Dinner conversation

Posted: October 13, 2010 by Jender in sexual harassment, sexual innuendos

In 2008, I attended a dinner with a distinguished visiting philosophy professor after his invited talk. I was the only woman in the group of 6. The distinguished lecturer spent the meal hitting on me, asking whether I worked on feminist philosophy because I was a lesbian, and asking about my sexual experience and preferences. I tried stonewalling, not responding, trying to drag the conversation back to philosophy, and glancing at others for help – because I was applying for a permanent job at this institution, I didn’t want to cause a ‘scene’. Since his comments were sotto voce, I figured that others might not have heard and might pigeonhole me as an over-reactor. After about 30 minutes of this, one of my colleagues responded to my distressed glances, and he and I had a one-on-one conversation for the rest of the evening while the distinguished visitor talked philosophy with the rest of the group. I tried to keep the incident under wraps because of the job situation, but the next time I saw one of the other diners, he said, with exuberant jocularity, ‘Oh, so so-and-so hit on you at that dinner!’ I asked if had had overheard the comments, and he said, ‘no, but after you left, he said we wanted to sleep with you, although you weren’t the kind of woman he would want to marry!’

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