Susan offered to have “hanky panky” with me for free.

In case it wasn’t clear:  Susan offered to have sex with me for free.  

(I had to say “hanky panky” or every spam filter would have blocked this email.)

That may not seem significant, but Susan made her money through prostitution.

The conversation went something like this:

Susan:  Hey, if you ever want to have sex, let me know.

Ryan:  Ummm… Thanks, but I’ll pass.   (Said with an uncomfortable chuckle.)

Susan:  I won’t even charge you.

Ryan:  Yeah, but… ummm… It is “seriously frowned upon” for staff to sleep with a resident.

Susan:  If you change your mind or you get into a fight with your wife or anything, you know where to find me.

Ryan:  Again, thank you, but no.

Susan:  Yeah, I would totally **** you for free.

This conversation happened a decade ago.  I didn’t realize it was sexual harassment until last week. 

(BTW, if you didn’t see sexual harassment in this story, read it again, but flip the genders).

Looking back, I didn’t handle the situation the way I wanted to:

  • I should have cut it off sooner.
  • I should have been clearer about the professional nature of our relationship.
  • I shouldn’t have tried to joke my way through it.

My problem was this little thing called “affective forecasting error.”

Affective Forecasting Error

People are not very good at predicting how they will feel—or how they will react—to events in the future.

In other words, people rarely respond to sexual harassment the way they think they will respond (or the way they want to respond).

This is one of the things that makes responding to sexual harassment so difficult.

What does this mean for you?

There are three things you should do with this information:

First, don’t feel bad if you haven’t handled sexual harassment the way you wish you had.  Very few people do.

Second, don’t judge someone else who doesn’t handle it the way you think they should.  You probably wouldn’t have handled it the way you think you would.

Third, you should consider preparing for sexual harassment:

  • Develop scripts for what you want to say (and how you want to say it).
  • Do some practice role-playing with a colleague.

Good luck!



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