my coworker and I attend the same sex club

A reader writes:

In the context of talking about sex positivity in some of the advising we do, it came out that my coworker and I go to the same sex club. She has not been since pre-Covid but is planning to return soon with her partner. I meanwhile go almost every weekend. We are definitely going to run into each other at some point.

Our work is very close. We share an office and are a two-person department.

We agreed that we will probably see very different sides of each other than our work selves and we will practice selective amnesia when it happens. (Obviously we won’t interact with each other there outside of a nodding acknowledgement.)

I don’t really have a question I guess. I just thought, I wonder if this is one Alison has dealt with before.

Yes, thanks to an invitation from Dan Savage to weigh in on a similar question (warning: not safe for work), although in that case the question-asker managed the employee he had encountered at a local sex club — and that distinction really matters. As a manager, you really, really can’t put yourself into a sexual situation with an employee … which in that person’s case meant he needed to stop attending.

In your case, you don’t have those power dynamics so you don’t have the same strict imperative to stop attending if you’re both comfortable continuing.

However, things I’d think about:

Do you completely trust your coworker not to share anything she learns about you at these events with others at work, even accidentally? If she slips up and does reveal something, how will you feel about that? Will there be any professional repercussions for you? (I know you might feel there’s a sort of mutually-assured destruction dynamic in effect — in that she can’t gossip about you without revealing things about herself — but it doesn’t always play out that way.)

If you answered “yes, I completely trust her,” you still need to think about what could change down the road. What if you have a falling-out at work and the relationship changes? How about after you’re no longer working together?

While you are peers currently, is there any chance one of you could end up in a position of power over the other in the future? If that happens, would you wish you had made a different choice now? (Obligatory reminder that at that point, one of you would indeed need to stop attending.)

Is it possible you’ll see something at these events that will make it harder for you to interact with her professionally at work? (I’m avoiding listing out specific possibilities here, and it’ll depend on how out-there these events get, but there are certainly things one can’t unsee that one might later wish to unsee.) How about vice versa?

To be clear, these are all genuine questions, not ones I think you need to answer a certain way. You might consider all of this and decide you’re fine with the risk, in which case go forth and enjoy your mutual selective amnesia. Just make sure you’ve thoroughly thought through all the potential downsides first.

{ 215 comments… read them below }

  1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    I just love how AAM answers questions genuinely and sincerely, and provides ways to think about situations to gain actual useful insights.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I’m imagining that they’re both outreach workers for a clinic or a nonprofit or something. Maybe connecting sex workers with appropriate services, or providing safer sex support for underserved communities. Their conversation gets rolling, and one of them uses particular language or phrasing that the other one recognizes. Or someone’s name comes up, and it’s “Oh, how do you know Marcella?” Or they’re sourcing bulk rate condoms. Something like that.

    2. Mirve*

      Very beginning of the letter “In the context of talking about sex positivity in some of the advising we do”

        1. Citra*

          Yes, I’m wondering what kind of advising they do, like in what general field or area. Maybe a good place for an interview/AMA type of thing? I’m really curious, it sounds really interesting!

    3. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I know sociology professors that had a similar (but… different) kind of conversation. It was related to their research, and turns out their personal lives as well.

    4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      That was my question and it I felt it more pressing when Alison got to the “mutually assured destruction.”
      Ultimately, I’m asking how private coworker is compared to OP.
      If a third coworker asks about weekend plans, would either of these two answer with something like, “nothing I can talk about here, NSFW, wink,” and reference the other “coworker knows what I mean.”
      This is a very broad stroke description of what I’m asking, but it is something to consider.
      I’d feel the same way about medical treatments, religious services, anything. Some people share, some people don’t and there’s a broad spectrum in between.

      1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

        I can’t find it but there was a letter where the LW ran into a high-level manager (director) at some kind of Anonymous meeting. Rather than MAD, the director did a preemptive strike and got the LW fired for being an addict. But the LW didn’t took the Anonymity principal seriously (unlike the director) and so couldn’t really defend themselves or retaliate.

          1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

            That could possibly explain why I couldn’t find it.

      2. ferrina*

        This is a really great point, and one I feel acutely. I assume that anything I share at work has the potential to spread to someone else at the company. It could be a well-intentioned “oh, ferrina has some knowledge of Topic!” to someone that I didn’t want to talk to about Topic. And that goes double for sex, because almost every workplace has some variety of That Guy.

        If I want to bring up something sensitive but don’t want it spread to everyone, I say “I am close to some people who have been through that…” (i.e., me) or “I actually know a lot about that.” That way it doesn’t become part of how people perceive my identity. Or I just state my knowledge without identifying or qualifying- I’m pretty emotive, and it’s clear I know exactly what I’m talking about.

        *note that this is only for stuff I don’t want intrinsically tied to me, not to parts of my identity that I want/am comfortable for people to know about.

    5. Spero*

      This has happened to me – the club mostly hosts events on a particular day at a bar/venue that also has non-club events other days. I mentioned the venue offhand to someone (referencing a specialty cocktail they make, I believe). Then then mentioned that they’d attended events at the venue ‘a few Thursday’s ago.’ Significant looks were exchanged, we both became aware of the overlap, nothing was ever said again. It happened that I didn’t see them there until years later.

  2. Regine Phalange*

    Ahh, I’ve been hoping that AAM and Savage Love would partner for a long time! I’m glad it finally happened.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I remember seeing that letter when it first ran. I think Dan totally missed the mark on that one.

  3. Rolling Eyes*

    Gross. The majority of people will never encounter this “sex positivity” issue at work, but traditionally January web traffic is amongst the lowest of the year and sex sells.

    1. FG*

      Gross? Human sexuality is a rich tapestry, and just because it’s not your thing doesn’t mean it’s “gross.” And only situations encountered by “the majority” of readers should be published here? I’m the one rolling my eyes here.

    2. Ferret*

      I mean the majority of people will never encounter a manager hoping for their organs or forcing them into couples couselling with their father but that doesn’t mean Alison is wrong to print those. I personally find the more out there letters interesting and don’t think there is any reason to believe this is some kind of …… weird plot by Alison to juice her viewership?

      This is a very silly comment

      1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        Agreed. And it isn’t even sensationalized. She intentionally leaves out descriptions.
        *eye roll*

      2. In the scene*

        I actually find the more “out there” ones more helpful than the more typical letters. It’s easy to see the lines and boundaries and “right thing to do” with simple situations everyone’s likely to come across at work, or with the really egregious ones, but with situations you really can’t predict or prepare for it’s helpful to see considered input on what the options are. It makes me feel more prepared to deal with someone professionally if something absurd and unpredictable happens in my work life, too.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Yes to this and also, they’re very interesting. After a few years of these letters, I feel fully informed on topics I would never otherwise know about. And I can share that knowledge by saying “I read this.”
          I’ve worked in medical and I’m old enough to remember how oppressed things used to be, so even though I don’t do any of these types of activities, I am very glad for the free condoms and sex positivity and the respect for people involved in sex work and alternative sex activities because it used to be so, so different and so much worse.

        2. whingedrinking*

          I always go with the Dan Savage attitude: whether a letter is real or fake, it’s always a hypothetical to all but a handful of people. Maybe it’s my philosophy background, but I think thought experiments are useful even when you know they’re fictional. And there’s a lot of real weird people out there. “This could never happen” is rarely true when it comes to people behaving in puzzling ways.
          As for this particular letter, I don’t find it unlikely at all. People go to sex clubs. People have coworkers. The two will overlap sometimes.

