In a letter to Science Careers, a post-doc asks what she should do about an advisor who’s frequently trying to peek down her shirt. The answer is a boon to men in positions of power everywhere.
As long as your adviser does not move on to other advances, I suggest you put up with it, with good humor if you can. Just make sure that he is listening to you and your ideas, taking in the results you are presenting, and taking your science seriously. His attention on your chest may be unwelcome, but you need his attention on your science and his best advice.
Yay! Now, having gotten that permission, I have to push the boundaries a little bit.
Can I drop things and ask her to bend over to pick them up?
How about making suggestions on appropriate lab attire? Short skirts, low-cut blouses, that sort of thing?
Is upskirt photography OK? I wouldn’t touch, no, not at all.
When I write letters of recommendation for students, would “Nice rack” be an appropriate comment? It might be very helpful in landing a position under another man, you know.
I also appreciate the nice excuse given in the reply.
Certainly there are worse things, including the unlawful behaviors described by the EEOC. No one should ever use a position of authority to take sexual advantage of another.
Oh, yes. I can imagine much worse things. Shall I tell you about them while I commit a few lesser offenses? The fact that I’m not fondling your breasts makes it OK that I’m just staring at them.
Unfortunately, I think this advice widely misses the mark. If the point is that your advisor is important to your career and that his experience can make useful contributions to your science, doesn’t the fact that he is focusing on your sex mean he’s going to have a difficult time treating you as an equal, a colleague, a student? It’s not so much the staring as the attitude behind it: you want an advisor who will look you in the eyes and respect your work.
My advice — and it’s easier said than done when dealing with an authority having power over your career — would be to tell the man privately that his wandering eye is a problem in your work relationship. If it then continues to be a problem, take it to the department chair, and if he retaliates (showing that he’s not such a nice guy after all), change advisors, if possible. These people are not going to ever change if no one confronts them.
The article has been abruptly taken down! Fortunately, the internet does not forget (pdf).