update: my coworker wants us to call her boyfriend her “master”

Remember the letter-writer whose coworker wanted everyone to call her boyfriend her “master”? Of course you do — how could you not! Here’s the update.

First I wanted to thank both you and the commenters for your feedback–it really made me (and my coworker, Sally’s direct manager), feel somewhat less bonkers. (To be clear, the coworker/Sally’s boss knew that I was going to send the letter, as we’d been discussing the issue between ourselves; in fact, I suggested she write to you, but she was feeling a little shy about writing to an advice blogger she didn’t know, so I did it. She read over the letter & responses, though, and was grateful too.)

In the interim between sending the letter and the response, we had already told the staff that no, they definitely didn’t need to refer to Peter as “master,” but could simply call him by name. (As others have speculated, the reason the issue came to a head at all was because Sally brought Peter up *a lot.* Many of my coworkers, I barely know what their spouses are named… but anyway.) The actual result was that people basically just avoided Sally for all social conversations, interacting with her on only on and about work projects.

After reading the letter and responses, my coworker decided that Sally really needed a direct talking-to about it. She went in with the same arguments that people suggested: that we respected her relationship, but that some details of relationships are appropriate for the workplace and some are not, and insisting on certain titles can fall into that ‘details’ category. She used the example that we would of course always refer to people by the correct gender, and would never say “friend” or “roommate” if “boyfriend” or “partner” or “husband” was correct, but that on the other hand it would be inappropriate to call someone “my lover” or “my binkie-boo” in the office, that that is a level of intimate detail that your coworker does not need or want.

Sadly, Sally doubled down at this point, insisting that “lover” or “binkie-boo” or “snuffalupugus” or “fuckboy” or whatever should be used if they were accurate, because they accurately represent the relationship and to insist on ‘softening’ the nature of the relationship for the ‘easily shocked’ was a slippery slope to oppression. (No, really.) For what it’s worth, I get the impression that Sally was not so much naive or lacking in common sense as deliberately pushing the boundary for some reason of her own.

My coworker said that she had every right to feel that way, but at the workplace, “master” (and “schmooples” and “fuckbuddy”) were not appropriate; that Peter could be referred to as Peter or as her partner or as her boyfriend or as her friend or as any of a variety of options or not at all, but that “master” was inappropriate, and that this was a very, very common stance for even a very liberal company to take and that Sally had probably ought to learn to adjust to it.

(Not gonna lie, it has been so hard the past few weeks to not say “my lovaaaaah” instead of “my partner.” I have refrained.)

Sally threatened to go over her head, but from what I hear, the big boss just shut her down with a “your manager’s word stands on this issue and I see no reason to talk to you about it.” Not too long after, Sally quit; I don’t know where she is, but I’ve heard through the grapevine that she’s freelancing.

So that’s the update. I still don’t know exactly what point Sally was trying to make–our organization is really quite liberal and has a lot of GLBTQIA+ employees (myself included) but there are still lines. She was trying to push one, I suppose. I don’t get the impression that this was masterminded by Peter–it’s tempting to think that she was trying to “freak the mundane,” as some commenters suggested, or just wanted to see how far she could push the lines.

{ 460 comments… read them below }

  1. FDCA in Canada*

    I literally just reread this yesterday and was hoping we’d get an update. I am truly amazed. Truly life is a rich tapestry.

      1. LW*

        Hahaha, totally accidental! I didn’t even notice I’d done that until I saw Heyo’s comment. I’m delighted that my subconscious did that though.

  2. cleo*

    I’m so glad to get the update – good for you LW and for Sally’s boss. And all I can say is WOW.

      1. LBK*

        My boyfriend just yelled from the other room to ask me what was so funny because I let out an extremely loud guffaw once I finally got this.

        1. Newton Geizler*

          It took me a minute too. Submission plays a big part in BDSM, hence the joke of “submitting” on this particular post.

    1. Melissa*

      I’m also impressed with the boss over Sally’s boss for shutting that down instead of wading into the nonsense. Refreshing to see people in power acting reasonably.

      1. Ann*

        This… and actually doing anything at all instead of just saying they’re going to and then throwing others under the bus bc they don’t have the cojones to be a real manager. But that’s a different letter.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        I’m actually a little surprised this update didn’t include anything about an EEOC claim. Sally seems like exactly that kind of nut.

        1. Moonsaults*

          I wouldn’t count it out as a possibility yet. I know how long it takes to get the letter about a claim of discrimination to surface…

      1. LW*

        I wasn’t there when she quit, so I don’t know for sure, but from what I hear it was a “not a good fit for me” type explanation. I imagine the “master” thing contributed, but possibly primarily in that her coworkers got very cool with her after it came up, and she seems to enjoy a pretty high degree of socializing at work. (Which is normally fine; our office is definitely one where it’s okay to spend fifteen minutes shooting the breeze at the coffeemaker if you want–or not if you don’t want. No pressure either way. But as I noted, her coworkers stopped chatting with her after she asked them to call Peter “your master/Sally’s master.”)

        It might also have been something else (not liking the work or etc.) but I imagine the sudden drop in water-cooler/lunchtime chitchat didn’t help.

        1. Anonymoose*

          Was she socially awkward outside of the Master business? I just keep picturing her as someone who is normally pretty isolated and then gets to work and it’s like a free for all, where she doesn’t understand how to limit “Her” to just “Work Her”.

          1. LW*

            She was definitely a borderline overshare-er in general, but it was never anything inappropriate before. Up until the Master thing I chalked it up to her being kind of bubbly and gregarious in general, and maybe not very practiced in knowing where to draw the line, but nothing terrible.

            That said, I also think that there was at least some element of deliberate boundary-pushing/mundane-freaking, not just ignorance of social norms/compartmentalizations. But that’s mostly just a feeling.

            1. Kelly O*

              Sometimes, I am a 13 year old boy on the inside, however I believe “that’s what she said” is appropriate here.

  3. Minister of Snark*

    “The actual result was that people basically just avoided Sally for all social conversations, interacting with her on only on and about work projects.”

    If I thought this might work, in terms of getting my coworkers to ONLY talk to me about work related matters, I would have tried it years ago. Maybe Sally is a secret genius.

    1. LW*

      Hah! As an introvert myself, I would find that very clever. (Our workplace is fairly chatty, although I haven’t had a problem keeping the chitchat to a minimum myself.) Sally seemed pretty gregarious and social, though, so sadly, I doubt this was a brilliant stratagem…..

  4. Leatherwings*

    So excited for this update. Good for OP and coworker for shutting this shit down. And this:

    to insist on ‘softening’ the nature of the relationship for the ‘easily shocked’ was a slippery slope to oppression

    As an LGBTQ person makes me cringe.

    1. Blue Anne*

      Yeah. I’m just…. argh. I would really like to come out at work about the fact that I’m poly. People like Sally make me worry that I would be taken to be like… well, a person like Sally.

      1. animaniactoo*

        See, being poly is (to me) a basic fact. In fact, it’s fine if I know that Sally has a D/s relationship with her partner. What I don’t need or want to know (unless we are more personal friends and you want to share) is the details of how that works for you. I don’t need to know that she refers to him as master, and I don’t need to know how you divide up how you spend time with each of your partners. Those are the functional details of your relationship, not general facts about who you are.

        1. KimberlyR*

          I think this is an important point. I’m fine with knowing you’re poly, if you choose to tell me. I’m fine with knowing Sally is in a D/s relationship. But no one needs to give me the finer points of how that all works, unless it happens organically in a friend relationship outside of work (as opposed to a work friendship.) I’m not going to tell you what I call my husband in my bedroom. Please keep what you call your partner in the bedroom to yourself, as well.

        2. SophieChotek*

          Yes I agree. too. The details were the issue I think…
          Like for some random reason one of my profs in grad school apparently told one of my fellow grad students what sexual positions he and his lover used…very soon the entire grad class knew…and really, now we cannot undo those image in our minds…ew….

        3. Jessesgirl72*

          I don’t even care that I know Sally refers to him as her Master. Okay, whatev. Demanding that *I* refer to him as such is where the bat guano begins.

          If that is a slippery slope to oppression, it’s one I am willing to risk!

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            I mean, I feel the same way, but for some people talking about your home life at all is TMI. Not in a “that’s icky” way, but just “I really don’t need to know any of that to process the WENUS report, please stop talking”. I think it’s fair for any two people communicating to default to the person who wants the greatest social distance. (Although I struggle with this myself, because I’d gladly talk about anything most people consider “private”, but I won’t unless there’s a really obvious opening, since I don’t want to be the one to cross that line.)

          2. Troutwaxer*

            The line that’s crossed is that Sally is asking you to become a participant in her sex life. Definitely not O.K.

          3. Betty Boop*

            I actually had to look and see if “Sally” was the same person I live with some time ago. Alas, it seems there are more than one of these kookoobeans in the world. I was in a roommate situation with one of these “special potatoes.” The line I drew was when she allowed her “master” (who was NOT living under our roof and was NOT paying rent,) to dictate the way we handled things in our house. As you might imagine, things went downhill pretty quickly with our roommate situation because I wasn’t playing ball. She threw a spectacular hissy fit at me via text about a month later about how I am toxic and narcissistic and how disrespectful to “Him” I was being (fairly astute observation on her part, actually.) I packed my bags that week. All I needed to do to get my landlords to let me out of the lease was show them her crazypants texts. I still keep those texts. It’s hard to convey exactly how nuts that situation was without them.

            1. Lance*

              Holy ew. Anyone who thinks they can drag an unwilling participant into that sort of relationship is absolutely crazy; glad you got out of there as quickly as you did.

              1. Betty Boop*

                Yep, thanks. They’re both about 10 pounds of crazy in a five-pound bag, so, an excellent match.

          4. hala*

            That’s exactly how I feel. I have no real issue with her telling us what she calls him, even if it’s socially inappropriate. But asking an outside party to join their bedroom relationship without consent is just flat out wrong.

        4. animaniactoo*

          Argggh, I feel like I’m saying this badly, but I don’t mean that I don’t want to know about you or your partners in general. It’s more along the lines of the details of how you live that are too personal for general broadcast in the same way that how often my husband and I have sex or whether we wear clothes at home is too personal in the context of work relationships.

          1. Blue Anne*

            Yeah, I get that. My thing is… so many people think saying “I’m poly” is inherently oversharing of sexual details. Even though I have a pretty mundane life with each of my boyfriends and all I want to do is be able to answer “Oh, my boyfriend and I went hiking!” when asked what I did over the weekend. You know?

            1. animaniactoo*

              I do. Years ago, there was a woman who commented on an advice column I followed about how “at will” employment absolutely meant that she couldn’t talk about her personal life in a way that others were taking for granted in commenting. Because for her “so what did you do this weekend” wasn’t a question she could answer with “well my partners and I got married in a triad ceremony” and she couldn’t just have a picture of her spouses on her desk. She lived and worked in North Carolina in a very conservative area, and that was tantamount to asking to be fired.

              I’m sorry that you’re in what sounds to be a similar situation and I hope that someday (SOON!) that changes.

              1. Blue Anne*

                Yes! That’s exactly i!. I just want to be able to answer basic work chat questions honestly. My night was nice and boring like everyone else’s. We made stir fry and watched Netflix, how sexy and counter-culture.

                It’s almost worse because in addition to being very conservative, my co-workers are lovely friendly people who talk about their families all the time and totally want relationship deets. (Which I actually like in a workplace!) What are we doing for Christmas? How long have we been dating? Do you think he’s going to pop the question? Has he met your family? Who’s that guy who keeps picking you up from work, does your boyfriend know about him? Hahahaha… ugh. I hate answering this stuff dishonestly.

