On Rebecca’s third day of work in her new department, she was propositioned by her head of school.
It was something of a surprise.
This was her first job. She was a month out of her doctorate, and had no real idea what to expect in a teaching position.
What she didn’t expect was the elderly head of school following her into the photocopying room and saying that if she was nice to him he would help her career.
She hadn’t understood at first. She’d been copying a chapter from a textbook, had been concentrating on turning pages and not losing her place.
“Sure,” she said. “What do you need?”
The head of school just looked at her.
“Nice how?” she said, thinking extra tutorials, or shifting a lecture to an earlier time to fit in with a colleague.
Then she saw his face and suddenly understood.
“Oh,” she said. “Oh fuck. You mean…?”
He just kept looking.
She stood there. The copier hummed. She should have been angry or frightened. Mostly she was just surprised. She hadn’t realized this kind of thing still happened.
Inept passes from other grad students, sure. But not this. From him.
After a moment she realized she wasn’t only surprised. Actually, she wanted to giggle.
She wanted to a lot.
She stood there, listening to the copier whir, and made herself not. Something told her that was probably a worse thing to do than just saying no.
Something told her she really ought not to care how he felt.
“You’re serious?” she said, after a moment. “This isn’t some hazing thing? Like trick the new staff, make me think…”
He was serious. She could tell from his expression.
She had no idea what to do.
“No thanks,” she said. Still polite. “I’ll be fine on my own.”
He nodded and left. Probably because after all that, after her confusion at what he’d said, any predatory instinct he had to press the point was gone.
She finished her copying, and was horrified at herself.
She shouldn’t have just said no thanks. She should have said fuck no, this wasn’t 1970, she wasn’t going to take shit like that.
She should have said that although she liked her job, she didn’t enough to fuck someone as old as him.
She should have said he was worm, a fuck-up, revolting. And how could he. Just how could he.
She should have said anything other than no thanks.
She stood there, and started shaking. She was angry. She had to do something. She had to confront him.
Not confront him. Confrontation wasn’t her. Complaints and inquiries and formal arbitrations weren’t really her either, but she had to do something.
Except that she knew how this went. Everyone knew. She’d end up looking like she’d misunderstood, or overreacted, or was somehow in the wrong.
She had to let people know what had happened, to shame him publicly, but without him being able to argue back. So he wouldn’t get a chance to say he was joking, that she was hysterical, that she’d just misunderstood and he was like this with all his colleagues.
She stood there for a moment, thinking.
She was sarcastic. That was what she was, more than anything else.
She gathered up her photocopying, and the original book, and closed the copier lid.
Then she went down the corridor, knocking on doors, saying, hey, you don’t know me, I just started, but look, I just got offered a better career if I slept with the head of school, so I thought I’d be smart and instead of just taking the first offer, I’d shop around. So if you’re interested, if you can help me out for a bit of sex, or know anyone who would, just email your offer by the end of the day.
She told ten or fifteen people before she stopped being quite so angry.
She ran into a colleague, another young lecturer, in the hallway. The colleague overheard Rebecca, and, confused, said, “You’re joking, right?”
“Ah, yeah,” Rebecca said, puzzled. “Of course. Like harasser shaming and shit.”
“Yeah,” Rebecca said, and decided that was enough. She went back to her office, and closed the door, and sat there, still a bit shocked and completely horrified this still kind of thing still happened.
She expected that to be that. A bit of a joke, the head of school warned to back off, no harm done.
She had five emails offering to help her career in exchange for sex by the end of the day.