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#749: “Just join FetLife and be done with it.”

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:

  1. You are not friends, as you said, and you have ZERO personal, outside-of-work relationship or rapport.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. As a partner where you were an associate, he used to sort of be your boss. Hunt elsewhere, sir!

Hit the Nope button and eject.

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.

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116 comments
  1. katchups said:

    Gha! Isn’t the whole point of D/s about boundaries? This tells me that he wouldn’t even be very good at it, anyway. :/
    If it were me, I would not even engage him at all, since he may be hoping for just such an “in”. Just proceed to “unfriend” and treat him like a stranger. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Good luck, LW.

    • golden peanut said:

      “Isn’t the whole point of D/s about boundaries?”

      D/s and BDSM are not patriarchy-free zones, and boundary violations and Missing Stairs are common.

      • HeyNonnyNonnyMous said:

        Sadly true. Additionally, there’s an awful lot of people running around, both in and out of the formal scene, who use their kink as an excuse to behave like shitheads.

  2. dr_silverware said:

    Be aware also that you contacting him might play into his fantasies about you. Which is to say: he might react in an odd way, extend the conversation to get you to say mean stuff about him–something. Do you might get a vibe, and it’s hopefully useful to know that going in so you have another reason to be civil, brief, and not obligated in any way to talk to him.

    He’s engaging you, a non consenting person, in his sex thing. If Sharon is domming and humiliating him through you, she is also engaging you (a non consenting person) in her sex thing. None of this is ok.

    • onamission5 said:

      Yeah, I really do wonder if Jim isn’t trying to set things up so that anything LW does except totally ignore him will feed into his fantasy/attempted power play, and how the flying fuck Sharon fits into this. I got so many nopes I can lend some to LW if they happen to run out any time soon, although LW seems to have quite a supply of their own.

      • I feel that this scenario is a perpetual nope machine, I have no shortage of nopes myself. In fact I think I need to take a shower in some Lysol after reading that.

        • Big Pink Box said:

          #thesafewordisNOOOOOOOOOOPE

          • jaynn said:

            This gave me an iMage of Lana blowing past Archer.

          • Big Pink Box said:

            Lana is the High Priestess of NOOOOOOOPE. Can you imagine what she /I> would’ve done to Jim?

      • Lily said:

        Yep. As a female read top, I’m seriously pissed of the guys who play the “she said no, she is *sooo meeeaaaan* to me” play. No chance to win against them when even telling them to never talk to you again gets part of their sexual fantasy. ugh.

        • dr_silverware said:

          Which makes me lean in favor of as little contact as possible with Jim and Sharon. I think since LW knows them in a professional context it’s a bit easier to deal with, because there’s already professional language in place. Like, to Sharon, “I’m not interested. This offer is skipping over many, many levels of intimacy, is unprofessional, and feels like a sexual interaction that I am not consenting to. I’m blocking you going forward.”

          And then maybe to Jim, the same thing but with “To let you know, Sharon asked me this question. I’m not interested. This offer…” etc. And then blocking them. If you can’t avoid playing a part in the fantasy, might as well be as professional and neutral as possible, so you can say what needs to be said while giving them as few sexy footholds as possible… :p

          I mean…hopefully Sharon isn’t doing this on purpose and isn’t in a relationship with Jim that pulls other people in like this, but tbh I think it’s worth a big talk anyway.

        • onamission5 said:

          I am catching an “I will proposition/upset you in a way that might make you confront me angrily/uncomfortably and that will get me off” vibe from Jim, and possibly also from Sharon.

          NOPE it from orbit.

          • thegirlfrommarz said:

            NOPE it from orbit.

            It’s the only way to be sure.

          • Anodyne said:

            I can kinda-sorta see some non-skeevy….well, less-skeevy reasons for Sharon to be doing this, and they all involve “Sharon doesn’t know how to say ‘no’, whether at all or just to Jim” or “Jim wore down Sharon’s boundaries down in (hopefully only) this instance” (…actually that one is MORE skeevy, not less). Jim, however, is still the reigning monarch of Skeevetopia, located on the top of Skeeve Mountain, across the Swamp of Ookiness, and past the Valley of What Even The Hell.

            But Sharon’s benefit of the doubt extends only so far, and any amount of pushback on the “no, not interested and this was deeply inappropriate and incredibly unprofessional, do not do it ever again” line would obliterate it entirely for me. It’d be an indicator that even if Sharon’s not in a relationship with Jim? She either does not or will not get that this is Not Okay on any conceivable level.

          • Leonine said:

            If that’s the case, I wonder if bland, slightly bored polite neutrality would work, “Oh, that’s flattering, but I’m not really into that scene.” “Really, thank you for thinking of me, but that’s not what I’m looking for right now.” “I enjoyed working with Jim, but I don’t see myself having that kind of relationship with him.” “No, I know what BDSM is, but it’s just not my thing. Better luck next time.” If he (they?–MASSIVE side-eye to Sharon in this) are hoping to fluster or consternate the LW, these responses seem like they’d be a bit deflating–and they would also work on the very slight chance the invitation was made in good faith.

    • thebearpelt said:

      I agree, this is super creepy and gross. (Although it’s possible that Jim lied to Sharon about LW being cool with it, so Sharon might be under the wrong impression. Still not a great idea to get involved this way, but could be a bad mistake.)

    • Elf Krystal said:

      Creepy Jim……. What Was He Thinking?

      ……NOPE…… He wasn’t thinking……. He was just being Creepy, and enlisting others to help him be Creepy is even worse.

      Don’t be entangled in his web but be aware he thinks he has some power somewhere. Stay cool, calm, and carry on your normal life.