                1. Frown*

                  I know it’s a little too. But I feel you. I was in a poly relationship for a while, but now I’m dating just one partner… happened to transition while we were dating. So that’s fun to navigate. I live in a conservative area and wish I could talk about my partner without worry.

        5. HR U of Me*

          *this* There are times that taking the work conversation beyond the 4th wall may be appropriate, however, this is not it. Thanks to Sally a bunch of us now have expanded vocabulary for TMI. We could be oppressing people who use the bathroom by not wanting to talk about how they use the toilet. It doesn’t change the workplace you have an ACTUAL bathroom/bodily function emergency.

          Blue Anne, it’s a matter of trust with your workpeople. Some people are more trustworthy than others, you get to make that call. Sally’s issue was she was sharing indiscriminately and exceeding her boundaries. I’ve faced the same situation with sharing that my ex had addiction problems. I shared with a boss and a colleague whose adult child went into rehab. Not.everyone.

          Sally is better off being her own boss, and finding clients who can accept her on her terms.

          1. seejay*

            Until she starts telling her clients that they have refer to the man who answers the phone as her “master” whenever they call….


        6. KarenD*

          I think it’s a difference between social and intimate information.

          For example, three people in an acknowledged triad relationship should — I believe — be treated as a social unit for purposes of invitations, etc., both for company events and informal socializing between co-workers. That’s something that would seem to apply to any poly unit, regardless of how those three people navigate their intimate lives. Chris, Pat and Blythe are a unit. ‘Nuff said.

          For a couple in a D/s relationship, the relevant information, from a social standpoint, is “couple.” They should be afforded the same courtesies as any other pairing. Nobody needs to know the internal mechanics of their relationship in order to treat them within the boundaries of courtesy required by workplace norms.

          It may be that they have friends who are close enough to be included in some of those dynamics, but nobody has the right to demand friendship. Most couples do have a right to expect courtesy.

          1. Isabel C.*

            This is an excellent distinction! I shall use elsewhere, because: exactly. If it governs who I’m going to see as your +whatever at gatherings, it’s acceptable info for non-close-friends. (And, honestly, I wouldn’t address any of my closest friends’ partners as their “master” or “mistress” any more than I’d address them as their “pookie pie”: if they insisted, we wouldn’t be friends any more.) If it doesn’t, it’s not. End of story.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Haha this. I have a relative who calls her spouse bunny. I respect that it’s something between them, and I can even think it’s cute, but I don’t want to call him bunny. I call him Wakeen.

          2. Lissa*

            I’ve always wondered about social unit rules for poly relationships. I mean, often a plus 1 is a matter of numbers for the host, so like..while I would be totally OK with inviting an extra person for one of my friends, if they were in a group with multiple people, at what point is it reasonable to have a cutoff? Especially for something like formal like a wedding where I maybe haven’t met all their partners but don’t want anyone to feel excluded, but inviting my cousin Sara’s 4 partners might mean having to cut 2 close high school friends?

            I bet this will provide Miss Manners columns a lot of fodder when polyamory becomes more understood and accepted, anyway.

            1. fposte*

              Miss Manners isn’t big on the fill-in-the-blank plus 1 anyway; she likes the social unit. If you’re a social unit of three, that’s likely fine with her.

              1. Drew*

                In the meantime, if any triads want to snag my +1 to a party we’re all going to, that’s fine; I won’t be using it.

              2. starsaphire*

                Yep, she’s long since weighed in on this (and commented about how much it annoyed her grandmother (I think) when her great-aunt insisted on bringing *both* of her lovers, because it upset the numbers at her table, but I digress).

                Basically, she advises that you write all the names of the persons you are inviting on the envelope of the invitation, and thereby completely avoid the question of whether Alice is Bob, Ted, and Carol’s roommate, or their “roommate.” I imagine you’d do the same thing when calling Carol to say, “Hey, come to the BBQ this weekend, and bring everybody.” :)

              3. paul*

                How do you handle larger social units? I’ve got a friend that used to be in a poly relationship with 4 or 5 other people and while it doesn’t bother me/squick me much or anything, 5-6 is a *lot* of people for one social unit if I’m trying to host a small gathering.

            2. AcademiaNut*

              My guess would be that you invite the person you know, and the people directly in a relationship with them, but not those people’s partners. So you invite Sara, her primary partner and her secondary partner, but not the primary partner’s secondary partner. If Sara has casual partners outside of her primary relationship, or they don’t socialize together as a group, then you can invite Sara and her primary partner only. If it’s a generic +1, because the hosts don’t know Sara well enough to know her home situation, Sara picks who to take. (turning invitations into a +n standard would likely end badly, and it’s not uncommon for rude wedding guests to try to add extra people to their RSVP).

              In the case that Sara has a large number of partners, and they all socialize as a unit, I suspect that Sara will get fewer invitations to events with strict number limits, like dinner parties or weddings, for sheer logistical reasons. If an invitation to Sarah means 6 people, or you can invite three other friends to your wedding or dinner party plus their partners, you’d include Sarah only if you felt the trade off was worth it.

            3. Mela*

              That’s the kind of situation you’d either know about the dynamics to make a judgement call, or have to ask. There are definitely poly people out there who have 4 partners that they view 100% equally, and would want all 4 to be invited, but that is suuper rare. They would probably realize that isn’t fair or realistic, especially if you don’t know the partners. If they have 1-2 primary partners (live with, have children with, or whatever criteria seems to pop out), I think you’d be fine inviting just them. But generally, poly people have an “Invitation” or “family event” person that is their go-to for these types of events, or they just pick one, esp. if their family knows about it. Plus, even if you were totally cool with Sara +4, she might not want to bring all 4 partners, the partners may not want to come, and they probably wouldn’t all be available that night anyways, etc.

              I also think you’re framing an issue about poly partners as a direct threat to other guests, and that’s not how wedding invite lists work (at least it didn’t for me). I had a list of cousins, and a list of their partners, and I treated that one group as a solid number, because Fairness. I don’t think I would have been particularly miffed with 3 extra partners. But then, I had a very flexible invite list and had already prepared myself for my 25 cousins and their 25 partners and their various children, so an extra partner wouldn’t have me batting an eye.

              1. Ren*

                For us family invite numbers were definitely a direct threat to guests we actually wanted at our wedding- for example four cousins who i’d never met in the whole twelve years we’d been together (they didn’t even know who I was at my own wedding) who all wanted to bring +2 since they wouldn’t know anyone, cost us a whole table of friends we had actually wanted to have at the wedding. But the in laws insisted and threatened to cancel parts of the day if we didn’t have these cousins and extras. That was four years ago, haven’t heard from them since.

              2. paul*

                that may work for large gatherings–say if you’ve planned on 100+ people for a wedding or something, 3-4 extras isn’t a big deal.

                If I’m having a small get together and am aiming for 8-10 guest though, it’s a whole different mess.

                1. sstabeler*

                  if it’s 8-10 people, that’s small enough that I’d be tempted not to allow +1s anyway. For that size, I’d make ti either specifically inviting someone, or they don’t go.

            4. LW*

              As I mentioned elsewhere, we have at least one (and probably more) openly poly people at my workplace, and I’ve done a little thinking about this. The way it works now is that if it’s something where we need to limit the number of guests (like a catered Christmas party in a venue with limited space) we say that they can bring one person, and it’s up to them to figure out who that is. (This applies to everyone: people can bring a spouse, a girlfriend/boyfriend, a friend, their sister, their cousin, their mom, whoever they like. It’s not a ‘spouses’ thing.) If it’s something like the summer beach bbq, where expenses are low and space is not a problem (throwing a few more hot dogs/hamburgers/veggie burgers onto the budget isn’t a deal breaker) they can bring as many people as they like so long as they RSVP with the number. (Well, I say ‘as many as they like’ but if someone rsvp’ed with 25 additional guests we’d probably ask them what was up. But within reason it’s cool. One person brought their wife, their mother who was in town visiting, and five kids, and nobody particularly cared; the added hamburgers/hot dogs were not an issue and it was a beach so there was plenty of room.)

              It seems to have mostly worked so far.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I like this–it makes perfect sense. Also, if you apply the plus one to everybody as “I don’t care who you bring,” it doesn’t leave out single people who have nobody. And who often end up coming alone and feeling awkward, or who don’t come at all because of that.

                Before anyone says, “Oh, there will be other single people there to meet,” that rarely happens because in situations where people can bring plus ones, there’s often a surfeit of couples. If anyone’s on their own, it’s often because their spouse couldn’t come.

                For the work Christmas parties at OldExJob, the company specified ONE adult guest. People usually brought their partner, though a couple of folks who were unattached showed up with a friend. That was fine; they planned for those extra people and it didn’t much matter who they were.

                1. CanCan*

                  Reminds me of a story of one of the founders of Google – Sergey Brin. Supposedly, he was invited for a tea with the Queen. The invitation said “+1”, and he wasn’t in a relationship, so he brought his mother. -heard from a former Stanford classmate of Brin’s.

            5. Dana*

              Generally speaking, equal spousal relationships aren’t practical above 3 or 4 people so once you exceed that you’re going to have an easy time figuring out who to bring to social gatherings depending on the level of formality and the partners’ work schedules. People in big constellations are pretty understanding about this kinda thing, we have to deal with the logistics of it all the time.

              1. KarenD*

                And in my limited experience, people in “constellations” (fantastic word, SO descriptive and also lovely :) ) just want to be asked and are very happy to explain – in generic, non-intimate terms – exactly how they want to be treated.

        7. A Two-Handled Teapot*

          Hi. So I’m curious about commenters in this thread who think poly is a basic fact – would you be offended if someone at work told you they had multiple partners (without of course any salacious sexual details)? Like, I would never tell people about dates or flings. But I have two partners of 5 years each – one who I live with, one who I see once a week. I’m not bothered if most people think I am monogamous at work, but it starts to feel like I’m hiding or covering something when week-after-week I lie about where I was on Date Night With Partner B with the two coworkers who I am so close to that we regularly discuss our time off work. (PS: I’m a regular here but I’m posting under a different anonymous handle to ask this question).

          1. Emma*

            would you be offended if someone at work told you they had multiple partners

            Nope. Given the area I live in, I’d be rather happy they trusted me with that info, honestly.

          2. CanCan*

            Poly is not a basic fact where I live (big city in Canada). Actually, I’ve never heard about it anywhere other than on this forum. I don’t see any reason for anybody to be offended if someone tells them they are poly, – what’s offensive about how other people live their lives if they’re not hurting anybody else? Rather than being offended, I would be super-curious and ask tons of quesions about how that works. e.g. – Doesn’t Partner B get offended that you see A more often? Does it bother A that you’re intimate with someone else? Are you equally open with each? Do you tell one intimate details of your relationship with the other? Do each of them also have other partners? sounds awfully complicated… but not offensive :)

          3. Isabel C.*

            Nope, not offended! I’m nonmonogamous myself, but I can’t imagine “yeah, I went bowling with my boyfriend,” being an issue with anyone reasonable.

      2. StrikingFalcon*

        Poly is in a completely different category for me too. I know that you’re obviously worried about people who are fundamentally not okay with the idea of consensual multiple partners, but it really is your relationship status, like single or married. D/s, on the other hand, is both (a) an irrelevant detail 99% of the time (just like how you divide up household chores is irrelevant) and simultaneously (b) unavoidably sexual in nature, and therefore innappriopriate for work. It’s as inappropriate as someone asking a poly person if that means threesomes.

        1. Blue Anne*

          Believe me when I say that I totally understand that. Which is why it really bothers me.