    3. Rolling eyes for a different reason*

      Yes, no one will ever encounter a co-worker in an environment they’d rather keep separate from work. Very far fetched.

      1. Sigh*

        Indeed. I ran into a coworker at an AA meeting and Allison’s questions are pretty spot on for that scenario. My colleague didn’t do a “gut check” before sharing something deeply personal and embarrassing. I would NEVER violate her privacy or say a word to anyone, however, afterward she was a little weird/standoffish around me at work. Just too much vulnerability in front of a coworker for her taste.

    4. In the scene*

      You’d be surprised. It’s pretty common in the kink scene for people to worry about coming across someone they know from vanilla life, such as coworkers, at events, and it can and does happen. Whilst I don’t share this info at work, I’d personally rather have a heads up that I might see a coworker at such an event rather than walk in and unexpectedly see them there, maybe even mid-scene.

      Also, seconding the “what’s gross about this?” question.

      1. Like a Frog in a Hot Spring*

        Even in non-kink circles . . . I found out that someone at work goes to the same hot springs I do. Some of it is clothing-optional. I’d like to know schedules and would probably drop an “Oh, I’m heading up to X for the weekend. . .” to avoid an encounter.

        1. In the scene*

          Yeah, and there’s a nude spa/pool in my city, I’d rather avoid seeing coworkers there too. Someone below mentioned being in the same changing rooms as a Judge they work with at their gym… lots of potentially awkward situations that I think a lot of people would rather avoid.

          1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

            There are cultural differences – I once had a project meeting in a Finnish sauna (in Finland). Nudity was expected and a total non-issue (and entirely without sexual overtones).
            A complete lack of PowerPoint was a definite plus!

            1. In the scene*

              That’s a very fair point. I feel like if I were in Finland for work and had a meeting in a sauna, nudity would be totally fine. In the UK though, I’d feel uncomfortable and that’s probably the majority feeling. But you’re absolutely right that in different contexts and cultures lots of people would feel differently.

            2. allathian*

              Apart from a 6-month internship in Spain in my early 20s, I’ve worked my entire life in Finland, and I’ve never worked in an environment where having any kind of meetings in the sauna would’ve been appropriate or expected. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that going to the sauna with coworkers for a work meeting might be a part of the Finnish tech startup scene, but as I’ve never worked in that environment, I don’t know for sure.

              Granted, when I was in college, my student association held annual weekend “seminars” (actually an excuse to party all weekend) where we went to the sauna in mixed company and in the nude. Because these events involved drinking, they weren’t always without sexual overtones, though. I’d be surprised if this was still a thing, because people are so much more aware of potential sexual harassment risks now than they were in the early 1990s when I was a student.

              Some office social events might involve going to the sauna, but never, ever in mixed company, in my experience. And while attendance in the foyer or dressing room might be expected, actually getting naked and bathing is completely voluntary.

            3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              Yeah, but then the Finnish don’t have the same hang-ups as a lot of other nationalities.
              There are many other cultures, mine included, where nudity is considered to be terribly embarrassing and to be avoided at all costs, so even when you decide to brave the taboo and go to a nude whatever, it’s terribly embarrassing to run into people you know from elsewhere. (and it’s also ridiculous because you should be able to own what you get up to without repercussion. I know very well why a lot of people can’t, no need to lecture me.)

          2. Avery*

            Funny you mention that specific situation… my father, an attorney, likes telling the story of speaking with another attorney about a judge and the other attorney saying something to the effect of “Oh yeah, I saw her without clothes on earlier this morning!”
            …because she and the judge happen to frequent the same high-end gym and were in the changing room together.
            Never really thought about the implications there until now…

            1. HeraTech*

              LOL, that reminds me of an incident that happened to me in college. I was a lifeguard at the University pool, and got to know a lot of the regular lunchtime swimmers (mostly staff). When I went to apply to grad school and bumped into someone that I’d only ever seen in a Speedo the first thing I blurted out was, “You look different with your clothes on!”

              Still cringing about it, twenty years later. Oh young me.

      2. Anon for this*

        Yep! I don’t talk about my activities at work, but I’ve had a couple coworkers where we figured out through pretty subtle clues that we were actually talking about the same kind of activities when we mentioned “going to a party with some friends” over the weekend. It can be a little awkward, but once you have an inkling that it might come up, I think it’s better to talk it out than to sit around dreading the possibility of running into each other.

        1. anon for this*

          I avoid discussing details of my love life at work, but there are a couple of times when it’s come up nevertheless. One was a poorly handled development exercise – we were each asked to write down something secret about ourselves, and the facilitator gave no warning that the next step was going to be “and then turn them in to me and I’ll pass your secret on to one of the other participants”. This was in an org where privacy of sensitive personal info was drummed into us, so I’d assumed we were just going to be reflecting on our own secrets.

          The other was a drunk co-worker who mistakenly thought some of us would appreciate his TED talk about how we were in danger of being swamped by people who Do Not Share Our Norms. In the course of that polemic he said something like “for instance, we here all share certain Western norms like monogamy”, at which point I had to out myself as non-monogamous. Because as much as I hated the idea of outing myself in front of several co-workers (one of whom would later become my manager!) hell if I’m going to let somebody else mischaracterise me in aid of his Great Replacement bullshit.

    5. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      *sigh* Yes, this is absolutely a sensationalizing post, what with using the word “sex” being used all of four times (two in the letter and two in the response) and Alison specifically “avoiding listing out specific possibilities” in the reply. And that sensationalizing reply that encourages an awareness of power dynamics and professional interactions… oh, wait. That’s pretty much in every post.

      Also, most of us won’t deal with “cheap ass rolls” at work or a boss texting us while in a hospital bed, but those were both recent letters. The point of the site isn’t to appeal to everyone, it’s to answer letters from readers.

      1. AnonRN*

        And unusual situations are more interesting (to me, obviously this is a subjective opinion) than the umpteenth variation on “can I take vacation during my notice period?” or “how to use all my PTO?” which are both, often, so employer-specific that there’s no real “right” answer, just guidelines and scripts about how to approach the issue. (The guidelines and scripts are smart and great, but those questions come up a LOT and there are plenty of them to review if that’s what someone wants to read.)

      2. DJ Abbott*

        I doubt this poster has ever seen actual sensationalizing. May I recommend almost any news show.

    6. Kim*

      If you don’t like the way Alison runs her website, you are free to leave. Nothing about sex between consenting parties is ‘gross’.

    7. ecnaseener*

      If you only want to read letters that are likely to happen to a majority of people, that’s your prerogative, but you’ll miss out on a significant chunk of the letters posted here!

      Anyway, I do recommend you just skip the letters you don’t like. Don’t read things you find gross just for the sake of getting mad about it.

    8. Ellis Bell*

      I think it’s a bit silly if you read on about a topic which grosses you out, when the headline clearly states what it was going to be about. There were no graphic details so I’m honestly perplexed what you were expecting.

    9. JSPA*

      The majority of people also won’t come to near-blows over cheap ass rolls; have their dad date their boss and want to do family therapy; or do anything related to delivering messages at funerals, or be slammed into the street by a bird-phobic coworker, either.

      So what’s your point, besides feeling the comments section would benefit from a dose of puritanism, or at least some judgemental side-eye?

    10. The Eye of Argon*


      And web traffic isn’t like movie season. I very much doubt that the time of year makes any difference on an established site with new content being added daily.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        I’d have thought that January, as the “hangover” month, gets more traffic as people just can’t face working just yet.