  3. I’m hearing a little bee this time, a very little one. The message it’s butt-waggling (though very few other bees are listening, because it’s not as likely as the straight explanation the Captain gives) is that maybe it’s possible that Sharon is setting Jim up, maybe with work, or with his friends or family.

    This is a very tiny bee. But I’d still be more inclined to not reach out to Jim at all. I’d consider the conversation closed after the “no” reply has been sent. And of course I’d keep it on hand and watch out for further communications from Jim (or his proxy) that don’t stick to work topics.

    I’d also check with the firm’s HR department and/or dig its workplace harassment policy (please-please-please don’t say there isn’t one in place).

    • Manders said:

      I’m betting that Jim probably did ask Sharon to ask LW, but it might be worth it to send a message directly to Jim along the lines of, “Hey Jim, Sharon sent me a message she said was from you, asking me to do something with you that’s a wildly inappropriate thing to ask of a former colleague. Are you aware that she’s doing this? I think you need to tell her to knock it off.”

      Which would convey the message that 1) The come-on was inappropriate in the first place, and 2) It’s doubly inappropriate to get Sharon involved. And if Jim doesn’t know that Sharon is propositioning people on his behalf, now he can do something about that.

      • That is a great idea, because if it is a fetish thing for you to tell him off, this totally circumvents that. Then when/if he gets back with some creepy explanation, you can just block block block.

        • I would certainly consider letting Sharon know that this wasn’t a good choice, and to please never do any such thing again.

          I mean, I am a LITTLE bit torn, here. Only a little.

          A very shy and lovely man of my acquaintance once asked a mutal friend to let me know that he would like – I am quoting here – to court me. And, see, I was completely okay with this, it struck me as him thoughtfully giving me space to accept or decline without being put on the spot. I said I would prefer not, but please let him know that I was flattered to have been asked, and considered him an admirable person, and from that day to this there has never been any awkwardness when we’ve met up. He’s a good friend, in a different-city kind of way.

          So I’m having to try to tease out, here, why this seems so different.

          It’s not the kink, and yet, it is. Or, rather, it’s that it’s a very specific sexual proposition: would you please drop everything and meet my very specific needs, rather than: I would like to know you better and consider a romantic relationship, by the way I’m kind of kinky, are you kinky too by any chance?

          And that’s really not okay.

          • I will say that him using an intermediary doesn’t bother me, and even strikes me as a plus: LW never ever has to acknowledge that this happened if they DO have further dealings with Jim. Question asked, answer given, next topic.

          • gmg said:

            I think it’s the skipping of the polite order of things (Captain’s answer hints at this) that provides the extra WTF here. There are people who meet with the express purpose of seeking out a fellow kinky person. But seems to me they tend to meet in specific forums/venues so both sides know up front: This is my jam, and yes it is OK to discuss.

            If Sharon said to LW, “Hey, you know, Jim thinks you’re kinda cute, would you ever be interested if he asked you out?” (similar to what your mutual friend did on behalf of your shy and lovely acquaintance) it would be perhaps slightly awkward, but not several boundaries being crossed simultaneously.

          • loonybrain said:

            So I’m having to try to tease out, here, why this seems so different.

            Well, was YOUR shy and lovely dude a former coworker who you still have professional interactions with? And also asking for a very specific, unusual thing, that is generally not okay to spring on someone who hasn’t brought it up?

            Like, it’s one thing to say, “Wanna date/bang?” (Though I’d still consider that inappropriate with a coworker.) It’s another to say, “Hey, wanna do this very specific thing I’m into, even though you’ve never brought it up or shown any comfort in it at all?”

            It’s not hard at all. Your guy was nice. This one is not.

          • Nebula Ersatz said:

            Not only a coworker, but a higher-ranking coworker (partner to LW’s associate)! This is meant as a reply to loonybrain, but nesting.

          • Manders said:

            I agree with gmg. Sharon casually letting LW know that Jim is interested is one thing; Jim asking Sharon to get into an explicit discussion with LW about Jim’s fantasies is another. Jim’s fantasies and LW’s potential interest in them are not Sharon’s business, but Jim has invited her into this conversation.

          • loonybrain said:

            RE: Nebula

            Ah yeah, I forgot to add that bit. MEGA creepy from a superior. WTF dude. WTF Sharon. (Seriously, what kind of friend is like, “Sure, I’ll go ask an immensely personal question involving initiating intimacy with your coworker, that sounds dandy!”)

          • Re: loonybrain:

            “MEGA creepy from a superior. WTF dude.”

            Ask a lawyer, and they will tell you that stereotypes about lawyers are often firmly rooted in commonly-held traits of real lawyers. IIRC, The Rodent (an anonymous lawyer who wrote humorous reports of what it’s like to work in a law firm, dunno whether he — or she — is still going) mentions both BDSM-style kink and an expectation of sexual compliance by subordinates as being fairly common partner-level lawyer traits.

          • loonybrain said:

            RE: the Vicar

            I’m actually having to talk with a bunch of lawyers right now (Social Security… *sigh*) and I seem to have gotten lucky; the ones I’ve met seem nice enough, if kinda helpless to help me. I don’t think I would want to spend much time in that field though, for sure.

          • @Marna: That’s the difference between cute-shy and creepy. Sometimes hard to explain, but you are usually able to tell.

            Concerning lawyers, I have met one very, very creepy lawyer, and now suspect there are lots of those because … well. They know LOTS of other lawyers, and maybe judges, and it is not easy to win against them in court. So they use that as a license to creep.

        • Jenny Islander said:

          YES. Evade his attempt to wind his virtual tentacles around you!