          I work in a small office in the Midwest. I have 12 colleagues, almost entirely middle-aged Christian women with children in religious schools. Yesterday I overheard a conversation about how a colleague’s cousin has scheduled his wedding out in California, but he’s a weirdo vegetarian atheist, and his fiancee has been married before, so he’s the “black sheep” and they expect the wedding will probably be called off.

          I don’t want to know what would happen if I told them I have three boyfriends.

          1. LW*

            Ugh, I’m so sorry that’s the case for you. That sincerely sucks.

            I can say that at my workplace at least one of our employees is poly (I know because her wife wasn’t able to attend one of our holiday parties, so she asked if she could bring her boyfriend instead, which we were fine with) and while I imagine there were a few people who weren’t familiar with what that meant, nobody seems to treat her differently. But then, we’re in tech in a major liberal city, which I realize is a bit of an outlier. I wish that were the case in more places. :/

            1. Blue Anne*

              Yeah, when I worked at a little tech startup a couple of the guys knew and it was fine. I really miss working in tech – them’s my people.

          2. Hrovitnir*

            Oh wow. I know in theory that there are cultures like that, but it’s so bizarre! My sympathies – but also congratulations, because while I’m definitely happy being monogamous as that is my partner’s orientation, I really do see myself as poly orientated and get warm fuzzies hearing about other people’s happy relationships.

        2. animaniactoo*

          I would argue that D/s is not much different than “breadwinner” and “sahp”, because it does extend outside the bedroom and while it *often* includes sex, sex is not the underpinning of the relationship (as I understand it, it’s not my scene, someone more knowledgeable feel free to correct me (and please do) if I have that wrong).

          1. Blue Anne*

            Ehhhhhh. It’s really debatable and depends very much on the individual relationship. For the vast, vast majority of D/s couples I’ve known, even those who lived it 24/7, sex is really the basis of it. Yes, it totally does become about a lot more than that, it can absolutely shape all aspects of the relationship, but the sex is really inextricable from the rest of the relationship for most (most!) D/s couples.

            I’ve known a few couples who could have gotten away with talking about it at work without mentioning anything sexual, but even then if they explained the setup it could just as easily be attributed to conservative religious practices if they didn’t clarify. All you need to say is “My husband is the head of the household and I defer to him on all decisions, including this one we’re talking about.” Not really a whole lot of reason to mention D/s at work.

            1. TL -*

              Either way, I’d be just as uncomfortable hearing a variant of, “My husband makes all the decisions and I do as I’m told,” as I would be, “My partner is my master and I’m his servant.” Admittedly, for different reasons but both of them would make me very uncomfortable in the workplace.

              Whereas, “My husband doesn’t work and stays home to take care of the kids/be a househusband,” wouldn’t, because I wouldn’t assume anything beyond Person A works and Person B doesn’t and they are in a legalized relationship.

              Also. I so very badly want a househusband. They seem useful.

              1. Marillenbaum*

                You and me both! I’m going into a career that is not particularly kind to a spouse’s career, so I’m really looking for someone who would be totally fine with packing up and moving for my job every few years. Even better if it means I can come home to dinner being ready a few nights a week.

              2. Blue Anne*

                Yeah, I agree, honestly. I would be uncomfortable with it either way. But in my neighborhood, people would assume she was just super Christian. We had a long time employee leave our accounting firm because her husband didn’t like the overtime she put in during tax season.

              3. HR After the Fact*

                I’m actually getting one of these in 18 months! My husband is retiring early. The biggest boon for me is he is taking over the kitchen. Every night we have the same conversation: “What’s for dinner? I don’t know, what sounds good to you? I don’t care, anything you make is fine. Ok, how about spaghetti? No, I don’t want that.”

                Aaaaarrrrrggggghhh. So, when he retires, he is taking over the meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, dishes, AND packing my lunch! I don’t care if he never does a load of laundry, never cleans a bathroom, never runs a vacuum cleaner. If he completely takes over kitchen duty I will feel semi-retired!

                1. The working one*

                  Good luck with that. My retired husband doesn’t do any of that and we would be eating delivered pizza at 9:00 pm as he won’t notice that dinner isn’t made until he is starving.
                  “What’s for dinner? I don’t know, what sounds good to you? I don’t care, anything you make is fine. Ok, how about spaghetti? No, I don’t want that.” That about sums it up in my life.

                2. I used to be Murphy*

                  This is where I feel I hit the partner jackpot. I hate, hate, hate meal planning and grocery shopping so my husband does it. I do love cooking, but since he does daycare pick-up and is home before me he does most of the weeknight cooking too. It’s nice that he’s taken my most hated chore off my plate.

                3. Chinook*

                  This is what happened when my Dad retired. The house is now his domain and my mom has learned to accept that, while he is doing it his way, it does mean she doesn’t have to worry about it all. He has even taken over babysitting the grandkids as needed. The only downside is that he has turned into a horrible influence on his friends who are semi-retired because he will call them up mid-week and see if they want to play hookey and go skiing. But, he always makes sure there is food for my mom when she gets home even if he isn’t there, so no one is complaining.

              4. Parenthetically*

                I had a househusband for the first few months we were married and it was GLORIOUS! He met me at the door every day after work and took my things and gave me a kiss and I felt just like the husband on the Donna Reed Show. Would recommend.

              5. CanCan*

                I’d be just as uncomfortable hearing a variant of, “My husband makes all the decisions and I do as I’m told,”

                +1. Unless conservative religious practices are the norm where you live/work/socialize, this would definitely make me uncomfortable. And if the person knows that something like this is not the norm (for example, in a typical office in a mostly non-religious city), by saying that, I would feel that they are trying to make others uncomfortable on purpose.

                They could just as easily say: “I’ll talk it over with my family/my husband,” or even “I’ll think about it.”

          2. Alton*

            I agree that there are aspects of D/s that aren’t inherently sexual for everyone.

            I think what a lot of it comes down to is that coworker’s probably don’t need to know or be included in the intricate and intimate details of your relationship no matter what they are. It would be out of line for an employee with a wife who’s a SAHM to refer to her as “Mama” at work, or for someone whose spouse was the main breadwinner to bring that up all the time, too. D/s is a little different in that for a lot of people, it is a sexual thing. Even if it’s not sexual for everyone, it’s a sexually-charged topic.

            Poly couples/triads/etc. can reasonably encounter situations where their relationship status comes up in a professional context, like navigating who to bring to an office Christmas party. But even a nonsexual D/s relationship probably won’t become relevant to a person’s work life, and a lot of the ways it could come up would probably be inappropriate for vanilla couples, too (whether it’s sexual or not, it wouldn’t be appropriate to talk about needing your partner’s permission to go to an after-work event or something).

            1. FiveWheels*

              It’s not in the context of D/s relationships, but where I work “sorry, my partner won’t let me go” is the accepted polite shorthand for “I don’t want to go and I’m using my partner for plausible deniability”

      3. Temperance*

        I think there are some pretty clear differences, though. Sally’s issue was relating to her actual bedroom activities, which is what makes it so amazingly inappropriate, and she was making other people part of it.

        Being poly is just another form of dating/relationships.

      4. Mel*

        It makes sense if your being poly comes up in the relevant context, such as ‘Oh, I see you’re bringing two guests to the company holiday party. Who are they?’ And especially ‘I saw you out with someone over the weekend who wasn’t [the partner the speaker may have known about]. Who was that?’
        But the LW has made it clear that Sally’s level of behavior was like if you walked into the center of the office and shouted ‘I’m poly! Everyone admire me for my edginess!’

        1. SignalLost*

          I’m poly and have one partner at the moment. If you saw me out with someone at the weekend, it would be a) none of your business, since people have affairs all the time; and b) someone I’m not romantically or sexually attached too, so why the third degree?

          I get where you’re coming from, but if I can’t, with some colleagues, organically bring up my boyfriends wife, then no one should be bringing up who they saw me with outside of work.

    2. fposte*

      And as a somebody with mileage this makes me roll my eyes. Yes, Sally, it’s all because you’re soooo shocking.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        She probably is happier at a less liberal and open place where they are more easily shocked. She had to go really far to make herself a martyr and shocker!

        1. fposte*

          Oh, I bet you’re right. Hard to carve out the role of outsider disrupting the system with your sex life these days–you have to pick your venue carefully.

          1. LW*

            Now that you mention it, I do wonder if she stepped up her rhetoric when it became clear that we, as an office, were not all that easy to shock….

        2. One of the Sarahs*

          I was wondering if she was one of those people who feel a bit jealous that they’re not gay/non-white, because they think that makes them edgy? There’s a very specific type who feel like that (and they drive me crazy)

          1. Lissa*

            Yeah, and they tend to adopt that language for whatever they can find that might make them some kind of oppressed group/minority. “I’m coming out as kinky!”

            1. Sarah in Boston*

              I don’t disagree with the description of that type of people but coming out as kinky or being outed can have terrible consequences for people. I have friends of friends who lost custody of children because their ex outed them.

              1. sstabeler*

                that’s sort of the point- the “Sally” type are trying to be an oppressed group- which actually makes it harder for “legitimate” members of said oppressed group because it makes people compare them to the drama queen. ( I used quotes because I don’t doubt they really are X, it’s just it’s only an issue because they want to stir up drama. If someone mentioned “I’m in a D/s relationship”, I might make 100% sure it’s voluntary (the difference between an extreme D/s relationship, even a 24/7 one, and actual illegal slavery is that if either party no longer wants the D/s parts, they end immediately, no ifs, no buts.(that is, the D/s parts end not necessarily the relationship)) but I would otherwise be unbothered. If someone told me to call their boyfriend “Sally’s Master”- particularly if they aren’t Sally- They’re getting told to shut up.

      2. NW Mossy*

        It definitely has the vibe of a 14-year-old who thinks their adoption of the goth look is a hugely novel middle finger to white-bread America.

        1. Parenthetically*

          This reminds me of the time I was driving through a nearby suburb and saw a gang of teens wearing bondage pants and heavy makeup with GREAT CONVICTION in the middle of a boiling hot summer day and so help me God, all I wanted to do was drive my old crone self slowly past them in my Prius and say, “Awwww, good for you guys, you all look so cute, I have the same top!” just to confuse and infuriate them.

      3. Isabel C.*

        Oh, Lord, yes. Reminds me of the Phedre no Wannabe girls I used to encounter in college who’d talk about how Nobody Understood Their Darque Desires. “Hon, it’s 2004 and this is Brown. Every other sophomore has a pair of handcuffs and a dog collar in their dresser. Simmer the fuck down.”

        1. Lissa*

          hahaha, my social group went through that stuff too, around 2006 I think. Darque Desires made me laugh so much because I know exactly what you’re talking about. Everyone wanted to prove they were The Most Submissive.

        2. LW*

          Phedre no Wannabe made me snort tea out my nose. :D I do remember loving the Kushiel books back in college, myself, although thank god I did not bore anyone with elucidation of my Darque Desires!

          1. Isabel C.*

            Aw, thanks!

            I’m fond of them too, though I actually like the later series better, in part because they’re not about how Phedre is the Specialist Special that Ever Specialed and in part because Joscelin’s not swanning about being infuckingsufferable.

            1. A Two-Handled Teapot*

              I could never get my head round Imriel as protagonist, regrettably. He seemed quite insufferable to me. Different strokes.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        When I read the original letter, I had a real, “Oooo, shock me, shock me, shock me with your deviant behavior” moment. Reading the update made me laugh so hard I cried. Oh, Sally.

      5. Anna*

        When I was researching for my master’s thesis, I came across some comments on a website about gender-switching in online roleplaying games. One of the commenters said something that I completely took to heart. She said the younger generation always thinks they invented sex and that their sex will always shock older people. I think this is so true.