    11. Anonymous because FERPA*

      Gross, huh? As Carolyn Hax says, WOW.

      I’m an academic advisor. I have no training as a counselor, social worker, health worker…

      Here are things I know about my advisees, because they trust me to tell them, “yes include that in your suspension appeal,” or “no that’s not pertinent to your scholarship application,” etc.:
      sexual preference
      transition progress
      involvement in sex-positive organizations
      sexual violence and stalking
      HIV status, finding money to pay for prep
      mental health struggles
      physical health challenges
      family stresses / expectations
      housing and financial problems
      and so on

      Fairly often, I need to discuss these issues with colleagues so that I can refer them to good resources (since I’m not a counselor etc).

      Some of these would be “gross” to you, I guess.

      Let me also say that “sex positivity” is important. Which is grosser to you — sex positivity talk, or a dead young person because they can no longer take the shame and ostracism about how “gross” they are.

      TBH, your view that this is just because someone (?) wants to drive web traffic and thus discusses sex positivity like a mature and compassion adult — well, THAT’s what’s gross.

      1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

        Thank you! You are wonderful support and an advocate for youth in need. As a former English Writng) Prof, my students revealed a lot of personal info to me in their class journals, papers and one-on-ones. They knew I was a safe person and disclosed information to me: being gay, a complicated teen pregnancy, a student who was raped off campus and wanted someone on campus to know.

      2. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

        Thank you! You are wonderful support and an advocate for youth in need. As a former English Writng) Prof, my students revealed 7a lot of personal info to me in their class journals, papers and one-on-ones. They knew I was a safe person and disclosed information to me: being gay, a complicated teen pregnancy, a student who was raped off campus and wanted someone on campus to know.

      3. NeedRain47*

        Unfortunately, there are plenty of people in the world who still think sex ed leads to sex and prefer the shame and ostracism.

        1. Giant Kitty*

          It’s funny, but I was the most well informed about sex of any of my friends in middle & high school and I was also the only one who waited to have sex until I was 18 and graduated from HS.

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            Same (only I was 20)!

            And my friend from an ultra-religious family, who had to come to me about ANY question related to sex or sexual development (yes, when you use a tampon, you have to remove the applicator!), whose family championed removing sex ed from our schools, had unprotected sex at 15. Fortunately, she wasn’t one of the MANY students who attended her same church who was pregnant in high school.

    12. KatEnigma*

      And yet, not only did you click, but you commented.

      Advertisers don’t care how many people comment a negative opinion. They just care about clicks and comments and eyes on their ads.

      So, just practically speaking, the next time you think something is click bait or “gross,” I’d recommend you just keep on scrolling by without clicking, to reward the behavior you disapprove of. In fact, just in life, I suggest you keep on scrolling if you disapprove of something.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Just because someone disapproves of something doesn’t mean they care about whether it gets ad revenue. Why should they keep scrolling, their opinion is as valid as anyone else’s

        1. just some guy*

          It’s not though. Some opinions are just bad, and this is one of them. Too many people confuse “everybody has a right to share their opinion” (correct) with “all opinions are equally valid” (absolutely not).

        2. KatEnigma*

          If they are that against it and use words like “gross” and are criticizing Alison and accusing her of trying to boost her ad revenue specifically… then yes, s/he doesn’t want Alison to get ad revenue from it. And should just scroll by.

          And everyone is entitled to an opinion. But that doesn’t mean they are all VALID or that you’re free from the consequences of spouting it.

        3. JSPA*

          Why keep scrolling?

          1. Because part of being an adult is realizing that “this content isn’t for me” =/= “this content has no purpose.”

          2. Furthermore, being a functional member of society further requires that purposeless things can exist, and their existence does not require us to concoct conspiracy theories to explain why.

          3. It’s a good habit not to mock things as useless before waiting a short while to observe whether others find them useful. Whether that’s new equipment or an answered question.

          4. Alison’s far better than most Internet advice columnists at checking that the questions are real and that the letter writers are real. When you denigrate the choice to answer a letter, you are, by extention, denigrating the real person who wrote that letter.

          5. If you want to reduce traffic to a site, posting inflammatory content is not in your best interests anyway. (But Hey…thanks for doing your part to drive the comment count up as quickly as possible.)

    13. Free Meerkats*

      Sex is gross?

      You know your parents had sex – at least once.

      And your Dear Sainted Grandmother.

      OK, maybe not considering IVF. But your Great Grandparents? Definitely.

        1. Appletini*

          There are some jobs which kind of require discussing sex, though. In LW’s case she mentions that she and her coworker are advisors — I can envision how discussing sex positivity might include non-explicit examples from one’s own life.

    14. Vio*

      “Sex Positivity” can encompass a wide range of different ideas. There’s certainly nothing wrong with having a healthy sex life but obviously some details are not appropriate to share at work. In some places though people can be made to feel that they have to pretend to be completely sexless beings, most often a double standard with women being made to feel like they can’t talk about it while having to hear male colleagues making unsubtle innuendo.
      In an ideal work environment everybody would be on the same page about what is and isn’t appropriate to discuss. We all have lines in different places though. For some “me and the wife went on holiday for a week but we didn’t see much beyond the hotel room” would be too much information while others may (hopefully jokingly) press for more details.
      People should never be made to feel ashamed of having, or of not having for that matter, a sex life. But they also shouldn’t be exposed to unwanted details of somebody else’s. Sex Positivity is about fighting the stigma and double standards (another example is that many gay people find themselves shamed into being more discreet about their sex lives than their hetero peers) not about eliminating privacy and discretion altogether.

  4. ferrina*

    Why why whyyyyyyyy are you talking about your sex life/your co-worker’s sex life?

    It’s one thing to say “there’s quite a few sex clubs around here”, it’s another to say “oh yeah, I’ve been to that one and I’m planning to go back soon.”

    Though I guess in this case it’s good that it came up so they can plan how to handle it? (and I think their plan to handle it is pretty good, but also include an “Avoid” component- is there a separate room you can go to or a way to separate yourselves?)

    1. Anon for this*

      I know it sounds weird to people who don’t go to these spaces, but it’s usually actually not that hard to pick up on someone talking about your go-to space once the conversation starts. There aren’t that many sex clubs in most places! It’s very possible to pick up on someone hinting that they go to *a* sex club, realize that it’s likely you’ll end up in the same space, and have an “Oh shit, we should talk about this before we’re face to face in nothing but lingerie” moment.

      1. ferrina*

        I guess I’m more confused about why someone would be hinting that they go to a sex club. I generally think an individual’s sex life shouldn’t be talked about with co-workers (unless they work in sex work, in which case it’s an important part of the job). I’m confused about why it would come up.

        I’ve got something that I’m not comfortable disclosing about myself, but my personal knowledge about it can be helpful at my job. I may say “Actually, people in this demographic tend to experience…..” but I don’t say “I experienced….” Even if they may suspect my personal experience, they aren’t sure and it leaves some room for plausible deniability for both of us.
        I guess that could dove tail in to “I hate to ask this, but do you frequent X Club? I ask because I do, and we should talk about how we want to handle it if we run in to each other.” Which is definitely better discussed in advance than having to deal with it ad hoc.