          Also, wow, that is the most touch-threat-and-presence-free-yet creepy interaction I may have EVER beheld. Sliiiiiime.

      • Kathy said:

        I have to agree with this, I think it’s possible Sharon is the problem, and Manders suggested reply is great. I would then go firmly to ignore. Yuck, so sorry you have to deal with this!

        • Nashira said:

          Mmhmm. The polite, friendly fyi followed by blessed merciless silence is an excellent way to push back against wannabe boundary crossers of this type. There’s nothing for them to find traction on. It’s like a nopetopus made of glass.

          • thelittlepakeha said:

            It also seems to send a subtle message of “I’m sure you didn’t actually ask her to do this, that would be ridiculous. No one reasonable would actually do something that out of line, and I’m sure you’re a reasonable person, right?” But without actually saying it. Just implying it. Subtly.

      • RodeoBob said:

        I like this response a lot! I’d also suggest a response to Sharon, along the lines of

        “Sharon, I don’t feel that subjects like this are appropriate conversation based on our friendship. I’m not sure I’d be comfortable discussing things like this in general with you, and I certainly think it’s inappropriate to discuss specific issues involving a third-party. Let’s stick to conversations about (TV/Movies/Work-related issue) in the future, OK?”

        If Sharon doubles-down, either by trying to describe the relationship more or asking for a response to pass on to Jim, escalate accordingly:

        “Sharon, I’ve already said I’m not comfortable with this topic. Please do not bring it up again, or we will have to stop being friends.”

        Then, if she doesn’t let it go, enforce the boundary by blocking her.

        • MsM said:

          I’d be even more direct than that: “Sharon, I feel the need to expand on my previous response. I do not know why you thought it was appropriate to pass along this proposition, or to discuss how I might feel about this subject with a third party, let alone offering to act as a go-between. But I am not comfortable with either of those things, and I need this to not happen again. Are we clear?” None of this “I’m not sure” stuff. LW is sure, and her feelings are “Hell no.”

          • VioletEMT said:

            Not sure where I am in the nesting here, but I agree with Manders and others suggested scripts for terse, professional replies to both parties.

            I also think it is useful to reply rather than ignore, and to document in the form of screenshots or other means those replies, in case the situation escalates and you ever need documentation that you were solicited and explicitly expressed a desire not to discuss the subject.

            I am in no way putting the responsibility of handling harassing communications on the person being harassed. However, if you ever have to deal with human resources or other related groups regarding a harassment complaint, the very first thing they will ask is whether you explicitly told the harasser to cease the undesired (harassing) behavior.

            Better to be paranoid and anticipate a scenario that will hopefully never exist than to need a paper trail later and not have one.

      • xyz said:

        Yes, this is perfect. Do this, LW.

      • I think this is the best option, because it tells him No without giving him anything he might be able to work into his little fantasies about the LW. (And if Jim is somehow innocent here, it lets him know that something hella inappropriate is going on and that he needs to get on that.) The tone to aim for is mildly alarmed *on Jim’s behalf*. “Someone is doing this bad thing and attaching your name to it, just fyi” doesn’t give him any purchase to feel like the LW is participating in his kink, if he has a kink.

        • oregonbird said:

          So we’re protecting the Creep from having his privileged sick schtick disturbed by so much as private acknowledgement, let alone public revelation. Leave that elephant alone! And laying it all at Sharon’s door. Excellent. Extremely appropriate to our culture. After all, there are only single mothers, not single fathers. Or, perhaps, the LW might try not being nice like girls should be? I really prefer something more direct and devious.

          “Dude, did you hear that recording inappropriate sexual invitations and matching them up to the timeline revealed by business communications is a thing today?”

      • Manattee said:

        Hmm. I feel wary about laying this all at Sharon’s door. Sure, she shouldn’t have passed on the message, but we also don’t know all the ins and outs of her situation – is she another colleague (also female, possibly also subordinate to Jim) socialised or feeling pressured to accommodate Jim’s requests? I think the LW would be right to reprimand Sharon herself, but turning this into a situation where Jim has an easy get out and the option to rake his female messenger over the coals to save his ass doesn’t sound great.

  4. Eureka said:

    UGH! This is the sort of thing that gives me belly cramps.

    LW, your evaluation of D/s as intimacy is spot on. A non-sexual D/s relationship can be MORE intimate than some sexual relationships. And you are correct that this request was made in an entirely inappropriate way.

    I would follow the good Captain’s advice, but I’ll say it’s up to you whether or not to engage with him at all. It would not be overreacting to quietly Unfriend and block.

    You say Sharon is a mutual friend, but I’d also think seriously about how much contact you want to have with her. At the very least she’s breathtakingly tactless about this subject; at worst she has a pocket full of bees. Then again, you know her, I don’t, so as always ymmv.

  5. Dear LW,

    I kind of hate Jim right now. He’s made it impossible to be a friendly acquaintance.

    Mind you, he’s also exposed his full skeevy self in all his skeeviness. So I guess that’s good.

    Meanwhile, I’d go with dropping both Jim and Sharon. It all sounds inappropriate and messy.

    • I hate him too. Ewwwwww, just ewwwwwwwwwwwwwww. There is no way for this to not be hideously awkward forever now.

  6. alexandriaweb said:

    Oh nopenopenope, please don’t send him to Fetlife, we have enough creepy dudes like that without adding more.

    • anon said:

      Seconded! Lots of little-s wannabe guys with very odd ideas about what constitutes a female-dominant power dynamic (hint to these guys: it is not “I have a laundry list of ‘submissive’ things that I will do around you; you will automatically enjoy and benefit from them all while reacting in the following very specific ways”).