    3. Grayson*

      I’m in the QUILTBAG, poly and kink communities, and her justification is bullshit. She wanted to push buttons, and hard. (I’m also out, but I am very privileged, in that regard. I also keeps details to an absolute minimum. ‘Partner’ is exactly as specific I get with my relationships to my humans.)

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      +1. I totally get majority privilege, but nobody is trying to marginalize her specific relationship or type of relationship. The rule against explaining one’s sex life at work (much less forcing others to talk about it in a way you define) is a general rule applied to majority and minority alike, so to simplify relationships and increase the ability to work with a broader, more diverse group of people who you may or may not want to get to know well enough to know their bedroom proclivities. That needs to be a boundary that is universal and mutually agreed upon, that can be ignored only with the full and free participation of the people involved.

      Like property lines. Sure, there have been neighbors who waltz into each others’ houses to borrow a cup of sugar or hang out, but that’s pretty unusual, and should never be assumed as the default.

      But that’s basically what Sally was insisting upon.

      1. sstabeler*

        it’s more unusual because it generally correlates with a tight-knit community- it’s not as such that you waltz in to borrow a cup of sugar or hang out because you’re neighbours, but because it’s the kind of community where it’s more likely that you’ve literally known them all your life- it’s that close friendship which allows you to waltz in, not that you happen to be neighbours. I agree with the rest of what you said, though.

    5. Anonymoose*

      It kind of sounds like she is just regurgitating some dribble uttered by college sophomores after too much pot. The angst is angsty.

      (What? Just me?)

    6. jaxon*

      Especially since this appears to be a heterosexual relationship that she is trying to push as “unconventional.” Sorry Sally, call me when your state decides people in BDSM-oriented relationships can’t get married.

  5. JMegan*

    I’m going to insist that everyone call my partner “schmooples” from now on. I’m sure he’ll love it!

    OP, good for you and your coworker to try and sort this out – you both did the right thing, and went about it in the right way. Part of me wonders why Sally was so insistent on it, but another part of me is thinking she’s someone else’s problem now. Some problems are resolved just by having them go away!

    1. Crazy Canuck*

      I actually could totally see my dumbass teenage self doing something like this 20 years ago. “Freaking the mundanes” can be fun. When you are a member of a small minority group that is looked down on by society, there can be a strong urge to flaunt those differences. Her very cringe worthy comments about it being a slippery slope to oppression sounds like something I would have said back in the day. It took me a few years and getting fired a few times to learn that there is a time and a place for everything, and respecting your co-workers means that the workplace is almost never that time or place.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Yep, I also heard my 17 year old self in the letter. But…if my boss sat me down and had a serious conversation with me about boundaries, then I would have cried with embarrassment! It’s easy to push the boundaries, but once my young self got push-back, I realized how silly I was. So glad I’m past that!

      2. Jessesgirl72*

        One of the hardest thing for young humans to learn is that in order to get respect, you have to be respectful- both of yourself and other people. Congratulations for making the realization, since the Sallys of the world don’t always figure that out.

        1. Liz2*

          I’ll counter this might be a bigger problem because every single teen hears from just about every single source how disrespectful, moody, crazy, awful teens always are before they even get a chance to prove themselves as a good person- so getting to an adult with a chip on the shoulder after not getting respected “forever” is a logical progression.

          1. No, please*

            I can totally see what you mean. Even if you have a great, supportive and positive home life you’ll hear at school, or wherever, how inherently bad teens are/can be. That’s going to stick with some through early adulthood.

          2. Parenthetically*

            This is just a side-conversation, but it makes me bananagrams that this is the narrative. I love my teenage students. They totally are moody dorks sometimes, but you know what? Without exception, the most emotionally volatile, disrespectful, awful people I’ve worked with in my decade of teaching have been COWORKERS, not students. Yes, teenagers can be stroppy cows sometimes. But I also find them far quicker to apologize and reconcile than most adults, and far more willing to forgive and move on. They can also spot a hypocrite faster than anybody.

      3. seejay*

        yep, I could hear my early 20-year old self doing the same thing. My early vegetarian years were similar… I had to let *EVERYONE* know I was veg*an and omg was that meat they were eating and *I* was a special snowflake and blah blah blah.

        It got old fast and people got pretty tired of me. Hell, *I* got tired of me. I was pretty obnoxious. >>

        But it’s pretty typical of someone who’s new and excited to be in something that’s novel to them and the crowd they’re in (and for where I was, it was a pretty novel lifestyle too). I could see Sally finding the whole alternative sexual lifestyle thing being oh so trendy and fun to “freak out the mundanes”. I walked that line too when I discovered it when I was young. Most of the time you grow out of it. Sometimes you get slapped so hard by the old folks, you realize how stupid you were. You temper it down and realize you’re not that special and there’s been many older and wiser folks than you and you sit down and shut up. Then you become an old fart 20 years later and eye-roll at the young idiots doing stuff like this and remember how you were when you first started.

        Hopefully she’ll figure it out if she gets enough people telling her to knock it off, and she’ll be able to look back 20 years from now and laugh at how much of a doofus she was. If not, she’ll wind up a 40-something obnoxious twit still trying to be cool and yelling about her oppression.

          1. seejay*

            I actually didn’t terrorize my family, it was just my friends for some reason. I’m not sure why I didn’t go after my family for it, I just stopped eating what my mom made for dinner and would pick at what I could eat and leave the rest, but whenever I went out with friends, I made a really obvious point of making sure they KNEW I was eating something without meat, or if I did have something with meat in it, I’d pick out all the meaty bits and put them aside. It was really obnoxiously horrible.

            Gods I’m embarrassed just thinking about it.

            And at this point now, there’s people at work and in my friends’ group that don’t even know I don’t eat meat because I don’t make a point of bringing it up or saying anything about it. I pretty much don’t care, it’s like religion… everyone has their own person choices and it’s no one’s business. The only time it comes up now tends to be when work is catering lunches since we had a secretary that had a really bad habit of not getting a range of food for the handful of people that couldn’t eat meat (there were also people with religious restrictions). We had to make a point of calling attention to it that she needed to be more cognizant of non-meat options for the vegetarians and Indians and white rice and plain salad wasn’t “good enough”.

            1. FiveWheels*


              Overheard conversation in line at Subway:

              Teenager 1 – I’m so looking forward to the barbecue tomorrow!
              Teenager 2 – Me too! What’s Friend gonna eat though, now she’s vegetarian?
              Teenager 1 – She can have chicken!
              Teenager 2 – Yeah, cool!

        1. dragonzflame*

          I was the same as a 15-year-old Wiccan. Hooooly crap, the poor people who had to listen to me talk their ear off about the unfair stigma attached to Pagan religions, and how people judged you just because you were more enlightened and not part of mainstream religion, blah blah blah.

    2. Catalin*

      (breathy voice) “Hey there, *bedroom eyes, pulls shirt cuffs sensually over wrists*…snuffalumpagus”

        1. Talvi*

          Okay, did I miss a post somewhere? (Because Katie the Fed added “sensual wristed” to her username a bit ago and now I’m wondering if there’s a post or comment somewhere about sensual wrists…)

            1. LBK*

              Oh my god, I missed this letter when it was posted and now have tears in my eyes from laughing so hard. It’s truly amazing how this site continues to deliver such bizarre material.

                1. LW*

                  Truth time: when I first suggested asking you about the “Sally’s Master” thing, my coworker (Sally’s boss) was like, “Isn’t this a bit out there for a work and management blog?”

                  So I sent her a link to the “black magic is one of many occupational hazards” question, and she laughed for a good fifteen second straight and then gave me permission to send this along.

            2. Ripley's Believe It*

              I too missed this the first time around. This cover letter has truly made my day, which has only just begun. No, co-workers, I will not tell you why I’m laughing so hard. You don’t deserve this.

              *…removes ponytail holders from wrist*

      1. Sara the Red*

        +1,000,000 for the Dragon Age reference (that’s what I thought of too!) AND for your screen name reference to one of the funniest D&D stories ever.

      2. LW*

        I’m so glad you (and Sara the Red and Justsomeone) got the Dragon Age reference! I will admit that I threw that one in there (although ‘snuffalupugus’ and ‘fuckboy’ were all Sally), for my own amusement (since I wasn’t in the meeting and didn’t hear the examples of inappropriate names my coworker gave firsthand). Because Leliana is my favorite, and because, yes, nugs, actually not sexy…..

        1. Jadelyn*

          Wait wait wait, Sally actually brought “fuckboy” into the discussion? As a term she thought people should use if requested? Am I misreading this? Please gods tell me I’m misreading this…

          1. LW*

            YES. According to my coworker, who had the conversation with her, she (the coworker) started with something like, “It’s appropriate for you to expect your husband to be called your husband, or your partner to be called your partner, or your boyfriend to be called your boyfriend, and so forth, but obviously you wouldn’t expect people to refer to them as ‘your lover’ or ‘your binkie-boo,’ right?”

            And that was when Sally said that yes, actually, people should be given whatever title they want, and it was SALLY who added ‘fuckboy’ and ‘snuffalupugus’ to the examples.

            “Schmooples” I added, but “fuckboy” and “snuffalupugus”? All Sally. Which is part of why I tend to agree with the speculation that she was in it for the deliberate shock value, and was going to keep escalating until she got the shocked response she wanted. (Although when I heard that part of it, I wasn’t so much shocked as howling with laughter.)

          1. LW*

            Yes, I feel like if someone is into Sesame Street muppet role play, that is another thing to keep out of the workplace!

  6. Ripley's Believe It*

    Her comment about oppression is such an insult to people who are truly oppressed. Major eyeroll. And I love how she defended the use of “f*ckboy” in the workplace as an example…wow. I’m very familiar with the term, and I consider myself to be very socially progressive, but the thought of saying that even just in this blog makes me blush.

    Not gonna lie though, I definitely am considering exclusively referring to my husband’s occupation as my stay at home f*ckboy.

    1. animaniactoo*

      My poor injured and still recovering husband who hasn’t found a new job yet (he can’t do his old work, he’s looking at a career switch just as soon as he can stay awake for the whole day) – I think I’m gonna make his day by going home and telling him that’s his new title.

    2. Mustache Cat*

      What gets me is that she clearly doesn’t understand what the actual use/definition of f**kboy is….hint, it’s not a boy you f**k

        1. Katniss*

          It’s basically a guy who acts poorly in his attempts to get laid. A guy who starts off an interaction with an unwanted d*ck pick, for example, would be one.

        2. Mints*

          It’s derogatory – I think “slut” would be the closest. Nobody calls a person they’re seeing a f*ckboy (however casual). It’s used like “That guy I met at the party seemed nice but turns out he’s a f*ckboy he only texts me ‘u up?’ at 2am and ignores when I text back in daylight hours”

          Sally is definitely in it for the shock. Her relationship would read straight in any context; she just needs to freak people out. Most people grow out of their goth phases, but Sally shifted gears

          1. Shazbot*

            And those goths who do not consider it a “phase” grow out of the whole “freak the mundanes” thing.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It’s not quite slut, because promiscuity isn’t the issue. It’s just aggressively bad behavior, like sending unsolicited d*ck pics or making booty calls. It’s about being an unsophisticated user with limited interpersonal skills and a complete lack of self-awareness with respect to social norms, but in a pitiable way, not a creepy PuA way.

        3. Mustache Cat*

          It’s basically just a guy who acts badly. Think b*tch-a$$, scrub, etc. There’s nothing sexual–think of the f**k not as the verb, but rather as an adjective, as in “he’s a f**king boy” as opposed to a man.

          1. LW*

            It is cracking me up to know that Sally did not even get the term right. (I presume. Unless she was also arguing that she should be able to refer to people as ‘my useless waste of space.’)

          2. MsCHX*

            Exactly this. lol! It isn’t sexual in nature but a really extra mean way to call someone a lame.

