update: I caught my coworker masturbating at his desk

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

We have so many updates this year that I’m going to be posting six to seven times a day for the next several weeks — so keep checking back throughout the entire day.

Remember the letter-writer who caught her coworker masturbating at his desk? Here’s the update.

Thank you so much for publishing my letter. Your advice was the final push I needed to report – I think I already knew I had to, but I had a lot of complicated feelings to work through before I could make that decision. I especially appreciated the reminder that he’s likely to have been on his best behaviour around me but wouldn’t necessarily treat junior employees with respect. We have several young women in the office and I put myself in their shoes – if it had happened to me in my early twenties – I would have been even more afraid of not being believed/being labelled a troublemaker/”ruining” things, etc… It was much easier to make a decision when I was thinking about them and not what I felt I could live with.

I told my boss on Tuesday (same day the letter was published) and he thanked me and told me he’d take care of it. Later that night, I was at a conference event that my senior leadership was also attending. My boss had let them know the situation and the CEO of my org made a point to sit with me and let me know that I would be protected no matter what the investigation turned up. They are going to pull the IT logs from that day and go from there. He also thanked me for bringing it forward. I feel so much better now that this isn’t nagging at me, and I’m happy with my leadership’s response.

I also wanted to call out some of the specific comments and commenters whose perspective was particularly kind and useful:

@simply the best – I appreciate that someone tried to understand my concern about operations – it is a pivotal time and the individual is driving a critical important improvement initiative. I understand that if he leaves this will push this improvement back and there are a lot of other people/departments depending on it and could impact their ability to hit targets. On reflection, I know this isn’t a good enough reason to not report, even if there’s a chance that I was wrong and run the risk of this guy doing it again, but it was one of the things that was making it hard for me to make the decision.

@throwawayworkday – Thank you for your story about your father, and I’m sorry that happened to you. Another reason I hesitated was that I wasn’t 100% sure and the guy has a disabled wife and kids at home. If he got fired, they would also suffer. You’re right though – that’s on him, not me.

@Library Lady – your write up about trusting my gut was exactly what I needed.

Thanks again to everyone who commented. I’ll update again when there’s final action!

{ 135 comments… read them below }

  1. Observer*

    OP, I’m glad you reported it. I do really understand why you were worrying about the damage to the company. But as Alison has said many times, you simply cannot be kept hostage by something like that.

    And it sounds like your company is handling things reasonably well. Let us know what happens – even if it’s that they guy continues to work and you don’t hear anything else from HR. Because it’s quite possible that whatever action they take will not be disclosed to you.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I also like that it sounds like there is going to be an investigation, and it sounds like an in depth one. In the end, the damage to his family and reputation is on him – he made the choice to do something that most people learn before leaving school that you just don’t do at work. I hope if he does leave there is a way to keep the project he is lead on moving forward without too many delays.

      1. Kal*

        As a disabled wife who is dependent on my partner for support and the ability to live and have access to my meds and such, if I found out someone had reported my partner at work for something like this, I truly wouldn’t be mad at the person who reported it. I would be super pissed at my partner for being such a giant dumbass, though.

        So, yeah, I wholeheartedly agree that he’s the one that decided to do something that is very clearly inappropriate and that risks his employment status, so all of the blame for any damage to the family definitely falls squarely on him.

    2. Candi*

      I like the CEO reassuring her she was safe. Right from the top, and I think OP would have mentioned if she didn’t think he was sincere.

  2. urguncle*

    Went back and read the original and honestly I’m a little aghast at how many people were talking about this “shredding” his reputation or performing Simone Biles-level mental gymnastics to explain how it could have *not* been masturbation.

    1. Generic Name*

      Every time I read one of those comments I thought to myself, “Welp, here’s another office masturbator/porn viewer”. I mean seriously, who else would try so hard to justify this type of behavior?

      1. NerdyKris*

        Anyone who thinks there’s no way anyone would watch porn at work needs to ask any IT person for stories.

        1. Sincerely Raymond Holt*

          In a previous company, years ago we had “Porngate”. Huge company, something like 250 employees were terminated for porn on their work computers. The guy in my department had about 600 lines on an Excel spreadsheet of the incidents. That was, um, awkward.

