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How to attend your office holiday party without ending up like Harvey Weinstein


Men are so terrified about being the next Harvey Weinstein that, according to the Associated Press, some don’t know whether hugging a colleague or saying “good morning” could be classified as harassment.

Isn’t it awful to think that your intentions could be misinterpreted, or that you could lose your job at the drop of a hat (er, trousers)? Welcome to this new world where the course of your life is suddenly in flux, where success is no longer guaranteed. Women have been here for a while. And we get it: Some of you are confused about where the line stands between innocent office flirtation and sexual harassment. Let us help you survive a workplace holiday party without landing in HR.

Should I even attend my office holiday party? Won’t me showing up, as a man, make everyone uncomfortable? 

Good question, but simply being a man isn’t a crime. Yet.

Can I greet my female colleagues with “good morning,” or is that harassment?

It’s not harassment, but who holds a holiday party before noon?

Can I talk to my colleagues, or should I hide in a corner and work on my year-end evaluation? 

Depends. Can you engage in conversation without whipping out your genitals or forcibly kissing an underling? It’s a difficult question, we know. If you succeed, be sure to note this in your evaluation.

Ah, good point! Not being a harasser is sure to get me promoted. I hear there are lots of jobs-for-white-men that are suddenly vacant.

Actually, it’s just baseline decent behavior. We know this is a shock, but you’re not guaranteed to rise in the ranks simply for existing.

Here’s how companies and employees can keep their holiday parties professionally festive amid sexual harassment concerns. (Video: Taylor Turner/The Washington Post)

Can I drink, or will that make me vulnerable?

Welcome to life as a woman; we are familiar with this concern.

My co-worker, she’s so hot. Surely, that dress is really saying: Show me your manhood.

No, no it is not. Ask yourself: What would Harvey Weinstein do? Now do the opposite.

Maybe she wants a massage?

She probably does, but not from you. Do not get her a gift certificate from Massage Envy, either.

Okay, but this co-worker. She really wants me.

She might! According to an OkCupid survey, 50 percent of singles have fantasized about hooking up with a co-worker at an office holiday party. Or she might not! Only 12 percent follow through on that fantasy.

I might be part of that 12 percent! How do I proceed?

Are you her boss?


Good answer! A few quick guidelines: Do not stick your tongue down her throat near the hors d’oeuvres platter. Do not pin her against a wall in front of your boss.

Got that. But how do I proceed?

Do you think the feeling might be mutual?

Ahh, you want me to consider her feelings. What an interesting concept.

Interesting? How about vital.

Hey, stop attacking me! I respect women — I’m a feminist! Yes, I think the feeling is mutual.

First of all, the feminist thing doesn’t mean … never mind. We’ll tackle that one another time. Before getting physical, state your intentions and get consent before moving in for a kiss.

Doesn’t that take the romance out of it?

Do you want to end up as the next Harvey Weinstein? Louis C.K.? Charlie Rose? Ahh, we lost count several weeks ago.

Okay, okay. Tell me: How should I make a move in a way that is both masculine and respectful of her autonomy?

Now we’re getting somewhere! Sari Cooper, a sex therapist in New York who runs sessions to help men boost their “sex esteem” (yes, that’s a thing!), gave us some tips. She suggests expressing your desire in a way that gives the other person a chance to say yes or no. (What a concept!) For instance, you could say: “I’d love to take you out sometime. What would you say to that?” Or, if the moment is more intimate: “You have the most beautiful lips. What would you say if I kissed them?”

If she says no, or slaps you, there’s your answer. If she responds affirmatively, mazel tov.

If she says no, I just keep trying, right? That’s how it goes in the movies.

No, you stop pursuing her. Full stop. She’s not playing hard to get; she is rejecting you. You’ll get over it. And the movies, they’re part of this whole problem. …

What if a woman comes on to me? That means she’s desperate, right?

Argh. We have lots more work to do.

Read more:

The office holiday party: More awkward than meeting the parents

Why it’s so important to talk to our mothers about their #MeToos — and ours

Why do men force women to watch them masturbate? Two therapists explain.