    3. many bells down*

      I call Mr. Bells my “Trophy Husband” but as he also refers to me as “Trophy Wife” I think it’s fair. Basically we both feel like we’re the winner in this relationship.

    4. Marillenbaum*

      I always thought that a f*ckboy is not the sort of person you bring up; he’s not “plus one to the office party” material. He’s more like “texts at 1:24 to ask wyd” or that dude you met for drinks one time who goes “send me nudes?”

    5. Jen S. 2.0*

      Seriously. There is a WHOLE lot of space on the continuum between “oppressed,” “marginally inconvenienced,” and “not allowed to do something ridiculous that you want to do for selfish reasons.” I think we know which one Sally is.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      My mind is bending under the weight of this irony, isn’t insisting that everyone refer to Peter as master a slippery slope to oppression? I mean if this is the criteria that she wants to use then by her own definition she is on a slippery slope to being oppressive herself.

      It’s too bad that you could not have called up Peter and told him to ORDER her to stop telling everyone to call him master. just a thought.

  7. DeeCee*

    Good riddance! Whew. I’ve tried to get folks here at the office to refer to me as Master of the Universe, but so far I’ve only managed to convince my young nieces to refer to me as The Great Aunt Dee

    1. many bells down*

      I’ve got a co-worker who calls me “Kitty’s Mom” because of one event a year ago where I was delegated to escort a costumed Hello Kitty around the event all night. And my boss occasionally calls me “The Guinea Pig” because whenever they want to try something new they usually end up asking me to do it. It’s oddly flattering.

      1. anonderella*

        I cannot stop rereading “escort a costumed Hello Kitty around the event all night.”

        I fully realize you two were probably not sashaying around, but gods I cannot not see it.

    2. Annie Moose*

      This is such a minor thing, but it amused me to no end…

      At OldJob, I had an account on the company website for testing, etc. I was digging around one day and realized that the “title” field (you know, for Mr., Ms., Dr., etc.) was actually a free text field.

      Cue me ordering the website to refer to me as “Master of the Universe [name]”. Maybe nobody else saw it, but it amused me.

  8. Mary (in PA)*

    I recently saw another good counter to this on Tumblr: “I do not consent to being part of your scene.”

    1. Anon For This*

      This is precisely my issue. You may like to give/get hand jobs in movie theaters, but nobody sitting around you and none of the staff consented to being a part of that. So you’re an asshole for doing it. (This is actually something that someone I am acquainted with bragged about.)

      1. Edith*

        Oh Lord. The teenagers sweeping up the theater between showings do not get paid nearly enough to have to clean THAT up.

          1. Baker's dozen*

            I’ve had that job too. I was actually expected to shine a literal torch on overenthusiastic couples to get them to simmer down…

            1. Drew*

              Note for American readers: that’s a flashlight. Although thinking about using an ACTUAL torch gives me the giggles.

    2. Argh!*

      I have a person at work with a “scene” that I have avoided being part of. So far so good, but I’ll try to remember that line if this person tries to make a scene, so to speak.

      1. Mary (in PA)*

        The bonus of using this language is that it couches the squick in terms that members of the the BDSM community understand. Or at least, that they should understand. (If they do not, that is another issue entirely.)

        1. k*

          Sadly that well worded statement would do little for those who read a saucy novel and now think they’re the freakiest freaks who ever freaked (which I’m guessing is where Sally is at).

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        You were so close to winning the internet today, but KG, Ph.D. inched ahead.

    3. Tiger Snake*

      I am going to need to remember that for my arsenal. Its a lot more polite than my first thoughts.

  9. animaniactoo*

    Dear Sally,

    It’s not that I’m easily shocked. Really. It’s simply that I do not want to too intimately know you when the sum of our relationship is that we work together. Particularly when our views may diverge.

    I haven’t invited you into my life in general, and I am only thrust into yours by the nature of both of us needing to be in the same place at the same time and interact on specific matters. Our paths converge in this manner, but I haven’t actively chosen to be in yours in particular, it’s just happenstance. And so I would like some distance from you please, in a way that allows me to interact with you without having to think too much about what you like or who you are, beyond how well you do your job and how generally pleasant you are to be around in the space that we share so that we can both pay the rent in our non-mutual homes. I would really appreciate this courtesy, and I’ll grant you the same in return. Thanks.

    1. Murphy*

      Even if I had a friend who wanted me to do this…no. He can be *your* master all you want and that’s totally fine, but I’m not a part of that relationship and I don’t want to be.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Well yes, I’d object on that basis too – he’s not my master, I won’t call him master (Or “Sally’s Master because that’s just weird and cumbersome).

        But I also get to decline to be friends and walk away and not interact with you if you insist on it. The same is not true at work, which is the larger chunk of my point.

        1. Nea*

          I’m evil. I would have probably not just said “he’s not my master” but tacked on something like “but if both of you are VERY good and VERY obedient, I MIGHT gift you with permission to address me by *my* scene name” just to see the look on her face.

          1. fposte*

            “The only person who gets called ‘Master’ here is me.”

            I’d get in trouble, but it would be worth it.

    2. animaniactoo*

      To clarify based on what someone said above – when I mean I don’t want to know you too well, I mean I don’t want to know beyond basic facts unless our work relationship progresses to a more personal friendship. If the mere fact that you are *in* a D/s relationship is not enough coverage for you about who you are, then you have a boundaries problem with regards to personal details.

      Because I also don’t need to know your preferred brand of shampoo. It’s more than enough that I know you shower and show up to work clean.

      1. Marisol*

        I get the tmi objection, it’s totally reasonable. But I think I could probably handle *knowing* something intimate about someone at work a lot easier than I could handle them trying to coerce me into *participating*, as Sally is doing. That’s where the boundaryless-ness goes to a whole other level.

  10. LSP*

    This is the equivalent of asking your coworkers to call your partner “Daddy,” which is just ew, ew, ew!

    Good for you and your co-worker, OP. Sally needed a dose of reality. Don’t bring people (especially at work) into your sexual/relationship role play.


  11. HRChick*

    I have a sign on my desk that says that I am the “Paradox Navigator”, but people still will not call me that.

    1. Filmgal*

      Because if you are a woman, you should be the “Paradox Navigatrix.” Perhaps your co-workers are sticklers for titles? :)

    2. Chameleon*

      An EA at my work has “Master Tentacle Manipulator” as the job title on her nameplate. Considering her boss and his schedule, it’s appropriate.

  12. Merida May*

    It’s impossible to quantify how much I love these updates. Each one is better than the last. Thanks so much to the OP for getting back to us!!

  13. Moosely*

    Yeah, I was very surprised that she thought this was appropriate for the workplace. Especially considering kink tends to involve obtaining consent in the first place. Her insistence on bringing that into the workplace where people didn’t consent to it? That was totally not okay. It’s like putting a leash onto someone and walking them outside where people can see. Okay, fine, that’s their kink and both of them consented to that, but the bystanders didn’t consent to being involved with that.

    1. An advocate*

      Public space consent is its own bubble to navigate. You didn’t get people to consent to what you wore either and that doesn’t mean they are being violated. If it’s not actively interfering with your activities, there’s no much of a leg to stand on just because it’s not what the “norm” of public space is.

      In the workplace however, enforcing other people use a particular title is another issue and, as rightly stated in the response, pushes past casual contact and into too much information and certainly not appropriate for work and indeed forcing other people to be included in it.

      1. Amy the Rev*

        Yeah it’s hazy there… I see it as you should never do/show anything in public that would get an R rating in a movie. You should seriously think twice, just out of respect for kiddos or even adult folks around you, about doing/showing things in public that would get a PG-13 rating in a movie. I find that generally allows for diversity of expression and avoids body-policing (because plenty of PG movies show women in leggings or low-cut tops, for example), while still erring on the side of avoiding drawing bystanders into voyeurism that they didn’t consent to. This goes for non-sexual stuff, too, like graphic conversations about violence or even non-violent gore.

        1. An advocate*

          But they sell handcuff and collar jewelry in Claire’s boutiques and have for over a decade now. That’s a store which markets to very young kids. I agree that it’s hazy and there’s a reasonable bubble- but it’s not a consent issue so much as an interference issue (which is when it becomes a consent issue).

      2. Morning Glory*

        I think there is a difference between your example and the letter, because consenting to what a person wears is more like consenting to what a person says. In this case, the office was more uncomfortable with being asked to participate by using the word ‘master’ than they were by Sally using the word ‘master.’

        I’d say that’s more like being forced to wear something you don’t consent to.

        1. LW*

          Yes, I’m not quite sure how we would have handled it if Sally had simply referred to him as “my master” but hadn’t insisted on other people calling him “your master”/”Sally’s master.” The thing that really tipped it over was her attempting to make other people use the ‘proper’ title.

          (It might have still been necessary to say something, I don’t know. I also don’t know how we’d respond if someone called their partner ‘binkie-boo’ or ‘fuckbuddy,’ if they didn’t insist on others using the word–it is honestly not a management problem that ever occurred to me to think about, before this. But the line became much more clear-cut and therefore easier to handle when she was trying to insist that other people play along.)

          1. Hrovitnir*

            Yeah, precisely. I hadn’t actually read this originally, and went in curious about how “expecting *other people* to call him master” would work. Just… no, Sally. The line is pretty blatantly drawn at making other people use that title, come on, woman! Hard to know if she was just young, overawed by the whole thing and overenthusiastic, or mostly trying to get a rise (or a mix of both?)

            It does make me twitchy about how good/respectful a Dom her “master” is (see, even typing it creeps me out, and I’m not at all opposed to such things in private) if he’s teaching her that not being able to force her coworkers to call him that is “oppression”. -_-

            Besides, I know if I was going to bring my Dom/me to a work thing it sounds more fun to have them secretly telling you what to do anyway. :P

          2. anonderella*

            read too fast and saw “fuckaboo” which may be my new pet name for the SO.

            because, you know, he’s so fuck-aboo (-able).

        2. Amy the Rev*

          Oh that was in response to the person talking about “It’s like putting a leash onto someone and walking them outside where people can see. Okay, fine, that’s their kink and both of them consented to that, but the bystanders didn’t consent to being involved with that.”

          I agree with you- In the office the whole asking folks to unwillingly participate is just that…asking them to unwillingly participate…not ok at all.

          1. Amy the Rev*

            whoops now i see you weren’t replying to me, nevermind! still learning how to ‘read’ the comment threads

  14. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I’m a lesbian and I also thought Sally’s idea is BS! She’s not oppressed; oppression is having to act like your partner doesn’t exist or is of the opposite sex.

    My spouse always says, “Andrew came to visit today,” when she means that she either purposely did not say I am a woman, or acted like I was male, in small talk. Andrew’s been coming back a lot since November. We feel it’s hard to speak freely; that’s different than being able to share details of your relationship or not.

    1. PK*

      Seriously. I haven’t put up any pictures of my family largely because I don’t want to take the chance of dealing with other people’s hangups about it (or worse) and I STILL view myself as privileged when it comes to the rest of the world. Calling that oppression is an insult to others.

    2. LW*

      I’m so sorry to hear that. My partner and I are pretty worried, too, although we have the privilege of living in a fairly liberal bubble right now.

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        I’m sorry for you as well. My church has actually done several same-sex “panic weddings,” with more scheduled between now and January. It’s probably the best way to protect yourself for now, since federal protections can easily change but existing rights cannot be taken away without a big legal fight.

        This is not legal advice, but if you aren’t married and thinking of it, do that now. You can have the party bit later.

