I’m distracted by my coworker’s very visible cleavage

A reader writes:

I am a straight, married, mid-thirties male. I work in a small company with a super-casual dress code — shorts and flip flops are regular wear during the summers for a lot of people.

I interact on a daily basis with a married female coworker who semi-regularly wears shirts that go beyond just showing cleavage. Despite trying hard to keep my eyes up, I can tell you her favorite brand of push-up bra because it’s often enough in obvious view. She’s a lot shorter than I am, which contributes to the problem.

This makes me really uncomfortable. She has the assets for this style of dress, and it’s hard not to notice when she’s showing them off. I really don’t *want* to notice, though.

I get that it’s on me to be self-controlled if that’s what I want to do, but I feel like she’s making it unnecessarily difficult. I don’t have this problem with my other female coworkers, even though one of them is remarkably well-endowed, so this isn’t just me being a lecher.

There was an incident last year where she clearly realized I was having a hard time not looking and both of us obviously felt awkward. Her clothes got more conservative for a bit without us talking about it, but she went back to the same bra-baring outfits within a month or two.

Our official dress code says that cleavage shouldn’t be on display, but no one is enforcing it (as often happens in small companies with formal regulations). Apart from that incident, this has been ongoing for at least a year and a half.

Normally if I have an issue with a coworker I’d first take it up directly with them, but that seems tasteless, stupid, and potentially dangerous here. While my intent is the opposite of sexual harassment, I could see it being perceived as such. Even if it weren’t, this would still be an incredibly awkward conversation and one that seems obviously inappropriate for me to have with her.

Failing personal interaction, my next step would normally be to ask my manager to help handle it, but he’s a man, too (as is her manager).

We have a one-woman office manager / HR department who is amazingly good at her job in most respects. I’m inclined to ask her if she can talk to my coworker about complying with the dress code. Given that it’s not been enforced up to now, I’m a little worried it will just make things awkward without changing anything.

Should I do that? Should I talk to someone else? Should I just continue trying to ignore it?

If your employer hasn’t objected to what your coworker is wearing, then it’s something they’re choosing to be fine with, and it’s on you to control yourself and not look at her inappropriately.

And you do need to stop. Look at what you wrote: You were ogling her to the point that you could tell you were making her feel creeped on. That’s not okay, regardless of what she’s wearing.

Men manage not to ogle women’s cleavage every day. It’s doable. But you have to care more about treating her respectfully and appropriately than about whatever impulse you might feel to look at her boobs.

I do want to acknowledge that if this had been a different letter, my answer here might be different. For example, if your main concern was that you’d seen signs that clients found your coworker’s clothing unprofessional, I could see raising that with someone. But when your only real concern is that you’re having trouble not looking at her breasts, you just don’t have the standing to ask that she be told to dress differently.

{ 1,449 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A reminder of the commenting rules — please be civil and constructive.

    Also: The issue here is not whether or not the coworker should dress differently at work because she’s not the one writing in for advice. Please stay focused on advice for the letter writer.

  2. Mike C.*

    Christ dude – grow up, quit making her feel bad for her body and quit making the rest of us dudes look bad.

      1. JessicaR*

        But that’s very hard to do. People naturally look at distracting things. I am a woman. I have a male coworker who has chest hair poking out of his shirt every day, and I find myself looking at it simply because it’s there and it’s unusual. The same way I’ll look at a coworker’s interesting necklace, or large chin mole, or yes BRA if it’s showing. It’s practically physiologically impossible to avoid looking at distracting anomalies.

        1. Recovering Adjunct*

          I have a large face mole. It’s obvious to everyone when you stare at it. Please don’t. You have control over your eyeballs. If you really think you can’t stare at someone’s less than perfect face, that is on you, not the person with facial differences they have no control over. Sheesh.

          1. Warm Weighty Wrists*

            I also have a large face mole, and nobody at work, literally nobody ever, has commented on my mole or stared at it enough that I would notice. That’s because we’re at work and making comments about or staring at anything unusual about my body is inappropriate.
            They could be obsessing about my mole and having the entire Austin Powers movie inner dialogue about it, and I really don’t care, but they can’t make the fact that I turned up to work in the only body I have at my disposal a problem for me. It’s for them to deal with.

            1. Warm Weighty Wrists*

              To be clear, Recovering Adjunct, my point is to add another voice in support of your argument. :-)

            2. Anadromous Fish*

              “the only body I have at my disposal…” I love this. I am stealing it. Thank you, 3W, this is now my new favorite response to any negative comment about my body.

            3. Lynn*

              My sister had a work accident when she was in her teens that caused extensive scarring on her face and neck. Even after years of reconstructive surgery, her eyes and nose will never look “normal” and she isn’t inclined to spend a lot of time covering her scars (which would never really work anyway-it would just look like she had scars she tried to cover up).

              It is impossible not to notice the scarring-anyone saying they didn’t without some sort of impairment to their vision is just plain lying. But it is 100% possible to not stare at it. Heck, she works with kids and teenagers these days and they manage not to stare and be jerks. If kids can manage it, then adults can surely be held to at least that standard.

        2. Remedial Chaos Theory*

          So, if, just like in OP’s situation, your male coworker realized you were looking, and got visibly uncomfortable, you’d still be unable to stop looking? I find that really hard to believe.

        3. Minority Opinion Girl*

          I know what you mean.

          A woman in my office started wearing corsets (as under garments) which had the effect of making her chest look like it doubled in size overnight. Every shirt she wore had extreme, now jacked way up high, cleavage on display. Since corsets just push everything up and don’t cover anything above the rib cage, everything then jiggled like a jello mold whenever she walked or even laughed. I am a middle-aged, hetero woman and I am telling you that it was all I could do not to stare. I would literally catch myself looking at them from time to time. Whenever she talked to me, I had to concentrate hard on staring into her eyes because of all the jiggling flesh spilling out of her shirt. This was not remotely sexual. It was just hard not to look because there was so much of it – just there, everywhere. The other women in my (mostly male) office said the same thing. What’s not fair is that any of the men with the same problem would be perceived as being pervy. If that’s true, then my whole office is pervy – except for the one woman with her chest hanging out.

          I am far from prude. I have always worn scoop and v necked shirts, but I think it’s inconsiderate to wear overly revealing clothing to work. I would feel the same way about a male coworker with his shirt unbuttoned to his navel or in Steve Irwin shorts.

          Commence the stoning.

          1. Mama Bear*

            I wonder if my former coworker is your coworker….anyhow, I get this. OP needs to watch his gaze and be respectful, but I also think that if her bra is showing so much/often that other people know the brand, then maybe that’s what to address. Everyone needs to keep their underwear covered. That’s middle school dress code 101. Surely amazing HR lady could help with that.

                1. Blerpborp*

                  But are you arguing that people should have their underwear visible at work? The one mention of dress codes doesn’t mean the entire comment is off base (although yes, many school dress codes over police girl’s bodies.) I’m a woman and I know that I would have a hard time ignoring that much cleavage and I am much more sympathetic to the OP. He’s not “ogling her so much” that he can see the brand of her bra -by his telling- but rather it is just that clearly displayed. I know sometimes I misjudge something I put on in the morning it ends up showing more cleavage than I intended and I don’t want to be treated as only a set of boobs but there is also the maturity of trying to overall not show an extreme amount of cleavage in the workplace (at least in terms of office jobs where exposed underwear and lots of skin isn’t the norm.)

                2. Drewski*

                  Generally I would suggest dress codes are usually much more opened ended for women.

                  Men wear suits or at least pants while women wear whatever they want that appears professional. Women can usually wear shorts, pants, skirts, dresses, etc.

                3. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  @Drewski—all that means is that dress codes for women are more of a minefield. Women’s professional wear is a lot more varied than men’s, and dress codes are a lot less specific than some managers’ opinions on the topic. So you could be wearing something that you think is within the dress code, but your supervisor disagrees and now you’ve been written up and are being looked down upon because women’s dress codes are an ever changing set of goal posts.

              1. Modesty Blaise*

                For goodness’ sake, surely “cover your underwear” applies to both. You wouldn’t tolerate a man walking around with his boxers hanging out of the top of his trousers — why would you tolerate a woman with enough bra that people know the style?

                1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  Why does it matter in the context of advice for this letter writer? If his management and HR have decided not to do anything about this employee’s clothes, it doesn’t matter whether anybody else thinks her clothes are professional or not professional. The people with the authority to tell her to change have not, so OP’s only viable course of action is to learn to stop staring.

              2. Topcat*

                Because men are typically expected to wear conventional suits or at least buttoned shirts and trousers. It’s rare for men to wear anything less casual than a polo shirt (unless they work in a super creative industry, where pretty much anything goes for either gender).

                I’m female and I don’t feel “oppressed” by a reasonably written, sensible, professional dress code.

                1. Zillah*

                  Why is “oppressed” in quotation marks? None of the posts you’re replying to used that word.

          2. Adminx2*

            There’s different types- full torso corsets would cover and define, some even have shoulder straps. Waist cinchers would not. As a regular corset wearer that’s just bizarre to me as the entire point is shape and compress. I’d always wear either a full torso or bra else I’d just feel crazy off balance.

            But I could STILL keep my eyes focused above their neck, pretty easily.

          3. Retired Teacher*

            I totally agree. I’m a woman, too, but I believe if you don’t want people to look then you need to dress appropriately.

            1. Kat in VA*

              I disagree with this. I’m a relatively hourglass – very busty with a waist that dips in.

              Sure, I could wear shapeless pants and tunic smock tops. Or I could wear fitted wrap dresses that do not show cleavage but clearly show the lines of my body and go to my knees.

              I’m not going to dress like an old frump because someone might look at my body. Other than the aforementioned shapeless tunic smocks and shapeless pants, it’s almost impossible to NOT see the lines of my breasts under my clothes because, seriously, I wear a 34E bra.

              Something that’s “appropriate” for one woman won’t come off as “appropriate” for someone built like me. So no, I don’t bare cleavage or have gapping buttons or wear tops tight enough to see my bra lines, but I do wear pencil skirts and fitted sweaters because I refuse to dress like a hobo and risk inadvertently offending someone.

              I’m so sick of this argument that I should dress in some schlubby, slobby manner because some rando out there might not like it. I’m not an object on display, I’m not wearing my clothes AT them, I’m not sporting large breasts AT them. I’m just dressing corporate-appropriately at work and trying to do my job, which is way stressful enough without having to worry if Roger in Finance is staring at my boobs when I walk up or my butt when I walk away.

              1. Tiny Soprano*

                Amen! There is literally no middle ground between ‘potato’ and ‘sexy’ when you’re an hourglass, because it’s not necessarily due to ‘sexy’ clothes – it’s that our bodies are sexualised. And with LW’s colleague being short with a large bust, anything she buys in a size up to accomodate her bust measurement is going to be cut too low because it assumes a taller body. And it doesn’t take that deep a V to see down someone’s top when you’re taller anyhow. You just don’t look.

                1. mountainshadows299*

                  +1 – Honestly, I wonder, based on what he’s written here, if she’s not intentionally showing off her bra the way that he’s describing, and instead may just have a large bust, and because he sounds like he’s tall (or she’s very short), he may be catching glimpses of her bra because of the height difference (in a scoop neck or some such). I am luckily on the taller side for a woman, but I know that I have to be doubly careful when I buy or wear tops because I’m busty for that reason, and even when I’m careful, I’m pretty sure there have been times where you could see my bra. (Sorry, not sorry)

                  He needs to stop looking full stop. And even if he’s looking, HE’S the one (apparently the only one) who has any problem with it. She’s not pulling out her boob in the middle of the conference room and waving it around. She’s not approaching him seductively, flirting, and displaying her bra AT him. He can just see her freaking bra, and… He should be happy he can see that she’s wearing one at all. The bra is there to stop him from seeing anything more detailed on that area of the body. (IMHO)

              2. Topcat*

                It is absolutely possibly to have an hourglass figure and choose tailored, well-fitting clothes and not be Jessica Rabbit. Buying clothes of good quality and good fabric also helps.

                A pencil skirt and appropriately sized sweater sounds fine.

                The issue is plunging necklines, micro skirts (though with leggings or thick tights, that’s no big deal), bare midriffs, etc. So long as you’re avoiding these in the average professional office – whether you’re a man or a woman – you’re fine.

                If you are dressed appropriately and people stare at your *natural* shape that’s their issue, not yours.

                1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

                  No matter what you are wearing, staring is the starer’s issue and it is on them to stop.

                  FTFY

            2. Lock*

              Maybe she doesn’t usually mind people looking, but LW was ogling and creepy, and she reacted accordingly.

          4. TardyTardis*

            She has the wrong kind of corset–mine comes up past the nipple line and holds me a bit more firmly. I would think that your co-worker is unprofessional, but unless I’m her boss, it’s not for me to say so.

            1. Snuck*

              And as per today’s letter in about the lingerie party at work…
              We can’t exactly round her up and say “Hey love, let’s go shopping for a better fitting corset!”

              Hahahahaha.

              As a past heavy duty corset wearer… I’ll say… there’s corsets, and corsets… and a surprising lack of information out there on them. Once you get a good fitting, properly made one… you never EVER go back to junk ones… When you learn to fit and type for your body shape… it’s awesome

              BUT.. its also not a work conversation.

              I’d argue in this case everyone should be covering their underwear, and maintaining professional behaviour – in dress code, and eye contact/wanders.

              Given management doesn’t want to manage dress code… unfortunately this guy has no option but to up his eye contact muscles… I feel his issue… it sounds like it’s pretty bad. He *could* talk to the office manager… but it’s not likely to go well… people get pernickety about this stuff… He could also do what thousands of persons with Autism have learnt to do… stare at the mid point of the bridge of the nose/eyes and fake it… find a spot you can look at, and stare at that instead. (Pro tip… not her buttons!)

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s not physiologically impossible, and it’s a disservice to encourage OP to think of their wandering eyes as a Huge Effort to correct. Please let’s not feed bad behavior that can be trained out with mindful attention to our own behavior.

        5. Red 5*

          I think the distinction to be made here is between “look at” and “stare at.”

          I’m easily distracted by all kinds of things, so I’m sure that my coworker who wears the large statement rings has noticed me looking at her rings on a relatively regular basis when we’re talking because you know, it’s big and shiny and she talks with her hands.

          But I would also hope that anybody with a facial mole or scar would not at all think I was staring because what a polite person does with that kind of situation is once it catches your eye and registers in your brain you STOP STARING AT IT and continue talking to the person like you would any other person.

          Key being like any other person, don’t intentionally and obviously avoid looking at them either. “Oh hey there person I’m talking to, who is to my left while I stare at the corner of the ceiling on my right, how are you today?”

          People are people. We come in all shapes and sizes with all kinds of different features, and we all chose to dress up those shapes in different ways. If it’s not something you’re going to comment on (psst, co-worker who I know well, your bra strap seems to be showing and I know you would want to fix that before you go to your meeting) then just…don’t stare.

          1. Lissa*

            Yes! I think some people here are conflating “noticing” with “staring”. I notice all kinds of things. But after a couple seconds I stop “looking.” We can’t control our initial reaction but we CAN control our eyes. It does not seem like every other male around has trouble not staring. This really really sounds like a LW issue, not a clothing issue. If this was something that was SO distracting that it was inevitable to stare then it’d be an issue for everyone, and that does not seem to be the case.

        6. Jadelyn*

          There’s a difference between “catches the eye right off so you glance at it reflexively” and “continuing to look at it while you talk to someone”. The former, yes, that’s a hard impulse to interrupt because that’s how eyes and attention work together. The eyes pick up something unexpected, the mind pays attention to it for a moment to assess whether it’s important or not.

          But continuing to look at something after the immediate moment? That’s on you, and you absolutely should have control of your eyeballs enough to stop looking at it. Deliberately pick another place to look instead. That crosses the line from “noticing” (a reflex not entirely in one’s conscious control) to “staring”, which is a choice you make.

          Make a different choice.

        7. Blue Horizon*

          You can train yourself out of it. I once worked with a woman who had a giant mass of scar tissue over half her face. It was enormously distracting for a while, but once I was working with her regularly it got easier, and eventually I just stopped seeing it as anything out of the ordinary (to the point where I’d see people reacting when they were introduced to her and it would take me a moment to remember why).

      1. Mazzy*

        All I see is righteous indignation, which never once solved a problem. Also, telling someone to grow up never once solved a problem. The OP wrote in because they knew this was a problem, so throwing anger back at them doesn’t solve anything.

        1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

          But is it a problem? It doesn’t appear to be a problem for anyone but the OP, and they way he’s phrasing things doesn’t sound like it’s a reasonable problem on his end.
          This seems less like anger than a straightforward reply to an (unintentionally) privileged letter.

          1. Alexander Graham Yell*

            Exactly. Instead of training himself not to stare, he’s making his coworker uncomfortable and saying it’s her fault.

            Look, I sit directly across from somebody that, if I saw him in a bar, I’d be straight-up drooling. There are certain things he wears that are just so freaking attractive I wish I could act on my attraction. But my job is to get my job done and have an easy-enough working relationship with people, so I find other things to focus on and get my work done. Not once have I ever made it his problem, not once will I. If I can train myself to do this, OP can, too.

            1. Anthropologist*

              “Not once have I ever made it his problem, not once will I.”

              I am willing to bet your involuntary body language and kinesthetics let on more than you realize.

              1. Hospital Admin*

                Wow, seriously? Assuming that this person couldn’t *possibly* hide their attraction from their coworker?

              2. Alexander Graham Yell*

                That’s probably true, but at no point has the way he interacted with me changed – which is, to me, the point at which it has become somebody else’s problem. Maybe he’s noticed and feels like that’s my issue to control, maybe he hasn’t noticed, maybe he hasn’t but other people have – but our interactions have stayed consistent. And in an office where people would absolutely call me out on it, jokingly or otherwise, nothing has been said.

              3. Ori*

                Why does this matter? The point isn’t that you’re never allowed to find coworkers attractive ever. It’s that it’s possible to manage attraction without being disrespectful or making the other person uncomfortable.

                I’ve had coworkers who were obviously attracted to me and still managed to maintain a perfectly respectful, professional relationship. I’ve had coworkers I was attracted to and have done the same. It’s really not that hard as long as you are an adult capable of maintaining professional boundaries.

                1. Database Developer Dude*

                  Ori, I completely cosign on everything you just said. There’ve been plenty of instances in my past that were exactly the same as what you said. It isn’t that hard.

                2. Classic Rando*

                  Yeah, I’ve had friends and coworkers that had crushes on me, but weren’t weird/creepy about it, so there was no problem, I treated them normally and we all proceeded with the polite fiction that there was no attraction on their part.

                  I’ve also had people’s crushes revealed in creepy ways, and those were folks that I put walls up for. Having a crush/the hots for someone isn’t the issue, being creepy about it and making it their problem is.

                3. UKDancer*

                  Agreed, I have one professional contact whom I find very attractive although I am aware he is happily married and not interested. That’s my problem and not his. I don’t go around leering at him when we have meetings, nor do I say inappropriate things. I register internally that I find him attractive and then focus on the job in hand. My feelings are my problem, I don’t make them his problem because he didn’t ask for that. He deserves me to relate to him in a professional manner, so that’s what I do.

              4. Susana*

                That’s terribly unfair. And the letter itself underscores the real problem – that men, and only men, are assumed to be visually stimulated/distracted by women’s bodies and that the onus is on women to accommodate them. And it’s awful, how widespread this is – a friend’s friend was complaining to us the other day about how girls at her son’s high school wear yoga pants, and they should not be allowed to do this, as it “distracts the boys.” WHAAAA…? She’s not a good friend of mine, so I stopped short of suggesting she home-school her son and make him wear a burka.
                It’s not that women don;t look at men in the office or on the street and think, yeah, I’d like to (whatever) that guy. You know what we do? We don’t stare. We don’t yell 0ut a sexual comment or “compliment.” WE KEEP IT TO OURSELVES.

                1. One of the Sarahs*

                  It’s so interesting, isn’t it? Assuming women aren’t visually stimulated apart (as a gay woman, I can manage not looking at cleavage) I always wonder if straight guys who believe they, as men, can’t help themselves, would think about gay/bi men obviously ogling their backsides/crotches? My bet is it wouldn’t just be a shrug and “Men can’t help ourselves !!1!!11!1” .

                2. Drewski*

                  What is the male equivalent to large breasts pushed up in a bra designed to highlight them, all in clear view?

                  I agree with you to a point. But in this case at least the attire is pretty much designed to make someone look. Which is usually why this kind of thing is covered in a dress code ( and is here, but not being enforced).

                3. TardyTardis*

                  I hear you on this. Except when I was in the Air Force, the directive came down that all servicemen/women had to wear underwear during an Arkansas summer (she went braless in a white t-shirt, guy working on the wing of a C-130 was distracted, walked off the wing, crunch, etc.). Unfair? Yes (bras are hot in that kind of weather). Safety concern? Yes.

                4. Tiny Soprano*

                  As a rampant bisexual who is attracted to almost everyone all the time, THIS. It is entirely possible to manage your own behaviour!

                5. Kay Webble*

                  @Drewski – I would say something like a tight-fitting sweater across well trained pectorals and biceps, for example. There are also some t-shirts made for men these days which are quite sheer.

                  Then there are skinny jeans as well. Sometimes they can be so tight in the crotch that you can count the change in a person’s pocket.

                6. Nom the Plumage*

                  @Drewski, as a bisexual I would say the equivalent for men are pectoral or bicep muscles. Brooklyn 99 tv show actually has a really good example of this situation with reverse genders between Terry and Gina. Still, I manage not to find myself staring at well-toned men/women in the workplace, even though I know we have a gym in our office that people use regularly.

                7. Zillah*

                  What is the male equivalent to large breasts pushed up in a bra designed to highlight them, all in clear view?

                  I agree with you to a point. But in this case at least the attire is pretty much designed to make someone look. Which is usually why this kind of thing is covered in a dress code ( and is here, but not being enforced).

                  @Drewski – Aside from the “don’t stare” and “dressing to look good is different than asking to be leered at” part of this, it’s really important to reframe some of your thinking from “this is designed to make people look.” That’s often not what’s going into fashion decisions, and IMO, looking at this from that perspective adds a lot of unnecessary tension that really doesn’t belong there.

                  For example: I usually wear form-fitting clothing, because I find baggy/loose clothing (even properly sized, intentionally loose clothing) to be actively uncomfortable against my skin. Some people would say that wearing form fitting clothing when you have an hourglass shape is designed to make people look, but that’s typically not why I’m wearing it. Similarly, when you have a larger chest, it can be difficult to find bras that are comfortable, supportive, and not hideously expensive; women with big breasts are typically not wearing bras at people, they’re wearing bras that make them feel comfortable.

                8. Susana*

                  Oh, @Drewski. You’re kind of underscoring the problem here – that the very fact that women, you know, *have breasts* means it is incumbent on them to hide them so men won’t be distracted. “Large breasts pushed up”? Seriously? Some women have large breasts. Bras are made to push them up a bit and keep them in place.

                  If the LW hadn’t also mentioned the breasts of others in the office, I might have been a tad more sympathetic. Not to mention the use of the words “assets” (in an office? THESE are here “assets?” Gross) and “well endowed.” Yes, I think people – men and women – should dress professionally for the office. But the undercurrent here is that there’s something obscene abut being large-=breasted, and that it’s incumbent on the woman to keep them from being a distraction. No. No no no no no. If you can’t focus elsewhere, you should not be in a workplace with other people.

              5. JSPA*

                y’know, a lot of us do manage our “tells” just fine, thanks. Especially if we’ve learned the hard way that they can (literally) be used against us in a court of law.

                And anyway, the question isn’t, “could someone with training detect the statistical possibility of interest.” It’s, “is there a complete avoidance of overt interest, and mutually acceptable, more-than-plausible deniability.”

            2. Miss V*

              This.

              I have a ridiculously giant crush on my boss. Like, the I feel 17 with the butterflies in my stomach, level of crush on my boss.

              I deal with it. It’s not his problem. We have normal conversations. He doesn’t need to know that I once had to duck into the bathroom to squeal when he told me he liked my haircut.

              The LW is at work. Part of his job is not ogling his coworkers and making them uncomfortable.

              Something that may help him is this- he’s considering asking HR to tell her to cover up. Has he considered that maybe she wants to ask HR to tell him to stop staring at her breasts? Is that really a conversation he wants to have to have with his manager? This behavior is on him and he needs to stop it before it becomes a disciplinary level offense.

              1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

                “Has he considered that maybe she wants to ask HR to tell him to stop staring at her breasts? Is that really a conversation he wants to have to have with his manager?”

                So very much this. LW will really want to think through what it means to call a meeting with HR to discuss a coworker’s body parts.

            3. CommanderBanana*

              I have a coworker like this, but he’s also much younger than I am, so the first few times I saw him I just reminded myself that he’s basically 12 years old (not really but that’s how I mentally refer to anyone in his age bracket) and poof! Attraction eliminated.

            1. Kat in VA*

              Look. I’m a mostly straight cis female and I love looking at boobs. All kinds of boobs. Boobs are beautiful! Boobs are great!

              You know where I don’t look at boobs? At work. Because looking at boobs at work is a no-no. If I can avoid looking at boobs, so can Rando Guy Who Wants HR Involved Because He Is Offended Somehow By Boobs.

              1. Oranges*

                I’m gay. Amp boob appreciation up to 11 and yes. I NOTICE* boobs sometimes (because suddenly cleavage/etc). But I don’t STARE* at boobs. Is it hard? Sometimes yes… Do I do it? Hells to the yes. No one should feel uncomfortable in their body because of MY PERSONAL behavoir.

                *Difference between notice/stare. A notice is when your brain goes “something’s happening, make sure it’s no big”. A stare is when you KNOW what you’ll see when you look and you look anyways.

        2. NC Transplant*

          Maybe not, but it reinforces what Alison said, which is that this is a problem that OP needs to solve for himself.

        3. The dude*

          Some of the best feedback I’ve received in my life was when an adult told me that my behavior was less mature than expected and that I needed to grow up, so I dunno.

          1. Remedial Chaos Theory*

            It kind of came off that way to me, too. “I have these inappropriately endowed feeemales in my office, it’s such a problem”.

          2. Working Mom Having It All*

            Or looking for an excuse to “report” this woman to management to have her “disciplined”, somehow. For something.

        4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Actually, in this kind of situation, where someone is basically just whining over something so simplistic and not-hard “man, my eyes just keep wandering, waaaaaah.” sort of thing, it does help to say “Snap out of it, get with the program, you’re being ridic.”

          If it were a more complex issue, then yeah I completely agree that it’s not enough.

          1. Drewski*

            I guess I will start throwing this phrase around since I read it so much here.

            Claiming that it is “not hard” must be a privileged position. There seem to be a lot of people here claiming both that it is “not hard” and also that men and women share the same amount of desire to look at this type of sexual stimulus.

            1. Not Me*

              Please don’t start with the “men are from mars” argument. It’s patently false and offensive to all genders.

              1. Drewski*

                Maybe the OP will read that it is “not hard” and his problem will be solved. If only he had known!

                1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

                  I guess I just hope that he reads it, sits down, and really examines what he’s asking and why he’s asking it, and has a personal growth moment. But that’s just me.

                2. Zennish*

                  Seriously, it’s not hard. Once you get past the super-entitled position that “I really, really, really don’t want to examine or alter my own behavior”=”hard”, the rest is just not looking at a very specific area for extended periods of time.

                3. Nom the Plumage*

                  It’s only hard for people who are either deliberately obtuse or just really don’t care about being considerate of others. Look inward.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              This is an odd deployment of the term “privilege.” I fully believe that OP finds it difficult to correct, but it’s useful for him to know that he may be an outlier when compared to men in his peer group. I’ve found that sometimes when folks think their experience is the norm, they avoid the introspection required to make necessary changes.

              OP clearly wants to change, but his letter does include some excuse-making that is likely undermining his successful ability to kick this problem (and he absolutely needs to kick it). Mike’s note is brief, but it still has value for OP.

              1. Linguist*

                “I’ve found that sometimes when folks think their experience is the norm, they avoid the introspection required to make necessary changes.”

                So very much yes. Great way of framing it and at the bottom of many a social problem.

            3. Louise*

              Oh come off it. Stop coopting the language of social justice to justify your apparent inability to stop staring at someone’s boobs. This has nothing to do with privilege. In fact, the only people I see whose privilege seems to have blinded them are men who clearly don’t understand that women can walk around in a baggy turtleneck and still be accused of “flaunting their assets” or, more dangerously, “asking for it.”