      • Eureka said:

        This is also true.

      • Nashira said:

        Ugh yes. Until I noped out of Fetlife (the heteronormativity was hurting me), I saw an unfortunately high number of do-me guys. I wasn’t even looking! They’re just unavoidable.

        • Kourohsgirl said:

          I noped out after getting wholly sick of the poorly spelled propositions from random dudes who clearly didn’t read my profile that states I’m not into men. Or looking for a date/casual fuck/master/what have you.

      • H.Regalis said:

        Creepy Fetlife Sub Guy Checklist:

        1. Nothing but dick pics.
        2. “I’ll do anything you want, mistress,” + an incredibly specific list of things he’s into.
        3. Ridiculous partner requirements: waist must be 24-26 inches, hair has to be ash or golden blonde, etc.
        4. What do you, the dom, get out of this arrangement? The satisfaction of giving this guy exactly what he wants, and absolutely nothing else.

        • Doesn’t sound very submissive, that. I’m not into BDSM, but I always thought submissiveness was about catering to the dom’s wishes, in a way that also benefits the sub, of course, but … yeah.

          Men don’t leave their patriarchal privilege at the door when entering a BDSM environment, apparently.

        • thathat said:

          Huh. Well, that’s disappointing. Here I was working up the nerve…

          • There’s plenty good there too. I’ve met lots of awesome people. I’ve also deleted lots of lame messages but actually my no thank you messages go over WAY better there than they do on OKC.

          • Nashira said:

            Some of it depends on where you “hang out” on Fet, if you participate with your local scene, and what that scene is like. My local scene is full of 40-50 year old men dating 19 year old women, who get so pissy if you dare point out that that repeats some creepy patriarchy stuff. I’m supposed to believe It’s Different when they’re kinky/they exist in a vacuum, even if the guy’s a dom and the woman’s a sub and the dynamic is every guy with a trophy girlfriend ever. Not to mention women only playing together because their male partners find it hot.

            But in other areas, you can find people who are pretty progressive and who try to avoid repeating toxic patterns.

          • Dizzy said:

            My scene is pretty great! Lots of fun people, horrible people tend to be unwelcome, most dudes are pretty aware of the patriarchy and its effects on women. Negotiations tend to be “Hey, I like x, do you? Wanna do it together?” and not “Here’s a list of extremely specific things I demand you do to me–what do you mean that’s not good enough for you? You get to domme me, isn’t that what dommes want???”

            (I’ve heard people bitch about that as “I’m not a life support system for a whip.”)

            Unfortunately, no group anywhere will ever be able to filter out 100% of the creeps, the jerks, the predators. A good scene will filter out most of them and maintain an environment that makes bad people unwelcome. It’s hard to creep on very young women when more experienced people are looking out for them, or in an environment where “No” is ALWAYS respected.

            The first scene I got into was small and too tolerant. I left there with a lot of bad blood because why did the guy hosting the munch get inappropriately attached to me and whine that I wasn’t interested? Why did we seem to have a lot of Missing Stairs? Why is the scene leader dating only very young women? Conversely, now that I’m in the suburbs of a big city, I have lots of groups I enjoy going to.

            My advice for people looking into the scene: go to a munch first and meet people. If an environment feels unsafe, you don’t have to stay, even if it’s the only group near you. Watch how group leaders treat newbies–do they make a point to look out for you, or do they creep you out?

    • jenfullmoon said:

      I’m sure he’s already there.

  7. Better just to get revenge if you have to still interact with him professionally. If you do not have to interact with him, he is now dead to you. 🙂

    A broker I worked with years ago kissed me. I was not soliciting a kiss. I do not solicit married men and I sure didn’t do it when I was 23. I told my boss and he shrugged and said I must have done something to invite it. I was not happy with my boss, either.

    Rather than confront the broker, I bid directly on his biggest account without going through him. My company won the bid and the broker lost the account and his commissions.

    • Myrtle said:

      And now you are my hero. Winning in Business: the ultimate revenge.

    • thelittlepakeha said:

      NICE. Especially since it’s completely within the bounds of your job so there’s *complete* plausible deniability. You might have done it to get revenge at him, or maybe you just really wanted that account. Who can say?

    • thathat said:

      That is beautiful and clever and makes my little calculated-trickster-loving self so very happy for you. Well freaking done.

      (And boo on your boss.)

  8. E. said:

    Save screencaps of everything and block/ban/bounce them both everywhere (including LinkedIn). No further communication at all. There is no upside to having contact with them.

    Good luck.

    • JenniferP said:

      Good policy and a good way to NOPE RIGHT OUT

    • Mary said:

      I agree with this. However, also compose detailed WHAT THE FUCK emails to both Sharon and Jim, in which you detail precisely how utterly inappropriate and not OK this is. Don’t send them: just write them to get it all out of your system. Then enjoy the moral high ground of absolutely no contact and a very cool professional smile if you meet him at a conference or something.

    • gmg said:

      The LW’s description isn’t totally clear on where she and Sharon interacted about this, but it struck me as a possibility that Sharon is a (current) coworker. That would make cutting her off a lot more complicated than doing so with Jim. I do think Sharon needs to be told, politely but firmly, that this request crossed a whole buncha lines and please don’t approach LW with anything like that again.

      • portiabravo said:

        LW here. I interact with Sharon a lot, actually, although we are not coworkers. She is staff in another office. (And also involved heavily in a volunteer group of which I am a member).
        I was definitely not firm enough with Sharon about her role in this. Ugh. Probably would be a good idea for me to tell her this.

        She agreed with me that this was weird and odd and not something that was appropriate. Don’t ask me why, having agreed with me on that, she agreed to pass on his request.