        1. paul*

          Assuming you’re in the US, there’s a SCOTUS ruling on the topic already. I don’t see same sex marriage going away easily or quickly regardless of which party is in power.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I just wanted to note that federal protections aren’t easy to take away because of Windsor, which essentially extended the rights protected under procedural equal protection to same-sex partners. If the Supreme Court’s composition changes dramatically and they receive a new marriage equality case, then federal rights become a concern going forward (but not so much retroactively). I know that’s cold comfort, but I also don’t want folks to go to sleep at night terrified that their family will be ripped apart as soon as the administration changes.

          1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

            Right, but with “right to discriminate” laws becoming a real possibility, it could happen that the purpose of any protections set up by an unmarried same sex couple, or something like being able to visit or help an unmarried partner in an emergency, could be defeated by some jerk now free to…act like one.

            On the other hand, if you marry, you can use the license and say, “I am legally allowed XYZ in re: my partner.” And you can shore up your health insurance in case the ACA goes, by being able to insure each other.

            As an example, let’s say I wasn’t married, and my wife got hurt. Most personnel at a hospital or clinic would probably let me see her anyway, but one jerk could go, “but you are not a family!” And be protected under a religious freedom bill. A marriage license protects me from “you can’t X because I won’t recognize you as a family.”

          2. Kay J*

            I mean, Trump has already said he’s going to add super conservative judges to the supreme court, will get one in right away, and a number of the liberal justices are old as heck, so… the Supreme Court changing dramatically is really possible in the next couple years.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Absolutely. But at its fastest, it usually takes 3-5 years for a case to get to the Supreme Court. And although it’s possible to change the law going forward, it’s much more difficult to retroactively “revoke” constitutional rights. Of course, I’m saying these things with the assumption that the country will operate with three fully empowered and functional branches of government.

              Again, I don’t mean to minimize folks’ concerns in any way. Living in a state/area that does not support equality is awful and stressful and stifling. I’m offering these thoughts with the intention of damping the pain/panic/fear a little, because knowing the boundaries of change can make it easier to plan and respond to those changes.

    3. Mononymous*

      Ugh, I’m so sorry that this is necessary. It’s freaking 2016, I had hoped we’d be more advanced as a society by now.

    4. No, please*

      I’m sorry you’re going through this too. My mom came out when I was four. She got death threats, slashed tires and threats of calls to CPS until she quit her job and we moved. That’s was in 1984. This shit needs to be over. Now. I know she still feels like she has to hide being a lesbian. It’s just wrong.

    5. Drew*

      I wondered where all these invitations were coming from all of a sudden!

      Jokes aside, I’m very sorry you’re having to do this. It’s BS that people have to hide who they are.

  15. Callallily*

    Her reactions reminds me so much of an ex-friend. She would’ve loved to pull something like this for the drama/attention. She thrives on people thinking she is edgy/different and probably would’ve started a public campaign that she was being discriminated against and not allowed to be herself.

    I wonder if she makes her mother call him master as well!

    1. eplawyer*

      Exactly. “Look at me, I’m so wonderful. I’m so shocking. I made my co-workers call my boyfriend Master” all while expecting applause for what she is doing. Good thing all this attention seeking got her was unemployed. Clearly she realized she is never going to get away with this on a regular basis in an office so she is “freelancing” in order to add to her “quirkiness” that makes her so darn endearing. Or that or no one would hire her because she brought up her terms in the interview.

      I especially loved GrandBoss saying “Nope, your boss’ word goes here. Shut up.”

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      She probably tried it and now says that her mother is “toxic” for refusing, and gets all the there-there back pats for escaping such an abusive family. (Can you tell I know these people too?)

      1. Isabel C.*

        I kind of like picturing her mom going all cliche-Midwestern Minnesota Nice about it. “Ooh, ya, sure, you must be Sally’s master! How’s that workin’ for you kids?” Or completely overdoing it and deliberately hamming it up at Thanksgiving. “Peter, would you, in your infinite wisdom, be so kind as to allow your slave another slice of turkey?” Because I would totally do that latter, and this is probably why I shouldn’t have children.

        1. Anon for this*

          I’m imagining the bored grandma “That’s nice, dear,” and subject change. But your Thanksgiving scenario is cracking me up.

        2. fposte*

          It’s even better if you get it slightly wrong. “Ask your mister if you can have more stuffing, dear.” “Oh, I bought you some nice cat ears because Doris says that’s what the kink kids do.”

          1. Me2*

            Oh dear heavens, fposte, you are totally invited to my holiday table. I’ll give you the cast of characters ahead of time.

          2. Lady Montworth (née Janice in Accounting)*

            This whole thread has me chuckling but this comment made me snort out loud.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      That’s what we call our dog. It’s not her name, just her nickname. That and “The Barroness of Schmoopington.”

      Did I just overshare?

        1. Adonday Veeah*

          I actually had a cat named “Butt.” It worked great at home, but the first time someone at work asked me my cat’s name, it dawned on me that perhaps I should have thought it through. “Oh, her name is Butt… um… ercup. Yeah, Buttercup. Her name’s Buttercup. That.”

          1. Artemesia*

            I know someone whose cat’s name morphed into something boring and obvious when he realized it would not be actually cool to use it socially.

            1. A.C. Stefano*

              We had a cat named “Black P*ssy” from a series of books I loved growing up.

              Dad accidentally said it too loud one time, and well. A black woman was walking by.

              Yeah. That cat’s name got changed *really* fast.

        2. DoDah*

          My former cat was known as Bhindi, Dowager Marquess of Bhoo when she having one of her royal hissy fits.

        3. Mostly Snark By Weight*

          One of my cats is “Princess Fiona, Defender of the Underbed”, but she allows her servants to call her Fiona or Fi.

          If you guessed it can be a bad idea to poke around under the bed when she’s in seclusion, congratulations, you won an unscratched hand.

        4. Rey*

          One of my cats has a variety of titles, depending on which one is funnier at the moment. He’s been Commodore Pickle, Ambassador Pickle, and (my favorite) The Right Reverend Pickle.

          1. Crazy Canuck*

            And here I thought I was the only person who had a cat named Pickle. My six yer old daughter named him. Sadly, he has no titles, so I might steal the Right Reverend Pickle for his use.

        1. Chris P Bacon*

          Stumbled over this whole thread… grinning often.
          This bit….. a friend had a dog named “The Snorkel Hound” (Snorky to her friends)…..
          …. while I had a cat that I delighted in naming “Firkin” (Firkin Cat) .

  16. Allypopx*

    I am so very happy we got an update to this. Really, my heart is singing.

    It’s not the responsibility of her coworkers to educate or police Sally, but it still makes me cringe thinking she’s moving into a new environment/still interacting with others in general under the assumption this is okay and she’s being oppressed or misunderstood. As someone who is LGBT and has had many non-traditional relationships, people like this give whole communities a bad name, and her clear disregard for general understandings of consent make me really squicky. No one should have to be pulled into her sex games, and I feel that’s going to continue happening.

    Glad OP doesn’t have to deal with this anymore, but really wishing the message had gotten through to Sally better.

    1. RVA Cat*

      It reminds me of a hilarious but so very NSFW Key & Peele skit with the, umm, oversharing gay co-worker….

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Wait, this is a good point — a second office is going to get to experience this. Nothing has made me want to return to an office more than this.

      1. fposte*

        You’re just going to move from office to office, hoping to find Sally. It will be an epic quest.

      2. Kyrielle*

        She’s *freelancing*. Multiple offices / points of contact may get to experience this.

        Is it bad of me to hope that one or more of them writes to you, either in ignorance of the history or because they went hunting for advice and found the updates and connected the dots?

          1. AD*

            Do you think she’ll list Peter as her emergency contact at her next job….and under relationship put “master”? I think she will totally do that.

    3. LW*

      Yeah, I do worry a bit about that, but since my coworker laid out the boundary pretty clearly, I think, and she definitely got negative social reinforcement (i.e., nobody wanted to talk to her), I’m not sure what else there was to do.

      That said, should we ever get a reference call about this, I know her former boss is going to be pretty straightforward about her issues with lack of boundaries/workplace inappropriateness, so at least… forewarned is forearmed?

      1. Allypopx*

        Oh I certainly wasn’t saying you didn’t try hard enough! I just hate that she didn’t seem to hear it. You guys handled this perfectly.

        And yes forewarned is forearmed…oh man this is going to end up being somebodies “and then I learned to always check references” story.

  17. An advocate*

    As someone who is into a lot of alt type lifestyles, I only wish to say this is an outlier behavior and handled completely appropriately. Most people in those relationships would actually hate if someone outside the relationship presumed such a dynamic and used tiles inappropriately. I hope no one who may be curious about such relationships do not get the idea that this is normal or expected in any way whatsoever.

    1. KimberlyR*

      I think (hope?!?) that everyone reading on AAM and everyone who works there understands that Sally is a crackpot. Every kind of people, every race or religion or sexual orientation or lifestyle, will have some sort of weirdo that makes the others cringe. But we all know Sally is not representative of the culture she is participating in.

      We don’t judge you for her choices :)

    2. Hrovitnir*

      I genuinely think there has been a negative effect from a certain very popular book. New Doms and subs that have no bloody idea how genuine consent or a relationship both parties enjoy works, never mind the idea of not forcing your scene onto others. I’m not saying Sally/Peter necessarily got into it via that stupid book, but it’s certainly something I’ve noticed.

  18. LisaLee*

    I know lots of commenters here also read Captain Awkward and Sally’s behavior reminds me of that one letter over there from the woman whose boyfriend refused to clean up broken glass from the floor because he was “against social norms.”

    There are just some people who never grew out of that 13-year-old phase of wanting to be sooooo edgy and they don’t realize that there are some social norms (like maintaining the polite fiction that your coworkers aren’t sexual beings) that make everyone’s lives easier.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Ha ha ha! That sounds like my roommate who “didn’t believe in possessions,” but sure believed in using mine!

      1. Artemesia*

        Oh there are lots of these. I remember my aunt who handed her toddlers my mother’s sterling silver spoons to play in the sandbox and when my mother retrieved them and told her not to do that again said ‘well I’m glad I don’t have nice things if you can’t even use them and are so fussy about them.’ My mother wasn’t too fussy about people eating soup with them.

        And every mooch (including hilarious ones in literature — there is a recent great example in the charming novel by Tom Rachman, ‘The Imperfectionists’) seems to have this ‘I’m not a materialist, let me help myself to your stuff’ vibe.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          Thoreau, who pretended to get rid of all his possesions (he stored them in his aunt’s garret) and went to live in someone else’s woods and on their dime, and then wrote a book telling everyone how they should rid themselves of possessions and go live in the woods….

          1. Parenthetically*

            *insert incoherent rage about Thoreau, the most virtue-signaly bro in all of western history*

    2. Clever Name*

      I remember that letter! That was so twisted. The worst part was that he had pretty effectively gaslighted his girlfriend into thinking that she was the weird one for wanting normal things like not stepping on broken glass.

      1. Isben Takes Tea*

        It was so twisted. :-( She did reply back as a commenter on a later thread, though, saying she dumped him and was now happily moving on with her life!

      2. LN*

        I read this comment scrolling up from the bottom, and I honestly thought the broken glass was a metaphor like “walking on eggshells.” Then I scrolled up and YIKES. *googles furiously for CA archives*

    3. Not Karen*

      Back when I was on Facebook, I had one “friend” who constantly posted about how she stopped using conditioner and YOU SHOULD TOO because fight the power that says we have to use conditioner!! As if everyone used conditioner just because the commercials told them to…

      1. fposte*

        That’s hilarious. And of course nothing else we do is influenced–they just exert their hold through creme rinse. (You’d think they’d exert hold through styling gel.)