            4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              LOL okay, keep accepting and making excuses, that’ll keep you out of hot water when you get drug over the coals and fired for oogling women because “what they wore” was just “too much” temptation.

              There are literally places of business you can go during your lunch break to get your stimulation if you are really in need for it because “nature” makes you do it.

            5. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

              There is no privilege in saying it is not hard. Literally none. You keep your eyes on someone’s face and not their chest. That’s literally all there is to it. Noticing someone’s entire body is going to happen – no one is saying you won’t immediately notice something. You will. Of course. We don’t have tunnel vision, us humans. But once you notice something that would be inappropriate to *continue to look at* you *stop looking at it* – whether that be a scar, a mole, a stain, boobs, or something else.

            6. The Other Katie*

              These aren’t contradictory statements. Men and women both like to look with sexual interest at other beings. It also is not hard to train yourself not to (or to confine your sexual-interest looking to socially appropriate times).

            7. ceiswyn*

              Are you claiming that women DON’T have the same amount of desire as men to look at sexual stimuli?

              ‘Cause let me tell you, I have a lot of desire to look at a man with good pecs and biceps in a t-shirt that shows him off. But it would be socially unacceptable and make him uncomfortable, so I… don’t. If you find yourself unable to stare at a woman’s breasts, that doesn’t mean it’s uniquely difficult for you for Reasons. It means that you need to stop making excuses and try harder.

            8. Busty Matron*

              The difference between this guy and anyone who doesn’t find this situation difficult is that this guy has spent his whole life thinking that it’s completely fine to fantasize about and objectify any woman he sees, and so he will imagine himself having sex with them whenever he feels like it. So now he has to deal with the consequences of the fact that he has never internalized the idea that doing this is incredibly rude, entitled, demeaning, and disrespectful, not to mention completely unprofessional and inappropriate at work, and he wants to make it a specific woman’s problem.

              The privilege is that we have, as a culture, allowed men to think that this is okay.

              He’s absolutely capable of not objectifying women. He doesn’t objectify very elderly women, probably. They have boobs too, but he’s able to control himself. I presume he doesn’t see his mother’s tits and want to have sex with her, or another female relative, even a young or attractive one. His mind doesn’t go there because that would be wrong, and he doesn’t want to be a person who fantasizes about having sex with his sister or his cousin, presumably, but he hasn’t applied those morals or taboos to any of the other women he encounters.

              The fact that there are so many men who wander through the world thinking about and then commenting on the attractiveness (one way or another) of women they don’t know is another sign of the fact that they believe that women by nature decorative, and are knowingly playing parts in their fantasies simply by being in public. They believe that everyone knows this and agrees, so complimenting a woman on doing a good job on playing a bit part in today’s sexual fantasy, or criticizing her for not meeting his standards, is seen as a reasonable and normal thing to do.

              You can even see this expectation in this letter; he believes that this woman is complicit in his problem: the act of her wearing a shirt is her “showing off” her breasts, as if the fact that he wants to look means that she wants him to. He has stared at her breasts enough to know, apparently, the brand of bra she wears. (Why does he know so much about the brands of bras? I’m a woman who wears a bra, and I absolutely couldn’t pick a brand out of a line up of women wearing only bras.) He has also apparently catalogued the boob sizes of all the women who works with, even if they dress so modestly that he’s not objecting to their sartorial choices. This guy goes to work to stare at and evaluate boobs. And he thinks that’s normal.

              Women do not exist to titillate you, letter writer. Imagine she’s your sister or your mother, or whatever you have to do to train yourself to give women a modicum of respect. Maybe it’s time to start cataloguing the penis sizes of the men you work with based on what you can see through their pants, that should cool you down and give you a change of pace.

            9. Zillah*

              “It’s not that hard” often is a privileged position.

              But it is not a privileged position here. It is an expression of a basic desire to be seen as a human being. In fact, not having to spend time every day thinking “how likely is it that this article of clothing paired with this article of clothing will make someone leer at me and is it worth the risk” is what privilege looks like.

        5. aebhel*

          The problem is that OP won’t stop staring at her chest. I mean… look, if her boss doesn’t have an issue with it and it’s not impacting clients–and that seems to be the case–then the solution here is for OP to stop staring at her chest, which pretty much any adult should be able to do. Right now, it seems like he’s kind of fixated, but he still needs to stop.

        6. ShanShan*

          I’m still pretty confused by your assertion that righteous indignation has never solved a problem.

          Did you think most problems in history were solved by people asking politely? What mechanism for change are you picturing?

      2. Courageous cat*

        While I don’t disagree with your sentiment, I would also love to stop seeing people give men especially congratulatory pats on the back anytime they say something halfway decent. As a woman, it seems insulting. His response and input is both correct and valuable but the phrase “excellent reply from a male” doesn’t sit well. We should be expecting these types of responses as the baseline of human decency.

    1. sunny-dee*

      I don’t think he’s making her feel bad for her body — I think it would be making her feel bad for visibly displaying her bra.

      Aside from the occasional strap mishap, your bra shouldn’t be visible at work. Period. There is no time when that is okay. It is no different than having a visible thong with yoga pants.

      Now, should he look away and not ogle? Absolutely. But she is intentionally flaunting her bosom (not saying she’s trying to be harassed — but, again, you don’t accidentally display your bra routinely without knowing what you’re doing).

      This is a time to talk to your manager. Just say “Look, I can see Jane’s bra, I can read the designer, and it’s making me uncomfortable.” And then let them deal with it, while you practice bouncing your eyes.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        He is interpreting her as intentionally flaunting her bosom. I’m dubious that this is actually what’s going on.

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          I have a big bust. I am accused of flaunting my chest when I:
          *Stand with correct posture instead of slouching
          *Wear turtle necks
          *Wear v-necks
          *Go braless
          *Wear a bra
          *Wear button downs
          *Wear anything that isn’t a burlap sack so that the outline of my body is even remotely discernible

          We are damned if we do, damned if we don’t. I am 100% certain she is not flaunting anything, just wearing what she finds comfortable and this dude is projecting his nonsense on to her. He would be distracted if she wore a form fitting turtleneck.

          I also believe, as I have said elsewhere in the comments (with pictures as examples), that she is likely not as on display as he is claiming, that it is the height difference and his inability not to stare that is making him think that she is just walking around with her bra out.

          I would put money on that, actually.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            “He would be distracted if she wore a form fitting turtleneck.”

            I’m willing to bet he’d be distracted if she wore a burka.

            1. Liane*

              He’s noticed details about another coworker’s bustline? How’d I miss that?
              It’s official! OP’s problem is that he can’t stop staring at women’s busts.

              OP, please take Alison’s advice and break yourself of this. And maybe consider if you’re overdoing the oogling outside of work–before you end up telling a marriage counselor, “My marriage is wonderful, except for all those temptresses wandering around the planet, distracting me from

              1. Alice*

                This. How does he not realize how creepy it is that he stares at his coworkers chests enough to know this? I work in an office that is over 50% women and I could not describe how “well endowed” any of them are because I do not pay attention to that. Neither should he. He’s at work.

          2. Pickaduck*

            I agree that it is really the LW problem, but you are 100% certain about the woman…how exactly?

              1. Knitting Cat Lady*

                Being… blessed… with equally huge tracts of land I can’t remember a day where I stepped outside the door and hadn’t my boobs ogled by a guy who thought he was being subtle…

                1. Mem*

                  Co-signed. I have a large bust. I can’t help it. No matter what I wear I still have a large bust and people (men) stare.

                  Last week I kicked someone out of a meeting for staring at my chest… he chuckled and said he couldn’t help it. I sent his arse to HR.

            1. Zillah*

              I have big boobs, and I have friends with big boobs, and while there might be a mystical unicorn woman out there who explicitly dresses to make coworkers look at her chest, I have literally never met her.

          3. Database Developer Dude*

            This shows me I should have read the comments before making my first comment, IGTK, because your last paragraph is what immediately came to my mind upon reading the letter. We’ve only got his word on this.

          4. DressCodeBias*

            I was thinking EXACTLY the same thing. Short and busty myself. A perfectly respectable v-neck sweater can show a hell of a lot of bra if someone is looking DOWN the shirt. And there are a fair number of bra designers that put little label tags on the centre/front of the bra between the cups.

            1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              Sure, angles definitely are probably making this way worse than it would otherwise be, but I literally can’t imagine a bra where the brand would be visible from any angle when worn with business attire. The OP definitely needs to keep his eyes to himself, but if he’s a reliable narrator (I accept that’s a big if), what he’s describing would make me uncomfortable, and I’m a straight woman.

              1. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

                Lord I cannot even tell the brand of my bra by looking at it DIRECTLY without a t-shirt on. This LW is staring a LOT

                1. Red 5*

                  Yeah, to be honest this is what’s sticking with me. I am actually really annoyed right now because I cut the tag out of my favorite bra (because scratchy tags don’t belong on underwear) and now that I want to buy another I can’t remember what brand or size it is and it’s not printed on it anywhere.

                  I have one, only one, bra that has any kind of logo or marking on the outside, and if you didn’t know that brand’s vague abstract logo you wouldn’t know it either.

                  That said, Victoria’s Secret is the juggernaut that it is because they know how to brand the heck out of everything they even stand next to and most men probably can recognize their logo/stylized script.

                  I still don’t think that absolves the LW, because it would still require looking down her shirt to see it in any circumstance I can come up with.

              2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

                This is a casual office. Multiple pictures have been shared in the comments with shirts that are acceptable in casual offices that would show bra if someone is staring down the neckline. “Business attire” isn’t what is being discussed here. The type of shirt you can wear when shorts and flip flops are the norm are much different than the type you wear in an office that requires slacks.

              3. JokeyJules*

                I am large chested, and if i am wearing the correct size bra, i look directly down my t shirt (with tank top on underneath) and see the little space between the cups. Victoria Secret finds this to be prime advertising real estate and loves attaching little charms and tags and bows that say Victoria’s secret on it. i am very sure other brands do the same thing.

                That being said, I’ve never had to look down my shirt or someone else’s shirt to discuss anything work related. OP should be looking people in their face or eyes to hold a conversation in the first place.

            2. JSPA*

              There almost must be many, many angles where he would not have a sight line down and in. why is he pausing at the moment when he can read it? Heck, if I realized I could see something appealing that might leave me flustered, I’d take a step back. Or hold the documents against the wall where we’d both be looking at them, and away from each other. Or request that the laptop be put on the table. Or whatever the heck would get both of us looking at OUR WORK, not at each other’s attributes. It’s….not that hard, if your mind is focused on working together, and if you’re cool with the idea that boob-having people and thinumgbob-having people are, in a work context, there to rub brains together, not bodies.

            3. Zillah*

              Yup.

              I have a shirt that normally shows no cleavage at all that I often wear to work, but at one point, a male friend saw down the shirt because of how I was sitting. He definitely wasn’t intentionally looking – he’s always erred on the side of not touching/looking/commenting on anything vaguely related to my body unless he’s sure it’ll stay within what I’m actively comfortable with – but from his sudden shifting positions and grabbing a book off the table to stammer about it for about ten minutes before actually getting up, he must have seen quite a lot.

              Please note that he still tried to hide it as well as he could and didn’t make it my problem. (He also hasn’t had the same reaction again because of that shirt again, even though I often sit in the same position.)

              You can see a lot from certain angles.

          5. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            I am so super confused on how he knows what her favorite brand of push up bra is. Usually bras do not list the brand name on the outside? Is he so familiar with bras he can identify a brand by the cut of it? Because most females I know are not that familiar with bras. Unless he is somehow looking at the inside of her bra or her shirts are totally see through I have no idea how he would be able to know that. This bit alone makes me not trust his judgement on how much cleavage is on the table here.

            1. Clorinda*

              I think it’s hyperbole. He sees the shape and maybe a glimpse of the color of the bra. “I can see the brand” is just way over the top (you should forgive the expression).

          6. mcr-red*

            The height thing 100 percent. I, a woman, have been wearing heels standing next to another woman, shorter, wearing flats, and could see right down her shirt to her bra. And it wasn’t a low cut shirt, it was the height and the right angle. I didn’t say anything because I am not excited by seeing bras, I see them on the daily. ;)

            1. Jadelyn*

              Yep. There have been times when I’m standing behind a coworker helping them with something on their computer, glanced down at the keyboard or a post-it on the desk for a moment, and realized I was able to see their bra. Not because their shirt was really low-cut, I was just at the wrong angle for it.

          7. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

            THIS. THIS THIS THIS.
            If I don’t make sure that my breasts and hips are fully camouflaged and I haven’t taken pains to make sure that my clothing makes me resemble a magic marker in shape, there is always SOME jerk who thinks I am “flaunting”my body. Dude, no. I am just trying to pump gas/buy groceries/go to work/walk my dog/go for a run. Please stop flaunting your creepiness.

          8. Sinister Serina*

            All this. +100000
            I’m wearing a shirt. I’m wearing a sweater. I’m wearing a v-neck. It’s not flaunting, it’s just me.

          9. Triumphant Fox*

            I think the fact that she felt uncomfortable when he was looking at her makes it clear that she is not dressing her boobs for that kind of attention, period. She doesn’t expect that from you, nor should she.

          10. Topcat*

            If no skin is showing you are not “flaunting your chest”.

            Any more than an obese (or pregnant) colleague is “flaunting their belly” because it happens to stick out through clothing.

        2. Elizabeth*

          I agree that we can’t assign her motives – that’s totally problematic!

          With regard to the main issue though … The harassment training that my old workplace required included a statement that having scantily clad pictures in your office – say, beach vacation photos that show bikini-clad women or shirtless men – would not be acceptable because it creates a more sexual environment.

          So … is it fair for a man to request that HR enforce its own rule to create a less sexually charged environment? I mean, if I, a woman, were in a casual business office environment where men were going shirtless or wearing clothes that are culturally coded as “sexy”, that would make me very uncomfortable, too. And yes, I would certainly keep my eyes to myself as much as possible, just as the OP is morally obligated to do, but I would still feel deeply uncomfortable.

          So, If the genders were reversed, would the answer be different? And can a co-worker’s clothing create an environment of sexual harassment?

          Would be curious to hear others’ takes on this!

          1. Not Me*

            That’s is some of the strangest anti-harassment training I’ve ever heard. Beach vacation photos (assuming we’re not talking about a nude beach) are fine for the workplace.

            The LW is the one creating a “sexually charged environment”. He’s the one sexualizing the bodies of his co-workers. He is the one who needs to stop doing that.

            1. Drewski*

              It is pretty amazing what some people will wear on the beach just because they are on the beach.

              Thong bikini’s are apparently back in style based on my family beach trip this summer. Also it appears that it would be impossible to wear something like that without posting it on Instagram. Throw those up around the office to figure out who has a “gaze” problem.

            2. Elizabeth*

              It was a university, and it was part of title IX training, for context.

              It seemed like they treated beach photos as if they were the equivalent of a sexy calendar. I personally thought that the comparison was a little… icky? … because it sexualizes the family or friends of the persona showing the photos. And yes, a beach photo could potentially be super sexy and look much closer to a sexy calendar photo. But most aren’t…they’re just family photos, you know?

              1. Akcipitrokulo*

                I can see that some beach pbotos are like sexy calendar pinups… which would be inappropriate… so they’ve gone for a blanket approach to avoid arguments about where line is?

            3. LITJess*

              In Elizabeth’s defense, I also attended a sexual harassment training that said beach photos are harassment. It was, objectively, the worst training I’ve ever attended, where the instructor and HR watched as a supervisor made belittling and harassing comments throughout. I have mostly disregarded it in favor of other trainings I’ve had previously.

          2. Aspie AF*

            Nope, gender does not make it different. Men’s nipples through a shirt? Even something ungendered like a small hole? I’m fully capable of finding someplace else to train my eyes (and I say that as someone who has trouble with social norms). My eyes work the same as any other able-bodied person’s.

            1. Drewski*

              I’m now imaging someone having holes in their shirt where their nipples are… and trying not to look.

              Oh im looking… I dont think i could not look. Not sure how anyone would be able to not look at it.

              1. BBA*

                I’ve seen men in tops that revealed their nipples in a professional context before. I managed to look them in the eye, not the nipples. How? I made the decision to not look at their nipples, and then continued to not look at their nipples, on purpose.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            We don’t know that this is a sexualized environment—we know that OP is distracted by the coworker and perceives her attire to be “inviting” sexual attention.

            I’m inclined to believe the coworker is dressed appropriately, because if she weren’t someone would have said something to her by now. It does not sound like her attire is creating a hostile work environment. Reversing the genders is not a helpful a super exercise, here. This isn’t analogous to sexy calendars—it’s analogous to someone rocking a moose knuckle.

            1. Modesty Blaise*

              “someone would have said something to her by now”

              Maybe they haven’t, though, for the same reason that OP chose to write to AAM rather than go straight to HR. Maybe we don’t have enough rules around this stuff — etiquette, and so on — for people to be comfortable taking a coworker aside and saying “Hey, just a heads-up…”

              1. CL*

                Except that they have an HR department and some sort of dress code, since the OP stated that she was in violation in his opinion. So, if she were, in fact, in violation of the dress coee, that would be HR’s job to tell her. If she isn’t actually in violation, and the problem is that OP can’t stop staring down her shirts, then the problem is not about the dress code but about creepy behavior instead.

          4. Jadelyn*

            This…slip-slides down a bad path so fast it’s not even funny.

            Because you start with the basic premise: an overly sexually-charged atmosphere in the office is potentially harassment and should be avoided. Sounds okay, right?

            And then you take the next logical step: HR has the standing to ask people to stop behaviors that are creating an overly-sexual environment. Well, obviously someone has to enforce the rules, so that’s fine.

            But then you go right the fuck off the rails with the follow-up to that being: Therefore, HR (and let’s remember, HR is made of people, who are hopefully better-educated about their own biases than most, but who are certainly not immune to said biases) should be allowed to judge workers’ bodies and outfits and “enforce its own rule” by deciding which outfits are “too sexy” and might create an overly-sexual environment.

            Because while it makes sense in theory, it has to be applied in reality. And practically speaking, women’s bodies are far more heavily-policed, women frequently are accused of “flaunting” and “tempting” men just for existing in a female body where the man can see them, and it’s culturally treated as though men’s attraction to women is women’s problem to manage. So when you take this theory and apply it to reality, you get a really high chance of overstepping boundaries and policing female workers for the mere sin of having a body coded as desirable based on our cultural beauty standards (large breasts, shapely butt, etc).

            I just feel like this may be well-meaning, but it’s a one-way ticket to Nopetown on the express train when you look at how it would actually be applied.

      2. Not Me*

        There are actually lots of times when that’s ok, you’re making some very broad assumptions lumping all workplaces/jobs/environments/cultures into one.

        I assume you’d also be on board with managers telling all men when they bend over their underwear better not be visible? Or an undershirt better not be visible thru a dress shirt?

        1. sunny-dee*

          Actually, yeah.

          I also work in an extremely casual workplace — flip flips and shorts aren’t the norm, but it happens a lot, and jeans and Tshirts are the closest thing to a uniform. Casual does not mean revealing. If a dude were wearing workout shorts and boxers (or commando) and sitting in a way that would reveal his goods, then I would absolutely want a manager to say something. It’s not casual to display your private parts to people. It’s unprofessional and rude.

          Ditto women who visibly display their bra or underwear. There are accidents — you don’t realize the cut of sleeves on a new shirt or a new pair of pants starts stretching and sagging. (been there.) But that’s not an every day occurrence, and if your bra is visible every single day, you’re showing too much.

          1. Not Me*

            I think you’re missing the key point in this letter: HR and management must be aware, the office is small, and they haven’t put a stop to it. That makes it solely the problem of the LW. If the woman’s bra is too distracting for him to focus on his work and not be creepy, that is literally his problem. Not hers.

            The LW is sizing up and comparing the bodies of his co-workers and using that as a way of defending the fact that he’s sizing up and comparing the bodies of his co-workers! They are not there for him to enjoy looking at or not, they are there to work just like he is.

            1. Dadolwch*

              I don’t think “HR and management must be aware” is a good enough reason to excuse what I see as pretty blatant provocative behavior. I agree with @sunny-dee that if a man where wearing something that was inappropriately revealing, he would immediately be asked to wear something more office appropriate. But because she’s a woman (and I’m saying this as a gay man who is very pro-feminist), there’s the potential for a layer of discomfort in addressing the situation by management. From Alison’s reaction to many of the comments here, all I see are people villifying OP for asking this – mostly because he’s a man. If the OP had been a woman and mentioned the excess cleavage, I sincerely doubt there would have been such a negative response and blaming him for everything. Is there an element of sexual objectification here? Sure – but that DOES negate the fact that OP’s coworker seems to be wearing clothing that violates office decorum and policies. The failure here is by the company, not solely OP.

              I encourage Alison and other commenters here to try the Swap-Out Test: switch the genders of OP and the coworker and see if you’d react the same way.

              1. Whoop*

                You can’t just swap genders in a situation like this. The history of socialisation, the clothing standards, beauty standards, and standards of body acceptance are SO different between men and women that you cannot draw a 1:1 comparison.

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  +1 Policing of women, women’s bodies, women’s clothing has always been a thing in a way that it never is for males.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I’ve discussed flipping the genders below. I wrote, “If the letter were creepily full of assessments of his body and his “assets” and how she couldn’t stop staring, to the point that she’d made him uncomfortable, and if it were a small casual office where management were clearly okay with it, my advice would be the same.”

                1. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

                  Thank you for saying that it can be the same with men and for saying your advice would be the same. It is appreciated.

                2. Flash Bristow*

                  Right exactly. I’ve been in a situation with a man in shorts sitting with his legs splayed where, ahem, you could clearly see his assets down the inside of the leg of his shorts.

                  It wasn’t at all appealing (!) But it is certainly possible for men to be on show whether they intend it or not.

                  I discreetly let a friend know, and he passed the message along quietly without saying it had come from anyone else noticing. Phew! But I’m not recommending that for an office situation! Just saying it is quite possible to be in reverse.

                  And very possible not to ogle when presented with a blatant view. Rein yourself in, OP.

              3. Surly*

                If it were a woman looking at another woman’s breasts, I’d feel the same way — stop looking at them.

                If she’s violating the dress code, that’s a problem for management to address. But if they aren’t going to do that, then it’s still possible to choose not to look at her breasts.

              4. Not Me*

                I would feel exactly the same way no matter who the LW was. If the genders were swapped I’d still say the LW needs to get over it or find a new job. Because HR and management haven’t said it’s inappropriate and put a stop to it.

                Also, he’s complaining that he’s looking down her shirt and can see her bra. Being tall wouldn’t alter the appearance of her bra unless he’s looking down her shirt. So the gender swap situation would be if a woman was complaining that she can see what undershirt her male co-worker is wearing when she looks down his shirt. Which I’m pretty sure all of us would say “well, knock that off!” in response to.

                1. Database Developer Dude*

                  Seriously cosigned, Not Me. I’m tall. I work with women who are short. I can’t see stuff I’m not supposed to see unless I’m seriously ogling, and if my gaze is centered there, that’s another problem that needs to be addressed…. and I fail to see why it should be a female coworker’s problem… OP needs to control himself.

              5. Nobby Nobbs*

                Others have already discussed the “flipping the genders” issue, so I’m just going to say, seriously and as a bi woman, that if you really think being a gay man exempts you from misogyny, you need to have a few uncomfortable discussions with some LGBT women about their experiences, stat. Your community will be better for it.

                1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

                  cosigned. Some of the worst examples of oblivious misogyny I’ve heard have come from gay men. I think part of it stems from them thinking they have some kind of pass, but that’s not how any of this works.

                2. Dadolwch*

                  Wow, let’s all pile on and get out the bats. How does all these accusations of misogyny not violate commenting rules? I’m entitled to my opinion – if you disagree, please do so POLITELY.

                3. Nom the Plumage*

                  They didn’t accuse you of misogyny, Dadolwch, they said your weren’t exempt from the possibility just because you’re gay.

                4. Zillah*

                  @Dadolwch – I think it might be useful to take a more macro view here. It’s not about whether you, personally, routinely act in misogynistic or objectifying ways toward women – it’s that gay men who think that their community is less likely to be misogynistic often miss problematic behavior in themselves and/or in others that they might catch in a different context – again, regardless of whether or not they are ever guilty of it personally.

              6. Pippa K*

                w/r/t “if the OP had been a woman and mentioned the excess cleavage” there wouldn’t have been such negative response: Do you really think women don’t police other women’s bodies and clothing? Patriarchy works by socialising everybody into its norms and rules. Women can be the enforcers of gender stereotypes and gender-based rules and judgements just like men can. Remember the letter about the woman coworker who couldn’t stop condemning another woman’s tattoos as inappropriate? This is an issue where the “swap genders” analytical tool doesn’t work.

                1. Lepidoptera*

                  There have been letters where a woman was commenting on other women’s clothes and while the words “creep” etc. weren’t used the comments were just as appalled.

              7. Jadelyn*

                Where are you getting “blatant provocative behavior”? Speaking as yet another woman(ish, but that’s what I’m read as) who’s extremely well-endowed and has been accused of trying to tempt men for wearing anything from a t-shirt to a sweater to a button-down shirt, it’s far, far, FAR more likely that OP is misreading the situation than it is that the coworker is actually exhibiting “blatant provocative behavior”.

                1. Johnny Tarr*

                  Magazines often say that a female celebrity “shows off her baby bump” or “flaunts her post-baby body” when she is, say, walking down the sidewalk. Getting coffee. Essentially just existing in the public sphere. There’s a weird projection going on there that because a woman’s body is visible, she’s actively displaying it for everyone else’s consumption. That’s . . . not how it works.

                2. Sinister Serina*

                  Yes-existing in public is not “blatant provocative behavior”. I am a woman. I have a woman’s body. That is not provocative behavior. It’s me existing in the world, not wearing a burka.

              8. Green*

                I would never think of asking anyone to ban skinny pants because I could maybe make out the shape of someone’s butt if I stared hard enough.

                It’s much easier to focus your attention elsewhere instead of police everyone else’s clothing.

              9. LovecraftinDC*

                “Blatant provocative behavior”

                A woman wearing a shirt that exposes cleavage isn’t blatant provocative behavior. One of the biggest reasons is that the same shirt will look very different on two women. My wife, for example, can barely wear anything less revealing than a turtleneck without exposing quite a bit. There is a woman in my office who regularly wears shirts that, for my wife, would definitely meet your definition of ‘blatantly provocative’. I’m not sure what your suggestion would be for people like her, in the summer months, and particularly in a casual environment.

                But the key here is: HR, and a manager, are the only two people who should have any say in this. If it’s impacting client interactions, or is violating a dress code, they should be the ones to speak up. Not some random guy who is staring at her cleavage so often that he knows the brand of her bra.

              10. conservativedresser*

                Agree 100 percent and I am cis-female. There is the issue of “HR and management must be aware”. In my experience with this type of situation in a professional office (casual is khaki long pants and polo shirt), HR and management are not aware. They do not see this person on a daily basis and have clue how they are presenting.

                I am old school. You do not show up to work with bra straps showing, nipples showing, underpants showing regardless of your sex. The entire reason for an undershirt was to prevent seeing aomwone’s body through their shirt, especially if they started to sweat. Think the term white collar workers meaning those who wore white shirts. For females, the garment is called a camisole to cover the bra and a slip to prevent everyone seeing panty lines. Regardless of your desire to not care, it is the “train wreck” to those of us who are forced to see it

                1. Green*

                  Yeah, well, you can go complain to Legal, but I’m Legal and my bra straps may be showing because I care much more about doing good work that wearing clothes that make you happy.

                2. Quandong*

                  Wow, when you say ‘conservative dresser’ you really, really mean it. I hope you aren’t judging people’s professionalism alongside feeling so offended by seeing the outlines of their underwear.

                3. The Other Katie*

                  These dress standards are significantly out of touch with reality. No one wears a camisole and slip anymore. I would struggle to even know where to buy a slip. Men do sometimes wear undershirts, but that’s usually because they’re sweaty. And yes, bra straps sometimes do make an appearance.

                4. Zillah*

                  Slips really aren’t a thing for the vast majority of people these days. You’re entitled to be old school if you want, but you should be aware that you’re also very out of step and cannot reasonably police everyone else into following your unusual rules.

            2. Goose and gander*

              Women can be perpetrators of sexual harassment just as men can — this is well-established in the courts.

              Management “failing to put a stop to it” does not make it any less harassment.

