Frank Ramirez: Porn in the workplace
05:14 PM CST on Tuesday, December 2, 2008
In the midst of an economic crisis, it would seem like nothing short of foolishness to walk away from a job, especially if one has a family to support. But I had no choice.
This is not a story about corporate callousness or abuse; it's a story about our culture's shedding of civility and common decency. I should say up front that I'm a Christian, but a tolerant one. I have become good friends with some former co-workers on the sales floor who don't share my faith or ethics. But I have boundaries. That's why I quit. Everyone at that store – managers and employees both may share my planet, but we live in different worlds.
When the security officer showed me a picture on his phone of a woman who was practically naked, I looked away. When one of the temps told me he couldn't wait to get an iPhone so he could download pornography, I shook my head in disbelief. When one of my co-workers exclaimed, "You don't look at porn!?" I chuckled over how weird I must've seemed.
Sex was conversational fodder every day there. Male employees would speculate among themselves about what female customers would look like naked. Sometimes, female employees would join these conversations. Once I saw an argument between a gay male employee and a woman over which had performed the most oral sex. And so on.
You'd think I was working at a strip club! But in fact, this was a highly trafficked store in a prosperous part of town, a retail outlet selling everyday products to middle-income and upscale folks. We went to great lengths to please our customers. If only they knew what the staff was saying about them behind their backs.
After a year, I couldn't take it anymore. But understand: I don't consider this experience sexual harassment. With few exceptions, my co-workers never intentionally tried to upset me or make me feel uncomfortable. They were always welcoming.
The problem is not really that vulgar workplace. The problem is our culture.
Pornographic garbage is everywhere, and we've grown to love its stench. In the current issue of Newsweek, M.J. McMahon, who runs a trade journal tracking the adult video industry, explained the rise in workplace online porn usage by saying, "You're looking at a younger consumer who has grown up with pornography being out there in the pop culture."
It's not just young adults. I'm in my twenties, and most of my sex-obsessed co-workers were older.
When I'd had enough, I called the chain's human resources manager and told her that it was time for me to quit. She wanted to know why and – somewhat embarrassed, because men are not supposed to be offended by such things – I told her. She wanted specifics. I gave her a couple of instances, but told her that it was not a matter of what this or that person said. Rather, it was how a pornographic mentality, one with no boundaries of propriety, had taken over the minds of our store's employees.
She offered to transfer me to another location. I agreed, but never heard from her again. In retrospect, I think that once she was satisfied that I wasn't going to sue the company, she cut me loose.
"Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks," a wise man once said. Though a lawsuit might forcibly change my former co-workers' behavior, it's not going to change who they are. It's not going to change the eroticized culture that we live in, and our children are growing up in, a culture that degrades human dignity and calls it liberation.
And as the father of two daughters, that depresses me more than being unemployed.
Frank Ramirez lives in Dallas and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source article in Dallas Morning News
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