The Taboo Boss: My Same-Sex Sexual Harassment Story

The Taboo Boss: My Same-Sex Sexual Harassment Story

It's more common than Thinx.

Published March 25th

This week, Miki Agrawal, the co-founder of Thinx “period panties for modern women,” made headlines for being sued by former female employees for alleged sexual harassment. If you’ve had a job, chances are you’ve been a subordinate -- you’ve had to answer to the boss. The dynamic between a boss and an employee can be a delicate, and even complicated, endeavor. I know all too well.

What are a few words you would use to describe your current or previous boss? Perhaps ungrateful? Oppressive? Even abusive? For your sake, I hope not; but these are the words I would use. Sure, most people have had a crappy boss or two. But there’s a darker side to crappy bosses; one that is sinister and taboo. The type of boss who is seldom ever talked about.

I’m a gay man who works in media with several other gay men. Throughout my professional career, there have been numerous men - some bosses, others higher-level managers - who took a liking to me. As an eager 22-year-old just starting my career, I thought this was great. I was under the impression that I would receive special treatment over other co-workers for doing a good job and being well-liked. This was true for a short period of time. I was given opportunities to do and learn more, and I thought I’d be up for a promotion in no time. I couldn’t have been more wrong...

Turns out the “special treatment” came at a cost. It didn’t take long for my boss’ affection towards me to turn into resentment and disdain. Why? Because I refused to sleep with him. Any time we were together, he would use it as an opportunity to hit on me. Not only did this take place in the office, but also at after work gatherings and holiday parties. I started thinking, Do I owe him for this opportunity? Should I give in to keep my job?

After an entire year of walking into what felt like hell, I was fired. Looking back, I’m sure I had a harassment case on my hands. I wasn’t fired due to poor performance on the job. I was fired because I wouldn’t perform in bed. 

Sexual harassment in the workplace is often thought of as male higher-ups hitting on their female colleagues. Even The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines sexual harassment as “a clear form of gender discrimination based on sex, a manifestation of unequal power relations between men and women.” Within the very definition is the implication that sexual harassment occurs between a man and a woman. It fails to acknowledge same-sex sexual harassment in the workplace.

I know from experience that sexual harassment occurs across the board between men, women, straight, and gay alike. The question is whether or not same-sex cases are viewed through the same lens as cases between men and women. Earlier this month a man working for the Town of Newburgh Highway Department filed a federal lawsuit accusing the department's superintendent of same-sex harassment and retaliation. He called out the town for ignoring his complaints and having "deliberate indifference" to the misconduct.

Sexual harassment should not be tolerated in any case, no matter who is involved. As for the lawsuit against Miki Agrawal – only time will tell whether or not she will be found guilty. Regardless of the ruling, the coverage that the accusations are receiving is a step in the right direction for recognizing same-sex workplace sexual harassment as a crime just as egregious as that between a man and woman.

Written by BET Staff

(Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

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