          1. irene adler*

            Two hundred fifty employees? Geez!!
            We just couldn’t wait until we got home for this sort of thing?
            Mind boggling!

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            We had a guy terminated for creating a VPN account to bypass the org’s new porn filters…

            80 times in a row. (if memory serves me) The Ops would catch him using the account and disable it, and he’d turn around and create a new one.

            1. OhNo*

              I am aghast.

              Why would anyone keep this person on after the first time they caught him finagling a workaround? Let alone after eighty times?!?!

              1. Fiddle_Faddle*

                At my company he would have been fired for the security risk posted by the VPN no matter what he was viewing, after which IT would have been taking a hard look at our network infrastructure and hardening things.

              2. CalypsoSummer*

                Same here, Fiddle! One strike, you’re out. We can’t afford for anything like that to be happening — for one thing, the happy little porno-hound is a great target for blackmail. And we are not in favor of employees being vulnerable to that.

        2. Saberise*

          I work at a major university and was chatting with the IT guy once and asked about them monitoring web activity and whether they report it to people’s supervisor if they spend a lot of time on obvious non-work related websites. He said unless they go to illegal sites like on the dark web or KP sites they do nothing or even monitor it. They only gather data based on job titles. The most frequent porn site viewers are the physicians. Assuming they are adult websites than no further digging is done.

        3. The OG Sleepless*

          We fired an office manager years ago and afterward found a mind-boggling amount of porn *on the server.* I couldn’t believe it.

        4. Retired Prof*

          I once came in to work to find an alien icon on my desktop. Clearly someone thought they were throwing it out but missed the trash icon. When I opened it, it was a porn link. I was appalled – this was in my private office. Someone sat in my special chair (a top of the line purchased to keep me at work after a disabling accident) to watch porn in my office. It turned out to be our department tech, which just made it worse as I considered him a work friend. He got reamed out by the chair and sent me a mortified apology and it was never spoken of again. But I never felt the same about that chair again.

          1. Trixie the Great and Pedantic*

            okay, I am reading that as your grievously violated top-of-the-line chair reaming out the department tech for abusing it so

          2. Fanny Price*

            I’m sorry, but the two different senses of “chair” in the last sentence sent my mind to some really weird places. But I’m sorry that happened to you.

          3. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I just got the giggles from your use if two different definitions of the word chair in two sentences.

        5. Mama Sarah*

          I will never forget the annual ethics training at which the speaker, a very engaging JD, stated “I really should not have to say this, but it is not okay to watch porn at work”. I laughed and then realized there must’ve been a situation that lead her to include this (very obvious) reminder.
          Way to do the right thing, OP!

      1. urguncle*

        Seriously. If you can’t make it through your day without that release, you need to find another job or at least work from home.

            1. Observer*

              Is that surprising? What do you want to bet the Chris Cuomo was the subject of “whisper net” because that company talks a good line but doesn’t back it up?

        1. Percysowner*

          If he couldn’t make it through the day, he could have gone to the bathroom stall and been private.

          1. A Feast of Fools*


            I worked at a place where the men’s and women’s restrooms shared a common wall. If you tore the tile and backer board off of each side of the wall, you’d see that the toilets were connected to the same plumbing pipes, back to back.

            So if I’m sitting on Toilet #3 in the women’s restroom, and a guy is sitting on Toilet #3 in the men’s restroom, we were essentially sitting back to back.

            And I learned this because Toilet #3, the one farthest away from the entrance, would frequently. . . shake? bounce?. . . in an increasingly frenetic manner over a couple of minutes several times a day. It only happened when this one guy went into the bathroom.

            The doors were near the receptionist’s desk and, after several women approached her about the bouncing/vibrating/shaking toilet, she asked each woman to let her know every time it happened, and eventually was able to figure out which man corresponded with each instance.

            This was back in the mid-90’s so, of course, the guy wasn’t fired or even talked to.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              Way back when I was working as a virologist there was a memo tacked to the notice board from the cleaners asking for whoever was leaving certain white marks all over the bogs to stop it immediately. It was the subject of several jokes and then torn down.