        • LabLizard said:

          Sounds like she passed it on to get the awkward off her lap and onto yours because she felt it was yoir ick to deal with. Understandable, but still annoying. I would request that she never do that again (assuming it ever comes up…which it hopefully will not) and tell her if it does you are not going to reply.

          • neverjaunty said:

            That’s probably the most likely thing – Sharon didn’t feel comfortable telling Jim “ew, no way”, and so threw the awkward potato into your lap so she could wash her hands of it. (That, or, as others have suggested, she’s completely inventing this for reasons ranging from personal fantasies to a feud with Jim, and Jim actually never said this to her.)

            Regardless, the best course of action might be to simply pretend it never happened, as if Sharon had some kind of unfortunate outburst. Chances are she will never bring it up again. If she does, then you can act shocked and say you thought she must have been kidding, and please to never say anything so rude and inappropriate to you like that again.

            And unless you are 100% positive Jim would never do such a thing, I would block all contact from him as well. “Professional reasons” is pretty universally understood to be a polite version of “this guy is a grade-A shitsack and I do not care to interact with him”.

        • Alexia said:

          Sharon sounds like an ex-friend of mine. Said ex-friend believed that because she and I disagreed on a few minor things, it meant that she had the right to act as if I’d agreed to all sorts of outrageous propositions. Then she’d tell entirely random people that I had agreed to do X-and-Y. She would also decide that it was her personal right to “share” anything I told her to complete strangers.

          I would not trust Sharon with confidential information from this point forward. There’s something wrong about someone who believes it’s OK to foist these sort of inappropriate proposals onto others just because *they* feel weird about the event. By dumping this on you, it sounds like she’s washed her hands of her own actions and pretended that it was all your fault in the first place for eliciting these types of feelings out of Jim.

          • Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK said:

            I had a “friend” like that, too. Some guy I vaguely knew knocked at my door once; I opened it and was kind of surprised to see him, as we weren’t close “visiting” friends or anything. Turns out, after some really weird conversation, my “friend” had promised this poor clod that I would hve sex with him if he did such and such favor for her. What the…I just…still am dumbfounded about that. (He left sadly and unsexed for the favor he’d done her.)

          • winter said:

            @ Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK He certainly deserved because WHY WOULD YOU BELIEVE THAT??

        • Sounds to me like she asked because she fancied it (Im thinking the proposed activity involved her in some way, even if just shagging Jim while he describes it?) and when you responded in the negative, she backed off and tried to make the request not to be related to her in any way.

  9. Answer: sue the shit out of him, enjoy ownership of your new law firm.

    • ToxicNudibranch said:

      I realize your answer was probably a bit tongue in cheek, but on the off chance it isn’t…

      Sue him for what? Being a presumptuous creep with a shockingly-poor sense of what constitutes acceptable interaction with *former*
      colleagues?

      • Commander Banana said:

        As someone who works with a lot of lawyers, a lot of them could be accurately described the way you just described Jim….and discrimination lawsuits are notoriously difficult to bring/fight/win, a HUGE energy, time, and money suck, and just all around incredibly hard to prosecute even with a ton of solid evidence.

        Sadly.

        • Awkially Socward said:

          Indeed, one only need to look at the recent linkedin furore regarding a legal professional over here in the UK, to see just what happens to women that make any sort of complaint.

  10. Karen said:

    Letter Writer, there’s something really weird here about Jim making such an inappropriate request through a third party.

    I’m hearing bees here, because Jim is a grown adult who is capable of seeking out partners in BDSM through the appropriate channels (fetlife, meet-ups, etc). The fact that he made this request of you through a third party (essentially, an audience) makes me wonder if he isn’t secretly getting off on the idea of humiliating you. Which…bees. So many bees.

    Suffice it to say, I would block them both everywhere, without a further word. Jim’s request, and Sharon’s conveyance of it, are not things that people with appropriate boundaries do.

    • twomoogles said:

      Or the opposite–he’s enjoying the idea of the LW humiliating *him* in front of Sharon. Not that that makes it any better, whether or not Sharon is complicit.

  11. Guava said:

    LW, that is totally awful! I agree with everything the Captain says.

    I have a question that kind of piggybacks onto the LW’s dilemma here. Is there any possibility that LW may be forced into proximity to Jim in a future work setting, and if so, how should they act? Any good responses to give if they’re asked to attend a professional networking dinner where Jim’s in attendance, or work with a client who has just hired Jim? How about if a mutual work acquaintance asks, “Hey have you talked to Jim lately?” What’s the best response?

    Not a BDSM issue, but a former supervisor of mine behaved in a horrifically unprofessional and inappropriate way toward me a while back, and I burned that bridge *with fire*… but she’s still floating around in the periphery of my work world, and I’m not sure how to handle possibly running into her. So far, I’ve blocked her on LinkedIn and have been answering polite inquiries by mutual acquaintances with a curt, “We aren’t in touch,” but I narrowly avoided doing work for a client who had just hired her.

    • Charlene said:

      Lawyers have a magic phrase that can stop them from accepting almost any case: “conflict of interest”. If Former Partner left the partnership under a cloud (and not simply retired), Letter Writer’s bosses might not permit LW to work on the same side as Former Partner even if FP had been scrupulously correct with LW. The legal ramifications of ignoring COI can be severe.

      • portiabravo said:

        LW here. If I don’t have a formal COI but don’t want to take a case I just say “professional reasons”. It’s impossible to argue with a very vague answer ^_^

        • robotneedslove said:

          Nice one. I use “business conflict” sometimes too.

          Also, LW, I have nothing really to add except, as a fellow female law associate, EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

          Seriously, barf right on everything.

