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Workplace Relationships Are Inappropriate but Oh, So Fun

Workplace Relationships Are Inappropriate but Oh, So Fun

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In what has to be one of the biggest #metoo related stories of January, Babe published last week a young photographer’s detailed account of a romantic encounter with actor and comedian Aziz Ansari.

Since then, many different individuals have in turn argued that women are more than capable of knowing when to say no, and that such irresponsible outing only serves to undermine the #metoo movement.

In the wake of all these different arguments, it’s easy to forget that sexual relationships can still be fun and fulfilling. And while the #metoo movement has focused on the power balances often at play (and hence up for exploitation) in professional environments, these same environments can in fact give inappropriate relationships their intoxicating thrill.

“But of course, it’s a given that it has to be consensual, and both parties need to have a certain amount of maturity in order for it to work,” says 37-year-old Melissa Ang.

“But when it’s good, wow. It’s really good.”

Before agreeing to share her experiences, she tells me that she works in a finance related industry. She won’t tell me where or for how long exactly, but does say that she’s been in a relatively senior position for a few years.

As a result, this set the stage for what would eventually become a 2-year long affair with a junior executive.

She was still married at the time, she tells me, and while she wasn’t exactly unhappy, all the time spent at work meant that she was inevitably spending more time with one particular subordinate than she was spending at home.

In great detail, she describes the excitement of having an affair that no one knew about: “First there are the meetings. You catch each other’s eye and there’s a kind of electricity that only the two of you feel. And because you have to behave yourself, that tension just builds and builds. Then there are the moments when he messes up and I have to tell him off, and secretly we both know we’re going to make up later after work.”

As she says this, she winks.

Image credit: @dariusbird
Melissa shares that ultimately, it wasn’t the clandestine sex that kept her the relationship for so long. Rather, the affair gradually built a kind of rapport between the two of them. It made the long hours at work more bearable, and it made them (as a couple) more driven to achieve their team goals.

“It wasn’t really affection,” she says, “More like, we just got closer and became more sensitive to each other’s moods and habits. And as a result, we had a better working relationship.”

As to how she made it work, Melissa simply shrugs and admits that she was lucky. She met the right guy, and it both started and ended well. Like the most ideal of ‘friends with benefits’ arrangements, the thrill of hooking up faded, and they simply stayed colleagues after that.

Yet few individuals who find themselves in such situations are this lucky.

Many, like 32-year-old project manager Ashton Sim, end up leaving their jobs.

Even then, he insists, “It was worth it.”

“You wanna know why we’re so impressed by people who tell us they’ve had office sex? It’s because not everyone gets to do it, and it’s awesome.”

He then proceeds to describe for me his relationship with his male boss. But unlike Melissa, he’s less interested in the abstract sensations that come with bumping into each other in the office corridor. Instead, he tells me about how he once gave the man a blowjob under his desk. Another time, when everyone was out for lunch, they stole a quickie in the office bathroom.

“Sex is fun, period,” Ashton says, “Especially when you’re not supposed to do it and no one knows about it.”

At the same time, he reveals that he let himself get carried away with the relationship. While his boss was clear from the get-go that he was interested in eventually pursuing something serious, he was “too busy enjoying himself”.

He considers himself lucky, since his employer never held it against him. But his guilt at how the relationship eventually ended would not stop eating away at him.

About a year after they concluded their office tryst, he was headhunted and left the company.

"Always remember that you are colleagues first, and lovers second."
Both Ashton and Melissa tell me the same thing. Having done what most of wider society still considers taboo, they regret the current climate of knee-jerk condemnation of anything that could possibly be construed as sexual harassment.

“I’m not saying we should not be wary of those in power who exploit their position for sexual gratification. I’m saying that these supposedly inappropriate relationships can be fun if done the “right” way,” Melissa says.

“So many of my straight friends are saying things like sex and flirting are dead, but that’s not what it’s about at all,” says Ashton.

He adds, “You just need to know your boundaries, and know that these things happen when they do. You cannot force it. You need to do it with the right person, and you need to be the right person.”

As a final word of advice, Melissa tells me, “Always remember that you are colleagues first and lovers second. Work must always come first. Also, don’t forget that workplace relationships between different levels of hierarchy are inappropriate, and probably always will be.

“But oh, they are so fun.”

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Author

Julian Wong Associate editor