“It’s gotten to where you can’t even feel safe saying, ‘Good morning, will you bear my child?'” he muses. “I’m worried men can’t say to a subordinate, ‘You look pretty fertile,’ and, ‘If you aren’t using your womb right now, can I borrow it for a bit?’ And I think: Are we losing something?”
The allegations that have brought down powerful men in Congress and Hollywood are making things around the workplace uncomfortable. Men wonder: Is it still okay to hug a woman? Okay, well, is it still okay to hug a woman and whisper in her ear, “I have $5 million for you if you’ll let me put a child in your child-receptacle, whatever your name is?” Some men are looking back over their own past behavior, terrified they may have, unknowingly, made a woman feel uncomfortable. They want to know where the line is.
CEO Brick Mason of Turnblad Font Suppliers, a company in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which had to bring in a consultant to conduct a session titled “How Not to Reenact ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in Your Office, You’d Think We Wouldn’t Have to Offer These Sessions but They’re Surprisingly Popular, Jesus” worried about the impact these scandals will have.
“With the various hoopla that we’re seeing in the news everyday, you run the risk of losing what is special about your company,” said Mason. “We’ve always thought of ourselves as a family, each with our own role to play. The Wives, the Marthas, the Handmaids. Are we going to lose that special family feeling because a bunch of un-women and sex traitors got grumpy and made groundless complaints?”
Looking back, Mason said his one regret is forcing a female subordinate to answer the New York Times’s “36 Questions That Lead To Love” while another aide lit candles and a third aide played a saxophone solo.
“I can see how that might have been misconstrued,” he says, with a rueful shake of his head. “I would say I’m sorry, but I don’t remember what her face looked like.”
Some have lost their jobs for grotesque activity spanning decades, others for a simple query such as, “Okay, Rhonda, how MUCH money for me to rent your womb?” or, “What do you mean, you do not want a box of dildos?” It is those latter cases that have men sweating at their desks. Will they lose their jobs? Should they have offered money for sex instead? Or asked a male colleague to bear their offspring?
“My guy friends are all very alarmed,” says Angela, who asked that her last name be withheld on the grounds that she might have to interact with men again in the course of her life, although she hopes not. “They keep saying, ‘If I can’t ask my subordinates to bear my children, then what can I even say to women?’ and I’m like, ‘Literally anything but that is fine.'”
Some young men worry that courtship is dead. What of the tender, delicate dance, that old ritual “where you invite her into your office, push the door-locking button, and let things take their course?” Tim (who asked that his last name not be used) mused: “What of the unsolicited picture-sending that is the first step in any romance?”
Thirty-something Nick (who also asked that his last name not be used) expressed concern over today’s politically correct climate. “Tell a woman you loved ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and she will respond enthusiastically,” he said, “but tell her you want to cosplay it with her, and suddenly, it’s this whole thing? It’s like, make up your mind.”
Ted Grimpf (who for some reason was fine using his full name) said, “Women are so inconsistent. The other day, I showed a female colleague my favorite pen and she was fine, but then this afternoon I showed her something else that starts with those same three letters and all of a sudden she’s upset?” Grimpf was avoiding the holiday party because “Baby It’s Cold Outside” might play and he no longer knew whether he was allowed to bob his head along.
“They should just cancel the party,” said Grimpf, adding that he means just until it’s been figured out how women and men should interact. “Is masturbating in front of women okay if I ask first?”
“Frankly, I don’t even think women know what they want,” he added. “On the one hand they say they want to be treated as our equals, but on the other hand, they do not want to be shown our genitalia constantly in a workplace setting.”
Male employers are doing their best to adjust to this brave new world of harassment-free workplaces. Dante Milton is planning a holiday party, and he says he’s more vigilant now than he would have been otherwise. “When I hear someone on my team is having a holiday cookie exchange, now I’ll say, ‘Hey, maybe no turkey basters full of semen should be there,'” Milton said, relaying the type of factual information likely to be covered in many organizations’ employee handbooks.
All of the men in this article added that they were terrified to have to monitor all of their behavior constantly lest it be misconstrued as something it wasn’t and their jobs be jeopardized — a feeling, they said, that women could not possibly understand.