Dealing With Grossness in a Professional Setting (aka yucky dudes) *Possible trigger warning: inappropriate touching

I just finished a week-long professional development workshop. It was amazing: beautiful location, engaging content, good food, generally nice people. I spent a lot of my free time treating myself, being a strong independent woman, and making the best of being far from home and friends.

I got a little down on myself for doing things on my own rather than making new friends. I also had to work to overcome the paternalistic voice in my head telling me that it’s not safe for a woman to go out alone, to buy herself a glass of wine, to go for a hike; but I did all these things and felt really proud of myself for making my own good time.

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So, on the last evening I decided to join in some goodbye festivities with my classmates: a party night at a local dive bar. Aaaaannnnddd here comes my little rant:

Two men from my program took it upon themselves to creep on me :(

Dude #1: older man, very drunk, leered at me, put his arm around me and slurred: “yeerrrrr bbbeeeeaaauutifful”. His demeanor came across as predatory. He was clearly wasted, and being very aggressive with his attempts to approach me and other women. He seemed to be feeling out our reactions. I spent the rest of the evening avoiding being within a 10 foot radius, which wasn’t that hard, cause dude was shithoused. This sucked, but ultimately wasn’t as bad as Dude #2...

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Dude 2: A man who I had connected with in PD sessions because he seemed really nice, friendly, caring, and smart. A person with a lot to contribute. He was very popular with other attendees, kind of socially magnetic. Passionate about his work, and super fun. I had really developed a lot of respect for him. While I was sitting in a booth with other folks, he slid in next to me (I was between him and the wall), and began touching me: rubbing my back, hips, and thighs. I froze, unsure what to do, while the conversation continued for several minutes. Nobody noticed. I didn’t move. I didn’t react. I guess I just let it happen, but I was so uncomfortable I couldn’t really think about how to handle it. Eventually he stopped, and then didn’t really interact with me for the rest of the night.

So, I feel really weird. I’m sad that what seemed like a fun and friendly person made me feel so gross and unsafe. I feel ashamed that I interacted with him in class the next day as though nothing happened. I didn’t tell anyone because he is so well liked that I didn’t want to make him seem like a bad guy to others (internalized rape culture, much?) I’m wondering if I should report this to the group organizers, but I don’t want to “get him in trouble”. I keep wondering if it was really that big of a deal because he didn’t, like, do anything “worse”. Ug. This sucks.

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Anyway, I’ve been a longtime lurker in this community, and I know you guys can help me make sense of this experience and decide what, if any, action to take. Thanks for your time and thoughts, I hope I articulated myself in a somewhat comprehensible fashion.

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