        1. Anon for this*

          Mostly people don’t say “When I was at the sex club last Saturday…”! It comes up more subtly. Maybe person A says something like “Oh, I tried that restaurant last Saturday, I was headed to this event with my partner over on the west side of town and we thought we’d check it out since it was only a block away. It was really good.” Person B happens to know that the restaurant they’re talking about is indeed near their club, and that there isn’t that much else in the area, and that the club did in fact have a party on Saturday. Person B drops a hint or asks a subtle question about it; person A picks up on it and confirms; they have a conversation about it from there.

          1. ferrina*

            That makes so much sense. Thanks to you and the other commenters for educating me and being patient with me!

          2. Anon as well*

            Or you mention that there’s a bathhouse that’s really an old-style pool where workers could bathe. Someone says, “oh, not like the “bath house” in [local gay neighborhood] that’s been closed since 1985″ and someone else says, “no, they reopened in 2000 under new ownership.” You notice that they notice that the paperclip holder in your desk organizer started life 15 years ago as one of those distinctive tiger-striped condom carriers that the place in question used to hand out (the sort you wear on a cord around your neck for when you don’t have pockets, until the cord breaks and you lose the cap).

            Or you say, “they’re not 100% men only, they also have women’s nights twice a year.”

            These are not facts that you can only know if you’ve participated. (Maybe you lived in the area, read the local alternative paper, like to read posters on kiosks.) They’re verifiable facts that one can share without the intent of sharing sex life information. But they add up.

            1. Eyes Kiwami*

              Both those examples are just waaaay too personal to share in most office spaces. Anyone sharing that level of specificity obviously goes there. I’m not sure how a bathhouse would even come up in most office conversation.

              1. Pointy's in the North Tower*

                My coworker and I have discussed bath houses and similar places before, although not as places we’ve visited. We’re both not-straight and history geeks, so it was a historical context conversation.

        2. Spero*

          I shared this above, but it can have nothing to do with the sex part. I made mention of a particularly delicious specialty cocktail served at a venue that hosts club nights as well as other events, the coworker mentioned also having had that drink on a night that I know had to have been a club night. Nothing about sex was discussed – it was purely context clue related.

        3. In the scene*

          It could be entirely accidental rather than intentional hinting. There’s some people so well known with weird enough names that if you mention “oh my friend x was telling me about…”, others in a given community will go “wait, you know x? How do you know them?”

          Or everyone in the scene knows that y restaurant is where everyone goes for food after events at the only sex club in the city, and you mention being at y restaurant after “being at a club/party”.

          Could even be mentioning a class or something, particularly in the context of sex positivity. “Oh, I learned about this research/resource from a class I went to and it might be useful for some of our clients” “cool, are you in touch with the person who taught the class? Maybe we could get them to run another one” “yeah it was so and so” and the conversation goes from there.

        4. Narvo Flieboppen*

          In my case, it was a coworker who was enthusiastically recommending a seasonally specific show, which already has a NSFW name so she should not have been talking about it in the office, but which is only performed at one specific club in the world, that I know of. Which happens to be the one specific that my spouse & I attend on a semiregular basis.

          Several other coworkers at that same job happened to all be in the burlesque troupe we went to see one year, also. Which opens up a whole new side of coworkers I wasn’t expecting to observe. They did a fabulous job, though, and it was great fun once I got over the shock of seeing Martha & Steve from down the hall cavorting in pasties and bottomless lingerie.

          1. Also temporarily anon*

            Honestly I think some folks here, reasonably I may add, so no shade, don’t realize how NON sexual a lot of this stuff can be, even at sex clubs (though obviously often that *is* specifically sexual, a lot of educational events and workshops happen there, or clubs that still require undergarments for local code ordinances so the activities there are limited to what’s visible in a bathing suit, cabaret style acts where sex is talked about but not necessarily in a pornographic way, like funny stories, cautionary tales, etc.)

        5. allathian*

          The LW works in sex positivity counseling, so I’m guessing that the employees are more likely to be willing to share more about their own sex lives at work than average, and that they’re also more likely to attract employees who are into non-vanilla stuff. Nothing wrong with either, although I agree that it would be weird if this sort of discussion came up in most office environments.

      2. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

        In a similar vein, decades ago I met D, a distant cousin, at a Thanksgiving or Passover (I was newish to the city and our link was the hosts: my mother’s cousin and D’s father cousin were the married). I realized he was gay and wanted to let him knew I was too, but I didn’t know how out he was. So I said something to him in code and he responded the same way. It sounded like a normal conversation to other people in the room, who had no iea of the real conversation between the two to us. Looking back, I still amused.

      3. Aitch Arr*

        And not just a sex club; substitute “gay club” or “fetish club” or even “goth club”.
        There is no sex at the latter three, though there may be degrees of nudity and PDA. Alison’s response still applies.

    2. Also temporarily anon*

      There are really subtle ways that we can talk about things that people outside of the scene would even pick up on as even a weird turn of phrase. For kink and kink-adjacent activities it could be how we talk about consent in general, it could be talking about a bar you go to that is also a bar a lot of people in a particular community go to (but not exclusively that community) that has you dropping a term or two to see if they react a certain way. People in the queer community have been doing this for centuries for a lot of similar reasons (mostly revolving around safety. It’s not just about sex, not even in kink.) It’s a “if you know, you know” sort of thing.

      1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

        Yes! I used to mention the gay news magazine I wrote for that was well known in the gay community in that city but had a fairly innocuous name. I have been extremely out for decades, but I can’t assume the same for others I am just meeting.

    3. Lyudie*

      OP says “in the context of sex positivity in *the advising that we do*” it was actually a work-related topic. Guessing they are social workers, academic advisors, or similar where they are providing guidance and resources to those who need it.

      1. Lyudie*

        re: how they figured out they both go to the same club, I imagine one or the other made a reference that the other picked up on and and they realized the connection.

    4. KatEnigma*

      Most people don’t have to talk about sex with their clients, so it would never come up organically.

      LW does. So it did.

      1. JSPA*

        Could be as simple as, part of their function / mission is to drop informational lit (or restock free condom bins) at night clubs (etc) around town.

        1. Marna Nightingale*

          In which case “I’m actually a member so I someone else needs to talk to them, can you go?” “So, as it turns out …” is a perfectly legitimate workplace discussion.

  5. Delta Delta*

    Would it be possible to schedule when you go? You go Friday, she goes Saturday, or whatever – that way you’re assured not to run into each other? It seems like it could be easy to agree now that you’ll keep things professional, but things might change, or your thoughts about one another may change if you run into each other there. Doing what you can so you can both go but not run into each other might be a good way to avoid issues.

    I’ll share something sort of similar. I’m a lawyer and one day at the gym I ran into a judge in the locker room. We were both polite but it was a little awkward later to think that the judge ruling on my objections just saw me in my underpants (and I saw her in her underpants). Not exactly the same but awkward nonetheless. (And I started changing in a different room to avoid that in the future)

    1. Purely Allegorical*

      Came here to make this suggestion. Trade off going every other weekend or whatever. Nothing good can come out of you going at the same time, no matter your positive intent about selective amnesia.

    2. shannanigans*

      Yeah, I think a shared custody arrangement for the sex club would be the best compromise

    3. Kaiko*

      Totally thirding this. And if there are especially desirable days of the week – like the sex club I used to go to had a deep discount on Sundays – you can split it up that one coworker gets the odd days of the month and the other gets the evens.