              Nothing else done.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      It’s sadly the thought process a lot of people, especially women, have been taught by society – that you must MUST consider the man’s job, career, family, company etc before you report anything. There’s also the ‘are you SURE that was harassment? Maybe you misunderstood’ thing that rattles round our heads.

      We’re taught that we can never be sure if it wasn’t something we did/said/wore that led to an incident. It’s something I really really try to get rid of.

      1. londonedit*

        Yep, you see it so often when people are talking about any incident of harassment – ‘I wasn’t even wearing any make-up that day’, ‘I was only wearing a ratty old tracksuit’. Because we have to make sure we mention those things, just in case someone thinks we were maybe ‘asking for it’.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          The *one* time I’ve tried to report a horrible situation to the authorities (my boyfriend at the time did…stuff I am not going into. Think the worst) I was told that a) because I was living with him it was consensual (‘well, you put yourself in that situation’) and b) I had to think about what it would do to his life to be accused of that.

          There’s reasons I don’t trust our police.

          1. DataGirl*

            My teen was witness to an adult hitting a child. It went to court and she had to testify along with a another kid who was present and the child who was hit. There was also a doctor’s report and photos the police took of the kid’s black eye. The jury stated that they believed that the man did hit the child, but it “wasn’t bad enough to ruin his life over” so they found him not guilty. It still makes me rage just to think about.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              Oh my word. ‘Not bad enough to ruin his life’ is the exact words I heard.

              Love and hugs to you and your child. That’s a horrible situation.

              1. DataGirl*

                I’m so sorry you went through all that, and thank you for the love and hugs, back at ya.

                It was a pretty awful experience, both witnessing the initial assault then going through the trial. I am very proud of them (of all the kids) for standing up for what was right.

                1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                  Shows a strong moral sense and although I don’t know them; I’m proud of them too. Especially children standing up for justice – it’s a wonderful hope for the future.

            2. Observer*

              What an unutterably frustrating situation.

              I hope that this has not soured your teen on reporting this stuff.

              Also, I hope that the judge did not seal the records of this trial. That will help people know what this man did.

              1. DataGirl*

                This kiddo has stood up for the underdog pretty much their entire life, so I think they will continue to speak out where needed, however I don’t think they will ever trust the justice system.

                1. Observer*

                  I don’t blame them for the lack of trust. This is NUTS. But I hope they continue to use it as much as they can, though. Because sometimes it’s your only chance.

                  Good kid! I imagine you are very proud of them.

            3. Coffee Bean*

              Oh – that is awful. I am sorry for your child and the child who was hit. What a terrible situation.

          2. Merci Dee*

            What the actual hell? What about what it would do to *your* life to be the victim of that?

            I am just so disgusted with bodies of authority, in general, but police in particular. We’ve seen too many examples over the past handful of years where some cops were all too eager to run into situations with guns blazing without knowing all the facts. But when it’s a domestic or sexual violence case, suddenly the cops are backing away with hands in the air and it’s a massive case of “not it”. “I don’t want to deal with this case because it makes me uncomfortable to handle, so if I make it awkward enough for the victim to report, maybe they’ll go away.”

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              It was 26 years ago, almost to the day, and I still get flashbacks to it. Thankfully my husband of some 16 years (NOT the same guy!) is just amazing at not judging my past, being considerate of my many scars and I’m in a better place.

              My ex, the last time I heard from him (he got around my email block) is still the same ‘outwardly faultless rich white guy’ he’s always been. I just hope one day karma catches up to him.

              1. OhNo*

                I’ll second your wish for karma to catch up for him. What a nightmare for you to live through, and especially when the folks who are supposed to help act like that.

                I’m very glad you’re in a better place now!

              2. Observer*

                Don’t be so sure that karma hasn’t caught up with him in ways you cannot see. Although it would be nice to see him getting his own back in a more visible way.

                1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                  About the only thing I’d accept is him suddenly rocketing into the sun. Or all his limbs falling off. Sadly he’s a very very rich guy living in really expensive area of London with an excellent job.