              If some man were flaunting his private parts in the workplace, causing other co-workers distress, and management continually ignored the problem, that likely would be a hostile work environment. Why is it not when the gender roles are reversed?

                1. Llama Face!*

                  “Bodies are not sexual harassment.”

                  Can we get this printed on a (vee neck) t-shirt? ;)

                  (100% agree)

                2. Topcat*

                  Amen.

                  Just because someone’s clothing may be inappropriate for a certain setting (bikini in the boardroom?) or breaching a particular dress code, it doesn’t constitute “harassment”.

                  People love to fling that term around but it’s completely misused.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                She’s not “flaunting” anything. By his own admission he is looking, and looking down her shirt. Existing as a female human, having a female body is not sexual harassment.

                1. Saucy Minx*

                  My advice to the LW:
                  Treat her like a human being. A fully human being. Not a purveyor of tempting glimpses & an owner of enticing body parts.

                  Name her. Look her in the eye. Try to see her as human.

                1. Snips*

                  I burst out laughing reading your comment because it’s just so insane that it had to be said at all.

                2. NerdyKris*

                  And even ignoring that, having your penis visible through your pants is not sexual harassment. It’s not likely, but it’s not harassment on it’s own.

                3. Clorinda*

                  Yes, if a man were walking around with the penis hanging out, that would constitute a hostile work environment; penis inside pants would not be hostile, even if the pants are close-fitting. Now, if this woman were running around topless flailing her nipples in people’s faces, she would definitely have to put something on or face consequences! Breasts inside two layers of fabric (bra plus shirt) are not harassment no matter how noticeable they are.

                4. Blerpborp*

                  Obviously but they are something that is commonly blurred and our censored in media in the US (we’ve got a lot of sexual hangups and boobs are just the start.) Breasts are highly sexualized- it’s not the same as showing your genitals but it’s not the same as showing your elbow. If someone looked really intently at my elbow I’d feel a lot less weird about than someone staring intently at my breasts.

                5. LovecraftinDC*

                  @Clorinda, I laughed out loud at the idea of a woman running around and shoving her nipples into people’s faces.

              2. Ben H*

                You’re right, woman can be perpetrators. I lift weights, so I wear tight pants all the time. If it fits my waist properly, it’ll hug my thighs and pudendum. Too loose on my thighs and my waist looks like a hula-hoop. I have had numerous woman make wildly inappropriate comments about how much they like my physique. On the street, at shopping centers, at the office. Even calling me derogatory names when I’ve asked them to stop.

                However, my clothes didn’t cause the harassment, just like this woman’s top didn’t. People with self-control and boundary issues caused the harassment. If this man’s concern is that she’s inappropriately dressed for the office, I feel for him. If he’s expecting her to police his lust, he’s a bugger.

              3. aebhel*

                I mean, if by ‘flaunting his private parts’ you mean flashing his coworkers, sure. But wearing very tight pants? Nah. A low cut shirt is not sexual harassment.

              4. Remedial Chaos Theory*

                Having a body isn’t sexual harassment. He is the one looking at her body all the time.

          2. boo bot*

            I think one thing that’s frustrating about this situation is that the apparent male equivalencies aren’t really equivalent – if a man is wearing no underwear, and sitting so you can see up the leg of his shorts, obviously that’s out of bounds, just as it would be if a woman were wearing no underwear and sitting so you can see up the leg of his shorts.

            The thing is that there aren’t really any articles of clothing for men that are commonly (1) considered acceptable as office-wear and (2) potentially considered indecent depending on the man’s body. I say “commonly” because, I’m sure we can all come up with possible examples, but realistically, I don’t think most offices are cool with, say, white bike shorts as business casual.

            Whereas, I can buy a shirt that fits me, that would be office-appropriate on a woman with smaller breasts, and this guy will see me as “displaying my cleavage,” just because of the amount there is to display. When we talk about women showing too much cleavage, it’s not generally a clear-cut “I can see your underwear,” kind of thing where there’s an obvious standard. It’s more of a debate over “how much is too much?” that brings the woman in question under a level of scrutiny and subjective consideration of her body that’s almost never applied to men.

            1. Not Me*

              The only reason you’re having trouble coming up with a male equivalent is because the LW is sexualizing his co-worker. The male equivalent is an undershirt. Without his enjoyment at seeing the piece of clothing, it’s just a piece of clothing and wouldn’t be so distracting for him.

              1. boo bot*

                Well, that’s kind of my point – “I can see my coworker’s undershirt through his shirt,” isn’t going to be seen by many people as credible evidence that the male coworker in question is putting his pecs on display.

                Of course, a letter in the same tone with the genders reversed would deserve the same response. But the letter writer also didn’t pull his ideas about this from the void – he got them out of a cultural context where women’s bodies are subject to particular scrutiny and judgment, and because of that, the question of, “but what if you could see a man’s underwear?” draws a false equivalency.

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  It’s the closest you’re going to get without getting into gynecomastia garments or similar.

            2. Amethystmoon*

              I always go one size up on tops because of cleavage issues. If I wear the size I am supposed to by measuring alone, then I would be seen as flaunting also.

            3. Lexi Lynn*

              And, getting a shirt to stay put in a nightmare sometimes. I’ve put shirts on that at home we’re hitting my collarbone, then somehow end up a lot lower when I get to work. It’s like the shoulders migrate forward.

              1. Jadelyn*

                In fact I’m wearing one of those today. It can be perfectly modest (even on my ginormous boobs) when I put it on…but it tends to slide down over the course of the day.

                I spend a fair amount of time tugging down on the back of my top, to bring the shoulders and neckline back up where they’re supposed to be.

            4. Djuna*

              The closest male equivalent I can think of is the plumber’s crack. I don’t need to see some dude’s butt cleavage, but there are several dudes in my office that do not know how to belt, or bend gracefully, or whatever. I do not feel sexually harassed by them. My eyes are not magically or magnetically drawn to them. I do not know or care whether they are in boxers or briefs or if I could read the manufacturer’s name on whatever they have on.

              I really don’t think men are judged on accidental ass-crack exposure the same way women are judged on “coverage”. I tend to wear t-shirts with slogans on them, and there’s a dude at work who reads them out to me every.dang.day. He’s harmless, but I wish he’d realize that he’s basically telling me and everyone in earshot that he’s just been looking at my boobs. I tried dropping a huge hint by wearing a Tank Girl t-shirt emblazoned with “You dirty old sod!” across my chest, but he didn’t get it. I dress in jeans and loose t-shirts (because comfy) and it’s weird to me that I still have to experience that discomfort on the daily.

              1. Ico*

                There was actually a letter on here about exactly that, and the commenters were not very kind to the heavy coworker who’s butt showed when he bent over. It was mostly a chorus of how gross and unprofessional it was and that he should change his clothes. Most defenders of “it’s your job not to look” were oddly absent.

            5. LITJess*

              I think you’re being too literal in the male equivalent, when really it’s his actions you should be gender-swapping not her attire. If a women was constantly leering at her male coworker, hovering over him for a better look/potential power play, the reaction would be similar – change yourself, lady!
              The problem lies not with the female coworker, but with OP and it is his to address and right with himself.

          3. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

            A woman’s bra is not the the same as a man’s penis.

            Can’t believe how often that needs to be pointed out in the comment section today.

            1. Baby Fishmouth*

              Right? Like, this woman is not doing the Sharon Stone going commando leg switching thing from Basic Instinct. That would be the equivalent of a man showing his penis.

              This woman is simply existing while wearing appropriate undergarments.

          4. JSPA*

            She’s not going commando, doing high-kicks and flashing beaver. This is a straw(wo)man parallel.

            1. Tuppence*

              I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying the image of a woman going around the office doing commando high kicks, then segueing into “so I wanted to talk to you about the Bradford report”

        2. Eukomos*

          Do they not do that? It’d be a pretty damn casual dress code where it’d be ok for someone to flash their boxers every time they bent over, and while I realize people are more casual about undershirts it drives me personally up the wall when people’s undershirts are sticking out the fronts of their button up. Visible through the button up is more reasonable, we’ve all misjudged the thickness of a shirt when we bought it or grabbed the wrong underwear on a day we’re wearing something sheer. I’d categorize that with bra straps slipping down your shoulder accidentally.

          1. Yorick*

            An undershirt being visible through a shirt is sort of the point of undershirts though (so you can’t see the man’s body through the shirt)

            1. tired anon*

              Also, while it may be a fashion faux pas, people are not generally scandalized or offended by seeing an undershirt. But a bra strap? GASP. Even though nearly every single woman in an office will be wearing a bra every single day.

      3. ThatGirl*

        Since the beginning of time, well-endowed women have been accused of “intentionally flaunting” their boobs, no matter what they wear. Doesn’t make it true.

        1. sunny-dee*

          But if we’re taking the OP at his word — THE BRA IS VISIBLE. I have very well-endowed friends, and, yeah, they get unfair crap sometimes just for being well-endowed. But you know what? They still manage to keep a bra under their shirt and out of sight. I am pregnant (sidenote, miracle thing), and my boobs have grown from a modest B cup to SEVEN INCHES bigger. I have shirts that used to be totally okay that I’m suddenly realizing show a lot more than they used to. But you know what I am not showing? My actual bra. That’s what crosses the line for me from “creepy guy” to “she needs to cover up.” (By the way, those two things are not mutually exclusive. He can be creepy and she can STILL need to learn to get a shirt that doesn’t show bra.)

          That’s my problem. Not her boobs.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            She’s not the one writing in for advice. He’s the one asking for advice, and the advice for him is to stop ogling her. If you disagree, I’d ask that you focus on advice for him, not that you think the coworker is at fault for his staring.

            1. Melody Pond*

              Alison, I understand if you don’t answer this, or don’t answer it directly, etc., (due to wanting to keep the focus on the letter writer’s request for advice) – but I’d really like to better understand how you’re viewing the big picture here.

              Would you have this same advice for anyone generally in the OP’s situation? For example, a real life situation for me – when I was in an internship a few years ago (but had had some office experience at that point), one of my fellow interns was a very young, very nice man, but he was regularly wearing button-down dress shirts that he did NOT tuck into his pants. They were the type of men’s dress shirt that is so long, that it’s very obvious they’re meant to be tucked in – also, while I don’t recall the exact dress code rules of this office, it was in an industry where tucked-in men’s dress shirts were certainly standard/expected.

              I was in my late 20s at the time (also, I’m a woman, so genders are flipped here from the OP’s situation) – I found it really distracting mostly because I was certain it was inappropriate for the office. Though it’s not like it was drawing my attention to his body in any way, I suppose that’s the biggest difference between this story and the OP’s story. I remember focusing very intently on biting my tongue and not saying anything to him, because my view was that it was the employer’s job to manage their own dress code needs – it would’ve been straying out of my “lane” so to speak, to say something to him about it.

              Would your advice to me have been (roughly) the same as your advice to the OP, about it not being my place to say something to anyone about my young male coworker’s state of dress?

              And also, I guess, is there a state of undress at which your advice would change? For example, what if my young male coworker had been wearing unbuttoned dress shirts as well, and I was seeing his actual underwear? Or what if he were bare-chested underneath? Is there a point on this spectrum at which your advice to someone like me changes, or do you assume that if the state of undress becomes egregious enough, that it just becomes that much more likely that the employer will notice it and address it on their own?

              (This is of course assuming certain factors holding constant – that the coworker in a state of undress isn’t facing clients directly, and that the managers or supervisors or HR staff aren’t working remotely or anything, so they DO have opportunities to observe it directly themselves.)

              1. Turquoisecow*

                That’s totally not at all the same. An untucked shirt isn’t perceived in almost any capacity as sexually inviting, and you didn’t see it. If you were his supervisor, you would clearly have standing to say, “hey, please tuck in your shirt,” or to have a male coworker (also above him) to say something similar.

                We don’t have any evidence the woman in question is not following the dress code, since she’s not gotten any reprimands from anyone, and her dress doesn’t seem to bother anyone but OP. The situation you describe sounds more like an intern who doesn’t quite understand dress codes. This woman is a professional who’s been working there for years, so presumably she knows what’s ok to wear.

                Also, as several people have pointed out, there are many work-appropriate shirts that show cleavage. So, with lack of other evidence, we have to assume she’s dressed appropriately and following the code, where your intern was not.

                1. Melody Pond*

                  I didn’t say it was the same – in fact, I specifically called out one of the primary differences between this situation and the OP’s situation:

                  Though it’s not like it was drawing my attention to his body in any way, I suppose that’s the biggest difference between this story and the OP’s story.

                  When I was composing my comment, I was originally going to phrase it this way, but decided against it because I couldn’t quite make myself happy with the wording:

                  Though it’s not like it was drawing my attention to his body in any sort of inappropriate way, I suppose that’s the biggest difference between this story and the OP’s story.

                  I’m feeling a little piled-on with these responses, and I don’t understand why, because I’m totally with Alison’s advice here. I know it’s not exactly the same situation, but it’s a real-life situation and not a hypothetical. I’m looking to reinforce Alison’s advice by getting to the gist of it – no matter the genders or the type of distraction involved, if you’re not in a managerial or supervisory or HR position, it’s generally not your place to enforce your employer’s dress code (assuming no impact to the actual work, such as client-facing, etc., like Alison mentioned).

                2. Melody Pond*

                  I should add a clarifying phrase to what I said – that it’s generally not your place to enforce your employer’s dress code, whether it’s real or perceived/imagined.

                3. Melody Pond*

                  Sorry for the jillion add-ons – but to boil it down even more: with all the aforementioned assumptions/variables held constant, it’s generally not your place to say something to your employer about how your coworker is dressing, even if it’s distracting you (in any way) – your distraction is your problem to deal with, not your co-worker’s. That’s what I’m trying to get at/confirm that that’s the gist of how Alison is viewing this.

                4. Turquoisecow*

                  @Melody: the OP’s coworker is not drawing attention to her body in an inappropriate way, either. She’s following the dress code, therefore she’s dressing appropriately. Her wearing a V-neck top is not meant to draw attention to her body, from OP or anyone.

              2. Emily K*

                In my opinion – you were right to bite your tongue. Unless another person’s dress code violation is directly impacting your work or the business, taking it upon yourself to nag people who you don’t manage about the dress code makes you the Dwight Schrute of your office – and you don’t want to be the Dwight Schrute. It’d be the same as complaining about a coworker who you think is taking too long lunches or too many personal phone calls when neither affects you personally. Eyes on your own paper, as it were.

                1. Sarah N.*

                  You were definitely in the right here, especially given the context that you were an INTERN at the time. Sure, his supervisor or someone in HR could have said, “Hey, in this office we expect employees to tuck in their shirts, so please do that going forward.” But as an intern, that’s in no way your place to say anything about. (And yes, I think in most offices a dude wearing his shirt totally unbuttoned with nothing underneath would be remarked upon by a manager — but also that’s totally different from this situation, because that’s not what the OP’s coworker is doing.)

                2. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  @Sarah N. I think I would go even further in most offices even wearing an unbuttoned shirt with an undershirt/graphic t-shirt underneath would be commented by a manager. In some workplaces such as OP’s where they are very casual, I could see wearing an unbuttoned shirt with a white/graphic t-shirt being okay.

              3. Close Bracket*

                You are not at all generally in the LW’s situation. Shirttails are not on the same spectrum as visible underwear. Untucked shirts are not a state of undress, even if the shirt tail is long enough that they were designed to able to tuck in. Your reaction is also not on the same spectrum as the LW’s. You aren’t talking about his “assets” or making a judgement on whether he has the right body type to wear a dress shirt untucked.

                The advice for you is the same, however: It wasn’t your place to enforce tucking in of shirts, and you need to manage your level of distraction.

              4. JSPA*

                If you were his assigned mentor or supervisor, it would probably have been kind of you to mention professional norms. If not, it would have been none of your beeswax.

              5. Zillah*

                I’m not Alison, but:

                I think that for me, personally, the line falls along these lines:

                1) Is there any actual nudity or intentional showing of underwear (e.g., literally being shirtless/pantless/pulling down some article of clothing to expose themselves) or images that are sexual/bigoted (e.g., slurs, references to sex acts, etc)? If so, it’s appropriate to complain.

                2) Is there any other overtly inappropriate behavior along with the outfit itself – e.g., excessive touching/pressing themselves against someone/problematic comments/staring? If so, it’s appropriate to complain.

                3) Are otherwise reasonable clients/customers complaining about the person’s outfit, or is it otherwise clearly impacting the business? If so, it’s appropriate to bring it to someone’s attention.

                4) If you feel an outfit is unprofessional but none of the above applies, are you the appropriate person to say something and have a good sense of the norms for your industry/workplace? If not, say nothing and mind your own business. If so, ask yourself:

                a) Is your motivation to discretely help the person, or to get them disciplined in some way? If you want to say something for any reason other than helping the other person’s career (e.g., jealousy, physical attraction, etc), you probably aren’t the right person to judge whether something needs to be said at all.

                b) Is avoiding what you see as unprofessional something that will require extensive time and/or resources that most people don’t need to dedicate (e.g., getting all their clothing tailored, replacing their entire wardrobe, tracking down clothing to fit their body type, etc)? If so, tread carefully and really question why it’s necessary.

                c) Would you see the outfit as unprofessional on someone with a different body type? If not, you should tread very carefully.

                If you are the appropriate person to say something and none of a-c change that you should, the conversation should be kept squarely on their clothing and the workplace and in a discrete “fyi” tone, not a disciplinary/judgmental tone that assumes intentional malice.

                (That’s my take, anyway.)

          2. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Yes, but the OP’s coworker is not the one who wrote in, so we’re not giving her advice today. We’re giving advice to the person who asked for it, and that advice is “stop looking at your coworkers’ breasts.”

          3. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

            I am not at all convinced that her bra is actually that visible. If he is staring down into her shirt and can see her bra that is different than her bra being visible and on display. Sounds like this guy just needs to sit down when speaking to her since he can’t seem to control his eyes.

            1. Not Me*

              I’m thinking the same thing too.

              It’s also a fairly common style lately to wear lacy bras that are partially showing outside your shirt, which wouldn’t be ok in a more formal office but one with shorts and flip-flops wouldn’t be weird. Like a bralette with lace halter straps that show above the neckline. My point is; there are ways for a bra to be seen that are definitely socially acceptable and wouldn’t be out of line in a very very informal work environment.

                1. Normally a Lurker*

                  To second this, I have a bunch of these i wear on weekend (I do not work in a casual office), and the are from VS Pink – which you can see, bc they brand the crap out of them. And it still looks about like that picture above. Which means it’s possible to know the brand name AND ALSO be wearing an under-bra that is actually designed to be seen.

            2. Anonny*

              And even if her bra *is* incredibly visible when the viewer isn’t staring down her shirt, it wouldn’t be appropriate for the heads up to come from the dude who most likely stared at her chest so hard she felt creeped out.

            3. Clorinda*

              Or take two steps back. No matter how tall he is, he doesn’t HAVE to look down her shirt.

              1. UKDancer*

                Agreed. I do Latin and Ballroom dance. One of my dancing partners is at least a foot taller than me (and the majority of the other women in class). We call him Big Mike (as opposed to Other Mike and Third Mike). Height and positioning mean Big Mike potentially would have an excellent view down ones top if he wanted while dancing. Manners mean that he keeps his eyes to himself and does not make the people he dances with feel uncomfortable.

                The point is, it’s perfectly possible for a tall guy to adjust his position so as not to look down ones shirt, I mean if you can do it while dancing, you can do it in the office when you’re a lot further from people as a rule.

          4. quark*

            Yes, the bra is visible and the management is likely aware and is OK with it or, at the very least, chooses to accept it . Hence, his problem. Don’t put it on the woman to dress inappropriately a way this man will fund acceptable

          5. L*

            I’m sure you didn’t deliberately mean it this way, but isn’t “a modest B cup” an interesting example of the weak Sapir-Whorf hypothesis? (In this case, the cultural/cognitive backchatter between “modest” meaning “not boastful” and “modest” meaning “small,” further reifying an association between the two…)

            signed, an h-cup with back problems from years of hunching to avoid looking prideful

            1. RetailRat*

              Oh you poor thing. I’m so sorry you have to deal with that particular hell. At DD I find them enough of a problem, you have the same size as a friend and she was in a world of back pain all the time.

            2. Feline*

              H cup solidarity. Well-endowed students are penalized for breaking dress code for wearing the exact same things their less-endowed classmates wear. For me, shopping will forever be “I like that, but it has buttons. Nope.” process. I don’t want to flash my bra at the easily-distracted. If a coworker were to catch a glimpse, my bras are engineering marvels, not visibly branded product placement.

          6. VictorianCowgirl*

            I am in utter agreement with you and you have stated your opinion very well. If someone is dressing inappropriately at work, I think HR should be handling it, and she sounds like she’s dressing inappropriately for almost any workplace due to her bra showing to the point he can read the brand. She needs to grow up, as well.

            1. Yorick*

              I doubt he’s sincere when he says he knows the brand. There is rarely a brand name to read anywhere near the cleavage

              1. Safetykats*

                Actually, Victoria’s Secret printable their name all up and down the bra straps on many styles. If her bra straps are routinely visible, you would never able to read it.

                1. One of the Sarahs*

                  I get that some branding is on the bra *straps* – Calvin Klein does this on some styles – but that is on the *straps* not the cups/cleavage. I wouldn’t see this as proof that OP’s colleague is being inappropriate, because while bra straps on display are not appropriate in a formal office, I wouldn’t see the problem of it in an informal shorts-and-flip-flops place.

              2. Green*

                He also noted that his height is part of the issue, so he is clearly standing in a position where he can see DOWN her shirt. He could just step back and go on with his day, and he is actively choosing to stare down her shirt instead. It’s entirely possible that he can see her bra when standing over her, but that others looking at her head-on (or her when she looks in a mirror) cannot see the bra.

              3. Sleve McDichael*

                Actually, Bonds do several bras that have the brand name written in very large font right across the top of the cup and I would have thought they probably aren’t the only brand to do this. She could actually be quite well covered and he could still see the brand by peering directly down if it was something like the one in the link below:
                http://www.bonds.com.au/triangle-crop-wx6vy-wit.html

            2. Emily K*

              IDK about this reading the brand thing. Most of my bras only print the brand on the inside facing the skin.

              I do have a few where the brand prints their name on the bra straps, and as mentioned above a lot of bras nowadays are designed with lacy/decorative straps that are expected to be visible on the shoulders with certain necklines that don’t have to be overly revealing – a boatneck or wide v-neck, for instance, or a tank top whose straps don’t perfectly align and stay in perfect alignment with one’s bra straps.

              Like, where is he reading the brand name? If it’s just on the straps, maybe it’s my age showing but I don’t think bra straps visible on the shoulders are considered all that scandalous anymore. There’s been an overall loosening of formality in American dress for a couple of decades now, like how women in many cities no longer wear pantyhose, bralettes have taken a huge chunk of market share from bras, tattoos and “unnatural” hair colors have become acceptable, few offices require men to wear a tie every day, etc. A lot of women in my casual office have visible bra/bralette straps with certain outfits, but they’re designed to be potentially visible, so it’s more like having the straps of your spaghetti-strap camisole visible when wearing layers than having your underwear visible.

            3. Mike C.*

              Come on, I’m a dude and even I know that bras exist with the brand name written all over the straps. It’s not the Victorian era anymore.

              1. Busty Matron*

                Sounds like it’s mostly dudes who know this so well. Anyone who needs more than a C cup isn’t going to shop at Victoria’s Secret to start with, I wouldn’t step foot in there. Their bras are crap anyway, the better brands don’t do this.

          7. Just trying...*

            The problem is that he is taller and looking down. I am a DDD cup. If you look straight at me you will not see a bra. If you look down you will see the bra in between my breasts in most shirts other than turtle necks and very high necked shirts. I k ow this because I just checked looking down and looked at a mirror.

            1. The Other Katie*

              I’m just a C cup and don’t wear cleavage-bearing tops or bras, and my partner (who’s about a foot taller than me) can see my boobs if he’s standing close by.
              Being a grown man, he doesn’t blame me for any sexual interest he incurs as a result of his accidental boob-viewage, but instead either ignores it or points out that my top isn’t covering what I probably want to cover, and then moves on.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          Also not well endowed women. Hell since the beginning of time women of all shapes and sizes have been accused of “leading males on” for being, yanno, female.

        3. Secretary*

          I’m reading this pile on and thinking, “Man, I would be annoyed and distracted too” and I’m a straight cis (well endowed, if ya know what I mean…) woman!

          Alison is right, it’s not something you can go to HR for. I also think you’re right, LW, that what she’s doing is probably inappropriate, casual dress code or not! I have big boobs and way less options for professional wear, but I don’t show my bra.

          So some practical things that may help: Categorize this the same way you would if someone had a large burn on their neck or a tattoo of The Vatican on their arm. Pretend not to notice and make a conscious effort to look her in the eye.

          In the meantime, I know it’s hard to read these comments, because some of your language does raise some red flags. Even if that’s not how you meant it to come across, your words are a window into how you view the world, and women. It may save you some future grief to look closer at how you view women vs men, and if you don’t view both with the same level of respect. I don’t know if that’s your actual view from one letter, so that’s on you to take a look at.

          1. Flash Bristow*

            I like the burn analogy. I know a couple of people with really huge obvious birthmark on their faces. You just don’t comment on it, try not to stare at it, try to just get used to “that’s just how they look” and move on.

            Personally I need to lipread so I’m not gonna be looking elsewhere much anyway, but meh. OP maybe you could focus on lipreading as they speak?

            For whatever reason that’s what she wears, the other office members are cool with it (or at least haven’t made her change) so you just have to get over it. Eyes up!

          2. Chinookwind*

            Secretary, I happen to agree with you in all that you say. While too often women get the blame for men not controlling themselves, I have also seen women whose choice of clothing crosses a line into “not quite appropriate for work.” DH would take of coworkers who, on casual Friday’s, looked like they were dressed for the bar and showed cleavage and wore pants tight enough to tell what type of underwear they were wearing. He found it distracting and frustrating, especially since, as a man, he would have gotten written up for wearing a shirt unbuttoned down the chest as far as the women did.

            DH’s supervisors were men and they too found it not only uncomfortable to work with the women dressed like that, but they also felt like they had no standing to ask them to meet dress code because it would have involved describing how much cleavage, but crack or underwear were on display as they went around their job. No one wanted to be piled on like OP is here for asking about a situation that made them uncomfortable.

            I told him the same thing you told OP – pretend their clothing is like a scar or false limb (this was a military office, so he had practical experience with this) and actively ignore it.It should come with practice, even if it doesn’t make the situation right.

            1. Impy*

              “While too often women get the blame for men not controlling themselves – it doesn’t happen often enough, so I thought I’d do it too.” ^

              1. Drewski*

                It is almost as if women have an enormous amount of power over men. Some chose to wield it openly, some don’t. Power can be addicting.

                1. anonarama*

                  If women actually had real power over men, don’t you think we’d use it to make sure we got paid the same amount for the same job, that insurance would cover women’s health appropriately, that we wouldn’t get pink tax-ed, that we would have control over our own bodies?

                2. Jadelyn*

                  Look, I’m sorry 8chan closed down and all, but this is probably not the right place for you if that’s your opinion of women.

                3. RetailRat*

                  I’ve read most of your comments on this thread, Alison has cautioned us to be polite so I will be.

                  Your name sums you up comepletely, please learn about women as people not objects and think of them as people in your intereactions. You are showing yourself up and it would be best if you stopped becuae you are not making any friends and your arguments will go unheard if you don’t stop. Reword your replies to not make women out to be objects and power-mongers. This past 100 years are the first time in millenia women have started to be taken seriously as people. It’s still only a start and your behaviour is what stops it progressing faster.

                  For every time you see someone talk about a woman doing something wrong because they’re “women”, flip it round, think about how you’d feel, as a man, to be talked about like that.

                4. Zillah*

                  If women had as much power over men as you say, sexual assault, domestic violence, and sexual harassment wouldn’t be anywhere near as prevalent as they are.

      4. Ursula*

        With an at all deep shirt, most bras will be at least a bit visible from the top. That goes for even standard wrap shirts. There’s space between the breasts, and that makes things visible.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I can always see my bra when I look down in a lower-cut shirt, because I’m directly above it.

        2. aebhel*

          Yep. If you look down the front of a low-cut shirt, you can usually see the bra. If her bra is showing above the neckline of her shirt, then yeah, that’s probably inappropriate in most offices (although if it’s actually a push-up bra I’m doubtful that’s the case just because of how they function), but if management is cool with it then it’s still not on the OP to enforce the dress code on his peers just because he finds it distracting.