    • Guava said:

      Ah, got it. Good to have a term like that, and I’m glad it can help you avoid any further awkward encounters with Jim at work!

  12. thebewilderness said:

    It is horrible common for men to do this sort of thing. Get their wives or female friends to ask on their behalf. Blech.
    I agree that unfriending them both and going no contact is the only no that will be unequivocal from their perspective.

  13. Ugh. Kinksters, who already KNOW the other is kinky, ask each other out for coffee all the time. They don’t fucking assume that because they’re interested in someone, they have the right to ask for a relationship entirely on their terms.

    I just wanted to emphasise that I am kinky and I find this all awful, boundary-violating, inappropriate in any kind of professional context, and plain old yuck. Yuck yuck yuck. Feel free to mock+block+delete, or block+delete if that’s more your speed. :/

    • (e.g. I am having coffee with a kinkster I met on the scene years ago and haven’t seen in years. We had good chemistry, played a bit, but he had a partner and I wasn’t down. I think he’s single now? And I’m still treating this coffee like a ‘catching up with an acquaintance I haven’t seen in ages’ coffee [although I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a BIT excited and wasn’t planning on looking super cute that day]) But you can definitely see, can’t you, how there’s no context in which this kind of presumptuous aligns with either kink, or relationships, or friendships, or professional acquaintance-ship, or mutual respect?)

      • portiabravo said:

        Yeah, not being in the kink scene myself, I still suspected this would be the reaction of a decent hypothetical kinkster. Thank you for confirming. So much gross.

        And it piles on all the shit I’ve gone through as a woman in a male-dominated profession, all the sexy jokes, the “innocent flirting”, the innuendos, the “aren’t you cute!” (I AM NOT MAKING THAT UP), and on and on and on and now this Fuckstick thinks he can just impose his fantasies on me.

        RAAAAGE.

        Ahem.

        Thank you for your empathy and have fun at coffee:)

        • thelittlepakeha said:

          “She thinks she’s professional! How adorable!” *vomit*

    • mstabbity said:

      They don’t fucking assume that because they’re interested in someone, they have the right to ask for a relationship entirely on their terms.

      Thiiiiiiis! I’m not a fucking drive through, you don’t get to show up and order a humiliation session with a side of foot worship, hold the spanking and expect me to give a shit. If you want to play with me you talk to me like I’m a human fucking being first, then we get into the kinky stuff when we’ve established that we like each other (not necessarily romantically, just, why on earth would you spend time with someone you don’t like?) This is something of a sore spot for me, having dealt with so many terrible “submissive” guys.

      Also, decent kinky people (as a community we have a shitty track record but some of us don’t suck), damn well pay attention to things like professional boundaries. If you do end up having to talk to him about it, don’t let him try to blame his bad behaviour on being kinky. His kink is beside the point and he would be just a gross if he weren’t kinky at all.

      Dude is being super gross on a number of levels. I recommend not talking to him at all or only saying that you got an inappropriate message from Sharon that she said was from him and that he might want to talk to her about that. Telling him exactly how much he sucks, as much as he deserves it, would probably get him off and he in no way deserves a free humiliation scene.

      • doodleoo said:

        Yes! This! You do someone the courtesy of approaching them to see if they are interested *in you as a person*. You don’t just break out with “Hey, so even though we haven’t interacted much on a personal level, I’ve secretly been giving very detailed thought to the part you would play in my fantasy. Here’s how I’ve decided it will go. Do you accept this role? Y/N please delete as appropriate.” However you make the approach, it is at least meant to be a mutual process of discovery. Are we both interested? Are we still interested after spending a little time together? Great! Now we can get a bit more specific about where we’d EACH like this to go.

  14. Myrtle said:

    The only person who has actually said something inappropriate is Sharon. It’s been implied that former lawyer was involved. Was he? The whole thing may be role-playing between them.

    I award Unreliable Narrator to Sharon and Greystones for both of them. Let the delightful silence of the Unfriend and the Block to both, be your companion.

  15. yesthatjill said:

    Does Sharon work with you too? Because if so, do not pass GO, do not collect $200, go directly to HR.

    • Guava said:

      Yes. THIS.

  16. Light37 said:

    Ew. Ewewewewewew.

    Whether this is Sharon setting Jim up, or Jim being a raging creeper, the whole thing is gross and you should block and delete. If you have to interact with him professionally, then be what Miss Manners so aptly called professional plus an ice cube. Same with Sharon.

    Did I say ew? Because ew.

  17. Taiga said:

    I have NO words for how inappropriate this is. For Sharon as well as Jim. This story should be under “inappropriate” in the dictionary.

  18. Blow Pop said:

    Dear LW,

    As someone involved in the kink scene I am utterly disgusted that this happened to you. It feels consent violating ish to me. And is sending up a LOT of red flags in my head.

    And I would nope the fuck out of that as quickly as possible. I agree with Manders above who said “Hey Jim, Sharon sent me a message she said was from you, asking me to do something with you that’s a wildly inappropriate thing to ask of a former colleague. Are you aware that she’s doing this? I think you need to tell her to knock it off.”

    Definitely do that. Definitely screenshot her message and your response. Definitely screenshot that reply to him and any reply he sends to you. Definitely block him everywhere you can internet wise. Definitely go to HR about it so that if you have to deal with him in the future it’s already documented that this has happened.

    There’s so many levels of “ew”, inappropriate, creepy, and wrong this is I couldn’t even begin to do so.

    Also, Light37 has a point with the Miss Manners thing. Professional plus an ice cube.