      2. AnonAcademic*

        I once listed to a college student lecture a room on the evils of deodorant (CHEMICALS! CANCER!) and then leave the room to have a cigarette. It was actually a defining moment in terms of realizing how full of it some people are.

        1. LN*

          Oh yeah, I had this friend too, but with diet soda. Yeah, I know it’s not good for me. You gonna move that cigarette away from my face or nah?

        2. RVA Cat*

          *jaw drops*
          Umm….welp, guess he has to pick his poison. Plus I bet his eau de armpit/ashtray gets him lots of dates…. /sarcasm

      3. Mononymous*

        Yup. I have some Facebook friends who are into the essential oils MLMs and constantly post about CHEMICALS BAD THEY WILL KILL YOU and one should only clean their house, laundry, dishes, etc. with castile soap, vinegar, baking soda and their Very Special Brand Oils. Lol no. I have a suppressed immune system, I’m going to keep using bleach to clean our toilets, even if I did jettison antibacterial hand soaps years ago. I’m not buying cleaning products just because The Man said to; I use what I like and what works. Meh.

        1. LadyKelvin*

          Good for you on the antibacterial hand soap. We all need to stop using them but not because of CHEMICALS but because they result in antibiotic resistant bacteria which will kill you faster than CHEMICALS.

          That’s my PSA for the day. Stop using antibacterial soap.

          1. Mononymous*

            Yup, that’s exactly why I ditched them. Well, that and I also stopped using products containing SLS on/in my body because it’s too harsh for me, and SLS/antibacterial seem to go hand in hand.

          2. Artemesia*

            good point although they fended off the stink a lot longer than the soaps now available. WE long ago got rid of dish soaps that were antibacterial for that reason. Bleach does the job without breeding stronger salmonella in the kitchen or whatever.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I know this is probably me being crazy, but have you tried Mrs. Meyer’s? I find it takes care of the smell stuff without the bad side effects of antibacterial soap…

        2. Artemesia*

          The one defining characteristic of environmentally safe cleaning products is that they don’t work very well. This is the same characteristic of energy saving appliances — we haven’t had a dry load of dishes since we got one — same make and model but the new energy standards.

          It is often important to make these changes regardless — but lets not pretend they do anywhere near the job well designed cleaners did.

          1. Candi*

            One cleaner sometimes touted as environmentally safe works great on cleaning up messes. Simple Green.

            It is NOT antiseptic, but it’s really good at getting turmeric stains off the counter after taco night.

            Not affiliated, just love the stuff.

            Also safe around kids and pets, even when kids are careless or dumb. >.<

      4. Marillenbaum*

        Seriously! I use conditioner because I’m black and moisturizers are my hair’s best friends. But sure, it’s all just Big Conditioner, enacting its nefarious conspiracy…

      5. One of the Sarahs*

        I’ve said this before, but at uni I knew a girl who was always on a rampage about how we were all terrible for not using Fair Trade products, and would go on and on, every time anyone had a coffee/chocolate…. until someone asked her how she managed to get Fair Trade cocaine….

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            She had no answer, and never mentioned Fair Trade again!

            (However, you can’t keep that kind of person down – she soon bounced back to being Greener Than Thou and chiding other people for eg flying to see their parents in another country, because of the environment, while it was fine for her to fly to go snowboarding or to a yoga holiday in India, and so on)

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              She sounds a lot like “Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation with at a Party.”

        1. Parenthetically*

          Holy shite. The cocaine industry… I mean… actual murder… I am aghast at that horrible person!

      6. sstabeler*

        to be fair, provided you use shampoo, conditioner isn’t strictly necessary for hygiene. Having said that, there’s a fair chance someone like that refuses to use shampoo as well, so…

  19. Critter*

    F*ckboy?! I barely even know what that means. Hoo boy this is a good one.

    Slippery slope to oppression? My brain cannot handle.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      It’s the sort of dude who acts kinda gross in an attempt to get laid. Like, he only texts you at 1 AM saying “wyd?” or who opens a Tinder convo with an unsolicited dick pic. The worst, basically. Sally knows not of what she speaks.

      1. Critter*

        Verbatim example from a friend on FB “Dudes who text “u up? Wyd?” at 2am on any given night” XD

  20. MC Bennett*

    Honestly it just comes down to consent – Sally’s coworkers do not consent to be brought into what is clearly a D/s dynamic of a sexual nature. By making them use the honorific, Sally is making them be part of it AGAINST THEIR CONSENT. The end. No consent, no go.

  21. Persephone*

    It’s oddly interesting to me that Sally, the submissive in her personal relationship, really tried to take charge of this in her workplace.

    That gotten out of my system, I am much relieved to read the update. This particular letter squicked me out badly. This isn’t something I want to know about any friend or relative–and I never, ever want to even suspect this about a co-worker.

    1. AcidMeFlux*

      Well, as the sub, maybe that’s part of her contract; having to publicly define herself as such.

      Meanwhile, I’m kicking myself for being single `cause I can’t WAIT to have a fella to refer to as my”Coney Island Foot-long.”

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      I have seen research that suggests that the ones often likely to be subs are the ones who are uber powerful and bossy IRL. It’s the complete change in their sex lives that is such a turn on.

      Not sexually, I’ve also noted, in person, that sometimes the loudest and most controlling in the office seem to be compensating for their lack of power in their home or personal relationships. Like the guy I used to work with who used to loudly declare this and that and tried to forcefully take charge in every situation- and used to be the “And I’ll tell the Old lady to go F herself if she objects!” Well, a couple of us, over the years, ran into him outside of work. His wife bossed and controlled him within an inch of his life!

      1. Is it Friday Yet?*

        This is fascinating. Kind of wish their was a documentary about it. There probably is.

    3. So anon*

      It’s not unusual for high powered people to enjoy being the submissive in a D/s relationship actually! If you have to be very ‘in charge’ in other parts of your life, it can be really nice to not be in some areas.

    4. Lissa*

      Interestingly, in most of the couples I know with this sort of dynamic, it’s the sub who does most of the “driving” in the relationship, and often the one who brought kink into it!

  22. Joan Callamezzo*

    (Not gonna lie, it has been so hard the past few weeks to not say “my lovaaaaah” instead of “my partner.” I have refrained.) Hahaha, I would’ve been doing exactly the same.

    Great update, OP! It sounds like your coworker and her boss handled this perfectly.

  23. Sunflower*

    Did anyone else think of the Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch SNL skit in the hot tub when OP brought up needing to refrain from calling her partner her “my lovaaaaah”? I am imagining that skit happening in an office to Sally and dying from laughter.

    1. SRB*

      O.M.G. Now I can’t un-think it and need to go re-watch this immediately. Hardest I’ve ever laughed in my life.

  24. Dee*

    I love how Sally actually went over the manager’s head to complain to the big boss. Like…that’s still not going to get you what you want, and it will only make you look silly to yet another person.

  25. Tiny_Tiger*

    Oh boy… Yeah, even just thinking about Sally requesting her coworkers call Peter her “Master” makes me cringe internally. I’m part of both the kink and LGBTQ communities and just… YIKES! She deserves an Oscar for playing the part of the “oppressed martyr” so thoroughly to the point that she quit over it.

  26. Dang*

    I’d love to hear about a workplace where people actually went for this. Did Sally really think she would find one of those?

  27. Marche*

    Real curious as to how reference checks would go down in the future now.

    “Sally? Oh yes, she worked here. How was she? Well………….”

    1. LW*

      Actually, that raises a follow-up question. In this kind of case, would it be better to be semi-vague (about the specifics, not the severity, I mean), like, “She had serious issues with workplace appropriateness and boundaries, and responded to feedback by angrily pushing back”? Or should we straight-up spell out, “She told her coworkers to call her partner “Sally’s master” and claimed that she was being oppressed when we told her that was inappropriate”?

      I don’t know if or when it’s likely to come up, but I’m not sure which is the better route. (She did not, for what it’s worth, try to negotiate what we’ll say in reference calls, so we aren’t hindered there.)

      1. Allypopx*

        I’d go with the former. From an employers standpoint, it’s less the nature of the conflict that was a problem, it’s the fact that she did not understand workplace boundaries and lashed out against criticism from her manager. That could manifest in many ways besides her strong stance on her relationship, and is something she has shown as a professional weakness. That’s useful for an employer to know, and getting too wrapped up in the specifics might take focus away from that core issue.

        That said, if they asked me for a specific example, I wouldn’t hesitate to share it.

        1. Marche*

          I have to wonder if it’s worth combining the two? I mean, there’s pushing boundaries, and then there’s shooting yourself over a boundary using a cannon. Would it be worth saying “She wasn’t able to maintain appropriate professional boundaries, such as insisting we call her partner “Sally’s master”, and didn’t respond well to feedback asking her to stop.”

          1. animaniactoo*

            I wouldn’t – only because I’d be giving Sally the benefit of the doubt that life has changed and she’s not going to push this particular issue again. I wouldn’t want to torpedo her chances of getting a job in future. We’re all shortsighted and are/were young in our own particular ways.

            I think it’s enough to be specific that there was a serious issue around work/personal boundaries and feedback about it was not accepted.

            1. LW*

              That’s exactly the line I was worried about walking. I certainly don’t hope that she becomes permanently unemployable or something (the work she did for us was, while not superlative, solid work; it was just her people skills and workplace appropriateness/boundaries that need help–and anyway, I wouldn’t hope for anyone to become permanently unemployable). But I also don’t want to blindside a future employer. It sounds like a warning about boundaries and professionalism, and being honest if pressed for details, is a good middle road.

  28. stk*

    OP, whoever you are, your aside about “lovaaaaaah” just made me laugh so hard my neighbours think I’m nuts.

  29. Imaginary Number*

    I really like this update:

    1. It shows people handling a complex situation respectfully. Sally may not have seen it that way, but it was actually very well done considering the subject matter.
    2. It’s a really good example for people who think that things like using someone’s preferred pronouns is NOT a slippery slope and that there can still be reasonable limits on what you can demand another person call someone.

  30. memoryisram*

    I was SO looking forward to this update!

    I would suppose Sally enjoys to stir the pot, and I’m not surprised that she pushed hard on this. For some people, there is no line too far.

    I hope you and your “lovaaaaah”” have a delightful holiday season.

  31. LN*

    Awesome update! The “lover” parallel is a great one. There are definitely people in the kink community who have dug deep into the idea of being an oppressed sexuality, in spite of all evidence to the contrary. I’m far from vanilla myself, but come on – it’s just not the same thing. She’s being totally unreasonable, and I’m really glad y’all are able to push back the right amount.

    Honestly, this reminds me a bit of that letter asking how to re-enter the workforce after you’ve been living with a sugar daddy. Sometimes, the nature of a D/s relationship isn’t actually romantic, or even necessarily overtly sexual…so I can see how people get hung up on using the correct terminology because they can’t see the forest for the trees. But just as saying “I’m coming back to the workforce after the end of a long-term relationship” is a more work-appropriate way to say “I lived off of an older man and repaid him with sexual favors,” calling Peter her boyfriend – even if he really isn’t – is just the best way to handle this. It’s not oppressive or inauthentic, it’s just smoothing over some of the wrinkles of your intimate personal life with people who really have no business knowing all the details.

    1. Michaela*

      that letter asking how to re-enter the workforce after you’ve been living with a sugar daddy


  32. ASCII*

    Details are dangerous.

    Say you like children and no one blinks an eye.
    Say you like 12 year olds and … why on earth did you specify?

    The same is true with most things in life really.

    I made a brussel sprout pie.
    I mad a brussel sprout pie by roasting the sprouts in olive oil, baking at 450, … and why are you still talking!

  33. Sparky*

    I hope the sub grows up and cringes at how she behaved at this job, even if she remains involved with that community.

