Sex up and out

By | March 22, 2013

I don’t have a fully-formed opinion about this whole PyCon/SendGrid mess, but it did remind me of something that I’ve been thinking about for a while.

I think it’s dangerous and actually harmful to women if we make talking or joking about sex verboten anywhere in a woman’s presence, and that this automatically be sexual harassment. This is also highly exclusionary and in no way will help women in the workplace or in the social sphere.

After all, what woman hasn’t heard, “Oh, I would tell that joke/say that word/share that story, but she’s here?” I bet not a single one. I’m a man, and I’ve heard guys say that to women hundreds of times in my life.

See, I don’t want to treat women like special snowflakes where talking about sex besmirches their dainty ears. No, I want to treat them like friends, confidantes, associates — like humans, in other words. Like regular ol’ people, no different from anyone, male or not.

I just can’t buy into the argument that making sexual jokes ever, anywhere where a woman might possibly hear, is and should be a forbidden act. If jokes about sex are inherently sexist, then sex itself is inherently sexist. And that doesn’t seem correct to me.

And if jokes about sex is a forbidden act, it should be mutual. I have a female (non-IT) co-worker who makes more penis jokes than is probably sane.

As for me, I don’t really joke at work, and I never talk about sex, religion or politics. I’m not an idiot, is why.

That said, I do fully recognize that “harmless” sexual jokes have and continue to be used to attempt to belittle and stigmatize women. That is not lost on me. My general rule is I never talk about sex or joke about sex with someone who I wouldn’t take a bullet for. That is a very short list, needless to say.

I’m not sure what my point is. It just seems like we should have more choices other than rigid roboticism or evil harasser when dealing with others, at work or in a social setting.

I don’t have good answers. We live in a sexist society and many men are in fact vile sexists. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is harmful to women to treat them like fragile flowers whose wilting little minds can’t stand to hear the word “dongle” used in a juvenile way.