it was a silly and passive aggressive thing to do, in print or online, and it was even sillier that Abby recommended it herself!

            Reply
    1. MechanicalPencil

      I just tried to not snort the sip of boiling hot coffee I just took. I’m sure my wallmate wonders what on earth has happened.

      Reply
      1. JessaB

        Alison needs to add to the commenting policy and rules the number one rule of reading AAM – do not be eating or drinking whilst doing so.

        Reply
  6. RVA Cat

    I’m sorry it was awkward, but I’m glad she’s being professional about it.
    For future OPs, maybe “No, but it made me think about (office situation)” could work as plausible deniability?

    Reply
    1. Executive Assistant Barbie

      I think there is something to be said for owning the awkwardness and adding a smile, particularly in a situation like this, born of consideration and no one is hurt.

      Reply
  7. Madame X

    Oh man! Glad it worked out for you, even though now your coworker knows a bit more about your personal life.
    I’ve been telling so many people about this blog. I suppose this situation is bound to happen at some point.

    Reply
  8. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs

    Glad it worked out and thanks for updating us! (Probably tempting not to now that you know you might not be as anonymous as you think!)

    Honestly, if I were that coworker, I’d be like, “Huh. Interesting.” as I read, then after you talked to me about it we’d laugh and I’d never give it another serious thought.

    Speaking as one that has been overshared with a couple of times (accidentally and on purpose). :D

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Yeah, it’s hard to know how much people would really be shocked by the knowledge of something like this. I think it would make me somewhat uncomfortable to know ANYTHING about a coworkers sex life at all, but the BDSM element doesn’t really make it any more eyebrow raising to me than other information about preferred sex acts or frequency or whatever. I don’t know if that is different for different people, like if somebody who is more conservative or sheltered and has never heard of BDSM maybe they’d be really weirded out by that. It’s good that in this case the coworker was cool.

      Reply
    2. anon24

      Yes, I don’t want to know details of my co-workers’ sex lives, but if I found out something like this it would not change the way I thought of them at all. The only time I’d judge them for it would be if they insisted on giving me details about it and then I’d only be judging them for thinking it was ok to give me details on their sex life at all, not because it was BDSM.

      Reply
      1. JessaB

        In this case though there’s a larger issue. BDSM participants often look the same as abused persons. They sometimes have weird bruises, and because of the cultural overtones in some places about alternative lifestyles, they’re often secretive.

        Add to that a general consensus that most actual abuse victims have been trained by their abusers to lie, to cover up, to do ANYTHING to deny publicly that someone abused them, you have a BIG PROBLEM.

        Do I believe that the person is legit into BDSM, or do I worry that they are being abused and using “I am into BDSM” as a cover. Also from a legal standpoint BDSM is not a shelter from a charge of abuse if someone wants to be nasty and report people.

        So whilst 99% of a person’s sexual behavivour is none of my damned business, the fact that BDSM is so underground and the fact that there are way too many victims of abuse or people who have no actual clue what safe, sane, consensual BDSM looks like, makes it a different issue. Especially since a lot of clueless people call things that are legit abuse “BDSM” practises.

        Reply
        1. Friendly neighborhood kinkster

          Excellent points, JessaB.

          One thing to be aware of, for non kinksters, is that because of the potential risks of playing with heavy dynamics, there is a whole big culture in place in the BDSM “scene”: of negotiation, consent, and doing no true harm. There is a local scene with people who are vetted and have built a reputation, and established monitors watching for problematic behavior at parties, with the intention of keeping people safe from abuse in the name of BDSM. My experience has been with party hosts who set clear rules, about acceptable interactions and behaviors. I’m not going to claim it’s perfect (Pervocracy I believe talks about the limitations of this kind of informal system in the scene, and how rape and abuse by trusted people can happen, and I believe it), and it’s easy to do your own thing out-of-scene with your own people and get into bad dynamics. So, a lot of concerted effort at controls, imperfectly… But it’s also not a wild wild west situation.

          Just in case people are mistaking erotica – which often for wanking purposes skips the boring negotiation/consent/ boundaries stages – with reality.

