Tuesday, 27 November 2012

When colleagues talk to your breasts...

What is it about the male mind that it is so easily distracted by breasts? It’s not as if they are all that remarkable - we all have them. Even men. In spite of this, you can count on the sight of a pair of boobs to shift a heterosexual male brain into neutral almost every time.

I happen to be quite well-endowed. My breasts are so big that trying find my way around them so I can paint my toenails looks more like I'm playing "Twister" than doing a pedicure. And although I don't wear particularly revealing clothing, my ample bosom is not really something I can hide.

Seven seconds later

I once heard that people make up their minds about each other in the first seven seconds after meeting for the first time. Some men only make up their minds about me in the first seven seconds after their brains have re-engaged following their first visual encounter with my chest area. The men who become fixated on my breasts tend to fall into two categories:

"Mr Creep" is the leery type who can barely look me in the eye. When I ask him a question, he usually addresses his answer to my neckline - or worse, my male colleague. This is the jerk who can turn even a conversation about the photocopier into one loaded with sexual innuendo, and thinks that bust-size is inversely correlated with IQ.

"Mr Just-Can't-Help-Myself" tries very hard not to stare, but his eyes reflexively dart to the top button of my blouse whenever he thinks I'm not looking. If I catch him, he complements me on my necklace.


While I recognize that staring at my breasts is hardly professional behaviour, it’s just not feasible to lodge a grievance with HR every time a man looks down my top. Frankly, I have bigger fish to fry.

Most of the time, ignoring it is the best solution, but every now and then it gets a bit much, and I have to address it.

A tactic that works well is to simply casually rest my fingers on my collar, or my chin on my hand. It's enough to cover up what my colleague is looking at, and provided he is just slightly more evolved than a cave-man, he usually realizes that he’s behaving inappropriately. Most civilized men will then redirect their gaze without so much as a lapse in conversation.

If this doesn't work, my favourite approach is to simply look down at my chest myself, and innocently ask: "Have I spilled something on my top?” while batting lightly at my shirt. At this point most men become so embarrassed that they stammer out a few incoherent sentences and rapidly excuse themselves.

Another highly successful tactic: If I'm the one speaking at the time, I simply stop talking. When he looks up I'll smile sweetly and say something like: "You seem distracted. Shall we continue when you can concentrate better?", and then quietly enjoy his discomfort.

When too far is too far

Admittedly, I’ve had quite a lot of fun coming up with and practising these solutions - possibly even more fun than the pervy men who find my bust-line a pleasant diversion from work – but when a male colleague recently wore a T-shirt with the slogan “I love boobies” emblazoned boldly across his “boobies”, even my patience ran out.

I made a complaint to his manager, and while all he got was a metaphorical slap on the wrist, he hasn’t worn it again. Unfortunately, I will never be able to look at him with any respect ever again. He has forever been relegated to the “Mr Creep” category in my mind. And, who wants to do business with creeps?

What are your strategies for dealing with subtle sexual harassment, creeps and pervs at the office?


  1. Being a just-about-C-cup, I've not suffered or noticed much unwanted breast attention. I remember a financial director who was always sitting when I was standing in his office. I thought he was shy, but a colleague pointed out that he never raised his eyes above breast height with her, so I guess I just didn't suspect him!
    I am eternally grateful to the inventor of padded bras, tho'. I remember a Mr Creep type asking me if I was glad to see him at another job one cold day. That was mortifying. It's great that I haven't had a visible nipple stand in years!
    I do think growing up over and in an Irish pub probably prepared me for a life time of men. They were mostly lovely and decent - more like uncles or grandads, or eventually the brothers I never had. And the few indecent ones were so few & insignificant, you almost enjoyed the excuse to have a smart mouth!

  2. I've never been able to find a padded bra in my size. Hmm...perhaps there's a reason for this, given that padded bras were probably designed with an entirely different problem in mind...