        3. Remedial Chaos Theory*

          Pretty much. If he’s looking at her chest from the top, he’s gonna see her bra. The solution is so obviously “stop freaking looking at her chest”, I’m baffled that so many words were needed to describe the problem. You’re tall, and if you stand next to her and look directly down, you’ll see her cleavage and bra? Then don’t stand right next to her looking down into her cleavage. Problem solved.

      5. Red5*

        ” But she is intentionally flaunting her bosom (not saying she’s trying to be harassed — but, again, you don’t accidentally display your bra routinely without knowing what you’re doing).”

        No. No, no, no, no. All the no. I can guarantee you she’s not “intentionally flaunting her bosom.” Please stop.

        1. Jungkook*

          Not really sure how you can “guarantee” she isn’t when her shirt is so revealing she’s showing her bra.

          1. eyes up*

            not really sure how we can’t guarantee he’s not just seeing it because, as he admits, he’s 1. taller than her and 2. often staring down at her chest. maybe he just sees it more because he’s literally looking down her shirt

            if someone was really just trotting around with their bra out all the time, i have a hard time wondering why someone wouldn’t just … tell her

            but instead, it seems he’s the only one having a problem, and probably the only one staring down at her chest all the time

            1. Jungkook*

              No one can guarantee anything because we don’t know her so Red5 shouldn’t be making those claims.

              1. Mike C.*

                So you’re going to double down on this? You think there’s a significant enough chance that she’s purposefully flaunting herself in an unprofessional manner that we need to seriously discuss the issue?

                Are you serious here?

              2. Aquawoman*

                Weird that you call out someone saying she’s NOT intentionally flaunting but are fine with the person saying that she is intentionally flaunting. Not seeing a principled distinction there. If anything, it’s more ok to give someone the benefit of the doubt, especially when it’s based on experience.

              3. LITJess*

                So he admits to hovering over her and staring at her to the point that he even notices she’s uncomfortable, but no, you’re sure she’s asking for it. Wow, just wow.

            2. Claribel*

              Yeah, I think you’re right – with low-cut tops, a bra will be visible to anyone staring right down the top from above, which it sounds like the OP is doing.

          2. Red5*

            How can I “guarantee” it? Because women, since the beginning of time, who are simply trying to go about their day, run their errands, deliver their presentations, finish their TPS reports, are constantly accused of “distracting” men, “flaunting their bodies” at men, “enticing” men, etc., just for living their GD lives.

            Per his letter, he’s the only one with the problem here. No one in any position of authority has spoken to her about her appearance at work.

            “I get that it’s on me to be self-controlled if that’s what I want to do…” He’s clearly admitting he could be self-controlled and not look if he wanted.

            “I don’t have this problem with my other female coworkers, even though one of them is remarkably well-endowed…” He seems to make a habit of noticing the breast sizes of other coworkers as well.

            “She has the assets for this style of dress, and it’s hard not to notice …” He likes her breasts and wants to stare.

            1. VictorianCowgirl*

              Every decently sighted person notices everyone’s breast size. It’s a natural part of having vision.

                1. VictorianCowgirl*

                  Not at all. I think the comments are leaning towards being somewhat blinded by idealism. Humans notice humans. That doesn’t mean his *staring* is ok. Everyone is making these huge leaps intimating that if you notice, you’re a creep. If you *stare*, you’re a creep.

                2. Red5*

                  “Everyone is making these huge leaps intimating that if you notice, you’re a creep. If you *stare*, you’re a creep.”

                  He stares. He admits he stares. He admits he’s made her uncomfortable in the past with his staring. What are these “huge leaps” you say everyone is making here?

                3. JB*

                  I take it the opposite way. Breast size will be noticed without any degree of flaunting required. And even if everyone else in this office notices her breast size, because vision, no one else has a problem with it.

              1. Lepidoptera*

                They might ‘notice it’ as in it’s in their line of vision but they aren’t noticing it like their taking a measuring tape to it with their eyes, which is exactly what LW is doing.

                1. Emily K*

                  I would certainly not use the work “remarkable” to describe any physical aspect of a coworker’s body.

                2. antigone_ks*

                  Precisely. And then LW thought Alison needed to know about the breast size of other female colleagues as well, so it seems that he’s spent a lot of time focusing on the assets of every woman in that office.

              2. Librarian of SHIELD*

                I honestly couldn’t tell you the relative breast size of any of my coworkers because I’m not mentally cataloging them and comparing them to each other in the way that the OP does in his letter.

                1. UKDancer*

                  Agreed. I am trying to think and…nope. I couldn’t tell you either. I could tell you more about some of the other women I do dance classes with because we change in the same room but I couldn’t guess sizes with any accuracy. I tend to notice more if someone is wearing a really good outfit. Breasts, we’ve all got them so no big deal.

                  Thinking about my male colleagues, I don’t notice much about their bodies either. One of the chaps has a nice tatt on his arm which I notice because it’s beautifully done, but that’s as much as I could say.

                2. Oranges*

                  Like knowing your co-workers height. If they’re extra tall/short, you’ll notice but you won’t be able to line them up via height, you just noticed he’s short/tall in enough past interactions to have that label “stick” to him.

              3. aebhel*

                ….yeah, but most people don’t make a point of cataloging their coworkers’ breast sizes.

              4. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

                Women do also possess eyes, yet for some reason don’t rank men by the size of their penises, nor accuse them of “flaunting their penises” if for some reason their jeans get a bit tight on the groin area when they sit. I am absolutely sure I would never, ever in my career, will face a conversation where a lady says “you should tell Bob not to wear jeans. I notice his incredibly big penis when he sits, and is enticing me. I cannot stop staring.”

                1. Drewski*

                  Eh we actually had a complaint from a customer about one of our employee’s “size”

                  He was known as “squirrel man” for awhile around the office. The customer said it looked like he was smuggling a squirrel and she was right. Not much he could do about it either.

              5. Kramerica Industries*

                You’re right, there are things in a natural sight of vision – a bald head, a well-fitted suit, a neck tattoo.

                But you know what a normal person does? They don’t stare. They don’t gawk. They go about their business and treat the other person with respect and look at the other person’s eyes when speaking to them. OP, it’s really as simple as that. You’ve already trained yourself (hopefully) not to stare at other physical features, so it’s no different for a woman’s chest.

              6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                lol, I could not tell you any of my female coworkers’ breast sizes right now if my life depended on it. I promise I do have vision.

              7. Nom the Plumage*

                No. A very Victorian-era way of thinking to be sure, but not correct for most of us. I am aware if someone HAS breasts, but I never linger long enough to ascertain the size.

              8. Remedial Chaos Theory*

                There’s a difference between casually noticing people’s bodies, which happens, and constantly staring to the point where you’re able to compare one coworker’s breasts to another’s, and have made them uncomfortable with your creepy staring before.

              9. Choux*

                Mmm, nope. I might notice if a woman were walking around topless, but as the owner of a G-cup rack, I really don’t notice most breasts. Also noticing everyone’s breast size sounds EXHAUSTING.

              10. feminzagul*

                That’s a startlingly ridiculous assumption to make. We aren’t all out here sizing each other up constantly.

            2. Anonymeece*

              Thank you. I noticed those particular linguistic quirks too – especially the “assets for this style of dress”. That crossed the line for me completely. Also, the constant references to “married” or “unmarried” are a little weird and irrelevant to this situation, unless you’re equating “She’s married, she should be covering up for everyone not her husband”.

              OP, you seem to know what you’re doing isn’t right, and you acknowledge in your letter that it’s on you to control yourself, but by wanting to go to HR, you seem to want to make her control her actions more than you want to control your own. That’s not okay. It’s her manager’s place to decide if he thinks it’s inappropriate, and yours to decide that you are not going to ogle her.

              1. Baby Fishmouth*

                The only thing that changed about how I dress when I got married was the ring I started wearing. And even that’s optional.

              2. Sacred Ground*

                I like how he knows it’s on him to control his gaze but he just doesn’t want to, and this is her fault.

          3. Blunt Bunny*

            Hiding her bra wouldn’t stop him from looking. He didn’t say “I find my eyes are naturally drawn to her breast area due to our height differences I have previously made her feel very uncomfortable and I’m terribly embarrassed. What should I say or do to remedy this?”
            He is literally undressing her with his eyes and enjoying every second and doesn’t care that she knows and felt unsafe.

      6. Star*

        It actually is very possible to accidentally show your bra without knowing it. It could be that you have trouble finding a bra that fits (so the straps sneak out and fall down), or you have a large bust that makes even higher cut tops show cleavage and your bra (this has been my particular bane), or any number of other reasons that I haven’t personally experienced.

        Frankly, I think the sensitivity over parts of a bra showing (the majority of it showing would be different) is absurd. And that it’s something only women have to worry about bothers me even more. Hell, even if we wanted to forgo wearing a bra so the above wasn’t an issue, we couldn’t! Because bralessness is also made to be a problem. I don’t think women can win no matter what we do with/about our boobs.

        1. no, the other Laura*

          Also, when I check myself in the morning, the mirror is at eye level for me. I don’t know what the tall people see.

          Had a short colleague for whom eye level was exactly my breast-height. He managed to look me in the eye daily.

          1. Alexander Graham Yell*

            Yep. I have a lot of shirts that show a little cleavage (maybe an inch? I’m fairly well-endowed in that area, so it wouldn’t even *be* cleavage on some of my friends, but bodies are what they are) that I was told were basically indecent at my old office because when people walked by and I was sitting down, they could see straight down my shirt. I had *no clue* that was possible because it’s not how I see myself when I’m getting ready AND it was deeply uncomfortable to know that people were walking around having inappropriate thoughts about my body and making it my problem.

        2. londonedit*

          If she was wearing a button-up shirt, he’d probably still have a problem with her ‘displaying her assets’. A high-necked t-shirt or turtleneck can also make larger breasts look even more prominent, so he’d probably have trouble averting his gaze from that, too. Bottom line is, this chap can’t seem to stop himself from staring at his female coworkers’ chests, and would prefer that a woman was told to dress differently rather than actually making any effort to view his coworkers as fellow professionals rather than walking ‘assets’.

        3. starsaphire*

          Big issue for me too, this summer. Had to replace my bras, and the new ones all have straps that are 1″ wide, and are angled for a V neck. Also replaced some tank tops, and the only ones I could find that fit my requirements have scoop necks and spaghetti straps.

          That means a large percentage of my bra is showing at all times. The only thing I can do is make sure the colors match and hope no one cares.

        4. VictorianCowgirl*

          Sure we can. We can check what we’re wearing and make sure we’re not showing underwear at work.

              1. Pippa K*

                Not to speak for Mike C, but I think perhaps he’s suggesting that somewhere out there, the distance between a schoolgirl’s skirt hem and her kneecap is going unmeasured, and you might want to go chastise someone about that. Temptresses are everywhere, and the price of patriarchy is eternal vigilance.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  This thread is full of gems, but I think this one is my favorite. May your hot beverages always be the perfect drinkable temperature and your cold beverages never be watered down by melting ice.

                2. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  @Jadelyn I have to disagree with you here, there are some beverages that are given a different but equally nice flavor profile by melted ice (maybe even a better flavor profile) whiskey and gin being a few of them in my opinion.

                3. Red5*

                  “Temptresses are everywhere, and the price of patriarchy is eternal vigilance.”

                  This is so epic I want to embroider it on a pillow. :D

                4. Jadelyn*

                  @CmdrShepard4ever Duly noted. The blessing is amended to “and your cold beverages never watered down by melting ice if you don’t want them to be.” ;)

                5. Reliquary*

                  Pippa, may your tattoos never fade; may your cats decide to get up from your lap before you realize you have to pee; may you always find a convenient parking space; may your neighbors’ children shovel your driveway in winter, and stay quiet until you wish to wake every day in summer.

                1. AJHall*

                  You’re the first place where I can put an answer but to @CmdrShepard4ever

                  Gin yes, Whiskey never.

          1. Decima Dewey*

            Nearly every woman, whatever her breast size, has accidentally worn a shirt that proved to be sheer enough to show her bra, or a shirt that revealed more than she expected when she had to reach for something or bend down to point something out to a coworker.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              I recently got a bra that has wandering straps. They cross in the back and this causes the straps to move toward my neck for some reason.

              I have also owned shirts that were definitely opaque in my bathroom where the mirror is but are much less so in direct sunlight, and occasionally you find that out the hard way.

          2. feminzagul*

            Can you see yourself from every angle and height and guarantee that no part of your wardrobe malfunctions ever throughout the day? I suspect not.

        5. LPUK*

          There’s also the issue that often bras for larger cup sizes are full-cups and higher up the chest to accommodate the boob , so they are always going to be more visible anyway. Large busted women don’t have the option of half cups or plunge bras because of the sheer amount of fabric needed to keep the girls contained ( and bouncing boobs are even more distracting apparently!), so the style of the bra means it’s more likely to show a little anyway – I know I have perfectly acceptable v neck tops that I can’t wear a bra under without a little lace showing as I move – Ok fro a front view but, as many have pointed out, visible if you are looking directly down the top.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Right? I’m busty as hell, so my options appear to be:

            A. Wear a bra that fully contains my vast tracts of land (no mean feat, and f’ing expensive to boot) but which may show a bit in the margins on your standard office-appropriate scoop- or v-neck tops.
            B. Wear a lower-cut bra and jiggle “distractingly” when I walk.
            C. Wear no bra at all and get in trouble for my tits being all over the place.
            D. Wear turtlenecks, which will still get me accused of “flaunting” because it seems to make the chest look bigger.

            Is there an option, other than turtleneck burlap sacks, where a busty person can just f’ing LIVE?

          2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            This drives me nuts! I am on an endless search for a nursing bra, but all of them for some reason go practically all the way up to your collarbone, but all the nursing tops are low cut to stretch over the boob and it is impossible to put an outfit together without half your bra showing. I don’t know who, but I want to have words with somebody over this.

            1. ampersand*

              I don’t know if this is a viable option for you (depending on where you live, etc.), but Nordstrom will turn any bra into a nursing bra for about a $17 fee. It’s what I did and I highly recommend it.

            2. Akcipitrokulo*

              (Ignore if wanted – just might be helpful) I found not bothering with nursing tops to work well – pull usual tops up instead of down – top covers top of boob, baby covers belly and you really can’t see anything.

        6. Ori*

          Seriously. As someone mentioned on this blog before, society demands we wear bras but in such a way that no one can tell we’re wearing bras. So we’re not only saddled with an additional expense that men don’t have to deal with (buying bras) as well as additional physical discomfort (at least for women who don’t find bras comfortable), but also all of the judgment for something that’s incredibly hard to control.

          1. Nom the Plumage*

            I heard a rant from someone going through puberty that I think about at times like these: ”You don’t want to see my bra, but you want to make sure I’m wearing one, and you get mad if you think I’m NOT wearing one! What do you want from me???”

            1. Ori*

              Yes, exactly! It’s an impossible problem without a solution, and it’s infuriating how many people think they have a say in what happens under someone else’s shirt.

              I’d like to live in a world where it’s okay for women to be comfortable at work, whether that means going braless or having a heavy duty bra that’s undeniably there, or any of the myriad options in-between. It boggles my mind that for some reason we still haven’t achieved that.

            2. Kat in VA*

              Then there’s the VPL (visible panty line) conundrum. Do I – gasp – wear underwear that actually shows lines of said underwear through slacks, resulting in the dreaded VPL?

              Or do I wear a thong or no-show raw edge underwear, thereby eliminating VPL but then inviting someone to think (or, god help me, ASK) if I’m wearing underwear at all?

              I was told once – by a man – that not having a visible panty line made me seem “slutty” somehow, because all he could imagine was me not wearing any underwear. I told him where to go in no uncertain terms, but jesus, if my underwear lines show, you’re* thinking about my underwear and if they DON’T show, then you’re thinkin about my lack of underwear and once again…a fine demonstration of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

              I just wish I could wear clothes that I like to work with undergarments that are comfortable and do what they’re supposed to do without all of this extra faff and hassle about is it visible, how visible, is that too visible or not visible enough. I have enough $hit to do at my job without having to spend extra braincycles worrying about what OTHER PEOPLE THINK about my attire and undergarments.

              (General “you”, of course)

              1. Kat in VA*

                Forgot to add that this is why I love working from home – I can wear my yoga pants (clingy! revealing!) with comfortable cotton granny undies (ugly! panty lines!) and a tank top (boobs! boobs! boobs!) and NO FREAKING BRA (pearl clutchers of the world faint at lack of foundational garment).

                And all I need to be presentable is a cardigan buttoned over said tank top (and a half pound of makeup but that’s another rant for another time) and I can have videoconferences all.damn.day in comfort and relaxation.

          2. whingedrinking*

            Not to mention that women’s clothing is generally more fitted and tighter by design, especially in business clothing; flowy styles often don’t look as professional, and baggy clothing tends to look ill-fitting by women’s fashion standards. Men rarely have to worry about showing the lines of their underwear because their fashion standards generally allow them to wear thicker fabrics and looser cuts. As long as his clothes aren’t such a bad fit that the actual undergarments are poking out, no one’s going to pull a guy in a business suit aside and whisper that boxer shorts just do not work with those pants, honey. So not only do we have to wear a bra, we have to find the magical clothing that doesn’t show its lines without making us look like we’re wearing a sack.

        7. Peachkins*

          Yes, it is! I am pretty well-endowed, and I wear a full-coverage bra most of the time. I’m not showing much cleavage even when I’m wearing just the bra. I do have a couple scoop-neck tops that I wear to work. The top of my bra usually sits right below the neckline of my shirt, but if it shifts a bit, sometimes the top of my bra might peek out. And looking down right now, since based on this thread I’m suddenly uncomfortable that I’m showing too much (lol), I realize that if I was shorter, someone taller could probably see right down my shirt.

        8. mcr-red*

          I don’t understand the sensitivity if a part of a bra showed. Everyone knows women wear them. CALM DOWN. I remember being young and checking all of my shirts to make sure that you couldn’t see even the outline of a bra under it because then you’d get picked on – “I can see your bra!” Now I don’t care anymore. Oh well. You can see it. Grow up. It doesn’t mean that I regularly go around wearing completely sheer shirts, but if a strap shows or a white shirt shows the hint of a bra, I don’t freak out.

          1. Tiny Soprano*

            When I was in high school we used to do ‘black bra Fridays’ to protest how sheer the school uniform shirts were.

      7. RUKiddingMe*

        I doubt that she is doing it intentionally. He’s looking at her boobs. He sees the top of her bra and interprets as her making it sooooooo difficult for him to not look.

      8. EnfysNest*

        Like Alison said in her answer, if this was a different letter, the response could be different. If the LW had written in saying “Sometimes my coworker’s shirt slips down so that her bra is visible – can I say something to her?”, then the answer would probably be along the lines of “Yes, just say ‘Oops, I think your shirt slipped a little – I’ll give you a moment if you want to adjust it.'”

        But that’s not what the LW wrote at all. And as he spent more and more time focusing on the size of his coworkers’ breasts and the language he used about them and how *impossible* it is for him to look away, even knowing that it makes her uncomfortable – all that seriously diminishes his credibility around the situation and means that he has lost any standing to say anything about his coworkers’ clothing.

      9. Ori*

        I really wish people would stop the bra strap policing. A bra strap isn’t indecent — yes, some offices are still conservative on this issue, but it’s really super not the same as someone showing off their boxers or thong at work. My bra straps are visible with fair regularity and the office hasn’t imploded in a frenzy of debauchery yet, and I don’t think it will. So your generalization is incorrect, full stop.

        Also, and this might come as a surprise: sometimes women just want to be comfortable, and sometimes that involves not wearing a turtleneck 24/7. Is that intentional? I guess. But it’s not intentionally flaunting anything; it’s intentionally being comfortable.

        1. Aquawoman*

          I am short-waisted and well-endowed and I actually feel much more self-conscious in a turtleneck or crewneck–I feel like I’m all boobs. I try to hit the sweet spot of scoop, vee and boat necks that don’t show too much cleavage, but I’d rather have a little bit of the line showing than the mountain range that a turtleneck would look like.

          1. KimberlyR*

            Also short-waisted and well-endowed: How exhausting is it that this is how we have to think about dressing every morning?!? Its so hard to find the exact kind of shirt that is flattering (not a tent) but not seductive or sexy, just because we have big breasts.

            When I was a teenager, my mom told me, “Your boobs look big in that shirt.” After an adolescence spent dealing with those kinds of comments, I finally snapped back, “My boobs ARE big. They will always look big.” She had no response to that.

          2. Jadelyn*

            THE U N I B O O B APPROACHES
            THERE IS NO ESCAPE
            RESISTANCE IS FUTILE

            (aka why I don’t like turtlenecks.

          3. Kat in VA*

            Big busted but long waisted…however, two years of swim team in high school left me with shoulders like a high school linebacker. I am intimately familiar with the Shelf o’ Boob of which you speak when wearing a neckline that isn’t scoop or vee. Turtlenecks or mock turtlenecks or even crew necks? Fuhgeddaboudit.

        2. Lepidoptera*

          Honestly, I’ve sat at a customer facing desk with a bra strap dangling out side of my shirt and no one felt the urge to tell me, because not one person noticed.
          I don’t even know how long it was out there because I didn’t notice it come undone from the back loop.
          It’s a piece of fabric with elastic in it. Whoop-dee-doodle-doo.
          (no swearing)

        3. Blunt Bunny*

          Agree so much with this. As someone with a FF cup most of my bra straps are wider than the straps on dresses and tops which would mean having to wear strapless bras which are uncomfortable, offer less support, are more expensive and ugly. It’s like yes I’m wearing more clothes under this.

          1. Ori*

            I will never wear a strapless bra again after the silicone on the one I owned irritated my skin so badly it looked (and hurt) like a burn. :\ Granted, there’s probably better quality strapless bras out there, but it’s just not worth it for me at this point.

      10. Peanut*

        If you look down someone’s top then you will see their underwear. She isnt displaying her bra if she has clothes over the top of it. It’s as bad as saying I looked up her skirt and saw her pants. He is deliberately looking at something that’s covered. There is a really simple answer and that’s stand futher away and look at her eyes or higher instead of standing so he can see down her top.

        1. Sarah N.*

          YES! I suppose if someone were crawling around under my desk they’d see up my skirt and be able to see my underwear. That doesn’t make it inapprpriate for me to wear a skirt + underwear! If you don’t intentionally LOOK DOWN PEOPLE’S SHIRTS, you won’t see what’s under there.

      11. Sam*

        I agree – she may not know that her bra is showing at certain angels. I would think that she would want to know that. As a woman, there are a few ways I could let her know but as a guy – I think it should a be a manager (as long as they are trustworthy).

        To be fair, I did work with an IT guy worked out a lot and regularly wore deep-v and buttoned-down shirts with one too many buttons undone. Women “reported issues” just to have him drop by. HR (female) noticed and brought it to his manager’s attention (male) and he was asked to be more aware of how he dressed. He wasn’t offended and he complied. It can go either way

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          But in this case, what reasonable action could the woman take? As others have pointed out, nearly any style of shirt could reveal underwear if viewed from a “certain angle”; unless the woman considers it reasonable to wear a turtleneck or a button-up done all the way to the top every day, she has a limited range of responses.

          It’s possible that she’d want to know, but it’s hard to judge that – maybe she’d be grateful and be able to change her wardrobe. Or maybe she’d end up feeling uncomfortable at work now that she knows someone else has been looking at her so closely.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            And if she was wearing a turtleneck while busty, there’s a really strong chance she’ll also get accused of flaunting herself etc etc

          2. Sam*

            Agreed, hard to judge if she would want to know. I guess what I keep debating in my head is there has to be a point where the bra is showing too much and she legit may not know and would like to take steps to avoid showing (Like if I can see the entire bra). Perhaps I’m personalizing it too much but I wasn’t always as large on top but in a short period of time got significantly larger. I went through a period where some of my tops showed more than I was aware. At some point, I learned that some tops I have to tape the edges so that the shirt doesn’t fall open. I don’t understand why that’s a bad and shameful thing.

        2. Close Bracket*

          There’s a lot of things about that story that are kind of gross. Deliberating reporting issues to get a glimpse of his pecs? Gross. HR noticing that women are reporting issues to get a glimpse of his pecs and reporting it to *his* manager and not theirs? His manager telling *him* to dress differently and not telling them to stop wasting his employee’s time? Yuck, all the way around.

      12. Louise*

        The victim blaming language of this comment (saying that she’s *intentionally* flaunting her boson and implying that there has ever been a woman in the history of the world who is TRYING to be harassed) is deeply disturbing and I urge you to reflect on your own opinions of women’s bodies.

      13. Feline*

        If this female coworker is especially well-endowed, her bra may be visible because she needs one that’s more than a few scraps of lace. It takes some fabric coverage to keep things under control, which someone might misinterpret as “showing off a bra” if it peeks out of a v-neck blouse. But OP would no doubt complain if she went braless, which is what a skimpier bra would functionally be.

      14. Alexandra Lynch*

        And, as someone with a bra size that is not sold in regular stores, I can’t wear the same neckline as a less-endowed woman without looking pornographic. This is just the way it is. It’s not fair, but it’s on me partly to recognize that there’s more to cover/restrain to get to “work appropriate”. If he can see her bra, the shirt is not appropriate for her, even if possibly every other woman in the place is wearing the same cut.

    2. some dude*

      I’ll also add that, I get it, we live in an age of the boob top and skin tight leggings and buttcheeks hanging out of shorts, but we always have a choice to not ogle. There are distracting things out there, but we can not stare at those things.

      And large chested women have a hard time not showing off their boobs. just don’t stare at ’em. they are not on display for you. you aren’t the target demo. ignore them.

      1. Remedial Chaos Theory*

        This. Is it truly so much of a hardship to look at your coworker’s face as opposed to straight down her shirt? Come on.

        1. LITJess*

          And if it is really, truly such a hardship to see your female co-workers as whole human beings and not the purveyors of boobs to your general vicinity, please consider behavioral therapy. I know that therapy gets thrown around a lot as a suggestion on advice blogs, but if this does border on compulsion for the OP it’s worth at least considering.

    3. From That Guy*

      Two points:

      1. Allison’s reply was off base to say the least and quite judgemental.
      2. All responses in anger were even more off base as well.

      To the many many commenters listed above, address the problem, take your politics and prejudice out of it. She is dressing inappropriately, end of story. I suggest talking with HR. I wish you luck and applaud your honesty.

      1. But Make It Data*

        It seems we must be reading a different reply from Allison and a different comment section, then. Are women not allowed to be angry, or frustrated, or annoyed, or have any comment about being constantly judged for their physical appearance?

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        How the hell do you know she’s dressing inappropriately? Have you actually seen her or read the office’s dress code for yourself? No? Then maybe you should try listening to the people who have been repeatedly told that their clothing and their very bodies are not “appropriate” even when we’ve scrupulously tried to follow the dress code to the letter.

        1. LITJess*

          The MRA are out in force today, but here’s hoping one of them actually reads and internalizes all the personal stories women have been sharing in the comments today.

      3. RetailRat*

        I haven’t made one response in anger. If I did Alison would be well within her rights to boot my posterior out. All my responses have been very thought out and calm. Themost anger I’ve seen have been from the ones defending the LW.

        The problem has been thoroughly addressed with a lot more manners than the naysayers, it’s been an incredibly civilised list of responses considering how extremely emotive the subject is.

        I feel somewhere you have read the wrong post and taken the replies out of context, otherwise you are not understanding the problem.

      4. Mike C.*

        lol wat

        “I’m undressing her my eyes so SHE’S IN THE WRONG” is a really special take there. Congratulating him for creeping on coworkers is already incredibly gross.

    4. AnnonForThisToo*

      Thank you!
      A few years ago I was talking to my boss and I noticed his eyes were roaming around my chest and clavicle area- I wasn’t wearing anything low cut, it was winter so most likely a light but rather baggy jumper. At some point he reached over to a jumper that was on his desk, held it to his groin area and just got up without really finishing our conversation. I was then basically at eye level with his crotch and wasn’t too sure whether we were reenacting some type of American Pie style juvenile bodily hyperfunction. I don’t think so highly of myself as to presume that he got a boner (we’re both way too old for this- me late 30s and him late 40s back then) but what other explanation is there? He didn’t put the jumper down until I left, still with some talking points open. I still get weirded out and wonder what was going on.

  3. Zip Silver*

    If you’re muscular OP, wear something that shows off your guns and calves. Might as well go all in, since it’s such a casual place.

