Dear Captain, et al, and Awkardeers,
I have searched the archives and not seen anything like my current conundrum.
Cliffnotes: Former partner at the law firm where I am an associate, Jim, left the firm last year. We worked together for approximately a year, during which time he took lengthy FMLA absences. I haven’t spoken to him in the year since he left unless he dropped by the firm to see the senior partner about something. I had heard a rumor Jim was into BDSM, but gave it very little thought. (Whatever floats your boat, no skin off my nose).
Cut to last Friday. He Facebook messaged me asking if he could ask me a question. I thought it would be firm-related, so I said sure. He said nevermind. Two days later, a mutual friend (Sharon) asked if I’d be interested in entering a D/s relationship with Jim. She made the request at his behest, she said. Sharon described it as, “You let someone pamper you and you belittle them.”
I’m not into BDSM, but in my opinion that’s not the issue. This is such a breach of boundaries and professionalism that the more I think about it the angrier I get. We are not friends, we don’t interact socially, and he leaped over several levels of personal intimacy even making the request. Even though Sharon said “Nothing sexual,” to me that’s still a request for intense intimacy.
So, to the question. Do I say something to him? I interact with him professionally now and then. Do I tell him this was inappropriate, rude, and objectifying, or do I write it off and hope it never comes up again? (I told Sharon to tell him “No.”)
– I’m Not Yer “Queen”, Pal
Dear Not Yer Queen,
It’s true, we haven’t had anything like this before on the site.
I think what Jim did was creepy for
three four reasons:
- You are not friends, as you said, and you have ZERO personal, outside-of-work relationship or rapport.
- He didn’t even ask you himself. He did it 6th grade playground-style, through a mutual friend, so now you CAN’T keep it just between you because he involved another person in the request. This also conveeeeeniently comes in a way that is difficult for you to document. Dislike.
- It’s not wrong to be kinky or to be attracted to people. And yet, there are ways to meet other kinky people and see if they’d be interested in a relationship. There are ways to ask out an old work colleague you might be attracted to and then bring up the possibility of kink when you know there is mutual attraction. He did neither. The reason you feel skeeved out is that he basically said “You are currently starring in some very specific fantasies of mine. Want to join in the fun?” except he didn’t even say it, he sent Sharon. As you pointed out, he skipped a bunch of levels on the intimacy scale.
- As a partner where you were an associate, he used to sort of be your boss. Hunt elsewhere, sir!
You could totally ignore it and unfriend him.
Or you could say something to Jim directly (and then unfriend him). Respond to the Facebook message, “Did you have a work question for me, or just the totally inappropriate question Sharon passed on?”
He’ll say something. Or not. He might deny ever asking Sharon to ask you. Say some version of “I’d like to keep our discussions only to professional topics in the future.” Tell the same to Sharon. I’m sort of boggled as to why she would pass his request on and not say “Tell her yourself, SHARON OUT” when it came up.
Then unfriend him on Facebook, because you don’t have to be friends with everyone. If he leaves the topic (and you) alone, don’t bring it up with other people or bring it up with him when you run into him professionally. If he persists, tell whoever in your firm or your profession that you’d tell about any other situation with a colleague being inappropriately sexual.