Once in my academic career, I was blackballed from a job I wanted in an outfit where I was wanted. The blackballer was a woman. What happened is that the relevant department voted to offer me a job with a unanimous vote but one. The one voting against derived her disproportionate power from the fact that she was the only female in the department. The department spokesman told me clearly that his colleagues did not want to ignore the single female vote. The blackballer never explained her vote except by saying that my presence would make her “uncomfortable.” (If she had ever said anything else, academia being what it is, it would have come back to me for sure.)
The woman was not a stranger. She had received her doctorate from the same university as I. Our times there had overlapped although I was senior to her in every respect. We had had numerous interactions, all cordial and courteous. We were not friends but I had several opportunities to give her help on professional matters. Each time at her request.. The last time I had seen the woman before she blackballed me had been a year earlier. On that occasion, she had said goodbye to me by kissing me on both cheeks. (She had kissed me, not the reverse.) Incidentally, there was no way of not knowing that I was married.
The woman was fairly intelligent and professionally competent. (Years later, her academic accomplishments confirm this judgment.) She was also less attractive than average. I mean that I would not have engaged in sexual commerce with her unless she had been the last woman on earth. And even then… . I am sure this detail has nothing to do with my story, of course. You know as much as I do. What do you think?
Post-script: Several people have asked me what’s the point of this story. I am flabbergasted but here it is: I suffered a serious career handicap, my children were deprived of several years of economic prosperity during the crucial years when they could and should have been in private schools because I refrained from behavior that many would identify as “sexual harassment.” I mean propositioning a colleague or, at least, acting flirty with her. Am I posing as a victim deserving of reparation? No, I am just reminding you of the obvious: Down on the ground, things are not simple in the area of non-sexual sex relations. And also: It’s not only men who are sex beasts and when they are not, they often pay for this lacuna. I will stop right here before I am accused of bragging, of course.