Is eating 'too sexy' sexual harassment? New reason to be paranoid about your office lunch.


Have you ever wondered what goes on in offices all across Finland? You will after you watch this commercial, sponsored by the Association of Finnish Lawyers. In it a woman sits innocently enough at her desk and eats a popsicle. Of course the way she eats it, moaning, fondling it with her tongue, practically choking on it, implies a lot more experience. "Is this sexual harassment?" the commercial asks at the end of her pop performance, savored by an audience of her co-workers.

In my opinion, the only thing violated is the ice pop. But according to the AFL, just eating your lunch in a way that arouses your fellow co-workers, raises the question of harassment. The association claims their intent is to spark debate in the murky waters of workplace legalities. "There's been a new generation of confusion in this area," Jay Zweig, an employment lawyer told Forbes Woman. "Twenty years ago, it was, 'Sleep with me if you want the promotion.' Now most sexual harassment claims have to do with a hostile work environment, someone saying, 'This person is bothering me. I can't do my work. I'm distracted and uncomfortable.'"

But can either sex be blamed for absent-mindedly turning on their co-workers?

A lot of office-types have complaints about the way their co-workers eat, especially now that most of us eat at least one of our three daily meals at our desks, but 'too sexily' isn't one of them.

It's not clear what intention the women in commercial had besides pleasuring her dessert, but if it was some deranged psycho-sexual tactic to intimidate her co-workers, she's probably loony enough to do several other, far less ambiguous, acts to get attention.

That leads me to wonder about a more plausible scenario: is the commercial questioning whether she's being sexually harassed by her onlookers? Could she accuse a gaping co-worker of sexual harassment, if a string of drool dribbles down his chin? His defense- "she eats like she's having sex, your honor"-would only dig his own harassment hole deeper. Can't a woman savor her lunch without being objectified? You'd never accuse a guy moaning over a cheesesteak of the same offense.

I can't tell if the commercial is more sexist for imagining a scenario where any woman would eat like this outside of a "Porky's" movie or for raising the question as if it were something that really needed to be tackled by legal experts.

I've certainly enjoyed a dessert enough to let out an embarrassing whimper of delight but there's no way anyone took it as a turn on. If anything, that smelly tuna sandwich is more likely to send your co-workers to HR than any odorless popsicle stick. That's the only kind of office lunch that requires legal counsel.

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The new sexual harassment at work
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How common is workplace sexual harassment?