                  I keep a certain eye on his whereabouts just to make sure he’s not within 100 miles of me.

            2. Artemesia*

              In my town two different cops are in jail at the moment for killing their girlfriends at home. Domestic violence is very common in the police force. And as we can see from any days news, violence and pushing weak people around is considered both legitimate and their right as men and as cops. They are not a very effective front line against domestic violence.

            3. pancakes*

              Merci Dee, if you haven’t yet, read the Nov. 2019 New Yorker article by Rachel Aviv titled, “What if Your Abusive Husband is a Cop?” It is infuriating but explains a lot about why that happens.

      2. Bernice Clifton*

        I agree. I also feel like exposing yourself at work shows such terrible judgement that I would be afraid what the offender might do to me if confronted. Maybe that’s ridiculous, but it’s where my mind goes as a woman.

        1. No More Office*

          That’s what came to my mind too. There are too many sexual predators that start off with “small” stuff like this to ignore. They don’t get off on what they’re doing, they get off on the discomfort they cause.

        2. GreyjoyGardens*

          I agree with you. I mean come on, by the time kids are five or six they know better than to do such behavior IN KINDERGARTEN. Grownups who hold jobs should have the judgement to keep that stuff at home (and off camera, hi Jeffrey Toobin).

          This shows terrible judgment, as in “this guy has something WRONG with him” judgment.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          It’s not ridiculous. It’s safety. I certainly wouldn’t have confronted him personally (I think one person on the original tried to argue that OP ‘owed him the chance to explain before you wreck his reputation’ and…no) and, yeah, I’d be a little scared of retaliation- BUT that’s why these kind of things get reported to HR – so that they can investigate and if necessary watch for retaliation.

          (Caveat: in a decent firm of course)

          1. anonymous73*

            I would love to know what that person’s justification was for “letting him explain”. Ummm, masturbating at work is a no no…full stop. There is nothing you could say to me that would justify that situation. Even if you have a legitimate addiction it’s not okay. An alcoholic doesn’t get a pass to get drunk at work because they have an addiction.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              ‘If he’s never done anything bad to you before he’s likely just a decent guy who’s the victim of a misunderstanding. Think before you put his career in a shredder’.

              Which, frankly if I had a quid for every time I’ve heard similar I wouldn’t need to worry about money for a while.

              1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

                What was the line I used to tell the kids? “Nobody can get you in trouble by telling on you. unless you were doing something wrong in the first place.”

            2. RabbitRabbit*

              ‘You didn’t see what you thought you saw. Maybe he was readjusting his underwear. Maybe he was having an epileptic fit and YOU didn’t even think to help him. Maybe…’ (blah blah victim blaming blah)

            3. Elenna*

              I mean… if it really was some kind of giant misunderstanding (something which seems quite unlikely to me), he can… just explain that to HR? After OP goes to them? If it really is a misunderstanding, then HR presumably isn’t going to fire him or “wreck his reputation” or whatever over a misunderstanding, I don’t see any reason why OP has to take on the awkwardness and possible danger of having that conversation. And if it’s not a misunderstanding, well, then OP should definitely go to HR. Oh hey look, going to HR first is the best answer in both cases.

              1. Candi*

                “A woman should take on the emotional burden of making sure men are not uncomfortable or inconvenienced. The woman’s thoughts should be all about how men are affected, and none should be about how the woman personally feels.”

                That’s been the mindset of too much of the population too long. It needs to stop. It’s toxic for everyone -including the people who gain power from it.

      3. CalypsoSummer*

        I had a relative beseech me to consider a guy’s career, when I was fuming about what he’d done and wondering where to report him.

        “He may have a family! We’re talking about the rest of his life!”

        There’s a reason I’m not real close with a lot of my family members . . .

    3. Anon for This*

      I was coming up with alternate reasons purely to demonstrate how absurd the alternate explanations were.

      Though the water wiggler argument was funny.

    4. Cheap Ass Rolex*

      Yeah, if he was that concerned to not shred his reputation… don’t do it. His reputation would accurately reflect new information about him – if that shreds it, that’s 100% his doing.