    1. WooHoo!*

      As a very well endowed woman, I would be okay with this. SUN’S OUT, GUNS OUT! WOOOO! /s

      (guns mean muscles in this case, for those that will take offense to this)

    1. anonz*

      Seriously, I mentally went straight for the “why can’t this human female just leave her breasts at home so the menfolk can focus.” So kudos.

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        I was thinking more along the lines of “guess you’re wearing a blindfold at work from now on, fella,” but yes. Right there with you.

      2. Jadelyn*

        Apparently that doesn’t work either, though – remember the woman who’d had a single mastectomy and didn’t like wearing a breast form, and one of her male coworkers complained that her lopsided chest was distracting? She tried leaving (one of) her breast(s) at home and the men still didn’t like it. There’s no right answer.

        1. Kat in VA*

          She had a mAsTeCtOmY.

          She survived CANCER.

          And yet, after all that, some idiot twerp dink dingdong absolute bellend JACKWAGON felt the need to complain that her lopsided chest was bothering his feefees and his eyes and probably his libido.

          How dare she forgot for one single second that her main purpose is to serve as decoration to whatever man is within a five mile square radius of her?

          I would tell him to get effed so hard and fast. People’s lack of awareness at times is just…astounding to me.

  4. Thank you!!*

    Thank you, Allison, for this response. Men need to learn how to police their own behavior, rather than further blame women for things as minor as “wearing a low cut top.”

    He note’s it’s a big problem because she’s shorter than him, but f she wore heels, I doubt the problem — his staring — would go away.

    1. MistOrMister*

      I was talked to at one job for distracting some of the menfolks with my cleavage and that I needed to change my tops. I pointed out that I was wearing the same button up tops with camisoles beneath a another coworker and why was she considered to be following the dress code and I wasn’t. I understand different,bust sizes means different amounts of cleavage for the same type of clothing, but I was in no way falling out of my shirts.

      1. MistOrMister*

        Oops….sent too soon.

        Needless to say, I did not change what I was wearing and didn’t hear anything else about it after I mentioned that I was wearing the same style of clothing as other people.

      2. House Tyrell*

        In high school, myself and my more well-endowed friend wore the exact same shirts to school one day so that when she was inevitably written up, we could protest the male teachers and administration for scrutinizing girls for the bra sizes.

        1. blackcat*

          When I taught high school, a lot of my colleagues would send an email to the effect of “Liz’s top is showing too much. Can you handle it?”

          Their reasoning in asking me to do it was I was young (22), female, and well endowed myself.

          Rather than offering any type of scolding, I’d make suggestions for how to change an outfit (high cut camis are a staple of my wardrobe and I frequently recommended them). If I knew the student well, I’d straight up say that is hard to have bras that fit right when you’re growing, but a well fitting bra alone could fix their outfit, and to go online and find instructions for properly measuring. Probably a majority of the too much boob dress code violations I saw could be fixed with a well fitting bra.
          I never got a bad reaction to that conversation! Turning the “shame on you” conversation to “let’s talk fashion and complain about how teen-marketed clothes are made for sticks not real humans” worked well. Funny how a little respect goes a long way.

          1. TechWorker*

            I’m glad you had success with this but as a teenager a ‘here’s how to dress and btw your bra doesn’t fit’ conversation from a teacher – no matter how young and friendly and well worded would have absolutely mortified me.

          2. LITJess*

            I’m not going to lie, I’m a little horrified by this. I think your coworkers put you in a really awful position by kind of doubling down on the misogyny. “I don’t like how Teen Girl A is dressed, I’ll go get Young Woman Newly Graduated to deal with it for me.”
            I hope that’s not how you would handle the situation now, because I think this is a very good candidate for Return the Awkward to sender. Instead of nicely shaming the girl (I’m sorry, but you did), go back to coworker and say you don’t see anything wrong with her outfit, would he like to tell the teenage girl how to dress herself?

          3. Lock*

            >Turning the “shame on you” conversation to “let’s talk fashion and complain about how teen-marketed clothes are made for sticks not real humans” worked well.

            Just a note… let’s be considerate of our language about other people, especially when speaking to young and impressionable folks. Thin, skinny, “stick” people with less in the boob department are still real people. Dehumanizing people for being a different shape isn’t kind.

      3. blackcat*

        There’s also the height issue.
        I’m short with large boobs. If I wear something even moderately v-necked, I may look 100% professional to those under 5’5” and those standing a reasonable distance away. But if someone tall is standing too close, they’ll see boob and bra.
        I don’t think LW will be reading at this point, but I do have related, constructive advice:
        1) keep a respectful distance.
        2) sit when talking to her whenever possible.
        Both of these will reduce the ability to see down her shirt.

    2. Doug Judy*

      As a short, busty woman, I agree. I don’t wear clothes to show off my boobs at work but at the same time there’s not a whole lot I can do about them. They are just there. Wearing high necklines are not very flattering, because they make me look shorter and heavier than I am so sometimes I have v-neck tops that shift a bit through the day and show more than I intended. Not my fault of some dude can’t just get over it.

  5. dovahkiin*

    “Dear Alison,
    I do not want to control my creepy behavior, because it is inconvenient to me, so can I make my coworker wear different clothing?”

    Dude. Seriously???

    1. bloody mary bar*

      This is a really good translation of this letter.

      Sorry LW, I know you think what you’re asking for is reasonable but it really, really isn’t.

  6. Art3mis*

    I get that it’s on me to be self-controlled if that’s what I want to do

    Why is this something you wouldn’t want to do?

    1. ThatGirl*

      This is my question. He admits he can and should be self-controlled but … he doesn’t want to? It’s “how can I make her feel bad/change her clothes”

    2. Crivens!*

      Honestly that is the most “entitled man” statement I’ve heard in a long time. He only has to control himself IF HE WANTS TO?!

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Right? That line says so much right there, holy shit.

      OP, it’s on you to be self-controlled regardless of whether you want to or not because that’s what being an adult is all about.

    4. fposte*

      Put it another way, it’s on you to be self-controlled even if it’s *not* what you want to do.

      OP, this comments section is likely to be a rough ride for you, I’m afraid. If your intent is the opposite of sexual harassment, stop looking at your co-worker’s cleavage so that your actions are also the opposite of it. It’s weird that you say that you don’t do this with other female co-workers yet were right up there with the bust size of another, which suggests to me you’re devoting more mental space to your co-workers’ busts than is appropriate or wise.

      You haven’t mentioned anything ADA-related, but even if there is something that means you genuinely cannot control your eye movements, requiring co-workers to change their dress would not be a reasonable accommodation.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        I think that “if I wanted to” part was bizarre. The whole idea of self-control is pretty meaningless if one only exercises it when one wants to. It’s when one does NOT want to that one is in fact exercising self-control. It is, by definition, choosing to not do something no matter how much one wants to do it.

    5. RetailRat*

      That ording is very disturbing to me. I had a friend like that and the amount of time I had to verbally slap him for making those sorts of comments, well, that’s hy it’s a past tense friendship.

    6. KTEMgee*

      Glad this was pointed out. IF that’s something he wants to do? Self-control is not optional here.

    7. Jessica Fletcher*

      A telling line! Another: “I don’t have this problem with my other female coworkers, even though one of them is remarkably well-endowed,”

      A guy who’s not a creep doesn’t refer to his coworker as “remarkably well-endowed”!

    8. merp*

      Aaahhhhh how did I skip over those last crucial words?!

      Wow, OP, this is not a choice for you, this is something you must do as a person in the world.

    9. Parenthetically*

      Hot damn, I fully missed this on the first read. “if that’s what I want to do” literally WTF LW.

    10. Amy J.*

      He could stand far enough back that the fact that he’s taller than her no longer permits him to look down the front of her shirt. Since he knows she’s felt uncomfortable about the way he looks at her in the past, I’m sure she’d feel better that he’s standing further away, too.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      Self-control is a huge part of life, OP. What we eat, spend, drink, clean, organize are some of the many ways we have to exercise self-control.
      Not exercising self-control involves trade-offs and in some cases involves paying a price. There’s really no getting around the practice of self-control, it’s in every aspect of our lives.

      Additionally, I am concerned that you wish to abdicate your autonomy. Any time someone “fixes” our problems for us, instead of us trying to fix it ourselves, we lose a little bit of our ability to dictate how our day and maybe even how our lives play out. If there is a part of life we cannot get under control perhaps therapy is an answer.
      We can’t change what other people do, we can only change ourselves. And in the world we have now, the folks who are willing to flex and willing to make changes are the folks who will make out better than those who do not.

  7. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

    And this is why making girls and women responsible for covering themselves up instead of making boys and men responsible for treating us like human beings and not objects put on earth for their desire is problematic.

    If you didn’t really want to notice, you wouldn’t notice. I manage to look my coworkers in the eyes no matter what might be going on with them when I have conversations with them.

    You want this woman to change how she dresses because you don’t want the responsibility of controlling yourself. That’s 100% on you. Not her.

    You need to make a stronger effort. Practice with others. Don’t look at anyone below the neck for a while. You are the one who needs to change here.

    1. RetailRat*

      I completely agree with your reply, thank you for that.

      My best mate always notices, he enjoys how other people present themselves, whatever gender. He comments to me about the males he works with and how they are just animals with shoes. The difference is, he notices but never comments and never makes women uncomfortable. That’s why he’s my best mate. Well one reason.

    2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      My guess is the top is something like in the link I will put in the next comment. Straight on, no bra. Looking down into the v-neck, you’ll see some bra. The solution is to not look down.

        1. Old and Don’t Care*

          I would say that shirt isn’t appropriate for most offices and it’s not even close. Worthy of a report to HR, no, but still inappropriate.

          1. Old and Don’t Care*

            “Edited” to add that if it’s a shorts and flip flops office, it could be okay.

          2. Marion Cotesworth-Haye*

            In a “a small company with a super-casual dress code, ” where “shorts and flip flops are regular wear during the summers for a lot of people”? This pic doesn’t seem much out of line with that standard, and regardless, as Alison points out, that’s management’s call, not a co-worker who doesn’t want to commit to keeping his eyes above her shoulders.

            1. Old and Don’t Care*

              I’ve since read downthread and I appreciate Alison’s point that the point of the thread is advice for the OP, not his co-worker. His behavior is separate from her attire.

          3. KimberlyR*

            Literally the type of shirt I’m wearing at work right now. We are a super casual office and I wear a shirt like that, denim capris, and flip flops daily. Its not inappropriate for work.

          4. MrsCHX*

            There is nothing wrong with that top. And, please do not “report” to HR. We have eyes and will discuss inappropriate clothing choices with people when those people need their inappropriate clothing choices pointed out.
            Kthanksbye.

      1. RetailRat*

        I agree, the way he’s trying to talk around it, she’s short so she knnnooowws I can see more because I can’t help looking down at what’s so obviously on show.

        I have a jumper like that, looks nice but from my angle it’s way on down there. I’ve been assured you have to get close to see that much though. This poor woman has a tall letch looking down at her in so many ways.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah that’s my guess too. I have some low cut shirts that are completely work appropriate and don’t show off my bra, but if you’re standing close to me and look down, you’ll see my bra.

        Solution? Don’t look down. There’s nothing wrong with that shirt.

        1. mcr-red*

          I feel like this guy would stare at someone with horrific burns or something, and then complain, “I can see their burns, can’t you make them cover them up,” instead of NOT STARING.

          1. Johnny Tarr*

            Disagree. I bet he could find a way to avoid staring at most things that aren’t boobs.

    3. pope suburban*

      This. I understand some initial surprise when you meet someone who does not dress or appear in ways that are familiar to you, just because hey, that is new and different! But it’s been my experience that you get used to it after a while- whether it’s Fergus’s full-sleeve tattoos or Cersei’s v-neck shirts. That this coworker’s bosom continues to be an issue is…highly suspect. OP can learn to look people in the eye and discipline his behaviors like the rest of us.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Did you see the photo shared above? If I was wearing that shirt and you were taller than me and looked down, you’d see my bra. Straight on, there’s no sign of it.

        It’s on you not to look down.

      2. DashDash*

        First, I would disagree that a bra is equivalent to genitals, I do want to begin by throwing that out there. I don’t think I should need to elaborate on how that’s the case. She’s not flashing her lowerladybits, a piece of clothing worn underneath another piece of clothing sometimes becomes visible.

        Second, why is that relevant here?

      3. Yorick*

        I have never owned a bra that had a brand name anywhere but on the band in the back. He’s not complaining about her wearing backless shirts, so…..I don’t think “reading the brand” is something that’s actually happening here.

        1. Pippa K*

          Meh, there’s a chance. I have a bra with the brand name on a tiny tag between the cups. If you looked down my top, you could see it. But you’d have to (1) deliberately look down my top and (2) look long enough to read the writing. Only the worst jackasses at my workplace would do this.

        2. Sleve McDichael*

          I own a bra that has the brand name written in repeating half inch high font all the way across the top of the cups. You can read the brand, but you would have to be staring down into my shirt from above to see it.

      4. JustThreeMoreYears!*

        It’s not even close to the same as a man showing his genitals at work! The equivalent to a man showing his genitals at work would be if she were showing her genitals at work!

        1. VictorianCowgirl*

          Breasts are still, last I checked, considered private reproductive parts in western society. Some consider them part of the genital system, as genitals outside the body. So yes, in western society, it is.

          1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

            Showing your penis in public is against the law. Showing the top curve of your breast in public is not. Nor is showing your bra. There is 100% a difference between cleavage and seeing a man’s penis and testicles.

          2. Aquawoman*

            “Some consider them” genitals does not make them genitals. I can consider a zebra to be a tiger because it has stripes but that doesn’t make it a tiger.

            Women used to have boobs falling out of their dresses but had separate staircases so that they wouldn’t show their ankles.

            1. Pippa K*

              Sorry, let me just pick those up. I got distracted by that zebratiger and lost track of my assets for a minute.

          3. Remedial Chaos Theory*

            It’s perfectly reasonable to breastfeed in public, for example. So, nah, if you consider them part of the genital system, that’s your thing, not the generally accepted thing.

          4. Kella*

            Biologically speaking, breasts are not considered as genitals or reproductive parts because they are not in any way required in order to reproduce or to have sex. They are technically classified as secondary sex characteristics, akin to facial hair, widening of hips, and the start of menstruation.

          5. Knitting Cat Lady*

            1. Boobs have nothing to do with reproduction. That would be the ovaries and uterus. Boobs are mutated sweat glands. We can produce viable offspring without boobs, as people still get pregnant after double mastectomies.

            2. The ‘Ack! Titties!’ response is a VERY American thing. People of all genders go topless at the beach or the lake all over Europe. And there are nude sun bathing and swimming areas in many German cities. Right out in the open. So when you say ‘western society’, what do you mean? Europe it ain’t!

            3. If you’re so bothered by tatas? Don’t look!

          6. Jessie the First (or second)*

            “Some consider them part of the genital system, as genitals outside the body”

            The people who consider breasts to be genitals are objectively, factually, absolutely incorrect, however. I’m not going to rearrange myself in order to cater to stupid.

            (I think the term you are looking for is “secondary sex characteristic” – which is *not* another way of saying “genitals.” Not even close.)

          7. Liv Jong*

            Breast sigma is changing. In Colorado, New York and a few other states a woman can be top less in public just like a man as long as she is not engaged in a sex act.

            I can work in my garden in just a thong and it’s 100% legal because breasts are not genetalia (nor are butt cheeks).

          8. Ori*

            The male equivalent to a woman flashing her bare breasts is a man flashing his bare chest. Yes, even in Western society.

            Which is irrelevant because the woman in the letter isn’t flashing her nipples at anyone. If she were, I’m sure the LW would have mentioned, given how much detail he devoted to describing the other aspects of her cleavage.

          9. Rafferty*

            Ahh – nope. Breasts are genitals in the exact same way that a beard is genitals. Seriously, if you can’t tell the difference between a penis and breasts, maybe your local college has a community education program where you could audit Human Biology.

          10. whingedrinking*

            In my country it’s been legally established that gender cannot be considered a relevant factor in allowing or disallowing bare-chestedness in a given space (ie, if you let men or people without boobs take off their shirts somewhere, you have to let women/breast-having folks do it too).

          11. Dahlia*

            Um, no, breasts are not “private reproductive parts”. You don’t need breasts to reproduce. They’re secondary sexual characteristics that people of ALL genders have. People who have higher level of estrogen just have larger ones.

            They are not remotely genitals. That’s… terrible biology.

          12. MizA*

            Up here where I live in Canada, its essentially legal for women to go topless. And it’s other folks’ responsibility to not harras women should they choose to do so. So, yeah. Breasts aren’t inherently obscene.

    4. Clemgo3165*

      “If you didn’t really want to notice, you wouldn’t notice.”

      I don’t know that that’s true. I’m a straight woman who worked with an intern who came in to work every day showing her cleavage. As in very low cut tops, and very fitted. She would come to talk with me in my office and there they were, right at eye level. It made me very uncomfortable because I definitely didn’t want her to think I was looking at her chest, but yet I couldn’t help but do so.

      1. MrsCHX*

        Absolutely untrue that “you couldn’t help but do so”. That is literally false.

        So again, if coworker had an enormous scar across her chest or face or arm or some other exposed area, would you stare at it every time you saw it because it “made you uncomfortable”?

        People don’t have to dress in a way that makes YOU feel comfortable.

        Ugh.

      2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        “Right at eye level”

        Look up at her face then, not her chest. You could help it. You just didn’t.

  8. k8isgreat*

    ” I don’t have this problem with my other female coworkers, even though one of them is remarkably well-endowed, so this isn’t just me being a lecher.”

    Gross, dude. And you might actually be a “lecher.” You’re running around comparing the breast size of you coworkers and then writing about them to an advice columnist. Grow up and maintain eye contact. It’s not that hard.

    1. Jimming*

      Yeah. That statement contradicts itself. I’m not sure I have anything to add except for OP to listen to Alison’s advice and stop comparing the breast sizes of his coworkers.

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Agreed. And the female coworkers have very likely already noticed OP looking at their chests. He might want to adopt an immediate policy of ‘eye contact only, no matter what’. And also try seeing them as human beings who are just doing their jobs.

    3. Classic Rando*

      Yeah, I came here to comment about that specific part too. OP is *definitely* scoping out other women’s bodies at work, but he didn’t really consider it a problem until he became fixated on one specific body.

      And sure, I (cis/het/fem) have occasionally had male coworkers I noticed attractive features in, attraction is weird and sometimes it shows up when you’re not expecting it. But I wasn’t *looking for it* in those cases, and I definitely did everything in my power to keep it to myself and not creep on my coworkers while I worked on getting over it.

    4. Kiki*

      Like, people notice things about people’s bodies and it’s normal not wrong, but something about the way that was phrased makes me think LW has catalogued his coworkers measurements…

      1. Kiki*

        If the letter were written differently, I think I may have been able to cut the LW more slack. If he’s genuinely able know the brand of her bra (without being creepily near her or staring), this is genuinely something that a lot of managers would address. But the way this whole letter is framed… just seems like he wants Alison to say it’s totally understandable that he stares at his coworker’s breasts. Yeah, coworker’s dress doesn’t sound the most professional, but part of being a professional is handling other people’s unprofessional actions professionally (and staring at coworkers’ bodies is generally not professional!).

        1. JennyFair*

          The way bra brands are displayed on bras…even a woman with no shirt on, it would often be difficult to find the brand in a readable location. Is he…checking catalogs to find matching styles? Like seriously.

          1. Tenacious Walker*

            That’s true of my bras, but I noticed my teenage neighbor wore one that said VS Pink up and down the straps, so I’m inclined to believe it’s possible.

            Doesn’t change the fact that he needs to stand back and stop looking down her top.

        2. PVR*

          But how big can the letters be so how close does he have to be looking to be able to tell? Unless it’s Victoria’s Secret written all over the bra strap, but then we are talking about an exposed bra strap not an exposed bra.

          1. Kiki*

            I’ve seen some bras (VS Pink is the one that jumps to mind) where the upper edges of the cups are lined with ribbon with branding on it. I’m assuming it’s something like that?

        3. Chinookwind*

          What would this letter look like if it was written “non-creepily”? Having had DH talk about this issue at work, I can understand why OP mentioned being married, not being a lecher or that other women are there. He is trying, and failing miserably, to express that he doesn’t want to see what he is seeing and how should he mention it (which is how I would feel if the IT guy mentioned earlier with the low cut shirts was the one fixing my machine)

          Allison is right and that he just needs to suck it up and actively not notice it because the woman is not dressing AT him.

          That being said, what should he say if the woman seems to being dressing this way on purpose – whether to get the wrong kind of attention or to make someone uncomfortable? I have met one or two women like this and I feel horrible for them men they work with because it is harassment that they can’t speak up about without being told they are horrible people.

          1. LDN Layabout*

            I mean, if you’re not just being deliberately obtuse:

            “My co-worker is not following the office dress code, which I admit is casual, but they’re being /too/ casual. I feel unable to address it with them and I’m worried about getting a reputation around the office if I report it.”

            Instead of SHE’S GOT BREASTS AND I CAN’T STOP STARING.

          2. JennyFair*

            The nice thing about the ‘take responsibility for your own behavior’ approach, is that even if the woman were doing it purposely…he’d still be taking responsibility for his own actions, and be just fine.

          3. Le Sigh*

            “Dear Alison,

            I’m a male, mid-thirties. I work in an office with several women, one of whom wears a lot of low-cut shirts. Frequently, she has a good deal of visible cleavage and/or bra showing. While we have a pretty casual office (shorts are not uncommon) this still feels unprofessional (she is not client facing, to clarify). It does violate our dress code, but so far, HR hasn’t said anything to my knowledge. I’m not sure if I should say anything — I haven’t ever run into this problem before, so I’m not sure if it’s my place to say anything. Should I say something to HR? Her manager? Or is this one of those things I should just keep to myself.”

            Things this version didn’t include:
            -excessive detail about the coworker’s chest (her ugh, “assets”), him noticing them, and what she wears and the details of her bra (which, fine, he was trying to make his point but it wasn’t really necessary)
            -excessive detail about his other female coworkers’ chests, including the phrase “remarkably well-endowed” (barf barf barf)
            -how driven to distraction he is, uncomfortable he is, and how he wants to use self-control but he just, woe is me, can’t
            -the fact that he’s been caught staring (which is pretty unprofessional!) and already made her uncomfortable
            -10 paragraphs about this relatively straight forward question

          4. Kiki*

            I think you’d just mention that her bra is often very visible at work and ask if it’s appropriate to ask HR to talk to her about it. Instead, LW kind of just rambled on with his thoughts about this coworker’s body.

          5. Blunt Bunny*

            “I find my eyes are naturally drawn to her breast area due to our height differences and the style of clothes she wears. I have previously made her feel very uncomfortable and I’m terribly embarrassed. What should I say or do to remedy this?”

        4. Working Mom Having It All*

          Considering that I, a person who wears and shops for bras and has a fairly extensive knowledge of what brands are out there, could generally not tell the brand of a bra on sight, I’m assuming that either this guy was exaggerating for effect or is broadcasting exactly what a creep he is much more than he realizes.

          Like, sure, I guess it could be one of those Victoria’s Secret ones with a PINK logo embossed on the strap or something, but then it would not be a big deal that he knew the brand, because a bra strap showing is not a big deal actually?

          I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bra where you could immediately tell the brand by looking at it unless you work in a lingerie store or something.

          1. Sleve McDichael*

            The poor coworker might be wearing a bra with the brand name across the top of the cups. If you google bonds boyfriend tube bra you will get a lot of bras of the kind I’m talking about. The branding across the top of the cups on one of my bras is half an inch high. Which is not to defend the letter writer, but to say that the coworker might actually be wearing tops that are actually quite concealing.

    5. Tinybutfierce*

      Yup. As a well-endowed woman myself, it’s men like the OP who made me feel DEEPLY uncomfortable about my body for years, just for wearing something as non-provocative as a t-shirt, due to the attention I was getting for having the audacity to not hide myself under a burlap sack.

    6. The Bean*

      I’m assuming he meant that to explain that the one coworkers clothing choices made her bust more noticeable. I’m a queer woman who definitely has an awareness of boobs, so maybe that’s why I get what he’s saying. Some women where clothing where you can forget about their boobs. But certain tops do draw more attention.

      Regardless, not noticeably staring is a helpful life skill OP should work on.

    7. smoke tree*

      And apart from making his coworkers uncomfortable, given this language I have a feeling that this LW is rather fixated on his coworkers’ bodies, to the point where it’s hard to imagine he can have a good working relationship with them. The more you think about Susan’s annoying habit of handing in the TPS reports late, the less you’re likely to be thinking about the contents of her sweater.

    8. Look But Don't Touch*

      Because OP never learned a few traditional skills, such as restraint, this might need to be said: Never touch. Anywhere. Never. Ever. Touch.

  9. LGC*

    I was going to ask why letter 1 from the short answers wasn’t its own post, and then I saw this.

    I’m not going to get into the politics of it because 1) everyone else will and 2) LW, I think you know the answer. But I will point out that she’s not airing out her cleavage AT you, man. Essentially, there’s no way I can see you bringing this up without it coming off like you want her to be responsible for your own comfort.

    Sorry about that.

  10. Kitty Cathleen*

    Avert your eyes. You know where her face is. Focus on that, not on trying to get her to rework her wardrobe.

  11. Sara without an H*

    I’d like to weigh in before the pile on starts. OP, I realize you’re uncomfortable, but you’re really going to have to find a way to just chill and not notice. There’s no solution. Your company dress code is casual and your managers are not willing to enforce it over things they consider minor. The fact that your co-worker has been dressing this way for some time without consequence indicates that management doesn’t consider it an issue.

    You are not a bad person, but you’re just going to have to live with your discomfort. Keep your eyes on your co-workers face.

    1. Gdub*

      Sara is right. I’m sorry that people are piling on to your sincere request for help with a problem you are facing at work, but unfortunately YOU are the one who has to face it.

      1. Goose and gander*

        Once again, would you frame your advice to a woman who is facing open sexual harassment at work, and whose management refuses to address the issues, in these terms (“YOU are the one who has to face it”)?

        1. Nanani*

          False equivalence is false.

          Being harassed is not in any way the same as harassing.

          Existing with breasts is not harassing.

          LW is harassing her, not the other way around.

          Stop trying to victim blame.

          1. Chinookwind*

            In this case, I agree. But I have also seen women who do dress this way because they know it will make their boss feel uncomfortable or get their attention. It is not healthy or professional but it does happen. But I am going to guess that the advice should stay the same as the provocateur, if ignored, will either stop or escalate in a way that is much easier to report.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              “provocateur?”

              Are you calling OP’s coworker a “provocateur?” If I’m reading that right then that’s saying that she is deliberately trying to “disturb” the males in the office, which I doubt.

              Obligatory: Yes, there are women who do that shit. However most of us just want to live our lives unmolested and not creeped on.

              OP is creeping on his coworker. Ergo, if any “provocateur” needs reporting it’s OP.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          She’s not a flasher in a trench coat at the park. She’s a person who puts on clothes to go to work. If putting on clothes and going to work counts as sexual harassment, we’re all in trouble.

        3. Mimi Me*

          Seriously? She has breasts, is shorter than him, and he likes looking down her top. But she’s the problem?!? The LW is the one who needs to keep his eyes about the shoulders. He doesn’t want to based on his own admission and based on how he’s wording this it seems he wants her punished because he can’t control himself.

          1. PVR*

            Seriously! Also why is he looking down her top? It seems like even if he is taller he’d still have to close enough to and in the correct place to see down her shirt. So either back up a step, or stand in front of her instead of to the side. And then look her in the eye and stop wondering what brand of bra she is wearing. This is not her problem.

          2. pamela voorhees*

            All of this, but with the caveat that “he wants her punished because he can’t control himself” should be “because he doesn’t WANT to control himself” — he can, but he’s choosing not to because it’s easier and he likes ogling her.

            1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

              Slight correction: he wants her controlled because he cannot control himself.

        4. aebhel*

          No, and if OP was being sexually harassed at work I would suggest that he take it to management and make a giant stink about it. He isn’t. He’s being distracted by staring at his coworker’s cleavage.

    2. BRR*

      I’m glad you provided a gentler reply because I think there are multiple ways to read this letter and I’m giving the benefit of the doubt. The company has made their decision to not say anything and therefore her attire is appropriate for your office.

