I was sexually harassed by a client last night. The harassment itself was no big deal, just drunken, stupid sexual texts, multiple calls & videocalls I didn’t pick up. Unfortunately, this is not something new as a woman in tech – the usual “it just wasn’t like me” or “I don’t normally do this” might work for you – it’s really something most of us women are on the receiving end of multiple times a year. So, as a veteran of the techbro industry the harassment itself hasn’t really bothered me more than just some idiot I can block – I’d even rate it a boring 3/10 on the inventiveness scale. What has bothered me and that I want to write about is the knock on effects to my financial and emotional health. The fallout of such a situation that I’ve now been put in.
Having tried hard to give this person an “out” by trying to laugh it off at first in the first replies, and a few messages later tell them it was inappropriate and not to continue, they carried on until I blocked them hours later, including calling me after I stipulated I was with my family, having family time. This is a really horrible situation to be put in. You can knock me, I’m pretty strong, but start having a knock on effect to my family, and I get really angry and upset, really quickly. By the time I called the co-founder to get them to stop the other one (whilst blocking him) I was in tears, shaking. There goes Saturday night, and a decent night’s sleep. Thanks for that.
Now today, I get to spend the first Sunday I’ve had to myself in a long time, pondering the financial loss of a client I have consistently billed with, and spent a whole bunch of business and head space getting to learn and be a part of. A product I loved, a team I loved, a fellow co-founder I really enjoyed working with that I consider a good friend. All gone, thanks to one guys (so many other guys too) sense of entitlement. And I get to sit, worst of all, wondering how on Earth I now stop this guy from doing this to other women. That’s probably the bit I hate the most. Because it means drama, because it means bad vibes, and because he believes deep down he’s a good guy, and not douchebag in tech. He was just drunk! A quick apology email (“I’m not normally like this” – oh I’m sorry, did I inspire it then, it’s my fault, is it?) and we can just carry on being friends (dudes: friends don’t sexually harass each other, and *especially* men who are harassing women, and *ESPECIALLY* men who know the woman they’re harassing has specifically been through a lot of trauma in tech both personally and professionally when it comes to women being mistreated in the workplace) a quick apology and we can still work together (spoilers: we absolutely can’t if you’re still in the business as you represent a threat I wouldn’t subject either myself or any other women or people to).
So yeah. I don’t know where this goes, or what happens next. But I’m just so ANGRY that as a 41 year old woman, 23 years in this industry, OPENLY angry and publicly calling out this behaviour ALL MY CAREER online, in person, and in my business ALL THE TIME; and some guy *still* doesn’t see the knock on effect to me, my financial and mental health, from them deciding they want to tell me what they’d like to do to me sexually. I mean, if they still think I’m an acceptable target for this sort of thing, can you imagine what it’s like for people with less of a platform and desire to see creeps eradicated from tech? It’s a fucking nightmare, that’s what.
It’s not ok. It’s not “just drunk”, don’t give me that crap. I’ve been the drunkest of all the drunks, ask anyone who knew me in my twenties. And I am very highly sexed, so you really don’t get a pass on the whole “but men are highly sexed” bullshit I hear either. Again, anyone who knows me will be stood up saying “truth” right now. I would never, EVER have this behaviour, even when I’m about to pass out blind drunk/high/whatever no matter how much I fancy them or feel horny that night. Why? Because as a man (ok, so *this* man, but also LOTS of men) it’s an ingrained belief that you feel in some way allowed to treat me as a sexual object, regardless of my opinions or objections to that, or the trouble it will cause me in fallout thanks to your inappropriate behaviour.
It’s Not Ok. It’s Never Ok to sexually text women you work with. Or even just anyone, if that’s not the relationship you have both consented to.
If this story sounds like you and you’re a guy in tech reading this: get to therapy, stop drinking, and stop being in a position of power if you abuse it. If you don’t do these things, you deserve none of my time or friendship. You’re a predator, and you’re dangerous to the women you encounter – emotional, financially, physically – whether you understand that yet or not. Do the work, or GTFO.