    4. bamcheeks*

      Kind of depends on whether LW means a venue or a specific night/party/producer by “same sex club”. If they both go to a local sauna which is a sauna 7 nights a week, that’s one thing, but if they both go to SexyLlama which takes place every second Tuesday of the month at the sauna and it’s about that specific crowd and vibe that probably wouldn’t work.

    5. Robin*

      I am not sure about trading off times. It kind of means coordinating one’s sex life with a coworker to an extent and that feels weird. I might be wrong about the weird feeling, but if someone told me “no, I cannot go this weekend, Jane will be there and we work together” I would understand but it would also feel like a third party has undue influence on one’s personal life.

      As other comments show, these communities will eventually include somebody you know! (I have heard of a high school teacher running into a former student…ahhjdjshd). Creating trade off schedules to avoid people one knows in other circles would get ridiculous quickly. Better to have a standard agreement with those folks (eg selective amnesia and a refusal to engage with each other beyond “hello”) and just keep on keeping on.

      1. Anon for this*

        Yeah, personally the only time I’m up for a trade-off schedule is with a recent ex. In a situation like that–where you do presumably have a certain amount of care with each other, where it wouldn’t be right for either of you to deprive the other of community, but also where you shouldn’t be together in that space for a few months until you’ve both healed a bit–it can be a good compromise. But as a permanent arrangement? Just because I happen to also know you in another context? That wouldn’t work for me personally.

  6. Anon for this*

    OP, speaking as someone who hangs out in similar spaces–I think you’ve got this. This might be the first time you’re going to be seeing this coworker in this context, but it sounds like both of you are experienced with spaces and activities like this.

    I think people who don’t participate in…well, public deviancy, to catch a whole umbrella of activities…sometimes think it’s more fraught than it is. I’m sure you’ve seen activities you weren’t into before–we all have, we handle it by looking the other way. You’ve probably had other people who you know in multiple contexts (for several years, I had a kink party friend who was also my mechanic) and have figured out switching how you interact in different spaces. Yeah, there’s always a risk that some asshole might tell someone you don’t want to know about your activities, but that’s not common–plus, if you’ve been around for a while, you’ve probably already considered and accepted that risk.

    The bigger concern for me, with coworkers, is talking out your boundaries for at the club in advance. Different people have different boundaries around how much of their vanilla life they bring to these spaces, and it’s easy to overstep if you don’t realize someone else has more limits on what they share than you do. Do your club friends know where you work? Do your coworker’s friends know where they work, or that you work together with them? Do either of you go by a different name at the club than in everyday life? You want to respect people’s privacy, and it’s easier to do that if you know what your coworker considers private going in.

    1. Evelyn*

      Yes, all of this! You might want to have a conversation about “okay, if I see you there, do you want me to say hi, what name do you use, should we acknowledge that we work together?” because yes, different people have different boundaries around those things! I actually got my current job via a referral from someone I know from the BDSM community and while we didn’t hide that we were coworkers, we didn’t tell people where we worked!

  7. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    In the immortal words of George Takei… “Oh, Myyy!”

    1. lilsheba*

      Frankly I would NEVER go to any kind of sex club while a pandemic is still raging. Unless by some weird chance they are wearing masks still? And managing to not spread germs?. I still don’t trust it. I’m a big fan of staying away from people.

      1. Anon for this*

        Funnily enough, the only venues I know of in my city that still have strict mask requirements for events are dungeons.

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        And if they’re not masking (as many places aren’t), sex clubs generally require proof of vaccination and/or evidence of a same-day negative test. None of those are perfect, but I just took a short flight–which did not require masking, vaccination, or testing, in the airport or on the plane.

      3. Anon for this one*

        The last time I went to one (a year ago, I’m currently dealing with a health condition making any public gathering unwise) masking compliance was 100%. Communities that emphasize safety, consent, and boundaries are good at following The Rules For This Space.

      4. AlsoAnon*

        The biggest local club in my area has a vaccination requirement and rigorous contact tracing. While masks aren’t required, many people wear them. Most clubs have strict rules about attendees disinfecting furniture before and after use, as well as specific rules about containment and cleanup of bodily fluids including blood. And you’d be surprised at the percentage of people in the scene who are medical professionals themselves.

        I wonder if you’d make the same sort of comment on a post about, say, going to a restaurant, or getting on an airplane.

        1. lilsheba*

          yes I would so no need to be judgmental here. I’m not ever going to get on a plane, or go in a restaurant or anything like that again frankly.

      5. Swiftie*

        Okay, good for you?
        Seriously, what was the point of this comment. As others have pointed out, sex clubs may actually be more cautious about COVID than other places, even now. And the OP specifically said that they haven’t previously run into this coworker because of the pandemic.
        All yall need to go outside, seriously.

      6. Goose Games*

        Kinksters are the most pro-vax, pro-mask, pro-test, pro-respect-for-others’-comfort as you’re going to find anywhere these days.

        I’m betting that’s not true for swingers, though, that’s a very different community with a very different demographic and very different approach to sexual ethics.

        1. lilsheba*

          Good I am glad to hear that they are so mask and vaccine positive. It’s just SOOOOOOO intimate you know? And for the record I’ve been involved in the kink community in a variety of ways, but haven’t in the last few years. And yes I would say the same about a restaurant, in fact I refuse to go to restaurants or movie theaters or anything that involves large amounts of people in a space that can’t possibly be cleaned enough. Theaters being the prime example.

          1. Goose Games*

            It’s generally not actually that intimate, one really only spreads germs with one’s partner(s).

            It’s considered polite to give people a bit of distance when they’re playing, unless they specifically invite participation. Otherwise it’s like one’s germ exposure at a restaurant, but with masks.

            We do tend to be very huggy / cuddly (with people we know), but it’s far less Roman Orgy than you’re imagining.

        2. Tacos*

          As a swinger, I can confirm that none of the clubs or events we have attended had any kind of masking/vaccination requirements, and we live in a very pro-mask, pro-vax area.

  8. LB33*

    To get rid of any awkwardness, could you and the colleague have sex separately, away from the club? That way you’ll know if you’re compatible, etc before you have any unexpected encounters at the club. As long as neither of you is a boss or project manager of course

    1. I should really pick a name*

      It doesn’t sound like the LW is interested in that.

      Obviously we won’t interact with each other there outside of a nodding acknowledgement

    2. ecnaseener*

      Hmm, that seems like quite a drastic action to take when they’ve already agreed to avoid each other at the club!

    3. Gerry Keay*

      Woah, talk about turning the dial up to 11! Attending a sex club doesn’t mean you’re attending an orgy where you’ll be having sex with everyone in attendance! I don’t think these coworkers having sex was *ever* on the table, and I think it would be a very bad idea to do this!!

    4. Robin*

      Wait what? The fact that they both attend the same club does not mean they would be having sex with each other if their attendance overlapped. There is absolutely no need for them to engage with each other sexually to handle this situation.

    5. Kwebbel*

      I mean…I guess? My hobbies are gun club and book club. I prefer not to encounter my direct colleagues at the shooting range or bookshop as I like my private and professional lives separate.

      If I found out one of my colleagues liked the same things, my first inclination wouldn’t be to challenge them to a duel or read every Stephen King book together just in case. Is it different for sex club attendees?

    6. Anon for this*

      How to decide club attendance: sex duel! I love it.

      Okay, okay, letting the joke go. I don’t think OP has any intention of having sex with their coworker. They’re just likely to both be in a space where they might, separately, be having sexual interactions with their own partners, and they’re wisely talking it out in advance so they’re on the same page about how sharing that space will go.

