A fun dinner with good friends should not have to be ruined by sexual harassment, and yet it happens to some of us. Recently, a colleague and friend of mine shared that she had gone out for dinner and drinks with friends she’s known for years. At one point in the evening, her friend’s husband felt entitled to the privilege of putting his hand on her knee. He also told her she was beautiful in a volume that was just low enough for his wife to miss. At the end of the night, as everyone was saying goodbye, my friend couldn’t avoid hugging this slimy guy. He took it as his opportunity to whisper into her ear one more time, still out of earshot from his wife.
I wish this was something we could laugh at when it happens, but it’s not always funny because of the many sordid implications. Not only is it disappointingly telling of some serious marital issues, but also of the aggressor’s distorted sense of reality. Even worse is the extremely uncomfortable position in which it puts my friend, or any of us to whom it happens. If she tells her friend about the husband’s behavior, the reaction could be a negative one. This woman may be in denial as a result of already knowing that her husband acts this way with other women. Or, she is hiding her anger and it may backfire on the messenger as soon as the matter is brought into the open. Who knows.
I suppose the usual advice for this sort of thing is that unless there was a physical violation, you shake it off and let it go. You walk away from the problem and you just don’t get involved because no one wants to share in married folks’ drama.
Then, the only problem you are left with is addressing and acknowledging your anger and disappointment because someone you cared about decided to blatantly sexually harass you in a setting where it was obvious you could do nothing about it. This person’s behavior leaves you with a slimy, everlasting discomfort even though you did nothing to encourage it..
So, what do you do?
My experience has been that, though it might make me angry, in the end it isn’t my problem that someone’s husband behaves inappropriately. I have wanted to tell on married men who have made passes at me, but what would be the outcome? It’s not in my hands whether the wife will stay or leave, and there’s a greater chance that she will stay because they will work things out because that’s what most married people do.
So long as no physical harm comes my way, I mind my own business. But when the flirting is sleazy and gross, it’s not immediately forgotten.
How do you handle a situation such as this one? Whether you’re male or female and the married aggressor is a man or a woman, if someone you respected blatantly flirted with you, what was your response?
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