    3. MommaCat*

      So, I’m a taller woman, and I have a few shorter friends who have assets I’m not particularly interested in seeing. You know what I do? I stand a little farther away, to make the cleavage a little less in my obvious view when I’m looking at her eyes. Hopefully this helps!

    4. Manchmal*

      I am straight woman, and many years ago I found myself sitting across a table at a restaurant from a surgically well-endowed woman wearing the kind of halter top that is very loose and hanky-like, which exposed skin on her torso below her actual breasts (that’s how low-cut it was). I had trouble looking away. It doesn’t sound like the OP’s situation is quite that dramatic, but I don’t think he’s a terrible person for noticing.

      If this person’s bra is showing egregiously, I’m not sure why this is a different situation than the guy whose pants are slipping down and constantly exposing his underwear or butt crack. Otherwise, I think Sara is right and the OP just needs to recalibrate and make a conscious effort to look at her face. The coworker is not wrong for having breasts and wearing shirts, and the OP is not wrong to notice something widely found attractive in western culture. Be a professional and overcome. Perhaps mindfulness strategies would help?

      The OP’s not terrible for noticing, but he would be terrible if he openly ogled her, made this woman feel uncomfortable, or treated her unfairly or unprofessionally because of it.

      1. Emily K*

        He did openly ogle her and make her feel uncomfortable already.

        OP isn’t a terrible person for noticing her boobs. Nobody is policing his private thoughts – but the key there is private. The terrible thing about his question isn’t that he has a reaction to her boobs, it’s that his preferred solution to the problem of his reaction to her boobs is to ask management to make her dress differently, instead of just ignoring them. Boobs are noticeable, sure, but they aren’t impossible to ignore. He’s making his reaction to her boobs his problem when it’s rightly his own.

      2. Remedial Chaos Theory*

        He’s not a terrible person for noticing. People have bodies, people can notice each other’s bodies.

        He’s being creepy because he keeps looking, he’s made her aware that he keeps looking, he’s made her uncomfortable enough with his looking, and he believes that his looking is her problem, not his.

  12. Bertha*

    This is interesting to me. As a straight female, I can say that I would still/also definitely get uncomfortable if one of my coworkers had so much cleavage that I was able to see what bra brand she wore. But.. I’d likely say nothing, even if it were in the dress code, because it’s just so uncomfortable to bring up (and I’m not a manager, so, not my job). All that is to say, I can at least empathize, even though I understand that Alison’s advice is sound.. there’s not much to be done.

    1. Temperance*

      So I’m female and wear bras every day, and can’t think of a single bra that has a giant, obvious logo on the back. I’ve never noticed another women’s bra brand.

      1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        My guess he knows the bra type because he is staring so hard, not because the bra is actually that obvious

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I was baffled by that too, but then I thought of those Calvin Klein bras that have Calvin Klein written in large letters in the front, sometimes on the very tops of the cups.

        1. Ben H*

          That was my first thought. Considering the rest of the staff are wearing shorts and flip-flops, I don’t know that her attire is that far away from the average for their office.

          I want to feel for this man, but I’m wondering if he has a little bit of a crush that’s exaggerating his perceptions.

          1. Ben H*

            I want to clarify: I do NOT support him in the idea that she must change. However, I get wanting a bit more formality in the workplace.

            1. Mimi Me*

              Then perhaps, given the casual nature of the workplace, this isn’t the place for him. It’s obvious he prefers a more conservative approach to things so he should search out positions that better suit his dress code requirements versus the actual work he does.

        2. RS*

          Calvin Klein also writes the brand name on the straps. It’s very easy to tell that brand of bra when a strap pops out.

      3. sunny-dee*

        My guess (totally a guess), is that she’s wearing shirts that dip in the front and the back and he can see a tag. OR it says something like Juicy or PINK on the straps or band, and he can read it.

        What I’m saying here, is if he can legit recognize the brand because of how much she’s showing, she is showing way to much for an office.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          And if she wrote in to ask about this, I’d tell her that in general one shouldn’t show a ton of cleavage in an office. But she’s not the one writing in, the management of her office apparently doesn’t care, and the OP has no standing to ask that she be told to dress differently when his only concern is that he finds it distracting.

          1. Former Govt Contractor*

            Thank you for this, because all I keep coming back to is, why would she expose all that at work?! There’s a reason it’s against dress code. FWIW I’m a woman who does not want boobs in my face every day.

          2. Melody Pond*

            Ah yes, thank you for this clarification, Alison. I was going to ask about this, but held off because of your request to keep the focus on the letter writer.

        2. PVR*

          More than likely though, he can tell by the strap, which just isn’t that big of a deal? And also a lot different than the way he’s describing it. I know I have certain bra/sleeveless shirt combinations where the strap frequently shows and I don’t realize until I’ve been wearing it for hours because when I first get dressed, everything is in place and not showing.

      4. fposte*

        I don’t get it either; some racerback bras have brands on the back straps, but the OP, who seems to have made a bit of a bra study, has indicated a different type of bra.

      5. Jamie*

        Victoria’s Secret has a little decorative logo-ish thing with the bow right at the cleavage line on many bras. I can see it when looking down in a V-neck, but not from straight on. Maybe it’s just because I own more than a few, but that’s what I assumed he meant.

        1. Bertha*

          That’s what I was thinking as well.. which means it’s pretty low. As Alison said, there’s really nothing to be done, but even as a straight women, this would make me uncomfortable at work (but also as she said, it would be on me to deal with it).

          1. Le Sigh*

            Not necessarily. Those little gold charms on VS bras sit square in the middle of the cups, at the top of the wires. Let’s say the coworker is wearing a regular v-neck t-shirt but is well-endowed, and the OP is tall and looking straight down her shirt (as he said he’s doing). Or it could be she has PINK logos all over the straps. Point being it might not be that low cut of a shirt for him to see that. If you worked with her but weren’t super tall, you might not even notice it. But OP is taller than her and isn’t exactly contorting himself to not look straight down her shirt.

            Combined with the comparisons to his other female coworkers, including one who is “remarkably well-endowed” (barf), part of me wonders how truly revealing this co-worker is being…would you and I even notice, or is OP thinking wayyyyyyy to much about everyone’s boobs?

            1. PVR*

              Also he would have to recognize that charm as Victoria Secret. And that charm is fairly small. How close is standing to her to look down her shirt to see that charm? I can’t think of a non creepy way he would know the brand of her bra, unless it’s on the strap… which changes the way he’s described the whole situation. I think he has a crush on her and is looking for a way to make it her fault.

          2. Remedial Chaos Theory*

            Or it means what OP said: he’s taller than the coworker, and he frequently looks straight down her cleavage.

        2. matcha123*

          I have some VS Pink bras that I like, but I have gone out of my way to buy ones that are in plain colors. When I wear the ones with big logos, I make sure that the logo can’t be seen through my clothing.

          1. Jamie*

            I know what you’re talking about…but I meant the little gold toned decorative thing (charm? Now it annoys me I don’t know the name of something that must have a name) that’s sewn in at the bow – it doesn’t dangle but it’s attached at the top. I just looked at the one I’m wearing and can’t describe it…but it’s much, much more subtle than the PINK logos. But a coworker who knew VS bras would know the brand instantly if they saw it.

            1. Kat in VA*

              It’s almost like a tiny little rounded rectangular plaque (on the ones I have) sewn on through a tiny hole on each side of the plaque.

        3. Ella*

          If it is Victoria secret, then you’d really have to be familiar with the brand to know that’s what the bow and little tag mean. They’re quite small, and you wouldn’t be able to read it without getting super up close and personal. It would also likely be visible from above even if she was wearing a really standard issue scoop or v-neck shirt that showed a reasonable amount of chest from a front-on view. There’s really no way to avoid showing cleavage to someone looking down at you from above unless you commit to turtle necks or very high crew cut shirts, which I (in a fun catch 22) personally find super uncomfortable as a busty person.

            1. Mimi Me*

              This was my thought. I think the LW is trying his best to present an argument that paints the co-worker as some kind of temptress who just wants him to ogle her breasts. Frankly, unless she came into work wearing only the bra and a pair of jeans, I think he’s out of line for even mentioning her bra at all. Breasts exist. Bras exist. I just measured the amount of cleavage my breasts are showing. From shirt caller upwards: 4 inches. No bra showing…but I have a lot of cleavage. You know why? Genetics. It’s not because I’m trying to tempt a man or harass a co-worker. Large breasts run rampant through my family, my insurance thinks a reduction is cosmetic, and it’s summer so thinner tops are the norm.
              LW, I think Mike C said it best in the first comments above. Grow up. This is your problem, not hers. Learn to control yourself.

              1. CoveredInBees*

                Yup. This was me until I breastfed my kids. I had breasts that were naturally large and also naturally high up and close together. Any bra looked like a push-up bra because genetics. Avoiding cleavage when working in conservative settings was difficult because even high cut tops would get pulled down a bit during the day.

    2. a1*

      I agree with all this. Even as a woman it’s hard not to notice these things sometimes, and wearing clothes where you can see the bra is a noticeable thing. BUT, you *do* have to look at her face.

    3. Tiffany In Houston*

      I agree with you. I am a woman and I don’t want to see excess cleavage either. But short of her breasts being fully exposed in the workplace, nothing dude can do but look her in the eyes.

    4. Dagny*

      I’m in the camp of “a pox on both their houses.” If he is remotely serious about being able to determine the brand of bra she is wearing, then she’s not dressing appropriately for any professional environment.

      But he’s obviously struggling a lot with this, and that’s something he should learn to handle with far more grace… and understand that women with nice breasts are still women trying to do their jobs.

      1. ellex42*

        Agreed. There is inappropriate behavior on both sides here. It’s still on the OP, regardless, to monitor his own behavior and where his eyes rest just as much in the workplace as it would if he encountered this coworker outside of the workplace.

      2. Goya de la Mancha*

        Ditto – but also, I know what it’s like to zero it on things you’d like to just ignore. Be it a co-worker’s outfit, a typo on that wall plaque, or a stain on the workroom floor.

      3. Troutwaxer*

        You come very close to expressing my own emotions. For the record, I’m a fifty-something male who thinks that if we’re going to have equality it will require effort from everyone on both sides of whatever divide we might be considering. In the workplace, that means that everyone has to both ACT and DRESS professionally.

        1. LokiMonster5000*

          But all we have is OP’s version of things, and OP has given several red flags that *he’s* the problem, not his coworker: blaming his lack of control on his co-worker, talking about his other co-worker who’s “remarkably well-endowed,” and admitting he stared at his co-worker’s breasts so much he made her uncomfortable. None of OP’s admitted actions are “professional” even if you take him 100% at his word. It’s unfair and inappropriate to then believe OP’s characterization of his coworker’s dress, especially as a number of commenters have noted, him specifically stating that he’s taller than his coworker can just as easily mean he’s staring down her shirt rather than she’s wearing inappropriate clothes.

          Maybe think twice as to why you were willing to swallow OP’s characterization of his co-worker’s dress when he told on his creepy, inappropriate, unprofessional behavior time and again in his own words.

          1. Troutwaxer*

            I would definitely agree that the OP is kinda creepy, and that it’s on him to modify his own behavior, and that it’s definitely too late for him to discuss a dress code violation with HR/management/coworker. But I’m also assuming that the woman in question was handed a copy of the dress code, and that she read it, and that she understands why it exists (Leaving aside that in the ideal world we all hope for a dress code would be unnecessary.)

            1. Troutwaxer*

              That’s something I had not considered. Part of the issue is whether the OP has accurately described the colleague’s dress, and he may not have. Good catch. Thanks.

              1. Troutwaxer*

                Sorry. That should have been a reply to someone below. I will repost it there. If the mods want to kill this message and my message immediately above that would be fine.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            “…think twice as to why you were willing to swallow OP’s characterization of his co-worker’s dress when he told on his creepy, inappropriate, unprofessional behavior time and again in his own words.”

            Yep. I really take issue with the idea that the coworker is being inappropriate when it’s the OP who is staring at her, looking down her shirt, and saying that he knows he could look away but doesn’t want to/can’t help himself. Oh and other coworker has big boobs too…!

        2. Nanani*

          Ahahah that’s hillarious

          Because women are exactly on the same playing field as men right? We can just magic our breasts away and wave a wand to make men see us as colleagues first and always, and we have no problems with creepy behaviour at work.

          Wait no, that’s in fantasy land. In the real world, the problem of creeping on colleagues is 100% on the one doing the ogling. You don’t get to victim blame. You are part of the problem if you think it is even possible to invite ogling by “acting” a certain way.

        3. Le Sigh*

          I have been told the following shirts were inappropriate because of my chest size:

          -a button up with a cami underneath (nothing was exposed, you could see a bra strap if you looked really hard from the side). there were no gaps in the buttons, either.
          -a turtle neck, which yes, goes up to my neck, but also has a way of emphasizing larger chests, perversely
          -a dress that was not at all form fitting but was tailored to my shape so as to not look like a sack. but it revealed to the world that i had (gasp!) a large chest

          And in high school, a tank top that fit correctly and covered my chest and my bra, met dress code, etc., but they’re big so my principal noticed and wrote me up because “boys might get distracted.”

          What would you like me to do, exactly? I dress professionally (I don’t work in casual offices). I have my clothes tailored to fit. And yet somehow, no matter how covered up or not covered up I am, it’s inappropriate. Have you considered that many women ARE holding up their end of the bargain for equality and in fact are doing far more than you notice? So when we see letters like this, some of us get tired of a man whining that he can’t do one small act and just be an adult?

          I realize this comes across as angry. And it should. I realize you’re not the OP, but attitudes like this are part of the problem. I’ve been told my whole damn life that my body is a problem no matter how I dress, starting when I was ELEVEN (by grown men, mind you). So forgive me if this comment reads as bs to me and I frankly don’t care what OP thinks.

          1. Troutwaxer*

            Assuming the OP has accurately described the coworker, and that you have accurately described your style of dress, OP’s coworker is in violation of dress codes and you are not in violation – and never have been. So if you were in the same situation as coworker, I would not say “a pox on both their houses.” I would simply tell the OP to improve his manners.

            1. Le Sigh*

              Well, for one, she might be in violation of the dress code, but HR isn’t bothering to do anything about it so it’s moot. And she didn’t write in.

              But my larger point is that oftentimes, women can’t win no matter what we do in these situations. Reread my comment. I’m not comparing myself to the OP’s coworker. I’m pointing out that even when I am in line with the dress code, I’ve been told I’m not no matter how covered up I was. Because that is how we treat women’s bodies in the US, esp. women who are curvy or well-endowed. I can’t win so frankly, I don’t give a hoot what the creepy sounding OP thinks.

          2. Dagny*

            But wrongdoing by a LOT of men doesn’t give the occasional woman a free pass to not dress professionally. I say this as a woman who got ogled a lot, in really uncomfortable and sometimes downright illegal ways, when she was in her 20s.

            It’s my damn job to dress like the professional I am, and I dress that way as much for myself and the reputation I’ve built up as for an office “dress code” or whatever.

            1. Le Sigh*

              That’s not what I was arguing?

              The coworker didn’t write in and her HR person doesn’t seem to care. So that advice is moot, for one. And my comment was addressed to Troutweaver, who said, “if we’re going to have equality it will require effort from everyone on both sides of whatever divide we might be considering. In the workplace, that means that everyone has to both ACT and DRESS professionally.”

              First of all, the OP isn’t exactly behaving professionally. Sure, maybe the coworker isn’t dressed appropriately, but it’s on him to keep his eyes up and deal, just as it was on those people who treated you poorly to not behave that way. OP wrote in, therefore the advice isn’t “your coworker should dress differently” it’s “you need to control your eyes.” Only one of those things is something in OP’s control.

              And my point to Troutweaver, among other things, is that equality isn’t “earned” it’s supposed to be a given. But his comment came across otherwise. And, what’s more, society likes to act like there’s a formula that if we all follow, we’ll all be equal in the workplace. If women would just dress right/speak right (not to whimpy, but not too confident either, and please no upspeak OR vocal fry OR high-pitched voices)/behave right (with authority! but not too much or you’re a bitch, etc.

              Except it’s bullhockey. Sure, there are standards we should up hold. But my point to Troutweaver is I HAVE held up my share of the work. I’ve dressed the way I was told I was supposed to, to be treated professionally. And I was still treated as though I was the problem when I clearly wasn’t.

              And that’s part of the problem. We can say til we’re blue in the face that people need to meet some baseline, that if we all just do our part it will all be okay. But frankly, there are a lot of people out there who refuse to do their part and then want to blame women for wearing something “incorrect.” So I take serious issue with this line of argument.

              1. PVR*

                You are absolutely right on all counts. You have done an admirable job identifying and explaining the crux of the issue—thanks!!

              2. Troutwaxer*

                I thought about this a lot on the way home from my job today, and have slightly modified my thinking. The conclusion I’ve come to is that “a pox on both your houses” is about roles:

                In my role as a life-long liberal voter who hopes to be a good feminist ally, we are essentially in full agreement. I very much hope that the OP learns to keep his eyes up and modify both his creepy language and his creepy thinking, and I hope that any workplaces affected by these sexist issues improve. So a pox on his house.

                In my role as a person who hopes to go into my workplace and neither see drama, nor be a part of drama, nor have my workplace become toxic or difficult, nor have my imperfections or someone else’s imperfections on display before my coworkers, I dearly hope that my colleagues ALL obey ALL the workplace rules* – like the dress code – and that my managers enforce those rules. But it’s not just about the dress code. It’s about all the aspects of professionalism. So a pox on her house (assuming that the OP has accurately reported on her violations of the dress code.)

                Does that make a bit more sense?

                * Toxic workplaces and hellmouths are, of course, excluded from this sentiment.

        4. Aquawoman*

          I’m confused by this because it sounds very much like (a) you’re saying equality is something women will have to earn (through dress and behavior) rather than something we’re entitled to and (b) apparently ALL women have to behave a certain way for any women to “have equality.” BTW, the way I got MY equality is by doing a better job than other people.

          1. Troutwaxer*

            Not at all. I’m saying that we’re all imperfect, even on issues of equality. And that the rules of professional behavior, including dress codes, exist to keep our imperfections out of our work environments. And it’s on everyone to follow them for that reason.

            1. Aquawoman*

              You said, “if” we’re going to have equality, then women need to do certain things. Also, the things that women have to do to “earn” equality are always, always moving goalposts. Men just need to wear X types of clothes; women need to wear clothes that aren’t too revealing, but not dowdy, aren’t too feminine but don’t make her look masculine, aren’t a burka but also hides that fact that she has a female body under her clothes, and sometimes it’s wear make-up but not “too much,” wear heels but not flats but not stilettos.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                We can say “we’re equal” until hell freezes over, but that’s not the case. Males are given equality (in the workplace and elsewhere) whereas women are expected to earn it by acting, speaking, dressing, looking, facial expression-ing, etc., etc., etc. “correctly.” The problem is that “correctly” keeps changing. We can never win. Classic double bind.

                1. Willis*

                  And I’m pretty sure if only one of the groups you’re comparing has “equality,” then what they actually have is privilege.

              2. Busty Matron*

                Ha! Yes! And don’t wear the same outfit twice in one week, mix it up and be pretty. And shave your legs. And get your hair done. And bras are required, but can’t ever be seen, and pantylines are a sin. And socks are unprofessional, so just pantyhose. OMG so many rules. It’s expensive and uncomfortable, being a lady.

      4. Lepidoptera*

        Disagree,
        If she’s so much shorter than him she could be wearing a perfectly normal shirt and simply the way her breasts are could make it possible for him to look down and see a decal between her breasts that wouldn’t be possible unless you are pretty much hovering right above her.
        He is paying way too much attention to the breasts of his coworkers, he knows how much or how little this one is covered he can reference that another is well-endowed. I can’t do the same with my coworkers because I’m not paying that close attention to their breasts.
        She should not be expected to completely cover herself just in case a man can see down her shirt from the right angle, but we can absolutely expect the LW to stop paying so much attention to his coworkers’ breasts regardless of coverage.

    5. Alianora*

      Agreed – I would be uncomfortable too, but would say nothing.

      LW – I understand that cleavage can be eye-catching and you can’t always stop yourself from seeing it, but you can definitely stop yourself from staring.

    6. Anonforthisone*

      Straight, well-endowed, mid-40s female here as well, that has managed to find tops that not only cover my bra, but my cleavage as well for 25+ years now. It is not difficult. (And I don’t wear crew necks or turtlenecks year-round, before someone comments along those lines.)

      It is inappropriate for the workplace, period. Management should enforce the dress code, but I am imagining they are paralyzed in the current climate of how exactly to approach the topic.

      No useful advice for OP other than eyes up, my friend.

      1. Aquawoman*

        Just because it’s not difficult for you doesn’t mean it’s not difficult for other people.

      2. Remedial Chaos Theory*

        Please don’t blame the ‘current climate’ for this one dude’s inability to stop ogling his coworker.

      3. Anonymeece*

        “Management should enforce the dress code, but I am imagining they are paralyzed in the current climate of how exactly to approach the topic.”

        Or, more likely to my mind, OP was exaggerating, and no one else has a problem with the way she dresses. Normally I would give OP the benefit of the doubt, but some cues in the letter make me think that’s probably more likely the case (describing people by marital status, remarking on the fact his other coworker is “remarkably well-endowed”, etc).

      4. PVR*

        OR her bra isn’t actually that visible except when he’s standing at the right angle/proximity to see down her shirt and/or a bra strap slipped on occasion. I have some serious doubts that this is less about her in violation of the dress code and flaunting her bra and more about him feeling uncomfortable with the level of attraction he feels towards her, especially since he stated he knows it’s on him to control himself “if he feels like it.”

      5. MrsCHX*

        Good for you!

        As a 40 year old professional woman with a 34F bra size that are (miraculously at 40 after 2 kids) quite perky still, my breasts are noticeable no matter what I wear. And perfectly normal scoopnecks, v-necks and henleys (I love henleys!) show my boobs that sit very, very high on my chest wall.

        Along with being a 34F, I am 5’5″. I was getting ready to wear a new top to work last week and, looked good! And we were walking out the door and my 6’2″ husband paused and said, “I can see down your top. I can see everything.” He was more surprised than anything. Looking down, *I* didn’t see what he saw, but his vantage point was very different.

        And as has been mentioned repeatedly, LW is a total creep and I’m not sure his account is correct that she’s “showing off” her breasts.

        “current climate”? What a sad cop-out.

      6. RUKiddingMe*

        When you say “current climate” are you speaking about women who aren’t just gonna roll over and take it anymore?

        1. Le Sigh*

          Yeah, this is not about #MeToo and to pin it on the “current climate” is gross on enough levels that I’m not even going to bother.

    7. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I assumed that the bra brand comment was hyperbole. I mean, there could be a brand of bra where the logo is visible to the OP, but I figured he was just saying he looks at her bras a lot.

    8. Jennifer*

      These are my thoughts as well, and I’m fairly well-endowed. I would notice if a woman was showing a significant amount of cleavage every day. I don’t think noticing it or even a quick glance is that terrible. But I wouldn’t stare. It is possible to avert your eyes.

      It is very uncomfortable to bring up as a woman and I’d imagine even more so for a man. I wonder if that’s why no one has said anything to her.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I’ll bet all the money that I will never have that:
        1) The coworker isn’t doing anything at all.
        2) OP is a creep (his own words paint him as one) who is staring at her and looking down her shirt.
        3) No one has said anything because she isn’t doing anything wrong.

    9. Deanna Troi*

      I agree with this. I am a straight female and once had a work meeting with a woman whose top was so low cut that you could almost see her nipples. And she must have been wearing a push-up bra because they were very ….”out there” in a way I haven’t seen before at work. I had an EXTREMELY difficult time not looking at them during the meeting, and not because I am a creeper. They were like magnets. For the first time ever, I was sympathetic to men about this.

      1. Deanna Troi*

        And I am very well endowed and have always been super careful about what I wear to work, although I’m also short, so I’m sure that occasionally it is possible to see down my shirt if someone is tall and standing near me. But my nipples are several inches away from the edge of my bra.

      2. Le Sigh*

        This dude has a mental catalog of his coworkers’ chest size, and wrote in comparing them and calling one of them “remarkably well-endowed.” Honestly, I get your point but this dude is not one deserving of sympathy. He comes across as wayyy to focused on everyone’s boobs.

        Also, where’s the sympathy for people who aren’t cis-het males who are attracted to women? Everyone talks about how distracting this is for MEN, but uh….presumably if this is a rampant issue, surely there are lesbians or others struggling to keep their eyes up, no?

        1. Kitty*

          I agree with that, seriously. I’m sure lots of people notice boobs who aren’t straight men, and we all just gotta learn how to deal with it.

        2. aebhel*

          ^ I like women and I’ve worked with attractive women who wear low-cut shirts, and I can still keep my eyes where they belong. It’s not that hard.

        3. One of the Sarahs*

          I think a lot of the “men can’t help it!” brigade also believe cis women don’t react to visual stimuli, so it wouldn’t make a difference. Complete BS, of course.

        4. Tiny Soprano*

          Absolutely! I’m bi. I love boobs. Boobs are great. But when they’re attached to my coworkers they’re none of my damn business and certainly not for me to look at. I don’t understand what’s so hard about just not looking.

        5. Oranges*

          YES! I actually have asked my female friends before about my “eye behavior” vis a vis their boobs*. Sometimes when someone is wearing a low cut top and bending over it HAS been hard. But just like you don’t stare at a birthmark/scar/tatooo/something else, you don’t stare at boobs.

          *both of them are attractive to me and would truthfully answer my question without being weirded out by it.

      3. Not Me*

        Just because you weren’t sexually attracted to her breasts doesn’t make you not creepy for staring at her. Our society is pretty clear that staring at someone, or at a specific body part, is rude.

        1. Deanna Troi*

          This is true. I actually didn’t stare at them (I hope). I made an effort to keep my eyes on her face, and I believe I succeeded.

  13. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Christ on a cracker.

    “…but I feel like she’s making it unnecessarily difficult” SERIOUSLY? It’s her fault that you can’t stop staring? Come on.

    You do not get to police what your coworker wears. If management has deemed it a problem, then they can take it up with her. All you get to do is behave professionally and treat your female coworkers with respect.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Thank you, I made a loud, rude sound when I read that. He doesn’t think he’s a lecher, and he’s spinning some kind of justification for his issues by saying she’s making things difficult intentionally.

      Nope. OP, this is all on you. You know your behavior has been inappropriate with her, so it’s on YOU to stop doing what you’re doing. Because dude, if she started wearing turtleneck sweaters, I’m pretty sure you’d find something else about her that captures your gaze. Behave like a professional, and treat her like one.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      No, OP, you are the one making this unnecessarily difficult by overthinking and dwelling on this. If you had decided to dwell on how to stop you would have stopped by now. Your letter clearly shows that you have spent an unusual length of time thinking about this situation.

  14. Audrey Puffins*

    Not usually one to quote the Bible, but “And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.” probably applies here. Though, like, don’t *literally* gouge your eye out, just take accountability for your own behaviour, I think that’s what Matthew meant.

      1. ten-four*

        I think it’s helpful! Or maybe I just think it’s funny, because honestly this is one of my all time favorite Jesus stories. I love how the guys asking Jesus what should be done about those sexy, sexy ladies were expecting him to tell the ladies to cover it up, and instead he was like “your eyes, your temptation, your problem.” A clearly useful story too, since here we are 2,000+ years later and guys are STILL asking ladies to cover up instead of managing their own selves.

      2. Burned Out Supervisor*

        I’m not religious, but it is an apt reply. It’s on the dude to stop looking at her breasts. If he’s tall, stand back or avoid standing/leaning over her so that it’s easy to maintain eye contact and to avoid the situation. I’m a straight woman and do the same.

      3. It's Perks, Sir*

        “Take accountability for your own behavior” is EXTREMELY helpful advice in a lot of situations.

        You are taking Audrey Puffins too literally, I think.

      4. Corey*

        You called breasts “genitalia” in this thread. Are you really in a position to judge the helpfulness of “take accountability for your own behaviour”?

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      You’re correct, Audrey. The Bible is full of parables that have meanings other than what we would get by reading literally.

  15. Star*

    Also, commenting on how another co-worker is “remarkably well-endowed” kinda does make you seem like a lecher, especially added to the letter as a whole. You can control where you’re looking, so control it. Don’t put it back on her (or any woman, for that matter).

    1. RetailRat*

      But he says he isn’t a lecher because they don’t make him feel the same way this one woman does. Except he noticed enough to comment on it. In rather creepy detail to my mind.

      LW you need to stop looking at women as having “assets” at the very least.