    7. Old13oy*

      My sweet summer child, you do not have sex with everyone you meet at the sex club. There’s a lot going on that isn’t even sex!

  9. RCB*

    One other thing to think about is talking to the co-worker and seeing if there are certain events they attend there and don’t attend, and maybe you’ll find that you go to the other events and not those ones, so you could agree to stick to those events so you aren’t both at there at the same time. May not be possible to divide it up like that but worth a try, I’ve had to do this (with break-ups, not work) where we agreed that they could go to the sex club on these days or events and I could go on the other days or events and it saved us all a lot of confusion and potential trouble.

  10. Kwebbel*

    LW, I’d recommend you read this letter from a while back about a person who got questioned by HR for hours when a colleague/”friend” outed them to a more puritanical colleague for a visible sex injury :
    It turned out that the “friend” frequently outed people in the kink scene, and this ended up really hurting the OP.
    Definitely not saying your colleague would do the same! But the letter is, unfortunately, a good illustration for how weird things can get at work with people you should be able to trust.

    1. Goose Games*

      A coworker saw me at a non-play kink space (workshops and specialized retail, but nobody was actually doing anything). I’m a very visually recognizable woman from afar, and he blends, so he saw me but not vice versa.

      At our conservative work, he got so overly friendly / intimate / squicky –practically actually saying “nudge nudge wink wink” in front of our colleagues, and privately hinting that he wanted me to join his poly pool — that a coworker pulled me aside to ask if I was ok.
      I told her that we had some friends in common but he was a creep.

      It was pretty much my nightmare.

    2. Cam*

      I’m amazed at how unconcerned most of these comments are. I’ve learned the hard way to safeguard my personal life at work and never divulge anything about my romantic/sex life beyond status updates like getting engaged.

  11. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    It’s fasinating that many of the comments wonder how the OP and Co-worker learned they both go to the same sex club. It’s like when a coworker transitions and there is an uproar about bathroom use. These comments read to me as very poorly disguised jugment.

    1. Velociraptor Attack*

      It’s really not at all like some dog-whistling about bathrooms.

      The phrase “it came out” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here and I would imagine that people are curious about how it could possibly come up because, especially in this comments section, a lot of people tend to claim they are intensely private at work.

    2. NeedRain47*

      It just reads to me like… haven’t you ever had a conversation where you realized that you and the other person have something in common even tho you didn’t directly mention the thing? This is just a coincidence that happens sometimes. It doesn’t necessarily read like judgement to me, more like people think sex club patrons must have some kind of secret signal.

    3. different seudonym*

      Agreed. There exist many subcultures, and by definition most people don’t belong to them, and it isn’t surprising when an individual doesn’t know the social and communicative norms for a specific subculture of which they are not a member.

      Acting as though this simple reality is surprising and strange is stigmatizing and prurient.

    4. Heather*

      Yeah, NO. I am as sex-positive as it gets, but zero of my co-workers know what my husband and I do for fun. No matter WHAT somebody mentions at work, I would never respond with, “Oh, actually I’ve been there before!” or “I’ve done that before too.”

      1. MissCoco*

        Yes, I think this is what makes the “how did it come up” relevant, because unless there was a *very* good and logical reason the other person mentioned it (or if it was more of an inference on LW’s part), I’d be unlikely to trust their discretion when it comes to my own extracurriculars

      2. Goose Games*

        Same here! I’m kinky and poly, but I was having a hard time imagining what kind of “advising” would bring on this particular topic at work.

        Several commenters raised possibilities that I hadn’t thought of, which was helpful.

      3. Database Developer Dude*


        So much this. I tell people at work “My spouse and I could be swinging from the chandelier every night or sleeping in separate bedrooms, and you’d never know it. Why? Because I’m NOT GOING TO TELL YOU”. Of course, that comes up usually in an argument for or against equal rights for LBGTQ+ folk.

    5. New Jack Karyn*

      I’m not getting the connection between the two. Like, being trans is what someone is, going to a sex club is what someone does. They’re different. Now, given the context of their specific jobs and roles, I can understand how it came up in a work conversation.

      But I’m someone who is sometimes in that scene. Most folks who aren’t in it are going to have a few questions. As long as they’re being more or less respectful, I don’t mind. They can have the space to ask, take the info on board, etc. I think of it as ‘catching up.’

    6. Elle*

      Agreed. The “my god, how did this even come up?!” comments are very pearls-clutchy to me. Like. It came up. LW gave some context. How it came up isn’t what the question was about.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        As someone who has attended gay bathhouses, I’m certainly not clutching my pearls, and I’m thoroughly confused as to why you would leap to that assumption as opposed to the more obvious one: that I’m curious how it came up in conversation.

        1. AlsoAnon*

          I worked at a sexual health clinic for a few years. Occasionally patients would have questions about safer sex practices related to BDSM and colleagues would ask for help, just generally asking whoever else was around, “Hey, does anyone have any info/advice for reducing STI risk in [scenario]?”

          I often had that info/advice, so I became one of the go-to people for those questions. I certainly did not share anything about my personal practices or preferences, but any of my colleagues could draw the obvious conclusion that some of my knowledge was borne from experience.

          So, I’m not the LW but I’m imagining a similar scenario here.

    7. Erotica reader*

      Yeah, it’s not that hard to imagine, especially since it actually had something to do with a work related topic. It’s like if you had a conversation about something related to teapots and they then segued into llamas or they used the word commentariat at some point, you might wonder if you have AAM in common, especially if other clues are present or have shown up in the past.

      1. JSPA*

        Except that…discussions that could be held to contribute to a sexualized workplace are a big legal issue. Even if it’s just someone over hearing. Discussions leading to increased management insight are not legally problematic in the same way.

        1. allathian*

          I doubt “sexualized workplace” applies here. The LW’s work involves giving advice about sex positivity, so the norms are bound to be different from most offices.

          1. JSPA*

            The norms for personal sharing are somewhat separable, and not at all absolute.

            E.g., if you’re a gynecologist it may be more normal to talk about, say, your own discharge. But that doesn’t make it normal to talk about what physical traits you like in a lover.

            “How sex can be joyous and consenting and empowering” is really quite separate from, “here’s where I do sexy things.”

            Though I totally buy that people can come by specific knowledge by putting together unintentional clues.

  12. E*

    I understand why there aren’t more details shared/requested here but “sex club” covers a lot of ground! Some are basically bars or nightclubs where sexual things can happen on premises, others are more orgy-like (or like the one described in the linked letter). The nature of the club might affect the advice here, only in the sense that some are definitely putting yourself into a sexual situation with a colleague, and others are less so. I also think it’s worth considering that for many folks these clubs are also a focal point of their community/social life, and so saying “just stop going” is for some folks akin to saying “well, just stop going to church” if they discovered a coworker was also a member.

  13. DomaneSL5*

    This really feels duck clubish.

    I would treat this like I did when I had a casual hookup who worked in the office. At work we worked and were colleagues. We didn’t talk about it. We didn’t act werid around each other.

    Playtime stayed in the bedroom.

    Honestly this is a coverstation you need to be having with this partner, not random folks off the internet.

    1. Also temporarily anon*

      This colleague is not a partner, sexual or otherwise, they just attend the same events/club where sex or non-sexual but kink activities may happen in one form or another but no one is expected or obligated to participate with anyone or in any activity.

    2. The Eye of Argon*

      Huh? LW and their coworker aren’t fixing to get jiggy with each other. The coworker has a partner and LW presumably either has their own partner(s) or goes alone. Not everyone is good at keeping it non-weird at work.