          Reply
  9. B

    Oh my. Though I would think your coworker is much happier knowing your sex life info than thinking you are being abused. And in the end it turned out to be a wonderful way to help someone else with the women’s shelter.

    Reply
      1. Purplesaurus

        Agreed! I personally would not care that my coworker is into BDSM versus thinking they are being abused. I don’t think I could easily let go of the latter.

        Reply
    1. Bea

      100% agree. If this were me I would go from scared for her to “oh damn okay awkwardness…glad my other conclusion was wrong, I’m happy you’re not in danger!”

      Reply
    2. Annabelle

      Agreed. I would prefer not to know about my coworkers’ sex lives, but I’d much rather have that information than think that someone is being abused.

      Reply
  10. Cait

    Personally I think this is a best case scenario. OP was able to convey that she is not being abused and OP’s coworker was able to read about non-judgemental ways to respond (through the comments). Plus a local women’s shelter gained some local support which I’m sure is always needed. Win-win all around.

    Reply
    1. Justme

      I really like that they’ve started helping a shelter and have left up fliers in the bathrooms. It is awkward, sure. But I like the end result that people are being helped.

      Reply
  11. Widgeon

    Well, you’re a memorable co-worker, I’ll give you that.

    As embarassing as it may seem, I think it *really* hits home to her that the truth behind your … erm … “injuries” are actually more (less?) innocent than they appear! I would DIE of embarassment though. Good for you – you’re taking it in stride.

    Reply
  12. Anna

    If anything, this update shows that awkward isn’t the worst thing that can happen. :) I love this update very much and I’m happy OP and coworker/reader have cleared everything up and some good for a woman’s shelter came out of it!

    Reply
    1. Annabelle

      This. I love this update both because some genuine good came out of an uncomfortable situation and also because it’s a great example of awkwardness being a survivable inevitability.

      Reply
  13. Lynca

    Well I would slowly die a thousand deaths from the embarrassment.

    But on the plus side your co-worker is being professional and that’s always a good thing!

    Reply
  14. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

    Oh dear! I’m glad everything worked out, but yeeeeesh the awkward.

    I see some folks saying that everyone handled this well. I (slightly) disagree: The coworker shouldn’t have mentioned the AAM post. Telling the LW didn’t help resolve the situation; all it did was make the LW aware that the coworker now knows about the LW’s sexual activity. The most gracious thing for the coworker to have done would have been to, upon realizing that she was the subject of the post, accept the LW’s assurances that she was safe and move on without mentioning it again.

    Reply
    1. Cristina in England

      I wish I could say that, in the moment, I would have not mentioned it but honestly, the more awkward the situation, the worse my mouth operates!

      Reply
    2. always in email jail

      I personally wouldn’t have mentioned it, just because I wouldn’t want to make an already-awkward situation even more awkward, but I see how someone could think bringing it up would just move the conversation along and get it over with more quickly

      Reply
    3. Specialk9

      How so? The OP had to have the “so about those bruises…” conversation anyway, so that wasn’t something that could be avoided. Why would adding that she saw that co-worker wrote in for advice, be bad? It’s a good way of acknowledging that, yes, an abused person would likely hide behind BDSM, but as said upthread, not likely to post on an advice website that they didn’t know co-worker even read.

      /I am sure I could rewrite that to be clearer, but I’m just gonna hit send. I’ll clarify if needed.

      Reply
      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        The coworker has all the knowledge in this situation. She knows about the bruises, she knows what the LW has told her about the bruises, and she knows the details that the LW shared on AAM. She can confident that the LW is safe (which was, presumably, her goal) and she didn’t have to make the LW uncomfortable by making it clear that she knew the details of her sex life.

        Reply
  15. Bea

    Omg! Both of you are awesome, I’m glad it worked itself out so your coworker (hi coworker lol) awkward or not it turned into something good.

    Reply
  16. Leo

    Oh man, the awks! Well done for tackling it and super well done for using it for good, now and in your Christmas donations

    Reply
  17. Detective Amy Santiago

    I love this update.

    And LW, now you have an ally who can help re-direct if any other coworkers ever notice your bruises and say anything.