    5. Rainy*

      I remember being disappointed but not surprised at that strain of comments. The number of times I’ve heard people say “don’t ruin his life” about something pretty damned serious is pretty much 99% of every usage of that phrase.

    6. MisterForkbeard*

      I mean, it could have been something else. I doubt it, though OP does say she wasn’t sure. But the right thing to do is still to report it. HR/IT can pull the logs for his network access on that day and figure it out.

      If the guy is somehow innocent, it’ll be shown and it’ll hopefully be a weird embarrassing but ultimately okay story: “What were you doing that Susan thought you were wanking in your office?”. If he’s guilty, he’ll be reprimanded and possibly let go but at minimum will have his internet access monitored for repeat offenses.

      Either way, the right thing to do is report it.

  3. Bookworm*

    I’m glad you reported it, OP and am happy to read that your leadership is backing you up. Thank you for speaking up.

  4. londonedit*

    So pleased you reported it, and I’m glad it sounds like it’s being taken seriously and the CEO is in your corner.

  5. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    I hope they’re not just relying on IT logs to determine if he was in fact masturbating. While he might have been looking at porn, he also might not have been. The absence of porn (or absence of evidence of porn) doesn’t prove that he wasn’t doing anything else wrong.

    1. Mouse*

      Yeah, I went back and read the original and OP said his eyes were closed. I’m doubtful that they’ll be able to find any “proof”.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            In my experience of some 20 odd years in IT it’s generally the people who do the worst things have the worst computer security too. Think unencrypted transmissions, passwords a four year old could guess, data stored on publically accessible servers…

            1. J.B.*

              An extension to the Al Capone theory of sexual harassment. Basically that sexual harassment is one display of entitlement and there are almost always others.

        1. OrigCassandra*

          Safe to assume so. Even encrypted website content can be can-opened by certain network-perimeter security “visibility” tools. (The silent failure of such a tool is one reason the Equifax attackers were able to persist inside Equifax’s network as long as they did.)

          Even organizations without such a tool running can see site metadata such as domain names.

    2. Saberise*

      I would think that in the absence of that proof there really isn’t much they can do to prove it. They aren’t likely to fire him on the basis of what she could see unless there have been others that also reported something similar.

      1. All the words*

        There are multiple violations that leave no evidence but can be acted on without empirical proof. It’s very rare that an ass or breast-grab leaves a mark, yet we don’t demand proof before action can be taken.

        Really not okay with this take that they’re helpless without proof.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Unfortunately often people do demand proof. “Oh, it’s just a he-said-she-said. Two sides to every story, you know.”

          It may be that they don’t fire the guy without further evidence, but I hope they don’t just ignore it unless something else turns up.

          1. All the Words*

            What you’re both implying is that women/people should simply not report sexual misconduct unless they can provide physical proof.

            That’s just not how this works.

        2. Cat Tree*

          Yep. This isn’t a criminal trial. It’s perfectly fine to discipline an employee without proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

    3. All the words*

      They may just be looking for additional evidence of other possible misconduct.

      “Mr. Employee, you were seen masturbating in your office. Furthermore, your computer is full of porn.”

  6. Scottish Teapot*

    It took a lot of courage to report this. So well done to you. I’m glad the organisation seems to be supporting you as well.

  7. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    Honestly, I’m coming out of this update thinking that OP works for a good company. They are taking her report seriously, they are launching a full investigation, and they have already assured he she will not be punished no matter what comes out from the investigation. I know Alison would have a lot less to write about, but oh how I wish we all had the type of good HR this writer seems to have.

    1. anonymous73*

      While I agree for the most part, it will be interesting to see what happens if IT turns up nothing. What she witnessed should be enough. He may not have been looking at porn or anything sexual to do what he was doing.

      1. Saberise*

        I would be shocked if they fired him just based on what she saw. While I believe her and think that is exactly what he was doing I don’t think most businesses are going to fire someone with no proof or other witnesses. Not in this sue happy world.