      In the LW’s shoes, I’d find it very helpful and reassuring to be able to pick the brains of random strangers in the same or similar situations on how to keep both the professional relationship intact and still go to the club. In fact, since so many people are still ooged out by S.E.X. a community of online strangers is probably the safest and least judgemental place to have the discussion.

      1. DomaneSL5*

        You need to keep it “non weird” at work. If you can’t do that, then you and whoever else is involved need to come to some resolution that works for everyone.

        This is a workplace blog, not a relationship/sex blog. So as one of those strangers from the internet, LW is going to get an opinion from me that reflects my views.

        1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

          Except that sex is a part of life, not conducted only solo and in the shadows. Sometimes the two cross. Alison has answered several questions with sexual content in a very professional and helpful matter: a sex worker wondering if they were risking their spouse’s job with the very real possibility of running to a client at spouse’s work event, at the apartment of a one night stand, running into their boss in the morning as the roommate, plus several others that don’t come to mind right away. One thing I love about this column is that Alison handles these questions the same way as she handles any other work dilemma. She trades all of her readers with respect, even the ones who have done horrendous things and are aggrieved it is coming back to bite them: The man who abandoned and disappeared on his live-in partner in another country, the reader who was outraged that the victim of his high school bullying wouldn’t hire him.

        2. allathian*

          They weren’t partners, and their work is giving sex positivity advice, so the norms at this particular office are probably more permissive re sex talk than in most offices.

    3. Pants*

      Quack quack!

      A long time ago, due to a casual hookup at work, I had to subscribe and stick to the philosophy Don’t get your sausage where you make your bacon.

      I know it’s gender-problematic. I’m part of the Alphabet Mafia and still haven’t been able to come up with an inclusive alternative. Open to ideas!

      1. Also temporarily anon*

        I tend to prefer the less eloquent but non gendered “don’t eat where you shit”

          1. Goose Games*

            If one is at the office and writing, one assumes it’s work so why would one bring one’s one ink in which to dip one’s pen?

            Wait, I am losing track of this analogy.

    4. New Jack Karyn*

      Huh? It’s not a partner (as in sex partner). It’s a coworker whom OP might bump into in a highly sexualized context. They’re wondering how to navigate this with a minimum of awkwardness, boundary-crossing, ick-factor, whatever.

  14. Someone Online*

    Generally, your personal sex life and your work life shouldn’t intersect with each other, which is why people are commenting.

  15. Daughter of Denial*

    I would find a new club. No matter how hard you try, your personal life is going to bleed into your work life.

    1. Goose Games*

      That’s a taller order than you think.

      There aren’t that many clubs.

      Trust is huge in this world, you go to clubs that are run my folks you trust (solid history in the scene; building that’s clean, they’re not illicitly filming, consent rules and enforcement, safe equipment, keeping out folks with history of predatory or nonconsensual behavior). You wouldn’t just jump to a club run by folks you can’t trust.

  16. Nomic*

    I’m a bit surprised you would say that, IN THIS INSTANCE, if they are in the same social circle where on person has power over the other, then one of them must quit.

    Is the same thing true if this were a church, and one of the two were a deacon? What if you see each other out at the same bar or restaurant all the time. Or on a non-profit of some kind? Why is THIS ONE THING different?

    1. Anon for this*

      This one thing is different because sex and power are wrapped up in all sorts of weird ways in our society. I’m with you that it shouldn’t be that way. But it is that way, and ignoring that would just paper over reality, not change it.

      Alison wouldn’t be doing her job if she told a manager that it was totally fine to be in a sexual environment with their employee who they supervise. There are complicated layers of power dynamics at play, there’s potential for legal ramifications and sexual harassment concerns, there’s potential for big consequences if something goes wrong (e.g. a person could have fallout in their personal and professional life at the same time, instead of one or the other)–it is fraught, the objectively smart thing to do is to avoid it if possible, and her job is to advise people to do the smart thing. Some people will do it anyways, and some will get lucky and have it work out. But telling people to bet on getting lucky isn’t her job.

    2. DomaneSL5*

      To be fair having coworkers going to the same church can have problems too, just different ones then this, but problems none the less.

    3. The Eye of Argon*

      Because sex involves a level of intimacy beyond any activity you do with your clothes on.

      A deacon might be able to reveal that a parishoner is a cheapo who puts quarters in the collection plate. That’s not going to ruin anyone’s life.

      A manager who goes to the same sex club as a subordinate has the potential to destroy the subordinate’s reputation by revealing that they’re into kinky sex or BDSM, or furthermore the subordinate can be accused of currying favor from the manager by having sex with them (regardless of what actually happens at the club).

      1. Rain's Small Hands*

        Not sure I agree. There are lots of activities you do with your clothes on that require a level of intimacy – or just plain don’t fly with corporate America. I wouldn’t have wanted any coworker to be in Group with me when I did group therapy. There is the AA problem mentioned above. And church isn’t always a respected Christian organization – for pagans and some other niche less understood religions, being outed at work is a problem. There are health issues that you don’t necessarily want your coworkers to know you are going through. And, although I’ve spent a lot of years on the periphery of fandom, being outed as a long time D&D player or SF convention goer isn’t something I necessarily want either. And not all gay people can be out at work. Poly people either.

        And for something like group therapy, having a supervisor in the group would be very problematic. It isn’t this ONE THING. I also wouldn’t want my manager involved in any volunteering I did for fandom (because fandom is often a screwed up social group to start with with tons of boundary issues – I don’t need that to leak over into work).

    4. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I don’t friend my reports on facebook, so I don’t think it’s THIS ONE THING.

      1. Rain's Small Hands*

        I don’t either. And generally not even CURRENT coworkers, much less people I supervise. I friend people as I’m walking out the door on a job. I don’t need to see my coworkers weekend activities – and they don’t need to see mine.

    5. Roland*

      Really feels like you’re trying to telegraph how cool and woke you are unlike us puritans. I can’t imagine you actually don’t know that there is a difference between a sex club and a restaurant in the real world.

    6. KatEnigma*

      Who says it’s different?

      In a department of 2, I wouldn’t friend my coworker on FB or frequent the same church or club or anything. I don’t friend my coworkers now, or my priest, for that matter. Or even my kid’s teachers. Nowhere there is a power differential or where too much intimacy leading to contempt would be a problem.

    7. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Because of real-life power dynamics when it comes to sex, and because of legal liability for companies in sexual situations between managers and employees, or even the appearance of sexual situations between managers and employees. Part of the deal with accepting a management job is that you can’t be in sexual situations with people in your chain of command; it is literally part of the job requirements in any decently run company.

    8. Critical Rolls*

      There are many circumstances where the person in power would be advised to discontinue an activity (competitive activities are another obvious example). But pretending there’s no difference between eating at the same restaurant and attending the same sex club strikes me as seriously disingenuous.

  17. Adverb*

    OOOOOO, I can finally contribute to the commentariate.

    I had this happen to me. I was taken to an “alternate lifestyle” club. while I sat trying to comprehend WTF I was seeing, I saw a familiar face, the EA of my CEO. I looked at my then-gf and asked, “What do I do?” She said, “You’re here. She’s here. You both are adults. I would rely on her discretion as she’ll rely on yours.”
    I went up and said, “Hi, {name}.”
    She looked startled, but recovered. She must have had the same conversation in her head. We talked later. 15 years later the gf is long gone, but the EA and I are still friends.
    We’re both adults. We relied on each other’s discretion.

