For weeks now, we've been subjected to a daily parade of famous men being outed as serial sex predators. Now the inevitable backlash is mounting as men are questioning whether this hasn't gone just a bit to far and stubbornly insisting that they no longer know what behavior is and is not acceptable.
Yeah, I know. It sucks to be a man today. You've lost so many things you used to find enjoyable: making racist jokes, 3 martini lunches, subscribing to Playboy. And now you're told you can't chase your secretary around the desk any more! But fear not. I am here to provide a comprehensive guide to you. Here we go:
**DON'T BE A JACKASS.**
I'm sorry, was that to vague for you? Well, I could say "don't do anything you wouldn't do in front of your own mother," but I know that's going to be a grey area too. I guess I'll have to go into details.
"It seems like I can't even tell a woman she looks nice today without getting written up by HR!"
Trust me, no woman is going to object to being told "You look nice today." "Nice" is acceptable. "Sexy," not so much. You can compliment a woman on her dress, her new haircut, and especially her shoes. But unless you're at KFC, avoid making reference to "legs" and "breasts."
"So, now flirting isn't acceptable anymore?"
Hey, Geraldo, I've got a newsflash for you: You're there to work, not to flirt. But obviously in today's society, coworkers date all the time. There are 2 basic rules you need to follow:
- Ask a woman out politely, and if she turns you down, TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER! Yeah, I know they taught you in sales class that "salesmanship begins when the customer says no," but she ain't your customer and you're gonna lose more than a sale. Perhaps you've been confused by all of the sitcoms and movies where every hot chick is married to a fat balding guy, and she always falls in love with the geek by the end of the picture, but sadly real life is not like TV (cause if it were, I'd be married to a guy that looks like Grant Show and live in that big mansion on the new "Dynasty" reboot.)
- It is best to avoid relationships with anyone who is your subordinate. This means employees, students, interns, etc. You may honestly believe your relationship is consensual, but if things go south you could lose your job AND a lawsuit.
"Women have no sense of humor. I can't even tell a joke anymore."
Contrary to what Christopher Hitchens would have you believe, women are capable of humor. But perhaps we have a different kind of humor. We don't particularly enjoy the Three Stooges. We really don't enjoy practical jokes. Or fart jokes. Or fat jokes. And for the love of God don't tell dirty jokes. That's just begging for trouble.
"You're taking some of my best material here."
Well I have more for you! Here is a brief list of things you should NEVER SAY TO A WOMAN:
What's the matter? Do you have your period?
Have you put on weight?
Are you getting any?
Oh, lighten up.
I was just joking.
And to quote the great Dave Barry "Never ask a woman if she's pregnant unless you see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment."
(Sidebar: This list also applies to your personal life. You might want to write it down.)
And you wouldn't think this would have to be stipulated, but there is just certain behavior that is NEVER acceptable. It is never OK to touch the buttocks. Vibrators are never an appropriate gift. The note you put in the box WITH the vibrator will be exhibit A in your sexual harassment trial.
Oh, and here is a little secret I'll let you in on: no woman wants to see your penis. Do not expose it to a work colleague. Do not text pictures of it, even to (ESPECIALLY TO) people you met over the internet. Do not describe it. Do not rub it up against anybody. Do not ask to have it measured.
"Well, it seems as if there is nothing so innocuous that somebody is not going to be offended by it."
You are absolutely correct. There is no comment so harmless or gesture so well-meaning that there isn't somebody, somewhere who could be offended by it. Fortunately, there is a remedy: You can apologize. I don't care it you "didn't mean anything by it." If you have offended someone (especially to the point where they reported you to HR) you say you're sorry. You didn't mean to offend them (you didn't, right?) Apologize. Try to come across as sincere. Then - and here's the important thing - LET IT GO. Don't go around whining behind her back to everyone about how she overreacted and you're really the victim here. Or, as I stated at the beginning of this piece, "DON'T BE A JACKASS."
If you're still uncertain as to what comments and behaviors you can still get away with, just post a comment and I'll be happy to advise.