Too Sexy For This Job

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As the story is told, Dental Assistant Melissa Nelson had sex appeal in spades and her employer found it irresistible.

So he fired her.

America is now wondering whether or not this was fair, right, or legal.  We make the case for our opinion in this matter by making appeals to what we should have the right to do as men or women.

Does a man have the right to fire a woman in an effort to save his marriage?  Does a woman have the right to be beautiful and employed in the dental industry?

Before making brash statements about a situation like this it helps to do a little self check about what we believe about ourselves and other people.

  1. Do I think that most women have a pretty good idea of how attractive they are?
  2. Do I think that most women dress to “accentuate their positives and downplay their negatives”?
  3. Do I think that most women enjoy being admired for, and complemented on, their appearances?

It’s not only probable that a reasonable person would answer yes to these questions, but that as a society we would also believe that these are perfectly normal and acceptable behaviors for either gender.

The second battery of questions is where things get a little trickier.

  1. Do I believe that some people will be considered desirable regardless of what they wear?
  2. Do I believe that a woman usually knows when a man is interested in her sexually?
  3. Do I believe that a man will entertain as much mental fantasy as he can while still hoping to preserve his physical reality?

It’s not only possible that a reasonable person would answer yes to these questions, but that as a society we also tend to feign ignorance whenever the subtle nature of human flirtation and attraction gets us into trouble.

Men tend to believe that they will be able to excuse their behavior by insisting that “nothing happened between us… physically” while women tend to shrug off their ability to attract a man, while holding him at a distance, as “It’s not what you think, we’re just friends!”

When we aren’t willing to admit that men often make commitments and then fantasize about breaking them in the same way that women often accept overtures with no intention of fulfilling them, we become sidetracked into making arguments about “theory” instead of reality.

This is the reason that most people chiming in on this topic generally choose a side and then have theoretical arguments about rights:

“An employer has the right to enforce modesty in the workplace!”

“A woman has the right to work in an environment where she isn’t ogled!”

“Your work life should be separate from your private life!”

While each of these statements are theoretically true, they aren’t necessarily statements of fact as they relate to this specific case.  They’re actually the statements of truth that we use to justify our own opinions and the behaviors that flow from them.

Specifically speaking, theoretical arguments are the ways that we casually feign ignorance of a real problem; allowing us to continue in the self-indulgent behavior that caused them.

Even a casual review of the facts of the dirty dental office demonstrate this:

Both parties engaged in sexually inappropriate conversation.

Both parties were aware that the in-office attire was sexually distracting.

It wasn’t until the wife of the dentist became aware of her husband’s fascination with his attractive assistant that one party was forced to stop indulging in a workplace environment that allowed a man to get his “eyeful” and the woman to get her “egoful”.

What came to an end in the moment of revelation wasn’t an affair, it was both the self-indulgence that can lead to an affair, and the ability to play dumb about a fantasy game that both people were playing with each other.

After the charade was revealed, and new standards were forcefully put into place, the cat and mouse game appears to have stopped being any fun to play:

When your wife insists that you enforce an office dress code built around keeping you from being titillated, it’s much easier to legally fire your “problem” than continue working around someone who you don’t actually respect.

Respect… that’s what this is truly about isn’t it?

The ethical problem arose because neither person involved in the actual situation truly respected the other.  Each of them used the other to gratify a shallow impulse while attempting to maintain the facade of respectability.

She was clearly a capable worker and he was capable of running a successful practice.  He also hired her because he like looking at her and, at least for a time, she enjoyed being his fantasy.

Each one of them knew it, but neither one had to admit it.

Throughout the process, plausible deniability became the safety net for living in a fantasy that left a private practice in disrespect, a woman unemployed, and two families in shambles.

We want to make this issue about something other than the inevitable end result of self-indulgence but in the final analysis, this is the kind of fire you don’t play with… even if you think you can make a strong case for your own innocence.

We can argue about things in theory or we can be honest with ourselves about the games that we play with other people’s lives.  Asserting that we can behave however we want by talking about the right to desire and be desired, keeps us from honestly investigating the actual motives that lie behind every one of our actions.

Maybe when we’re willing to be this honest we’ll finally begin respecting each other.

 —

Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death
is the man who deceives his neighbor
and says, “I am only joking!”

For lack of wood the fire goes out,
and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.

As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.

The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
they go down into the inner parts of the body.

Proverbs 26:18-21

3 Responses to “Too Sexy For This Job”

  1. Craig McClanahan December 27, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    No question that there are attractive women in the workplace. But, for me, I am 38+ years in to “one and done” and loving it!

    Craig McClanahan

  2. Debbie December 28, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    WOW! This is a tough one. Working in a dental office previously FT for over 25 yrs I can say “This should be published in at least 1 dental journal. This scenario occurs in at least 50% of dental offices.” Sad but unfortunately true.
    OSHA requires the healthcare professionals to wear attire that is definitely NOT considered sexy!
    I doubt that its the clothing or appearance that is the root of this problem. (No pun intended.)
    As you stated it is this cat and mouse game that gets out of control AND many dentists are hung up on
    “Living life to the fullest!”
    Good topic.
    This topic needs more attention and to the correct people who will keep their mind open to reality.
    thanks.

    • Jon December 29, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

      I totally hear you, when someone owns a business that employs members of the opposite sex they really do have a responsibility to make it clear that “fraternization” usually leads to someone’s unemployment. Sadly, it very rarely leads to their own.

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