    I sincerely hope that this never happens to you again. Now if you’ll pardon me I need to go rinse my brain out with soap to try and forget someone actually did that.

    And tangentially, IF you were into BDSM/kink, I’d hope someone wanting to enter a relationship with you approached you themselves because that sounds like a relationship doomed to fail if the person interested can’t even tell you themselves even via internet.

  19. Brassica said:

    I’m a professional dominatrix, and have been for nearly twenty years. I advertise my contact information so that people can reach out to me to request that we do sessions involving our _mutual_ interests. I clearly say on my website that potential clients who have fantasies I haven’t mentioned but that aren’t specifically on my posted “Nope!” list are welcome to contact me and ask if those activities are ones in which I’m both skilled and interested in participating in with them. Folks have _reason_ to assume I might be available for playing out their kinks.
    And even so, if a potential client played tease games about whether he wanted to tell me something, or not, or maaaybe, and then finally got _someone else_ to make the request, I’d refuse to see him, even if his proposed session sounded fun.
    Too much drama! Too little understanding of adult responsibility or boundaries of communication skills!
    If I were you, I’d be _very_ professional and superficially friendly-yet-with-a-chill when I turned him down, if I did choose to bring it to his attention. People who have the extraordinarily poor boundaries and judgement to hit on you this inappropriately maaaay just be hoping to trick you into giving them some uncompensated and non-consentual verbal abuse and humiliation play out of the deal.

  20. Hmm. I agree with Manders in that however you pass back the “this was not on” message, you should be careful in case either of them enjoys being told off.

    Also, I was going to say to runaway and not speak to them again (either of them, unless work makes them impossible to avoid. You do not want or need to know that youre a character in their fantasies, ew!….

    …but then something struck me. I was sexually assaulted by someone who was obsessed with me. I had no idea. Afterwards, a friend came forward to say theyd seen pics of my head superimposed on porn on his computer. So, knowing these things, icky as it is, means you do at least have a warning and a valid reason to avoid any situations where youre stuck in a room with either or both of them.

    Especially beware of Christmas parties.

  21. Why are there rumors about Jim being into BDSM around the office? Or, to frame it differently: who else did he ask? Meh …

    • The internet gives you all kinds of information, so maybe he did not ask anyone else. I think the rumour would be that he’s a creep in that case.
      (I have found out about people being into BDSM by simply googling their names, and finding their profiles on dating sites. I would think that is the way such rumours are started, because otherwise, the rumour should be “Yuck, Jim is a creep, stay away”.)

  22. Stephanie2 said:

    Great to read a quote from you in the Toronto Star this morning. 🙂

  23. resili0 said:

    Oh, wow, awkward. As someone in a D/s dynamic and who has friends in various kink dynamics, this is an unusual approach full of bees.

    My concern is for your professional life, real stigma exists and many kinksters are at risk of bring outed by indiscreet players who don’t respect boundaries. I echo the advice not to give fuel to this bizarre couple and to preserve your own privacy. You may not be the only one approached and gossip is a danger.

    Genuine kinksters do not bully through vanilla social etiquette with those outside of pre negotiated consensual relationships. They can separate personal and professional. Topping and bottoming for fun and the power exchange of D/s should happen respectfully.

    • thebewilderness said:

      No true Scotsman? Seriously?
      You are right that this approach is full of bees but you are wrong in saying this is an unusual approach. It is, unfortunately, extremely common.

  24. Esti said:

    Another law firm associate here. I would have concerns about being forced to interact with this guy in the office. I can’t tell from your letter what the current deal is — does he just drop by to socialize with his friend very infrequently, such that you can avoid him pretty easily? Or does he come in semi-regularly and you’re sort of forced into seeing him because you work closely with the partner he comes to see? Are any of his visits about work-related issues? Is it possible that in the future you will be asked to interact with him on a professional level (either on a case, or because he’ll be invited to firm events/to speak on lunch panels/etc.)?

    If he’s in the office more than very rarely, and ESPECIALLY if you think there’s any chance your firm would do work with him or invite him to events or to speak with/mentor associates, I would strongly recommend you talk to both your HR person and perhaps also the partner he visits (depending on your relationship with that partner). You don’t have to get into the gory details, especially with the partner if you choose to talk to them, but just let them know that a mutual acquaintance in another office passed along a message from Former Partner propositioning you sexually. HR can follow up with the middleman and draw their own conclusions as to whether she is trustworthy or not — you don’t need to be the one playing detective and interacting with them/this issue.

  25. I have a thought about the concern LW will inadvertently play into Jim’s or Sharon’s humiliation kink with some answers.

    LW, you can’t control how someone receives what you say. In the case of Jim, with whom you don’t have to interact ever again, the Captain’s response followed by Block works well. In the case of Sharon, with whom you interact a lot: your response of No! Is great. I’d consider adding “Sharon, please don’t play go-between for me. I prefer keeping my private life private.”

  26. Elaine May said:

    Ex-lawyer here.

    This is poor advice. He’s not your friend at a BBQ. He’s your ex-boss. Get to HR RIGHT NOW. Based on the fact it was known that he was into BDSM around the office AND that he came onto you, he sounds like he may have been a workplace sexual harasser. He may have even been fired/pushed out for harassment. Speak to HR – make sure it’s known that he’s being creepy to current associates so that he doesn’t come back for lunches and things.

    Keep a contemporaneous record. Never speak to him again. Don’t even reply. Block him on everything. I would minimize contact with Sharon and I would probably flag Sharon to HR at the same time as I reported him.

    Also, I would sing like a canary. Gently drop knowledge of this into the ears of every single mentor that you have at the firm. It can even be disguised as a “am I professional enough?” type conversation. That way, if he ever brings up your name to other members of the legal community and hints that there was something there, enough people know it’s lies.