        1. Observer*

          Well, “sue happy world” works in more than one direction. If he winds up harassing someone that person could sue because the company knew there was a problem and didn’t fire him…

          Would a lawsuit if he got fired for this succeed? Almost certainly not. Would a law suit if they didn’t fire him and he harassed another person succeed? Maybe, depending on what else the company finds and what they do. Like even if they don’t have proof positive, but find a pattern of issues like this, that would be very bad for them. Or if this is a first time offense, so they decide not to fire, but they make it very clear to him that he CANNOT do this again and next time is a firing offense that could play out very differently.

          It’s a myth that a company cannot fire someone without absolute proof that would hold up in court.

        2. pancakes*

          Testimony is a form of proof. Far too many people who are quick to be dismissive of the value of reporting incidents like this seem to think exhibits / physical evidence is the only form of evidence that matters. Maybe this guy’s employer will fire him, maybe not, but the potential lack of supporting exhibits shouldn’t keep anyone from reporting an incident like this.

          1. Candi*

            The issue with eyewitnesses is they can be very bad at identifying “That was the exact person who did it.”

            But when they get to “I saw someone doing X,” eyewitnesses tend to be more reliable. (Barring concentrated work to get them to rewrite their memories.)

            Since who it was isn’t in question here, a statement of “I saw Fergus apparently/definitely doing X” or “Fergus did X to me” is plenty for HR to work off of.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        What I think may happen if IT doesn’t find any problems in his search history et all may be a very stern “first last warning write up” scenario. Exactly because some people are very lawsuit happy. But at this point now they have documentation in the works – so if he thinks that first last warning was a joke – well, here’s your termination paperwork.

        1. MisterForkbeard*

          Without proof, that’s what’s going to happen.

          He’ll be warned that someone reported this and while they didn’t find any evidence he needs to know that it would be grounds for immediate firing with cause if it DOES happen. He’ll probably have his internet access monitored carefully for awhile, or at least IT will put in some alerts to warn them when someone loads popular porn sites or something.

          Firing someone with just a report by another employee without proof is hard to do, if he denies it and says it was an honest mistake. It’s one reason abusers skate so often – it’s hard to prove something like this.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            And honestly – even this is a win in the long run. Because it ends up recorded – the documentation is there if the guy is a “worrisome personality” and does something else. He is now a person HR knows they need to keep an eye on – and that may help keep others safe.

  8. OftenOblivious*

    Thank you, OP. This is hard to do no matter how much commenters like to declare they’d be at HR in a heartbeat.

    I’ve had to a report a coworker and it was directly creepy to me incidents and my brain was trying to downplay/dance out of it (I wrote down the “final straw” creepy thing and had to reread a couple of times to assure myself it absolutely happened and was absolutely at “go to manager” stage). Did I feel bad about it? Yes, the person obviously was struggling in general. Did I have concerns for my “reputation” in a majority male department (mainly in that I might be thought of as a person who reports anyone just for fun or for something innocuous). Fortunately for me me, it was the right decision and followed up on without known retaliation.

    1. EPLawyer*

      A decent HR lets you report, even if in doubt. If it is innocuous and you just read the situation wrong, a decent HR just lets you know, but thanks you for letting them know anyway. Because next time it might be a BIG DEAL.

      1. OftenOblivious*

        Yes, people should absolutely have more confidence in reporting, even “small” things. In this case, I’d actually given my manager a heads up that things were a little odd, but I didn’t need him to intervene yet. And then I did.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Definitely. I didn’t report the inappropriate comments a coworker made to me at my first job. I second-guessed myself – he probably meant something else; I misunderstood – and everybody liked this guy, too. Plus there was kind of a feeling of, well, maybe I was too familiar, and also this kind of thing just happens sometimes, right?

      OP, I’m glad you were thinking also about the people who might have found it even more difficult. I was 23 when those comments were made to me. I would like to think I’d react differently now at nearly 40. (Though probably I’m significantly less likely to be put in a situation where I’d find out, because guys tend to do creepy things more often at women who have less power and seniority.)

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        I said in an earlier post that 22-year-old me would let an incident slide and shrug it off. 55 year old me is “Oh Hell no, not today, buddy.”

        1. Candi*

          Yeah, I’ve been warned by fellow students that a Zoom class I have next quarter has a blatantly sexist teacher. As in “Half of the women in this class historically won’t pass it” type, and he hides behind a disability to boot.