    Reply
  18. SallytooShort

    Great update! This is one of the best cases possible of a co-worker reading AAM. She was really only ever concerned never had any malice. So, it’s not as though she did anything wrong or you were upset with her. And it put an awkward subject out there without having to actually address it! (Not that there is anything to be ashamed of but it *is* awkward to talk about at work.)

    Reply
  19. Jam Today

    I particularly like how they turned something deeply awkward and embarrassing into something supportive and life-affirming by getting the group together to support a womens’ shelter. That’s a really nice touch.

    Reply
  20. Laura Cruz

    Oh wow, I had shared this situation with a friend of mine who’s into this lifestyle and they not only got a laugh about it, but revealed their SO had a similar situation crop up at their work since SO works a job that involves changing uniforms in a lockerroom and someone got wide-eyed when they saw the bruises.

    Reply
  21. The Tin Man

    Well that is one effective way for her to believe that it isn’t domestic violence. That was the biggest nuanced thing needed in addressing it – how to deny it is DV without seeming like you are just trying to hide it.

    Reply
    1. JessaB

      This. I mentioned that in a comment above. It’s a really fine line, especially since persons who are abused are trained by their abusers to deny, deny, deny, and post 50 shades, what better way to deny than “I’m into BDSM.” How do you sort that out. Especially from a legal standpoint BDSM is not a shield against the partner being arrested anyway.

      Reply
  22. Middle Name Jane

    I’m glad this all worked out for the OP and her concerned coworker, but I’m constantly paranoid that my manager and/or coworkers read AAM. It’s hard for me to open up to post anything on the free threads or to say much about what I do for a living or the situations I experience at work. I’m afraid of being identified.

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth West

      I have on occasion—I told a coworker at Exjob about the spicy food thief, because we were dealing with a lunch thief and stuff disappearing off people’s desks, and her eyes got as big as bus tires. We freaked out together over that one.

      Reply
  23. New Window

    Oh man. I’m cringe-laughing here, but this is also why I only tell my coworkers about this website after I’ve left that particular work place.

    OP, I’m glad your coworker seems to be non-judgmental about it!

    Reply
  24. Princess Cimorene

    I’ve always been waiting for an update with the OP comes back to let us know the subject of their letter (if it’s about another person) reads the blog and put 5 and 7 together! Hilarious.

    LW, I think if your co-worker reads AMA and comes back for more then she is likely someone who isn’t going to be too judgemental about your private life. If she’s not put-off by the majority of the commentariat or by Alison herself being open and inclusive then she probably is right in line with the overall community here and I think you don’t need to spend too much time worrying about it anymore.

    Thanks for the update! I’m glad thinks aren’t crazy awkward as far as the “secret” goes anymore, if a tad awkward that she knows a little more about your sex life.

    Reply
  25. Safetykats

    I was pretty convinced that a young woman out my last job was being abused by her boyfriend, but it turned out to be roller derby. (Thank goodness.) they are married now; she gave up roller derby and all is fine with the world.

    Reply
  26. This Daydreamer

    This is a beautiful update. And, from someone who works in a DV shelter, THANK YOU for deciding to help out.

    Reply
  27. Not So NewReader

    I have often thought that clearing up misunderstandings was worth a little bit of awkwardness so that life is easier in the long run. Well done on your part, OP and well done on your coworker’s part.

    Reply
  28. Time Out From Regular Name

    Wow! This is probably the best update ever. I mean, yeah, awkward >__<! But, also? You all are raising money for a women's shelter and now you know you have reading AAM in common.

    Reply
  29. Traffic_Spiral

    Maybe it’s just where I’m from (Washington State – the liberal politics combined with individualism and “Seattle Freeze” means absolutely no one cares about the weird shit you’re into) but finding out the bruises are from BDSM wouldn’t be much more embarrassing than finding out about a Roller Derby habit. It’s just sorta the weird shit you’re into and since no one’s being (non-consensually) hurt, there’s no need to pay any more attention to it.

    Reply
  30. Paul Wartenberg

    might be a time to mention a good comic series called Sunstone. It’s pretty well-researched about the BDSM culture.

    Reply

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