    1. Goose Games*

      For anyone not in this lifestyle, don’t use someone’s real name. Most of us use aliases or handles for privacy.

  18. Club Visitor*

    Something I haven’t seen said, but might be of interest to other commenters, is that usually these kinds of communities that host events at these clubs are very tightly knit. It’s not just a place to have sex, it’s a place to socialize just like any other hobby, and if anyone within the community found out that someone outed another patron at their work, they would almost definitely be completely blacklisted. It really is in everyone’s best interests at these things to keep what happens within this lifestyle completely separate from the rest of your life, and going against that is pretty rare (and usually talked about for years as gossip). So yes, OP may have some concerns, but it would be pretty detrimental for both of them and their social lives to “out” the other, so there’s some safety in that.

    1. In the scene*

      That can absolutely be true, but it can also be the case that events and a particular community just ignores anything that doesn’t happen at an event with evidence, especially if the person doing the outing has more/better connections than the person who got outed. I’ve seen outing accusations against a popular organiser who ran multiple events a month go ignored (he was later found out to have abused dozens of women over the course of a decade), and I’ve also seen outing accusations against a marginalised person be weaponised when the whole conversation that included the alleged “outing” was visible to everyone on the local scene.

      I’m not saying this to scare anyone, and generally there is an aspect of “if I told it would hurt me as much as it would hurt you”, but that isn’t the case in every community or all the time. It’s absolutely worth considering the likelihood of this happening, and the consequences if it did, before deciding exactly what to do next.

      1. Goose Games*

        Yeah – I’ve also heard about this. If someone hosts parties or is a munch organizer or is a well-known author / instructor / etc, there are incentives for allegations to be ignored or discounted.

    2. Anon for this*

      This is usually true. But it’s not a hard-and-fast thing everyone can count on. Even the most power-aware and consent-focused community is going to have imbalances in it! Societal imbalances around gender, race, age, money, etc don’t just go away when you walk through the door; if there’s a conflict between someone who’s deeply ingrained in the community and a newcomer, you can bet on the newcomer getting less support and care; I’ve seen event organizers, famous performers, and other big-name people get away with things that would’ve gotten anyone else blacklisted. So yes, most of the time we look out for each other–more so than in any other community I’ve been part of, for sure–but it’s still smart to think through your exposure risk and how bad the fallout might be, just in case.

      Given that OP is the kind of person who’s been going to their club weekly, though, and that they were able to come to an agreement with their coworker without a fuss when they realized they’d be sharing space, I bet they’ve got this handled already :)

  19. Spicy Tuna*

    My office was across the hall from the HR director, who was gay (and still is; neither of us works there anymore). I was very, very good work friends with a guy in another department. One Monday AM, the HR director and I were chatting about our weekends and he mentioned he saw our colleague at a gay bar. I didn’t know my work friend was gay; in years of having lunch together and long chats about work and shared interests, he did not bring it up. I don’t care that he is gay and I don’t care that he didn’t want to share that with me but I thought it was a huge violation for the HR director to mention that. Especially working in HR, he should have known better. I never mentioned it to my friend and it certainly didn’t change anything about our relationship but it definitely made me think twice about personal items I shared with the HR director.

    1. KatEnigma*

      Umm… I’m not gay, am from medium sized town midwest, and have been in a gay bar a lot of times, supporting my friends.

      1. just some guy*

        The fact that info like this *could* have an alternative explanation doesn’t mean that it’s okay to disclose it. Many people will jump directly from “John was in a gay bar” to “John must be gay”, and even if that deduction is wrong, it can still be harmful.

        Even if they are aware that non-gay people go to gay bars, the mere fact of going there to support gay/bi/etc. friends is something that some people would hold against you.

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      I feel like this could have been an honest mistake in the, “Colleague and Spicy Tuna are BBFs/would not even register that you might not know” vein?

    3. I should really pick a name*

      Sexual orientation doesn’t always have to be some deep dark secret. It’s quite possible that HR knows he’s gay because he’s open about it.
      I’m gay, I would not consider it a violation if a co-worker mentioned it to someone else.

      1. just some guy*

        In Spicy Tuna’s example that you’re replying to, it’s pretty clear that the guy was not open about it.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          That’s not actually clear to me at all.
          When I was single, my coworkers didn’t know I was gay, not because it was a secret, but because it just didn’t come up in conversation.

          Very, very good work friends is still different from friends.

          1. allathian*

            It’s really hard to tell. We don’t know if the work friend was gay himself, or if he just went to the gay bar with a gay friend. But it’s also entirely possible that the work friend was gay, but not out at work except to other gay employees he happened to meet in gay spaces.

            It’s also possible that the work friend is gay, and the HR director took it for granted that Spicy Tuna knew because the (work) friendship was so obvious to everyone.

            Regardless, I think the HR director’s an ass for outing someone at work without their explicit consent. People really should know better, especially HR employees. The fact that the HR director was gay makes the whole thing particularly unpleasant, he *should* realize that even if he’s comfortably out at work, that doesn’t give him the right to out anyone else without their consent, even if the work friend wasn’t actively trying to hide his sexuality but it just didn’t come up in conversation.

  20. DS*

    I feel obligated to remind a very key thing I’ve had to learn over the past year or so. Your coworkers are NOT your friends. No matter how much you want them to be or get along with them or anything. Until you no longer work with them, they’re first and primarily… your coworker. I’d change clubs immediately.

  21. Another Anon*

    Several people are talking about changing clubs like it’s as simple a matter as changing your favorite coffee shop, but the fact of the matter is, sex clubs aren’t something you find on every street corner. I live in a major metropolitan area, and if I had to change clubs, the next nearest club that’s accepting of my demographic (that is, not targeted at gay men or heterosexual swingers) is about fifty miles away. The next nearest after that is maybe two hundred miles further. If given a choice between finding another club and finding another job, the latter is going to be easier almost every time.

    1. Goose Games*

      Exactly. Some states have puritanical laws or deliberate zoning regs to keep undesirable businesses out. So there may be only one club in many miles. There’s also the trust factor – the people who run them need years of interactions to be a known factor.

    2. Anon for this*

      Yepppp. It’s easy to tell who is commenting without any real experience of the scene–no one who’s experienced with this would suggest casually changing what parties, events, workshops, or clubs you go to! Even in major metro areas, that’s a very tall order.

      But it’s not just the difficulty issue; it’s also just not that big a deal to overlap, most of the time. I’ve run into famous people, coworkers, classmates, friends I hadn’t seen in years and thought lived in other cities, exes., etc. It’s a problem for some specific relationships, of course (e.g. boss/employee, teacher/student, therapist/patient–those are all situations where people do stop coming to the space, because you can’t ethically share a sexual space in those dynamics). But mostly it’s way less awkward and weird when it actually happens than it is in our anxiety-fueled “what if”s.

  22. Appletini*

    “Selective [intentional] amnesia” is a great concept, one which I wish were more widespread.

  23. All Outrage, All The Time*

    I used to regularly go to BDSM parties. At one party I met a cross dressing gentleman and had a lovely time spanking him. On Monday I turned up at a work meeting and guess who was one of the senior executives? We both just snickered slightly while shaking hands as though we’d never met before.

    1. Very Social*

      Absolutely marvelous. That’s how it should go, and how it seems it will go for the OP (that is, smoothly and with no one outing anyone else).

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