          1) This is a degree req.
          2) If I dump the slot and go to another teacher, a younger student might get that slot.
          3) It’ll screw up my schedule.
          4) I’m hoping to remember to ask in open thread about how to deal with him. (Communication will be in writing whenever possible.)

          I suspect he’s tenured, since the administration (the same “we all need to be back in classrooms” administration, yep) hasn’t dealt with him over the past few years. Even though right now they could have their pick of shiny polished non-Title IX-violating Technical Writer teachers to replace him.

        2. allathian*

          Yeah, this. And while women of any age can be harassed, it’s statistically a lot more likely to happen to young women. Personally, I’ve totally embraced the invisibility that comes with being middle-aged and fat. I can afford to do that, because my looks and age aren’t affecting my standing at work. I’m also in a happy, stable marriage, and as long as my husband finds me attractive, I don’t care if no other man ever does.

          1. pancakes*

            Please reconsider linking harassment to attractiveness. Harassment is a crude, brutish effort to have power over someone or a crude, brutish expression of unconcern about sexually objectifying them, not a comment on the target’s attractiveness.

            1. ArmyOfSkanks*

              I think this is a good general point, but it depends on the harasser, in my experience; for example, hoooooly hell did our office toucher go in hard when two very attractive new women were hired. (This is what finally got him disciplined, though, and he’s gone now.)

              1. pancakes*

                I’m not seeing the relevance of their attractiveness in this scenario. The problem isn’t that your workplace hired two attractive women, but that they were subject to harassment by a harasser.

                1. ArmyOfSkanks*

                  *sigh* Literally nowhere did I say they were the problem. He was very, very much the problem, one that finally got solved when both I and one of them reported him. Said women sat in the same row as me and were (and are) my pals, and I was also a victim, hence I have a particularly good grasp of the situation. I also know of at least most of the other women he harassed; it was, sadly, not that much of a secret. This seems to be a Very Big Hill to Die On for whatever reason for you, but harassers pick their targets for various reasons: age, opportunity, position, or yes, even sometimes attractiveness. It doesn’t change that they’re douchenozzles and doesn’t invalidate their victims.

  9. Zephy*

    Thank you for updating, OP! Fingers crossed for a good outcome here.

    Here is also your quarterly reminder that if you feel harassed, you are being harassed. His* intentions matter less than his impact.

    “You must have misunderstood,” “I didn’t mean it like that” => Really, then whatever DID you mean? Walk me through your thought process here, so I can understand.

    “You’re so sensitive,” “you’re overreacting,” “you can’t take a joke” => Yup, I sure am sensitive as hell about this particular thing, thanks for understanding and not making jokes about it around me.

    “Consider his reputation before you make these kinds of accusations” => Maybe *he* should consider his reputation before behaving in ways that get him accused of misconduct. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…

    (*obligatory WoMeN cAn aLsO bEhAvE bAdLy – sure, but that’s not what we’re talking about right now.)

    1. anonymous73*

      I despise when people use intentions as an excuse. Intentions are irrelevant. People need to realize that just because your intentions were good, or you intended no harm, doesn’t mean a hill of beans if you hurt someone. Now depending on the type of relationship you have with someone, knowing they had good intentions can help resolve a situation. But it doesn’t get them out of making amends or owning up to their part.

      1. Metadata minion*

        Yes! The correct follower to “I didn’t mean to offend you when I said that” is “I’m so sorry; I didn’t realize what that phrase meant [or whatever] and will stop using it immediately”.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I remember reading about stages of ethical development, which went:
        • You spilled the milk!
        • You spilled the milk, but didn’t mean to.
        • You spilled the milk. You didn’t intend to, but now someone has to clean up the mess and figure out what else we can do for breakfast and how to get a replacement.

        I feel like modern life often gets stuck in that second stage, where intent is everything and they shouldn’t have to figure out how to repair the damage because their intent was that there be none.

        1. anonymous73*

          Yep. I just ended a 40+ year friendship because it was never her fault and whenever I tried to tell her how her actions made me feel, she would interrupt me over and over and not hear a word I said. She has a good heart, but she’s selfish and refuses to take responsibility for anything because she “had good intentions”. I have zero regrets.