    Honestly, I’d be covering my ass all the way. I’d probably tell a couple of gossipy lawyers/legal assistants and let them spread it through the firm. That way, my version is out first instead of whatever offensive version of the truth he might decide to make public. I doubt Sharon is keeping quiet. Most lawyers stay at firms for years and you know how tiny and incestuous these communities are. He clearly has no boundaries and is a disgusting creep. Don’t underestimate the nudge nudge wink wink things he could have been saying about you behind closed doors. I would consider this man a danger to your professional reputation and to your career.

    • Tonia said:

      Not a lawyer, but what I think you’re saying is “control the narrative.” If Jim controls the narrative, he is absolutely a danger to your reputation/career.

      HOW you control the narrative is up to you, but at a minimum, PLEASE speak to HR. You want that time-stamped and on the record. It’s messy because Jim didn’t exactly proposition you himself, and he doesn’t work for your firm. I’m not sure HR can actually DO anything. You still want it on the record. It backs you up if you’re expected to work with him again, it backs you up if he tries to spread any rumors, and it will help anyone else in a similar position in the future.

      Personally, I am not concerned about how Jim gets his rocks off, even if that includes you playing into his fantasies by reprimanding him. I am very concerned about the power he could have over your career.

      If you are the kind of person who wants to minimize your own situation, consider two things: first, if he has previously been a workplace harasser, or if he does so in the future, you will have helped the next situation; second, HR rarely gets enough training in workplace harassment, and never gets enough hands-on experience, so you will be helping them learn extremely valuable job skills. Even if nothing happens other than a note in a file.

      • Elaine May said:

        Great points!

      • RT said:

        HR may not be able to DO anything, but it’s good to have things on the record. I don’t work in law, but I work heavily with vendors as a liaison for my group. If a vendor rep did something like this, I’d be expected to report it as a matter of course, to my boss and to HR. Unfortunately, it’s happened enough that there’s a process (I tell boss, boss talks to vendor boss, vendor boss fires vendor rep, vendor forces all reps to go through mandatory “Don’t Sexually Harass Your Contacts and Potentially Lose the Accounts” training).

        Thankfully it hasn’t happened for awhile. I know law is different (and often in bad ways, like Old Boys Clubs and so forth) but I think Tonia and Elaine’s advice is sound.

    • Wayne Harder said:

      Yeah, I completely agree with Elaine May’s advice. Really really good advice there.

  27. Aurora said:

    Document it all and stay silent. Any words might backfire and end up making Jim happy in some way here. Go full nuclear block in silence. Don’t talk to either him or Sharon.

  28. Grabmaneandgo said:

    Elaine May’s damage control advice is spot on. Your rejection of him could start a domino effect of resentment and subtle retaliation. He’s clever, which means he would not have violated your boundaries in the first place unless he felt like he was in a position to do so. Fucker.

  29. Mikaela said:

    How about Sharon having a nice girl syndrome. So she is unable to keep her boundaries. i feel really bad for her too.

  30. I’d vote for this:

    “Hey Jim, Sharon sent me a message she said was from you, asking me to do something with you that’s a wildly inappropriate thing to ask of a former colleague. Are you aware that she’s doing this? I think you need to tell her to knock it off.”

    Followed by whatever version of this is appropriate for your exact situation:

    Get to HR RIGHT NOW. Based on the fact it was known that he was into BDSM around the office AND that he came onto you, he sounds like he may have been a workplace sexual harasser. He may have even been fired/pushed out for harassment.

  31. onamission5 said:

    LW, I have been thinking on this some, and my thoughts are swaying toward the opinion that no, you shouldn’t contact either Jim or Sharon– not until you get some advice on how to proceed from HR. I don’t know how your firm’s HR department operates, but at my sister’s last company, hers wanted to be informed first of any potential or actual inappropriateness on the part of clients or staff so they could begin a formal paper trail. They did not want untrained staff trying to handle things like harassment, discrimination, or interpersonal discomfort by themselves, especially not when there were potential power dynamics involved. They were motivated by CYA attitudes, for sure, but sometimes that can work in one’s favor. HR needs to know about Jim especially.

  32. Dizzy said:

    I’ll be honest, I think Jim should see a pro-domme. I know he isn’t going to, because I suspect he gets off on your discomfort, but he should. Even in kinky spaces, no one like that kind of thing. For god’s sake, get to know someone as a person BEFORE you start laying out your fantasies.

    In kink spaces, it’s considered very rude to dump all your kinks at once on someone vanilla. It’s possible to bring up kink in a way that’s respectful to the vanilla person. You hang out as friends, date casually a bit, and then talk in general–I like it when my partners do Thing, is that something you’d consider doing? If you get a positive response, you can gradually escalate until you reach your partner’s level of comfort. Also you encourage your partner to bring up things they’d like to do so it’s not all about you.

    Anyway, the reason I bring up the pro-domme thing is, do you know that you can pay people money and they’ll do specifically what you want? It’s true! (Not every pro-domme does everything, of course, and they have a lot of control over their time.) You get pretty much exactly what you want and you don’t have to creep out people who aren’t into that junk! I think if you’re not willing to do the give and take that comes with a relationship–and that includes understanding that your partner isn’t going to be “on” all the time and they won’t domme you non-stop–the best thing to do is PAY SOMEONE. The client gets to be as selfish and picky as they like and the pro-domme, well, s/he’s not looking for the reciprocity of a regular relationship because s/he’s at WORK.

    • thebewilderness said:

      IIRC that is called grooming. The former firm partner described here was never a friend or potential date.

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