      1. Star*

        Yup, definitely creepy. There are actually a few different lines that made me side-eye the LW, that’s just the one that popped out at me on my first read through.

      2. Llama Face!*

        Yeah I’d say that reads as the lecher equivalent of “I’m not racist but… (total racist assumption)”

        LW may not intend to be, but he is most definitely acting (and apparently thinking) like a creeper.

      3. Kat in VA*

        Not only comment on it, but he admitted to staring long enough and hard enough to make her uncomfortable.

        And yet this is still all on her? Riiiiight.

    2. Malty*

      Yeah I don’t want to pile on but that really stood out – pointing out how you manage not to stare at another womans ‘well endowed’ chest only serves to highlight that you have noticed and judged that other womans chest and feels like you are asking for a pat on the back for the bare minimum of not staring. You likely didn’t mean that! But that’s how it can come across and if you’re looking for advice on how to navigate these matters I think it’s a kindness to let you know that.

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        Apparently ‘remarkably well-endowed’ coworker must be taller so he can’t peer down her top without fetching a stepladder, which would ruin his already-flimsy sense of plausible deniability.

    3. VictorianCowgirl*

      Anyone with vision will notice something like this. And this other coworker is obviously dressing professionally.

    4. Lady Phoenix*

      Yup. Too many little clues that this dude is gross.

      Like commenting about how AMAZINGLY good the only female HR person is at her job.

  16. CommanderBanana*

    “She has the assets for this style of dress, and it’s hard not to notice when she’s showing them off.”

    Dude, seriously? Your coworker is wearing a T-shirt, not wearing a T-shirt at you.

    1. un-pleased*

      That was honestly so gross to me, I had to wonder if LW seriously thought Alison would agree with his premises. It’s just such visible sexism. A coworker’s “assets” should never be something you can describe this way, even to an advice columnist. That means you noticed other coworkers don’t have the same “assets,” which is also pretty gross.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        I think using the term “assets” for someone boobs is 1. disgusting and 2. so outdatedly sexist. Is this guy a former Playboy writer circa 1969?

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      That, and the comment about the other coworker being “remarkably” well endowed made me cringe.

  17. bunniferous*

    While I agree this is absolutely on him not to look-on the other hand it is in the dress code. SMH.

    I disagree he is necessarily a lech-he very well may be-but as I used to tell my kids-biology is biology. But that said, your workplace is letting her bust the dress code, and there it is. Maybe his looking AWAY was obvious and that made her uncomfortable. If that is what happened, then on her to deal or not deal. But yeah, guy, even if they are out there on a silver platter, professionalism and sheer decency requires you look her in the eye-or if she is that short, over her head, whatever. If you cannot do that, find another job.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “Biology is biology” doesn’t really work when most men manage not to stare their coworkers’ boobs! (Also, he says she was noticing him looking, so it’s not that he was looking away.)

      1. Zip Silver*

        I’d venture to say that it’s not so much that most men don’t look, it’s more along the lines of most men are more stealthy about it. OP oogling her is something most guys stop doing when they’re teenagers

      2. Rob aka Mediancat*

        “Biology is biology” covers a BRIEF initial reaction. Emphasis on brief. The time between that reaction and the time decent behavior kicks in should be somewhere under a second. And that’s on the long side.

        1. Kat in VA*

          I’m no stranger to the brief eyeball bounce off my chest. I get that they’re there, they’re kinda hard to miss. No, they’re not hanging out of my dress but they’re still undeniably, visible THERE attached front and center to my chest.

          That brief bounce is, as you put it, BRIEF. Enough that someone goes blink, look, and then bounces their eyes right up to mine. As long as it’s brief, it doesn’t bother me. Staring, ogling, the long look up-and-down (oh, how I HATE that)…that’s all under someone’s control. The brief bounce is a very short initial reaction, as stated, and then we move to professional things. And sometimes the bounce doesn’t even happen. Because that’s self control, kiddos, and that’s what adults do in the professional world.

          1. Emily K*

            Exactly. The brief single glance barely even registers to me – that’s an instinctive reaction and happens faster than conscious thought someone’s. It’s the repeated glances or long glances that quickly become uncomfortable, because at that point I know conscious thought kicked in long ago and now this person is making a conscious choice to continue staring. Did they decide they’d prefer ogling me to focusing on work? Do they think that being ogled is my primary function in this interaction? Are they trying to intimidate me by making a point about how they can stare like this without consequence? Literally there’s no reason I can think of for someone to choose to keep looking that isn’t uncomfortable.

      3. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

        I would be surprised if other men did not notice OP ogling this woman either, so even if you can’t be respectful of women this is likely plummeting your stock with a lot of men too! I used to work with a decent dude and he brought up a male co-worker who had made it very clear to me and anther woman that he was staring at our chests while talking to us (I’m 5’8″ with no heels btw) and he knew this guy was being gross and could see it from afar enough in meetings, the hall, etc. to ask if everything was cool later on. People are gonna know if you don’t pull those eyes up.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          A very nice young man on my team once said, ‘I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but What’sHisName stares at you and other women all the time. You guys are just sitting or just walking to the copier, and he just watches you. I’m reporting him to our HRBL, thought you should know.’

          The thing is, I really hadn’t noticed because I was so busy doing actual work and, you know, expecting my colleagues to be professional. But wow, once I started paying attention, this guy was so obvious he was quite scary. Take aways:

          You don’t even have to flaunt your ‘assets’ to get unwanted, creepy attention.
          Lots of men don’t think ‘biology is biology’ is a free pass to check out women, if only for a few seconds.

          1. Burned Out Supervisor*

            Good dude is good. It’s worth noting that the person filing a complaint doesn’t always have to be the target of the harassing behavior.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              Great point, wish I had included it. What’sHisName was a contractor and was quickly fired after the complaint. Good dude made a difference.

    2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      “Biology is biology” is how women get blamed for being attacked because they were wearing a short skirt. Please stop.

      1. bunniferous*

        I am not doing that (I have personal history with that topic which I will not share here.) Please note I am still holding him accountable for HIS reaction.

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          You may not mean to be doing that, but that is what you are doing by saying “biology is biology”

    3. LDN Layabout*

      If Biology was Biology my murderous PMS anger would allow me to punch, kick, scream at people without repercussions.

      And yet…

      1. mcr-red*

        Yay! I know what I’m doing next month! /punches someone and shrieks, “Biology is Biology!”

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yep, that can be a two way street. At some point we have to, you know, act like adults.

    4. Jamie*

      but as I used to tell my kids-biology is biology.

      Biology also predisposes us to be attracted to faces that appeal to us. It would be no excuse for gazing into your co-workers eyes, lost in their beauty, rather than treating them as a fellow professional.

    5. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Uh huh. Funny how ‘biology is biology’ is an excuse – er, explanation – for men’s behavior. Had I given in to my ‘biology’ during menopause, I’d probably have a few arrests for assault in my record. PMS and menopause wouldn’t be acceptable excuses, you know.

      1. Mpls*

        True that. PMS gets used to minimize women’s concerns and categorize women as emotional and uncontrolled. “Boys will be boys” (aka biology is biology) gets used to excuse bad male behavior.

      2. One of the Sarahs*

        Straight men’s behaviour, because a gay man coming onto a straight man can still be used as an excuse for violence, including murder.

        1. whingedrinking*

          Oh, but that’s not biology because…mumble mumble…something something…God says…and it gives a bunch of powerful straight men the oogies, so it MUST be unnatural.

    6. KehSquared*

      “Biology is biology” is just “Boys will be boys” rebranded to imply scientific legitimacy.

      Science doesn’t support the harassment of women. Stop it.

      1. bunniferous*

        I should not have used that phrasing-since the context I use it in is not the context rightfully objected to here. I am simply stating that PEOPLE are attracted to people-and with that knowledge in hand, we are still responsible for what we do with that fact. Very few of us are automatons. I am female and I have eyes that I need to control too. Understanding that, not being ashamed of the fact we react to one another BUT STILL BEING RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT WE DO WITH THAT is how I roll. I am not interested in shaming the poster, I am interested in him putting his eyes elsewhere or finding another job if he finds that impossible for whatever reason.

        1. LapisLazuli*

          I think it’s much more to do with power dynamics and entitlement than “attraction”

    7. Snark*

      Biology is biology. But take it from a man: biology is not actually as powerful as men would like us to believe it is.

      1. It's Perks, Sir*

        Also, biology is biology, and biology makes me want to nap every afternoon at 3:00 pm. I still don’t go to sleep at work ever.

      2. Remedial Chaos Theory*

        I’m a trans man, and when I first started HRT, I was apprehensively low-key waiting to start experiencing these uncontrollable urges I was always told cis men experience. The boys-will-be-boys, I just had to keep looking, I just had to get with her, all that stuff. I thought maybe my emotions or urges would be difficult to deal with, that my new hormone levels would be a challenge, that I’d have trouble controlling my anger, at the very least.

        Yeah, uh, so, none of that has happened. Sure, I feel a lot of things differently to how I used to feel them. Yes, some emotions are stronger, and some urges are more immediate, and you know what? They’re as easy to control as they always have been. This whole “men have uncontrollable biology that they just have to let out” schtick is, frankly, a load of crap.

        1. Tin Cormorant*

          Always an interesting perspective to hear from!

          I have long suspected that boys are simply not *taught* how to control or deal with their emotions, and they learn that society gives them free passes to act on their impulses.

    8. hbc*

      The simpler an expression, the more likely it’s being used to oversimplify a topic and paper over debate. I let my dog poop on your lawn, it’s biology, right? Pick my nose while talking to you, the booger was uncomfortable, that’s what my nerves were telling me to do. Let a fart rip in an elevator with you, no problem.

      Biology is biology, and society is society, and turns out that we’re actually biologically programmed to want to get along in a society. Tap into that social part of your biology to tamp down the reproductive instincts, or you’ll be participating in neither.

    9. Dagny*

      “But that said, your workplace is letting her bust the dress code,”

      I see what you did there.

    10. Tye*

      “as I used to tell my kids-biology is biology”

      I always wonder how dudes like this LW end up out in the world and who raised them to be that way, and now I know.

      1. Kat in VA*

        Because the onus is on women to contort themselves to fit whatever is the version of “acceptable woman” to the man in front of them.

        Unfortunately for us, that version changes with the man standing there, so it will never be right.

        Damned if you, damned if you don’t.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      Biology is biology. I wonder what the kids translated that to mean.

      Does it mean that men aren’t very smart and can’t think their way through what ever urge creeps into their brains? So like if they want to rob a bank they will just do it because… well… they are men?

      Some of this stuff is a real slam about men. I always thought it was ironic for men to say, “boys will be boys”. To me it sounded like they were saying, “Males are not capable of better behavior.” When women said that same expression I had even more questions.

    12. JamieS*

      It always interests me how “biology is biology” or similar such nonsense is only ever used to excuse the behavior of men and boys.

    13. Busty Matron*

      Another thing that’s biology: moving your bowels and relieving your bladder. You don’t do that in the middle of the floor in the office, because you learn early on what is and isn’t appropriate, and that there’s a time and a place for your biological needs. Believing that your co-workers are appropriate fodder for sexual fantasy is basically the same thing.

  18. Unsurprised*

    In any office work environment it is reasonable to not have cleavage hanging out. The issue is more about how this could impact office culture if the OP were to go to HR.

    If you flip the situation, the advice would be different.

    1. Czhorat*

      In most offices shorts and flip-flops aren’t acceptable. This is a casual one.

      If you flip the situation, then the situation would be different.

          1. WantonSeedStitch*

            A+ comment. Yeah, I can’t exactly get rid of mine. And I’ve had experiences in my life when an outfit that was seen as just fine on a less-busty person was seen as “too much” on me, even though it fit me right (i.e., I wasn’t wearing a size that was too small for my bust and over-magnifying it). I can’t change the boobs, folks.

          2. valentine*

            have cleavage hanging out.
            It’s not necessarily “hanging out” and he’s much taller than she is.

            1. fposte*

              Why do they have to be treated the same? Mouths are probably a lot more involved in sex than breasts and we leave them out where everybody can look at them.

            2. Blunt Bunny*

              Well “camel toe” is a thing, you can’t hide the shape of your body. There is no excuse to shame someone for their body because you feel uncomfortable stop trying to justify this.

        1. Czhorat*

          No. They’re a body part.

          An office casual enough to allow shorts and flip-flops is very casual; just shy of “anything goes”. I’d not go in literally topless, but short of that, who cares?

            1. Czhorat*

              False equivalencies are false.

              THis is SO poor an analogy that it’s hard to believe that you’re discussing in good faith and not trying to create a “gotcha”.

            2. Librarian of SHIELD*

              A man with a bikini calendar is intentionally displaying other people’s bodies for the purpose of objectification. A woman going to her job in clothing that no one in her management/HR structure has objected to is an employee in good standing at her company.

              Your metaphor is not a good one.

              1. Goose and gander*

                Removed. I’ve asked to stop repeating the falsehood that this is sexual harassment, and you do need to cut it out. – Alison

                1. Aquawoman*

                  I have seen men whose “assets” (barf) were pretty visible through their tight pants. The number of times anyone has written that into the dress code, asked an advice columnist to make them stop or complained to HR is zero.

            3. fposte*

              As noted, that’s different, but I’d say the same thing if the guy had elephantiasis and tight pants.

              Your employer has the prerogative to say what is acceptable for its workplace as far as dress coverage; your co-worker doesn’t.

            4. Mb*

              So you seemed to be making a bad faith argument comparing someone having boobs (and management seemingly ok with it being on the visible side) to some one putting up a pinup calendar. One is just existing, the other is purely to be viewed as sexual (to be clear it’s the female coworker that just existing, not the pin up).

              Now let’s make a true “role reversal” argument. Say you, you specifically sunny dee, worked in a super casual shorts and flip flops office. One day academy acclaimed director quinto tarantino starts working in your office, don’t ask why he’s now your new coworker. If Quinto Tarantino were to start fallowing you around, obviously ogling your feet (which are exposed! In flip flops! Which are allowed!) would Quinto be justified to start complaining to hr about how Sunny dee’s beautiful exposed feet are distracting him? No. He would be told to keep his eyes off your feet!

              See how it seems crazy and rude to treat your coworker like that when all of a sudden the body part someone is obsessed isn’t what is socially acceptable and is instead more nitch. Apply the same logic to boobs. If you wouldn’t be ok with Quinto Tarantino treating your feet this way, don’t treat your fellow female employees this way.

          1. JamieS*

            In the post about the shirtless coworker exercising outside the office building there was no indication management had an issue there either but you didn’t say that meant it was a moot point or nobody should say anything.

        2. Environmental Compliance*

          I mean, I can’t exactly remove my boobs, so they’re simultaneously not formal wear nor casual wear. They just are there, getting in the way, and annoying when I attempt to run up/down the stairs.

          Boobs are just….boobs. You don’t “wear” them. That’s like saying you “wear” ear lobes, or pinkie toes.

            1. SuperAnon*

              Hey LW, read your letter out loud to your mother, grandmother, sister or female friend (if you have any). I bet they’ll have some advice for you.

              (Mine would be “Grow the eff up. You’re the problem.”)

            2. mrs__peel*

              Same here!

              As an aside, I truly wish I could leave mine in a box and just bring them out for special occasions….

            3. Joielle*

              I *wish* I had interchangeable sets. You got your mid-size boobs for casual everyday wear, smaller for the gym, bigger for the club… keep a spare in the trunk…

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                100%, I have asked my husband many a time to hurry up and engineer re-sizable boobs.

            4. Environmental Compliance*

              I’ve probably giggled a bit too much to myself trying to figure out ‘casual’ boob and ‘formal’ boob. Is the difference glitter? Sequins?

    2. Not Me*

      Considering no one in management or HR has said anything to her the issue is with solely with the LW. He’s apparently the only one who has an issue with her clothing. So he needs to be an adult and start treating his co-workers with respect, which means not making them feel uncomfortable by staring at their bodies in a sexual way. If he is too distracted by something no one else appears to notice…then he needs to find a different work environment.

    3. GigglyPuff*

      Okay, flip the situation– cleavage out: gay woman=doesn’t leer, manages not to be a pervert.

      1. Alpaca Bag*

        Gay, married, middle-aged woman with ADD here – it can be VERY hard to concentrate with cleavage showing in the office. I’ve been working in offices for about 30 years, and still have trouble keeping my eyes up where they need to be. It’s not that I can’t do it, the problem is that I’m thinking “eyes up! look at her face!” during any conversation we have and I miss important information. Add in the ADD factors of “Ooh, shiny,”, “Squirrel!,” and poor memory retention, and I lose about half my effectiveness in these conversations. If I worked in the situation the OP describes, I’d have to ask if I could switch to a project with different people. For me, it’s like working with someone who keeps clicking their pen – I DO NOT WANT that particular sensory input. (Side issue – I don’t want to see anyone’s cleavage at church, either.) I’m very careful with my shirt necklines, and my cleavage and bra are always covered, so I know it’s possible. I think that people who aren’t as careful just have no idea how distracted some of us can be by this topic, no matter how many decades we spend trying to be more mature.

        1. mcr-red*

          I’m sorry but I don’t get it. We all have things that we are attracted to. Whatever it is does not have to be a big distraction. I love gorgeous blue eyes. And you’re supposed to look at people’s faces when you talk to them! Somehow I manage to a. have conversations with my husband without jumping him constantly and he has gorgeous blue eyes and b. have conversations with others I find attractive.

          Sure, I get the first time seeing them, “ooh pretty!” whether its cleavage, eyes, rears, whatever. But then you move on.

        2. msjwhittz*

          You being distracted by their bodies existing is still a YOU problem, though! Just like it is for OP. You’re just better versed in finding ways to deal with distractions because of your experiences. He needs to do the same, in a way that does not penalize his coworkers—who happen to be women—for bringing their bodies to work each day. Like the coworker clicking their pen is a tic not directed AT you, women’s breasts simply exist and we must bring them with us everywhere without painful, expensive surgical intervention.
          And your personal preference for choosing necklines that *you* deem acceptable is not shared by the whole world, nor can I imagine you’d really want to impose it on the rest of us, right? So I’m not sure why it’s relevant here.

          1. Alpaca Bag*

            Good point about the relevance of what I choose to wear. I wanted to point out that cleavage in the office can reduce some workers’ productivity, and got carried away and rambled. Thank you.

            1. msjwhittz*

              I do that, too! But I’m seeing lots of women pipe up with what they wear in the comments and frankly, it just doesn’t seem relevant to the OP’s question, so I had to point it out.

        3. Elizabeth*

          I once read about a study that showed that straight men remember only about 60% as much of a presentation when the woman giving the presentation was in a low cut cleavage-showing business suit vs a typical business suit.

          So yes, cleavage certainly can be distracting to people who find it attractive! And that can be professionally harmful both to the person who is trying not to look (as alpaca bag describes – she misses important info) as well as to the person showing the cleavage (who may not even realize some people are not hearing everything she is saying).

          I personally choose to go out of my way to never show cleavage at work for this reason (including anything that might be visible to taller people) – I want to be taken seriously and I want my words to be heard and absorbed and listened to. I’m already fighting sexism to make that happen (since some men are less likely to listen to women, and I work in a male dominated field), and if covering up makes things a little better for me and little bit easier for me to achieve success, then yes I’ll gladly do it.

          Not everyone will make the same choice. Regardless, We are all still responsible for treating people with respect and not as sexual objects.

          1. Johnny Tarr*

            I just googled “straight men 60% cleavage” to try to find the study you’re referencing. It was a bad idea and I didn’t learn anything that I wanted to know. :-) Assuming the study is solid, it really just seems to me to indicate that straight men are not . . . mature enough? self-disciplined enough? . . . to have jobs. I hope you’re remembering incorrectly or that the study is junk, because that’s really kind of depressing. Like the studies that say X% of college men will commit rape as long as it’s only described as “forced sex.”

      2. One of the Sarahs*

        Said it upthread too, but flip the situation: gay man is openly ogling straight male’s backside and crotch to the point he’s making colleague uncomfortable. The answer isn’t “men should wear a long top to cover up their backside/crotch area”, it’s “gay man should control himself”.

    4. Mediamaven*

      I’m a woman and I agree. It sounds to me like she’s exposing more than she should. That’s why offices have dress codes. It’s really not ok to wear something that reveals your bra in an office setting.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        But as was stated several times, even within this very thread, this office really doesn’t have a dress code – it’s pretty much anything goes casual. So that’s on the company for not coming up with a business casual dress code and not enforcing the few rules they do have.

      2. Nanani*

        That went out the window when LW admitted he was ogling and looking down her shirt.
        There is no way to dress that stops creeps being creepy.

        He has to stop staring at her chest.

    5. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

      I just want to interject here because, well, if I wrote to Alison and said that I wanted to go to HR and said that my coworker was very well endowed and dressing to accentuate his bulge and he knew he was flaunting his package at me, I do not believe for one minute that the advice would be different.

      1. confidante's inferno*

        Well, I think the gender-flipped equivalent would be more like “my male colleague is wearing trousers so tight that I can see the outline of his genitals, and it’s distracting”.

        1. Paulina*

          It isn’t, though, since he’s not complaining about seeing a body part, he’s complaining about seeing part of an article of clothing. Yes it’s an article of clothing that normally should be covered in the workplace, and it probably is when she looks at herself in the mirror. It’s still just an article of clothing, and I suggest he try to stop considering it so very risque for him to see part of it.

      2. confidante's inferno*

        Sorry, I forgot to actually make a point.

        What I meant was, this isn’t necessarily about being “well-endowed”, but rather showing a lot more skin than is professional. I’d have less sympathy (i.e. none at all) if OP had written in and said “My coworker has large breasts. She wears regular shirts/blouses/cardigans/whatever but I can still tell she has large breasts. Help.” As it is, he’s using some really gross language to refer to his coworker but I do understand his discomfort on a general level and I don’t think it’s quite comparable to your example, unless you adjust to the aforementioned “I can literally see my male coworker’s penis outline through his clothing”.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Breasts aren’t penes, though. Short of something like chest-binding, you are going to see them, in a general way, regardless.

          Her clothing could probably be better. But that’s not constructive for the OP, because regardless of what her clothing is doing, it’s on him to manage his behavior.

          1. confidante's inferno*

            Sure, if you have large breasts, they’re going to be visible under your clothes. Your cleavage doesn’t have to be visible, though – at least not that amount (because I understand the larger your breasts are, the harder it is to not show any cleavage at all).

              1. VictorianCowgirl*

                They obviously do, as does everyone else, who also know that it’s possible to stay covered if chosen.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          But, see, we can’t give the OP’s coworker advice about what she should wear to work, because she’s not the one who wrote in for advice. And since the OP’s management and HR don’t seem to feel like this is a problem, OP’s only real option is to exert some self control and stop looking.

        3. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

          “Dear Alison,
          I want to go to HR because my coworker is very well endowed and dressing to accentuate his bulge and he isas flaunting his package at me. I know I shouldn’t look, and I want to not look for him, but I am very short. I can tell that he leans to the left because I just can’t help looking and noticing! I know that he has been made uncomfortable about me staring at his package at least once because he switched to a more modest utility kilt for awhile, but now he’s back to wearing SHORTS, and let us just say that I deeply and personally know the answer to the question ‘Boxers or briefs?’ now. What should I do? Go to HR? I want to go to HR so they can tell him not to make his package so enticing to me.”

          Nope, I still see the response as being exactly the same.

  19. Czhorat*

    A few years ago I ran into the Coed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society at one of their outings at Bryant Park. I chatted with them about books, and one of them even gave me a copy of the last volumes in a series we were all reading. SO yes, it’s possible to talk to a person like a person and look them in the eye even if they’re completely naked from the waist up. Just look her in the eye while you’re talking to her; it isn’t that difficult.

    If y our office is so casual that shorts and flip-flops are accepted then you really don’t have a “dress code” issue to bring up. Just don’t stare.

    It’s really that easy.

    1. Ashley*

      I used to live with the Himba tribe in Namibia, and it was the same deal — all women (except myself) were topless, all men and women addressed people’s faces when they talked to them. Even the American men who were there with me.

      It can be done.

    2. UKDancer*

      Agreed. I have been to mixed spas in Germany where everyone is naked in the sauna. The clear etiquette is that you make eye contact and don’t look at bodies below the neck.

      Believe me after about 10 minutes you stop noticing what people look like and forget that they’re naked.

  20. londonedit*

    ‘I get that it’s on me to be self-controlled if that’s what I want to do’

    No, mate. It’s on you to be self-controlled, full stop. You don’t get a choice about whether or not to ‘control yourself’ around women, and you don’t get to police your coworkers’ wardrobes because you can’t stop yourself from staring at a woman’s breasts. Even if she is ‘showing them off’ and even if she does ‘have the assets for this style of dress’. I’m sorry, but your whole letter is full of statements like those and they’re just gross. No two ways about it.

    1. Elfie*

      Well, it’s on you to be self-controlled unless you want the law to be involved. Definitely gross.

    2. Health Insurance Nerd*

      Exactly. Self control is a choice when it comes to the question of how many slices of pizza to eat, or spending your Saturday binge watching Netflix. It shouldn’t be considered a choice when faced with opening ogling your coworker in a professional environment. Sheesh.

    3. Middle School Teacher*

      I feel like it would have been more accurate if he had said “I get that it’s on me to be more self-controlled if that’s what I want to do, but I don’t want to, sooooo….”

  21. Professor Ma'am*

    I’m picturing Julie Roberts playing Erin Brockovich…

    I think we all need to remember that a dress code shouldn’t be to prevent ‘distractions’ but rather to convey an appropriate level of formality (even if it’s informal formality). This is why high school dress codes are such a hot mess. So if you’re distracted, that’s your own problem to deal with, not hers. If your employer isn’t holding her to the dress code then either they don’t actually care or they are a bad manager. Either way, it doesn’t change the situation for the OP.

  22. ap*

    I feel for the guy a little bit. I can imagine it’s becoming similar to the old “don’t think of a polar bear” psych experiment, and now all he can think about is her polar bears. He knows it’s something he shouldn’t do, and it’s probably becoming something of a neurosis for him.

    The best I can think on a practical level is: where would you look if it was a feature you didn’t want to see? Something thad made you uncomfortable? Just avert your eyes. Focus on her eyes when talking and move your eyes up from there when it’s too much.

    1. confidante's inferno*

      “I can imagine it’s becoming similar to the old “don’t think of a polar bear” psych experiment”

      Totally. If someone had a tattoo on their forehead, I’d have a hard time not glancing at it.

      I’m having a hard time formulating my thoughts into careful words that won’t get me flamed, but IMO this comes down to a distracting feature – and cleavage can be distracting for non-sexual reasons precisely because of the “don’t think of a polar bear” phenomenon. Although granted, the language OP used makes it harder to argue that he’s not coming from a creepy place, so who knows.

      1. Anononon*

        But it doesn’t matter how distracting the OP finds it, or even at the end of the day, if it’s reasonable for the OP to find it distracting. Because, ultimately, this is still a problem that OP needs to solve internally or deal with the consequences of being the creepy pervert coworker.

        1. confidante's inferno*

          You’re right, of course! There’s only one course of action from here and it’s “stop looking”, if nobody else in the office has a problem with it. Just an interesting discussion.

      2. Amber Rose*

        But the thing is, whether he’s creepy or not isn’t the point. The point is, he has the choice to control his behavior, and instead would prefer other people just control their appearances so he doesn’t have to. That’s not OK.

        1. KimberlyInOhio*

          My thought exactly! This is the same kind of thinking that ends up in women being forced to wear burkas. And for being burned as witches because men had impure thoughts about them, or whatever. Such entitled men!

      3. b*

        Truly; and where do you look when you are talking to your mom? Grandma? Sister? Probably not their “assets”. So really you can control yourself, you just don’t wanna.

    2. Katertot*

      The issue isn’t necessarily that he is thinking about her “polar bears” though. The issue is that he is staring at them. He needs to control his actions.

    3. LQ*

      You go, “Ok polar bear, I thought about you, now we are done.” and then aloud “Now about those tps reports.” And pull your eyes up and look her in the eye.

      I’ve got a couple of cleavful coworkers. Do I fairly frequently know what color their bras are? Yup. Do I go stupid brain, it’s a polar bear so what? Yup. Do I look those coworkers in the eye nearly all of the time when one on one? Yup.

      You look her in the eye. You look her in the eyebrow. You look at the sign behind her head. You close your eyes.