        2. Candi*

          Or Hershele Ostropoler’s foot-stepping analogy. Boils down to, it doesn’t matter why you’re stepping on someone’s foot, you’re still stepping on their foot!

  10. GreyjoyGardens*

    I’m very glad you reported. As you noted, this guy might not feel the need to be “on his best behavior” around junior women co-workers. Ugh.

    The concerns about his project, what about his poor family, etc. are ones that HE should have thought about before he, um, practiced onanism at work. A grown man should know better. If he’s having issues, he needs to seek help. If he’s like other powerful men caught behaving badly because he thought he could get away with it, as the saying goes, “pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

    When people in power are less able to get away with awful behavior at work, the better the atmosphere for everyone.

    1. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Yeah, I fail to see why I should care more about the man’s family/reputation/job, etc. than he apparently does.

  11. LifeBeforeCorona*

    I’m pleased that you also thought of the younger more inexperienced women who may be subjected to this behaviour. When I first started working harassment was common and it wasn’t called harassment back then. It was “just a joke” when a male co-worker had a playboy calendar and told everyone that I was Miss July. Now I would have spoken out, back then 22 year old me didn’t the confidence.


      Exactly. I had a supervisor thank me on behalf of younger women who might be more reluctant to report. It made me realize that speaking up is not just for my benefit, but for all women. I wish someone had done what 40 years ago, when I was a teenager.

    2. Rainy*

      My very first job, at a burger establishment with more than a billion sold, I was so young I didn’t realize that I was supposed to put up with being groped and verbally harassed, so I told my manager that the grill cook had put his hands on me and said some things that I didn’t quite understand but was pretty sure were sexually violent (I was right, it turned out, the manager turned white and then red and said “How old are you again?”). The manager came down hard on the grill cook, who then caught me in the walk-in and whined at me that I was going to get him fired, didn’t I know I was supposed to just “play the game and take it”, he was just kidding anyway, blah blah.

      A few years later, I’d gotten enough experience that I took for granted being harassed at work, but at 16, I just didn’t know I was “supposed” to put up with it.

      1. allathian*

        Ugh, that’s awful. I guess I’m happy that when I worked in fast food, we were cooking in full view of the public, so nobody ever groped me. There wasn’t a lot of room, though, so employees of any age and any gender would frequently brush against each other in passing, because there wasn’t enough room to pass otherwise, especially when you were in a hurry. But in my early 20s I knew the difference between an accidental touch and an intentional one.

        1. Rainy*

          I will say that I can’t remember anyone ever physically putting their hands on me after that experience, though. That grill cook was a perv who had been getting away with that kind of stuff for too long, I think.

  12. TIRED*

    Doing this at work is SO over the line, anyone who is doing something else should of course have that in mind. (I think he was doing it, and I think he should be immediately fired but I’m not HR.) What I mean is- if you are doing something else but are visible in your office – shouldn’t you be taking great pains to make it clear you are NOT masturbating? Like if I’m on a zoom call and for someone reason decide I MUST change my pants, wouldn’t I take great pains to not flash people or show them the action of changing my pants? Turn my camera off, move it so it isn’t facing me, hop off the call for 5 minutes, etc etc. If you pretend he wasn’t actually masturbating (LOL but OK) – shouldn’t he be admonished for being visible in an ambiguous way?
    Glad this got reported and looking forward to the update!

    1. I take tea*

      Maybe he was indicating a stabbing motion and just didn’t have the stake in his hand?

      Just kidding. I’m glad that the response was positive and I hope it will be resolved.

  13. GigglyPuff*

    I’d like to take a sec to shout out to Alison for making the URL work appropriate, so we don’t all get in trouble at our own work. Lol.

  14. Library Lady*

    OP, I’m proud of you for reporting the situation, and I’m happy my previous comment was helpful. In my area of the library world, I’ve been talking about workplace sexual harassment for several years, so stories like these really resonate with me. I’m glad your workplace is supporting you. You did the right thing!

Comments are closed.