    Somehow it reminds me of the dad who is parodying his daughter’s “hot” poses on instagram – and he has 3x the number of followers that she does. The demand for attention is probably what reminds me. I’ll post a link below; I love this guy!

  34. KG, Ph.D.*

    A theory: does anyone else think that perhaps Sally was doing this at Peter’s — ahem, her master’s — behest? Like, maybe he ordered her to make sure he is referred to as her master by *everyone.* That would be even more inappropriate from a kink perspective, but I truly wonder…

    1. LW*

      It’s certainly possible, but given what I’ve seen of Sally, and what I’ve (briefly) seen of Peter, it would not be my first assumption. It’s possible this is a ‘bad dom’ thing but my gut feeling is that it’s more likely that Sally is doing this for her own reasons.

      1. KG, Ph.D.*

        Makes sense! I was leaning that way as well, from your description of her “justification” of it. It’s a special snowflake/tumblr activism gone awry-type situation. Which…is annoying, but hey, at least not a bad dom (although his taste in partners is questionable, ha).

        1. LW*

          It’s a totally fair point, and I know that a number of people in the original post were concerned that it might be an abusive relationship. And it might be; obviously I can’t tell from here. But my gut feeling is that this is more something about Sally.

          1. Lissa*

            It’s funny how we all bring our own experiences to it. I know a few DS relationships and it’s obviously the sub who is more “into” that dynamic, so I just figured it was all Sally’s idea!

  35. Tiger Snake*

    So if Sally’s so concerned about oppression, why isn’t she taking into account all the poor little aro-aces she’s making feel so uncomfortable? Because they’re all sex-repulsed (cliche #1), and are bound to be the only ones made uncomfortable by this (cliche #2), or the only ones who have a valid reason to feel uncomfortable by this. Oh wait, the ace spectrum isn’t real (cliche #3) and is not oppressed in any fashion (cliche #4) – they’re people who have traumatic pasts (cliche #5) – Sally should feel even worse now!

    Hm, after watching Sally, I thought the ‘stretching the bounds of a somewhat unusual lifestyle to win arguments by making everyone out to be bigots’ was going to be a fun game, buts its really kind of boring and makes my skin crawl by how entitled I have to make myself sound. I guess I’m not doing it right.

    1. seejay*

      Or you know, what about people who may have been coming from abusive pasts or had really bad experiences with D/s and could potentially find it traumatic to forced to refer to someone as a dominant/master? I’ve known of a few people who have had a really hard time with this and found it *really* troubling when put in submissive positions.

      I’d definitely be putting my foot down on that if she would force that issue with someone. Her believed “oppression” in wanting to be a submissive to someone and no one else wanting to take part doesn’t override someone else’s past real trauma.

  36. LadyPhoenix*

    Sally needs to understand the wonderful word called “CONSENT.” Just because SHE consented to call Peter “master”, does not mean everyone else consented too. You can NOT force consent.

    I hope this special snowflake snaps out of it and realizes how foolish she acted. She claims she is being “oppressed” for her relationship when her biggest oroblem is a few raised eyebrows, in compaison ro LGBT who can go homless, jobless, or lifeless for their status.

  37. Karanda Baywood*

    Bottom line, she was trying to shock people and when then didn’t work, she immediately pushed it to, “YOU MUST CALL HIM MASTER.”

    Wouldn’t matter if it were about D/s or you need suppositories to poop or what you wear to bed. I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT AT WORK.

  38. CQ*

    I can’t help but think this is a classic case from someone who never learned how to admit her own mistake. She doubled-down, because to admit she got this wrong would be to admit defeat. It’s a mode of thinking a lot of people never outgrow, right?

  39. ArtK*

    Being a little bit the devil’s advocate here, her intent may not be to shock. This may be a manifestation of whatever it is that makes being a sub attractive to her. Somehow intensifying the feelings that she has.

    She’s still absolutely out of line to try and recruit her coworkers into her sexual relationship, even in a somewhat passive role. I hope she finds whatever she’s looking for.

  40. Cat steals keyboard*

    Ah, that thing of thinking you’re being oppressed if someone disagrees with you.

    I really want to use the word schmooples now. I might have to change AAM username…

  41. Milton Waddams*

    It’s amazing what companies are willing to pay for — in this case, the cost of finding and on-boarding a new employee, as well as any potential overtime for the others in the meantime over a single word. :) I can only assume they had some folks on the other end who they were certain would quit if pressured to play along with the “master” business, and that the net loss was less this way.

    1. Parenthetically*

      They didn’t fire her, she quit after they had a conversation outlining basic workplace etiquette and social boundaries that she pushed back on angrily. Also, “on-boarding”? *shudders*

    2. Observer*

      “a single word” is a good way to minimize a genuine problem.

      If that “single word” were a word used to negatively refer to a given minority (choose your pejorative – there are plenty) would you take the same tack? Would you be amazed if a company was willing to fire over B***, N***, C*** etc? It’s also just “one word”. But it can lead to a situation which is “severe and pervasive”.

    3. Gadget Hackwrench*

      It seems like a very good investment to replace a worker with Sally’s poor workplace behavior. I don’t think it’s much of an assumption at all to think that “some folks” would quit over being forced to participate in someone else’s dynamic in the workplace. I think quite a few people would quit, and they’d lose nearly any client that had contact with her… and I say this as someone not easily phased, who would probably roll with it if it were asked of me by a friend… but not a coworker. It doesn’t belong in the workplace.

      1. Milton Waddams*

        It’s hard to predict these things — they used to trot out the same fears over men wearing long hair and women wearing trousers. I don’t know how it happened, but there’s this persistent myth of the rich Amish client group, who is somehow the wellspring of all business and will abandon you immediately in horror if they see any hint of dancing, technology, or anything crazy like that. :-)

        1. Gadget Hackwrench*

          Except being forced into someone else’s scene isn’t nearly the same as “women wearing pants.” Sally wearing a day collar is much more in line with that, and is something that people should totally roll with and be progressive about. Sally calling her guy “my master” probably should get the handwave too… making OTHER PEOPLE participate in their dynamic by calling him “Sally’s master” or “your master,” is where she crossed the line and started violating other people’s boundaries. She cannot require others to participate in her relationship. That violates consent.
          See also: all the “I do not consent to be a part of your scene” comments. They’re right.

    4. LW*

      To be clear, she was not fired–she quit. I think it was partly about this issue, probably, but “someone might quit if you have a serious conversation with them about professional boundaries” is not IMHO a reason not to have serious conversations about professional boundaries; quite the opposite.

      Also, while “master” is not one of them (which is why she got a serious conversation after repeatedly pushing the word–note that we did not say anything about the initial Christmas party “yes master”–and not a firing), there are absolutely words that if said in the workplace would be a firing offense, especially if used repeatedly. Certain slurs having to do with race, gender, ability, or sexual orientation come to mind. We do work hard to accommodate and retain employees at my workplace, and in fact not tolerating some kinds of behavior is not contrary to that retention but an inherent part of it.

  42. Quasimodo*

    At my workplace in a courthouse, Master is the correct form of address for a particular type of judge. I’m always saying things like “You rang, Master?” or “Here’s that book (brain?) you wanted, Master.” I feel more mad-scientist’s assistant then sexual rebel when I say it.

    1. Annie Moose*

      Have you been working on your lisp and hump? Can’t be a good Igor if you don’t have both. ;)

      1. Quasimodo*

        Actually, given the formal nature of the workplace, I have to brutally repress my alter-igor so that the lisp, movable hump and googly eyes don’t show at work. No doubt it will one day break free to express its full igorness.

    1. LW*

      She did not. She did have some kind of jewelry symbolic of the relationship, which she mentioned at least once, but I did not ask what it was. (I think she was hoping I would.)

  43. Ely*

    To call him “master” would be to make the entire workplace participate in her sexual fantasy. Unless we are living in Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” dystopian novel, this definitely falls outside the scope of equal rights. We have the right and freedom to have consensual sexual relationships, but not to drag everyone else into it!

  44. DeeCal*

    Good GOD do I love AAM. And this post specifically has to be One Of The Best……I’m delightfully tickled to re-read the original post, as well as the update.

    I suppose I should instruct my co-workers to address me as ‘Tickler’ from here on out. :)

  45. Anonymous For This*

    I’ll be anonymous for this comment, but I have been following AAM for a while.
    I am very experienced in the area of D/s and BDSM, as well as LGBT, and a member of an advocacy group against criminalization of these activities.

    Even so, I really cringed at the original post and the update.
    Sally’s behaviour is waaayyy beyond useful activism or fighting for equality.
    Any BDSM group out there will groan at this kind of “in your face” behaviour, as it antagonizes instead of helping.
    No, we aren’t shy wallflowers, we’ve done a lot of marching and publishing, and worked with the lawmakers, and will always push for equality.
    But I’ve seen a lot of Sallys of every gender, who in the flush of coming out/ young love/ a sense of freedom would fling out body and soul, and push their sexuality in the public’s face at the worst and most destructive moment. And we are distressed at that, and try to educate the Sallys as well as the public.

    The examples above are apt – vanilla (as in non-BDSM) people, regardless if straight, gay, trans, queer, poly etc. have learned to use the terms “partner”, “significant other”, or even “loved one(s)” :-) to describe the people they intimate with or close to. Outside of a private context, they wouldn’t call their SO “stud”, “big boobs”, “trannyboy” or whatever floats their boat. ;-)
    And in the same way, we would use “master”, “sub”, “f-boy” etc. within our own context (at meetups, parties, at home, on a CSD march at the utmost), not so much at work. :-)

    Peace, all.

  46. Saitaina*

    Easiest way to get someone of this nature to stop harping on it: “As a Dom myself, I call no one master, however I will call them by their name or nothing, the end.”

    It seems odd to me that someone in a 24/7 relationship would even fight on this as she is literally beholden to Peter and should be submissive in ALL relationships. To fight so hard makes me wonder just how their relationship is truly working and if they even understand what the hell they are supposed to be doing. I predict they are weekenders who have no idea beyond ‘oh that looks fun!’.

    1. W. Eastville*

      Well, I think it is unfair to say that because she had decided to be submissive to one person she should be submissive to all. That’s just not how it works. It requires a great deal of trust and respect. Dictating to others what they are “supposed to be doing” is wrong on so many levels I just don’t have words.

  47. W. Eastville*

    As someone who has faced similar issues to Sally, I do feel rather bad for her. It can feel very awkward to talk about someone you’re in such a relationship with without the proper respect. And, if those who you are talking with don’t use the proper vocabulary, it can be even more awkward on insisting on using it yourself. Just look at this example:

    “So, did you and Peter do anything fun over the weekend?”
    “Yeah, me and my master (…)”

    It just doesn’t flow, you know? In the end, it really can be better not to talk about them at all, but that can really feel like keeping a secret you should not need to keep – especially if the way the relationship works is in fact entirely non-sexual.

  48. Granny K*

    “I get the impression that Sally was not so much naive or lacking in common sense as deliberately pushing the boundary for some reason of her own.” Maybe the reason is she’s getting tired of being dominated at home so this is the way her rebellion is manifesting itself.

  49. SweetSam*

    As someone who participates in BDSM culture, has a boyfriend that they refer to as “Sir” in the bedroom, and MC’s at dominatrix parties…. this made me cringe so hard. I work at a sex toy shop part-time while going to school, and I cannot fathom referring to my boyfriend as “Sir” around my coworkers!! Even though I know most of them are into BDSM also!! That is just so incredibly weird and uncomfortable.
    I would be willing to bet that this is her first ever D/s relationship. No one who actually participated in the lifestyle would do this.

    1. Elspeth*

      Absolutely not. Sally was wrong to attempt to force people to participate in her sex life.

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