      The great thing about this letter is that is 100% within the power of the OP to entirely fix. There are very few times when a problem is something you can absolutely fix to a complete and actually resolved solution. That’s a great problem to have because you can fix this OP. You can absolutely fix this.

    4. Alianora*

      So, I’m a bisexual woman and I understand the urge to stare at cleavage, but the way the LW talks about all of his coworkers’ “assets” is super creepy by itself. Glancing is understandable, but it doesn’t feel like he’s making a good-faith effort not to stare.

      Like you said, it really just comes down to making eye contact when you’re talking to her.

    5. aebhel*

      I mean, so do I; he sounds fixated, and like he feels bad about it. But it’s still on him to figure out a way to… not stare.

      1. ap*

        100%

        It’s his problem to manage. And I definitely feel worse for the co-worker he’s staring at!

        I think maybe seeing the way people are rephrasing his letter will help make it clear to him. It doesn’t matter if he thinks it’s biology – we all overcome biological instincts in work settings. It doesn’t matter if it’s now a psychological hangup – most of those are ours to manage in a work setting.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I think that he is fixated because he has not made any or enough effort to stop ogling or thinking about her.

        OP, how would you want someone to treat your daughter? Don’t have a daughter? Then pretend you do.
        Next, remember, EVERY woman is someone’s daughter. You are doing exactly what you hope NO ONE would ever do to your own daughter. But yet, that woman IS someone’s daughter.

  23. Jamie*

    As a woman who has occasionally reached for a cardigan when I realized a shirt was showing more than I thought it did, I wonder if she knows her bra is visible?

    I have shirts that look perfectly professional when I look at myself in the mirror straight on, but show more than I’m comfortable with from different angles which, unfortunately, I’ve sometimes only figured out once I got to work.

    Regardless, the advice is absolutely correct, he needs to control his gaze. He also needs to stop referring to her breasts as “assets.” I was just wondering aloud if she may not even be aware her shirt isn’t completely covering her bra.

    1. tiny and busty*

      This is something that I struggled with as a teen coming into her new shapes. I’m very short, so I’d look at myself in the mirror straight on and think I was appropriately covered but of course I’m not factoring in that everyone’s looking at me at a downward angle, and most men are about a foot taller than me -_-”

      It may honestly be that this woman is short that this person can see so much of her cleavage. Depending on the height difference, he’s got a bird’s eye view of the situation. That being said, it’s on LW to control the impulse to look.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I remember learning to twist around and bend a little bit while trying on clothes in a dressing room. Like others point out clothes can move during the course of a work day and then surprise! It was a lot harder before I lost weight, a good many garments just did not hang right on me. And some manufacturers have NO idea how to cut a piece of material. But even now you really cannot always tell how a garment will wear/fatigue during the course of a day.

        She’s just trying to get through her workday like everyone else, OP. You know what the right thing to do here is, you just gotta do it.

    2. sunshyne84*

      Yea, that’s why I was thinking it may be worth it to go to her manager, but then again I’d think they would have noticed. But we don’t know how often they interact with their manager. Sometimes we don’t realize just how much is showing.

    3. TooTiredToThink*

      (Female here) – I have a coworker whose bra was seriously showing one day (through the blouse). I didn’t know until the end of the day when she came to me, horrified because she’d looked at herself in the bathroom mirror at work (she hadn’t noticed the issue at home). Because of her reaction I then knew if something like that happened again to tell her rather than minding my own business. But I would think that if this were happening frequently – that the person would have seen themselves in enough mirrors, in enough different light types that they’d absolutely know.

    4. Putting Out Fires, Esq.*

      Thing is, if a man can see down my shirt to see skin that isn’t showing when I stand in front of the mirror, that’s a sign he needs to take several steps back from my personal space, not a sign that my shirt doesn’t cover enough. Seeing down my Shirt requires being too close (and I’m under5 feet tall).

      1. Jamie*

        I totally agree. For me it’s a little different as my job sometimes requires me to lean over while helping with some IT thing, or pop under someone’s desk …so there are instances where through no fault of their own I could show more than intended.

        But personal space is definitely something to keep in mind.

        I went clothes shopping this weekend and every single neckline gets put under the “is this okay for work” test. It really does add an element of difficulty in buying clothes.

      2. Oryx*

        co-signed. More than once I have had an outfit I thought was too revealing up top, but that’s only because I was looking directly down. In the mirror it’s absolutely fine. Anyone who can see what I see when I look straight down my shirt is way too close.

            1. Choux*

              OMG, so I can’t wear anything that doesn’t come up to my neck? Oh, and I guess it better be super drapey and baggy too, because if it’s tighter-fitting, you’re probably still going to be able to make out that I have cleavage under there.

            2. animaniactoo*

              I’m a 5′ 10″ woman, and no it’s not. I started to write a whole lot more but nah. It’s just not. She’s not required to put doublestick tape on her neckline to prevent a height disparity from accidentally showing off of her underclothes/body. If you happen to be able to see it, ignore it.

              The only time I have told someone I could see their bra/boobs was because a button had come undone and it clearly wasn’t meant to be because a higher one was buttoned. I mean, even then I might have been wrong, but I figure the odds are probably on my side there.

              1. LDN Layabout*

                As another tall woman, I’m…kind of horrifed by people who don’t automatically adjust to not loom over their co-workers?

                Like, if I’m briefly pausing by someone’s desk to show them something on their screen I might lean over, but if it’s going to take a while I sit down because no one need my tall arse looming over them like the ghost of Excel automation past.

              2. Drew*

                I put that in the same camp as telling a man that his fly is undone; it’s an easily correctible wardrobe dysfunction and the focus is on fixing the disarray, not the underlying structures.

            3. Red5*

              Are you really suggesting that it is a woman’s fault if you stare at her cleavage because she’s short?

              That’s disgusting.

            4. Jessie the First (or second)*

              Wow, what a gross sentiment. You can look down people’s shirts because of your height, and therefore you will, and therefore shorter women need to dress in such a way as to prevent you from behaving obnoxiously.

              Whole bag of nope right there. You’ve betrayed a really aggressively misogynist point of view there.

            5. RUKiddingMe*

              No, it’s not on her at all. The internalized misogyny in your comments is breath taking.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          The basic geometry there doesn’t even make sense. You can see down someone’s blouse from 25-30 feet away? Seriously? Between a 6ft tall woman, and a 5 ft tall woman, from 25-30 ft away that’s like a 2-3 degree drop. That’s not looking down someone’s shirt, that’s staring straight at their chest.

        2. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

          I’m 5feet 1 and if you could still see down my blouse (whether it has a V-neck or not) from 10 paces away, I would bring out the kryptonite because the only reason you could do that is if you had x-ray vision like Supergirl and Superman

        3. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

          How can you look down someone’s blouse when you’re literally feet away? are you a giraffe?

    5. Former Govt Contractor*

      She knows. She does this repeatedly, and these are push up bras not regular bras. Push ups are so uncomfortable I can’t imagine why anyone would wear them to work, especially paired with a lot cut top, unless they wanted to show it off.

      1. Snark*

        That makes me doubt more that the OP knows a push up bra from a push up than it makes me doubt whether or not she knows her bra is visible. My guess is it’s just a reg’lr ol’ bra.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I was thinking that.

          There are situations where I think you can say to somebody, even in a place with no/lax dress code, “Hey, did you know your clothes are doing this?” I would say that most men really shouldn’t be saying that about something involving women’s underwear unless it’s something obviously damaged or caught. “Your sweater is really low cut”=no. “Your button-in-back sweater just dropped several buttons on the floor”=possible. Leave chronic situations to managers and HR.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          What Snark said! If she’s as “well-endowed” and “asset-having” as the OP says, she does not need a push-up bra, and my money is on her not owning one – signed, someone who never owned a push-up bra.

          1. Kiki*

            My boyfriend calls every pair of not-loose pants I own yoga pants… even, like, cigarette-cut chinos. Maybe this isn’t fair, but I tend to take men’s assessments of women’s clothings with my daily dose of sodium.

            1. This one here*

              My husband calls all leggings “yogurt pants”. He may or may not know what constitutes a “push-up bra”.

        1. aebhel*

          Yeah, most push-up bras are fairly low-cut, too, so if he can actually see it, then it probably isn’t.

      2. Joielle*

        In addition to everyone’s point that he likely has no idea what kind of bra it is… I’m a cis woman and I wear a strapless pushup bra every day. I’m pretty pear shaped and I think it gives me nicer proportions. I have some very comfortable ones! So like… none of this is right.

      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Fun story, back before I started binding my chest, push-up bras were the only kind that fit me properly. Boobs come in a variety of shapes as well as sizes. Believe me, I was not out to show them off!

      4. Quoth the Raven*

        HWoman here, DD, and I wear push up bras because they’re comfortable for me (I find regular bras super uncomfortable), and not because I want to flaunt my breasts. So maybe she does, too?

      5. Blunt Bunny*

        There is absolutely no way to tell a push-up bra without out seeing it on the hanger. A push-up bras has a huge amount of padding at the bottom if you go on a lingerie website you won’t be able to tell just from them wearing from a normal balcony bra. He is being a perve there is no doubt. You can notice something striking about someone and be taken aback at first and then ignore it after that you don’t spend hours staring at them take for example if your coworker came in with green hair. It’s respectable and polite to do that, but you don’t care you are violating her every time you look at her. She is not responsible for what you find alluring, just like a person shouldn’t have to forgo flip flops because a person with a foot fetish won’t stop staring at them.

    6. tink*

      I had a coworker several years ago with shirts like this. When she was standing up everything looked fine, but if she bent over your desk while you were staring straight ahead then you could see right down her shirt (and also her bra). I found it uncomfortable because I’d frequently be doing something on my computer and then SUDDENLY BREASTS. I eventually got up the courage to ask her to stop leaning over my desk (she was older than me and had some seniority, even if she was newer in my department), but it also made me more cautious about MY work shirts because I didn’t want to unintentionally give folks the same sort of unwanted peek.

    7. zm131313*

      Seconded! I have small boobs, but sometimes my tops fall slightly below where I want them to at work (Or my bralette is thinner than I thought! Or the top is more see-through than I thought, etc.). Several times the only reason I noticed it because men were staring (truly STARING as I filled up my coffee) in our communal kitchen. It’s gross! Annoying! Uncomfortable! I’m troubled to think that any man would then write to Allison saying that *I* made *them* uncomfortable.

  24. panoptigoth*

    The “has the assets for this style of dress” comment is not helping, neither is the observation about her height. You’re making this her issue and not yours. My suggestion is perhaps learning to see women as fellow human beings, so maybe consuming media created by women, or talking to other women, or learning about experiences women have at work, or reading any of the back columns at AAM about dudes being creepy and how women have to tiptoe around them constantly?

  25. Amber Rose*

    Why don’t you have this problem with your other female coworkers? I feel like you might find some answers there. If it’s something like an office crush that’s making you more aware of this woman, then there are things you can do per some old letters on AAM.

    Otherwise if it’s just that you’re taller and her boobs are there, well, sorry dude but so are her eyes or at least her hair. You have the choice to not stare at her chest and if you’re having trouble doing that, that’s your problem to solve. She’s not wearing her clothes AT you, and clearly not wearing them to attract you, it’s just her preferred style, which she’s allowed to have. If she weren’t your coworker but someone else you see frequently, like an acquaintance or a waitress at your preferred coffee place or your neighbor or something, it would still not be OK to be behaving like this and going to HR would not be an option. So stop looking for a chance to put the responsibility elsewhere.

    1. ragazza*

      I just saw a very good tweet that seems relevant here: “Men’s empathy only goes as far as their attraction to you.”

      OP, might be worth doing some self-examination to think about why the other “well-endowed” woman doesn’t seem to cause the same level of distraction.

        1. valentine*

          Why don’t you have this problem with your other female coworkers?
          OP thinks he only has to behave properly if he can’t see skin/bra(nd).

      1. VictorianCowgirl*

        I don’t think that sweeping statements of man-hating are helpful here. That tweet was disgusting and incorrect for most men.

        The other busty woman is likely dressing appropriately *for work*.

    2. Former Govt Contractor*

      Removed. You can’t use gross language like that here (I realize the letter writer did, but that’s part of the problem with the letter). – Alison

  26. Granger Chase*

    I agree with Alison. If this were a different letter, like she said, the response would be different. Honestly, it could have even been along the lines of “my coworker wears shirts that shows her bra/additional cleavage to those taller than her or when she bends over and I am worried she is unaware of how much is being exposed”. But see, the difference is that the scenario I presented and the one that Alison did are both concentrated on caring about your coworker and either how she is viewed from a professional standpoint or her unintentionally providing a view of more of her body than she wants to show at work. Your letter is all about how it affects you. It is clearly on you to resolve the issue of you ogling your coworker’s cleavage to the point that she is aware & uncomfortable with your gaze. The point about you not staring the same way at another “well endowed” woman in your office does not mean that what you are doing here is not inappropriate. If your workplace thinks what your coworker is wearing fits with their dress code, then she is allowed to continue dressing the way she has been.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yes, thank you! The OP’s whole letter demonstrates zero concern for his coworker or her feelings whatsoever.

  27. RetailRat*

    I don’t often comment but I really all the time. You nee to evaluate your own words and think how a woman would feel if it were on the other side.

    Her dress is not your business, your feelings are not her fault, your mind is the problem not her fashion sense.

  28. confidante's inferno*

    First of all, I think the use of “assets” in this letter is really, really gross.

    That having been said, I disagree with the majority of the comments so far. I’d feel fairly uncomfortable about large amounts of cleavage at work, too, and OP even says there’s a rule about it in the dress code. I don’t know how you’d sensitively bring it up to the coworker in question, but I get why OP isn’t comfortable (although of course it’s not ok to stare – hopefully that goes without saying).

    1. AnotherSarah*

      Yeah. Breasts are not “assets.” They are body parts, belonging to the person they’re attached to. They can do all sorts of things…but they are not there *for you*, LW, and they are not valuable items to be traded (at least, not to you). I’d have much more sympathy were it not for the indications that the LW seems to think the coworker has breasts *at* him.

      1. valentine*

        I’d feel fairly uncomfortable about large amounts of cleavage at work
        But what would you do about it when your employer’s letting it go?

        I don’t know how you’d sensitively bring it up to the coworker in question
        You wouldn’t. Your discomfort is your/the OP’s problem to solve.

        of course it’s not ok to stare – hopefully that goes without saying
        It needed to be said because OP disagrees.

        1. confidante's inferno*

          I’d just stop looking, as OP should, of course.

          I only mentioned “bringing it up” because the OP mentions it’s explicitly against the dress code, but then Alison pointed out that obviously the employer/other employees have no issue, so yes, that’s kind of a moot point now.

        2. Former Govt Contractor*

          OP does not disagree! It is obvious from his letter he knows it’s not ok to stare.

          1. Nanani*

            What I see in t he letter is he’s trying to look for an excuse to make the staring her fault, and/or an excuse to make it ok to stare.

  29. Crivens!*

    I am a bi woman. I find several of my close friends attractive, because they’re attractive people. This past Saturday, I went to a nude spa with a bunch of them. And I managed to not stare at them.

    If I can manage to not notice attractive naked people right in front of me, OP, you can manage to not stare at a little cleavage. This is on YOU to solve, not your coworker.

      1. Another queer*

        As a queer woman I have more problems not looking fondly at queer couples in public (because let’s face it, on the other end of the interaction I’m Schrödinger’s homophobe vs. someone glad people can be openly a couple) than I do staring at cleavage.

        1. merp*

          Off topic, but Schrödinger’s homophobe is just the best phrase for this problem. I’ve had this thought before for sure.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Seconded from another queer AFAB person. It is really, truly, deeply not that difficult.

      Self-control is a habit, not a trait. Exercise it.

      1. Remedial Chaos Theory*

        This. Presumably, OP is able to control himself in other situations, and should be able to just apply the same concepts here.

    2. jiminy_cricket*

      Another queer. Co-signed again. This is about LW’s socialization and centering himself and not “unavoidable” or “natural” for any reason related to attraction or biology.

    3. Tinybutfierce*

      Hardcore seconded from this bi woman. I work with a lot of attractive folks. Yet somehow, I couldn’t even begin to tell you which of them are “remarkably well-endowed” or who has what “assets” to suit whatever clothing.

      1. VictorianCowgirl*

        Oh, but I bet you could. We all notice others’ bodies. We don’t always act gross about them, but basic visuals come across. Let’s not take it to the level you don’t even know who has breasts and who doesn’t. That’s just unrealistic.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          That’s not what she said. The LW has thought about this enough that he’s compared his co-workers breast sizes. I couldn’t tell you how my co-workers ranked in that area, even as a person who’s very fond of breasts.

          I even had to take a moment to think about what my work crush looks like, because honestly I focus more on the fact that she has really pretty eyes and a gorgeous smile and a hot accent and I still could not hazard a guess at her cup size.

      2. Anon attorney*

        Bi woman here who has been attracted to several coworkers of various genders and has managed to maintain eye contact throughout. Yes, there have been times when I wanted to look at/touch parts of them that were irrelevant to our work. I managed not to. It’s not difficult. You just have to accept that it’s incumbent on you to behave appropriately rather than on them to moderate their appearance in any way.

    4. no, the other Laura*

      Yes to all of this.

      Straight men manage to control themselves at topless beaches and nudist resorts and even in strip clubs where women are shaking it in their faces – because the penalty for NOT controlling themselves is being asked to leave, sometimes with extreme prejudice. Imagine that the penalty for complaining to your boss about your colleague’s “assets” or even making her uncomfortable with your ogling was, “clean out your desk, you’re fired”: you’d IMMEDIATELY figure out to stare at her nose or her hair or her earlobe.

      Imagine there is a bouncer at the office door who will curb-stomp you and not give you back the credit card you left for the bar tab, if you upset one of your fellow workers, maybe? Actual bouncers seem to be pretty good at maintaining propriety no matter what people are wearing at social events.

    5. Mediamaven*

      But what does that have to do with this situation? You were at a nude spa? This is a work place?

      1. Sad*

        You are being intentionally dense. She clearly makes the point that LW is capable of not staring at his coworkers chests, especially to the extent of comparing their “assets.”

      2. smoke tree*

        I think the point is just that part of living in a society is being able to avoid broadcasting your attraction to others when it’s not appropriate. The LW seems to think this is an unreasonable thing to expect of himself, so I think it’s worth a reminder that that this is a pretty low bar to achieve.

      3. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

        That LW should just look CW in the eye, and not at her chest?

        I mean, it isn’t that difficult to understand!

    6. SciDiver*

      Yep. If queer folks can do it, so can you. There’s plenty of attractive people at beaches, in gyms, in locker rooms, but your job is to not be a creep and it costs $0 to be respectful and considerate.

  30. LessNosy*

    There are so many red flags in this letter. OP, in addition to taking Alison’s advice, please self-reflect on why you think it’s okay to say your coworker is making this hard on you and blaming her height, trying to justify your stare by saying you don’t look at your “remarkably well-endowed” coworker’s breasts, viewing self-control as an optional “if I want to” behavior, etc. It seems like your instincts are telling you that this is not good behavior, so please, please use this as a learning opportunity!

    1. SarahKay*

      I can understand the height comment to an extent as the different angle really does change what is visible. But that’s still tough luck – I can’t imagine he’s the only tall guy in the office with a changed viewpoint!

  31. Librarian of SHIELD*

    To quote my favorite tweet of all time: “My favorite bible story is when instead of telling women to dress modestly, Jesus tells his dudes to avoid lust by plucking their eyes out.”

    I’m not recommending that you literally remove your eyeballs, OP. But I am very much saying that this is a you problem and not a her problem. I get that boobs can be distracting, but so can a lot of other things. And it’s not our coworkers’ responsibility to predict all the things that could possibly distract us, it’s our own responsibility to un-distract ourselves. Practice the fine art of eye contact when you talk to this coworker. When you notice that your gaze is drifting south, give yourself a little mental shake and go back to the eye contact.

    She’s not just boobs. She’s ideas and reports and problem solving and a million other things that make her good at her job. Remind yourself of all the non-boob things about her that make her a valuable coworker.

    1. Clisby*

      This is reminding me of an exchange in one of the old Thin Man movies:

      Nora Charles : [about Phyllis Talbin] Stunning jewelry. Those earrings…

      Nick Charles : [looking off in the direction of Phyllis] Very attractive!

      Nora Charles : Earrings are higher up.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        I absolutely love those movies, but some of the misogyny of the time makes me cringe.

    1. Torrance*

      I’m not even a Christian and I think that referring to scripture, particularly that verse, is problematic, given the existence of 1 Timothy 2:9-10 or Proverbs 11:22.

      Could we perhaps leave religion out of this conversation? There’s plenty of secular arguments to be made, no need to muddy the waters.

      1. J. E. Sus*

        We could, but we won’t. I still can’t believe that 2000 years after I told guys to stop ogling women we’re still talking if it could be her fault for not “covering” enough.

        1. Torrance*

          Unfortunately, scripture would disagree– in both Romans & 1 Corinthians, there are passages that explicitly warn against causing others to stumble by your actions.

          Again, religion doesn’t really have a place in this conversation. :/ He shouldn’t blind himself because he is looking at her cleavage and she is not responsible for his inability to do so by her choice of attire.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah, especially since it’s not like the letter mentions a religious POV here. There are plenty of creepers creeping without tossing out religious reasoning behind it.

    2. VictorianCowgirl*

      Ok, can we stop with the preaching and bible references? It’s out of place on a website about work, and especially gauche to use a religious text that was used to leave women in oppression for hundreds of years. Original sin? Come on guys. This is a workplace blog.

      1. Burned Ou Supervisor*

        Rich coming from someone who blames harassing behavior on what a woman is wearing.

    3. Pippa K*

      ok, it looks like all the responses have missed your point, which I think was “if you’ve got a problem with seeing stuff you think is immoral, it’s on you to stop looking at it.”

      Let me just add from the Qur’an (24:30)
      “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And God knows all that they do.”

  32. Lepidoptera*

    Trust me, this is a ‘you’ problem.
    You mention in your letter that there was a moment where she noticed that you couldn’t stop staring and that it was awkward for both of you.
    Well you still didn’t stop staring because you continued to notice how much or how little breast was showing because you clocked the fact that she was wearing more conservative cuts for a while after that.
    You are paying way too much attention to the amount of cloth covering this woman’s breasts and you need to stop.
    Stop staring, stop caring. Breasts are merely skin wrapped around fat and glands, that’s it.

  33. Adereterial*

    1, She’s entitled to wear whatever she damn well pleases (and dress codes that ban ‘cleavage’ would be illegal in many places as that only applies to those who present as female).
    2, That is not an invitation for you to look at her breasts/bra or anything else. Unless you have some peculiarly specific disability that means you can’t (and you don’t; no-one does) you can focus on her face if you choose. You’re choosing not to.

    The onus is on you not to act like a creep. That’s pretty much the long and the short of it.

  34. NoLongerStuckInRetailHell*

    I don’t understand why habituation hasn’t kicked in yet. Even if she were completely naked from the waist up, sure at first he would be hard pressed not to stare, but after a year and a half I would think it would be so “old hat” that he wouldn’t even notice anymore. Are guys really such horndogs that a glimpse of bra and cleavage is so distracting?

    1. un-pleased*

      That is a fair point about habituation. Generally, people can adapt to things like nudity as something unremarkable. The fact that this hasn’t happened yet – why? What is the fascination?

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        He’s attracted to this woman, so that’s why he’s able to avert his gaze from the more “remarkably well endowed” woman, but can’t seem to stop noticing every clothing change this particular woman makes.

        1. valentine*

          I don’t understand why habituation hasn’t kicked in yet.
          He doesn’t want to stop.

          Are guys really such horndogs
          No need to extrapolate. Even his male coworkers aren’t pulling this crap.

    2. Myrin*

      I find that most baffling, too, but I’m also asexual and stuff like that is just really alien to me an a very basic level; it’s never easy for me to gauge when something is “just sexual-people-stuff I literally can’t comprehend” and when it’s “fixation on a sexual aspect to an unusual degree”.

    3. Goose Lavel*

      I would never habituate to naked breasts or abundant cleavage in the workplace as I find it sexually stimulating, so I divert my gaze to facial features or background objects.

      I maybe more stimulated by breasts than the average male due to my exposure to x rated material given to me at age 10 by an adult neighbor. I also remember multiple elementary school teachers that had shown cleavage on a regular basis, to the point that all of the boys in class would oggle, including me.

      It’s sometimes still been challenging, but I’ve been successful in my 40 year working career through visual redirection.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I’m…not really sure what to make of this, but it’s even more awkward that no one has touched it.

        I mean, I…jeez. I dunno. Sorry for your predatory neighbor and be well, dude.

    4. Foila*

      Yeah, that’s a good point. Not only do things that once seemed unusual tend to get less interesting and novel over time, but they really lose their draw if one practices diverting one’s attention. So that sounds like he’s practicing paying attention to his colleagues’ chests, and now he’s gotten so good at noticing that he’s started writing to advice columnists.

    5. shartheheretic*

      Exactly. I have a guy friend who is an actor and was working as an extra in a movie which had a scene in a strip club. I asked him if it wasn’t difficult to keep his mind on his job. He told me that after the first 10 minutes or so, it was actually boring to see the same things over and over again. LOL

  35. BigSigh*

    I would suggest sitting on her level instead of standing over her, which would prevent any difficulty you may wish to attribute to height differences. Most women would prefer this even if their top wasn’t low cut.

    If you’re sitting on her level and see can’t hold yourself back from staring, start holding paperwork up and use it to physically block your sight line.

    Dress codes are silly. People should wear what they’re comfortable in.

    1. VictorianCowgirl*

      Most women would prefer this? Because we’re all just so intimidated by men, poor us? What????

      1. LDN Layabout*

        No, because people don’t like being loomed over, whether someone’s of the opposite sex or not.

      2. UKDancer*

        I would certainly prefer it if people didn’t loom over me. One I don’t like them possibly seeing down my shirt but that aside it feels intimidating and awkward.

        I raised it with my very tall former grandboss Elrond once. I asked to sit down when he came over to speak to me so we were eye level. I said having him stood over me felt awkward and uncomfortable. Because Elrond is a decent, respectful chap, he thought about it and modified his behaviour. The result was that our meetings became a lot more comfortable for me and that meant I gave him better input. At the end of the year I gave him positive feedback on his leadership style. So we were both much happier.

  36. Anonymuss*

    It boggles my mind that men can be so culturally trained to look at the sexualized parts of a woman’s body that it outweighs common conversational norms like looking people in the eye when talking.

  37. Sir Freelancelot*

    To everybody that is pointing out that a bra never should be visible in the office: you’re right.
    HOWEVER, Op clealry says he’s TALLER than this woman. Hence, he has a different view and probably for this reason he can, sometimes, see her bra. Does this change the simple fact that a true gentleman (and a true man) won’t stare at a woman’s chest even if she’s naked if she’s clearly uncomfortable with that? Nope, it doesn’t.
    We’re not here discussing HER wardrobe choice. We’re to say OP: it’s not that hard to do, pal, stop trying to blame her for your weakness.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Right!

      If she’d written the letter, we’d have different advice, and it would probably feature “make sure your bra isn’t visible.” But this isn’t her letter.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Yeah, I was at a party the other day and a woman bent over to pick up her toddler, and she was wearing a loose fitting top, so at that moment I could see down her dress and see her bra. And it was like, eh, there’s a bra. My head didn’t melt and I didn’t obsess over it. It just…was.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I have a friend who nurses her kiddo whenever the kiddo wants it, usually in mixed company. And all the men have managed to not ogle, and if they’re uncomfortable, they aren’t showing it or talking about it.

  38. Putting Out Fires, Esq.*

    As a short woman with “assets” who is also breastfeeding… shirts that don’t show cleavage from the front can show cleavage if you stare down them. So back up outta her personal space!

    1. Ray*

      This is such a good point. Everything about this letter is so gross and uncomfortable. I feel so badly for his co-worker.

    2. Erin*

      You don’t know how closely they have to work together, though. It’s possibly he has to say, show her how to do something on her computer and they’re physically very close to each other.

      1. Putting Out Fires, Esq.*

        If that’s the case, his staring is even worse. Imagine being ogled with a coworker leaning over you to do something on your computer? It’s like a stock photo for a harassment PowerPoint at that point!

        1. valentine*

          It’s possibly he has to say, show her how to do something on her computer and they’re physically very close to each other.
          He can avoid this, if that’s what he needs.

  39. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Whoops, and the comment I was responding to appears to have been deleted. Oh well.

  40. Stephanie*