Humans are naturally super curious creatures, and they naturally notice differences between people, like hair color, left-handedness, or if someone’s not comfortable with their food touching on their plate.
While it’s okay to note differences like this, there are absolutely boundaries that a person should not cross with someone else, especially if their observation is ableist, agreed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor Former-Emu6417 had heard people ask her paraplegic husband questions about his physical condition and lifestyle in the past, and she was impressed by how he always handled the questions gracefully.
But when one of her new coworkers crossed into completely inappropriate topics to ask about, the Original Poster (OP) knew it was time to shut that conversation down.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for calling my coworker a creep after he asked about my husband’s genitals and our sex life?”
The OP had a wonderful relationship with her husband, who was also paraplegic.
“My (37 Female) husband (37 Male), Vincent, is paraplegic and has been since he was in a car crash when we were 14. We’ve been best friends since we were nine.”
“He, of course, uses a wheelchair and by now is pretty used to either awkward looks or (usually) innocent questions about what happened, if he can feel anything, etc.”
They were excited to attend an important work event together.
“This morning/early afternoon, my work had a little party thing for us all to celebrate because it’s the anniversary of the veterinary hospital I work at. It was a barbecue picnic thing at a local park for everyone who works there and their families.”
“I’ve worked there for about 10 years and know everyone there quite well (as does Vincent), so we were pretty happy to have a nice lunch.”
“Miles (late 20s Male) is the new receptionist at the clinic, and he’s been here since February (or maybe March, not long, anyway) while the other nine people who work here have been here at least two years or so each.”
“Miles generally seems like a nice guy, but he can be pretty nosy at times. In general, that doesn’t really bother me, as everyone has their quirks.”
Miles was especially nosy about Vincent and his paraplegia.
“Today was the first time Vincent and Miles met.”
“Miles had a lot of nosy questions for Vincent, like, ‘What happened? Can you really not feel anything below your waist? Was it hard finding an apartment around here? Is there an abrupt line where you can feel everything and then nothing, or is there part of your body where you can kind of feel something but not completely like when your foot is asleep?’ and so on).”
“It was a bit weird for Vincent as it usually is, but he’s pretty good-natured about answering questions like that, even when the person asking has a lot of them.”
“Now, multiple times during the conversation, Vincent, some of my coworkers, and I tried to change the topic.”
“Miles would usually play along for a bit but would have another question whenever there was a lull in the conversation.”
Miles then took his questions way too far.
“At one point, Miles asked Vincent, ‘So, how does that work in the bedroom? Can you get… you know?'”
“Now, obviously, it’s weird and uncomfortable to have a person you don’t know well ask about your sex life, but Vincent is also incredibly sensitive about it and his feelings about himself because of the way our sex life is as a result of his paraplegia is something he has long has struggles with.”
“For the record, I absolutely love our sex life, but still, he feels bad about himself.”
“I immediately said, ‘Miles, do you have to be such a creep?'”
“Miles then got upset and told me that I was being an a** for leaping to that.”
“Vincent and I left pretty shortly after. Vincent, for the record, was very thankful for what I said.”
But one coworker left the OP second-guessing herself.
“One of our coworkers texted me to say that he understood where I was coming from but thought I was probably being too mean too fast.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some found this to be wildly inconsiderate and inappropriate of the coworker.
“NTA. Leaving aside your husband’s disability, there is no world where asking about your coworker’s sex life is appropriate.” – Far_Hat_8303
“NTA. There are a lot of things that would have been appropriate to call him, and ‘creep’ was probably the most polite.” – catskillkid
“NTA, and please report him. It is never ok to ask such intrusive questions, especially the first time you meet someone and in a professional context!” – Riyokosan
“NTA. Miles was way past appropriate conversation, and your husband’s reaction should tell you if you are an AH or not. Defending your spouse never makes you the AH.” – Rich-398
“NTA. I can’t believe anybody actually said you were too mean and defended Miles. What he did is so inappropriate, it’s actually unbelievable.”
“I feel like you handled it beautifully, and you honestly were probably way nicer than you should have been.”
“Your coworker needs to apologize to you and your husband for crossing the line.” – Deep-Manner-4111
“I’ve seen a few people judge Miles based on it being common sense not to bring a topic like this up, but I don’t think something like this is common sense so much as it is basic human decency.”
“Common sense is for things like not sticking your hand into a vat of acid on purpose or not walking out into traffic without looking. How we think we need to treat others is not and never has been common sense because people’s emotions are complicated and often stupid, like this coworker.”
“The dude’s curious and not thinking of anything but his own curiosity. So in his mind, it’s perfectly fine to inquire about someone’s genitals that he doesn’t have regular and sexy or medical access to. Never mind that if someone started asking about the function or lack thereof of his own d**k, he’d be really effing weirded out.”
“OP, no, of course, it’s not okay for someone that isn’t you or a doctor to ask about your husband’s genitals. I’d have been a lot more mean, all things considered.”
“Any time someone tells you you’re being mean, bring up sexual harassment. Don’t tiptoe around that. NTA. Of course, NTA.” – Blanksix
Others agreed and encouraged the OP to report this to HR (Human Resources).
“OP, Miles’ behavior was textbook workplace sexual harassment, and you would be well within your right to escalate this to HR.” – Heavy_Sand5228
“Report Miles to HR for this and make sure your other colleague knows that stopping an invasive creep involves calling them out as such. He went where nobody should go in the conversation. That was none of his business.” – Sea_Cry_7605
“Owner of a vet clinic here. There has to be someone who handles HR at your office. It could be the owner or the office manager, even.”
“When I had employees come to me about inappropriate comments made by a new hire, I addressed it immediately. And they were nowhere near the level of what you were dealing with.”
“NTA.” – MoonpawX
“Just an idea for if there’s a next time, and you do decide to play nice longer, is to say something along the lines of, ‘You have the world’s knowledge at your fingertips, why aren’t you looking it up?'”
“Seriously, NTA, and he IS a creep. He deserved it. Make sure you bring it up to HR as soon as possible, to keep the record straight, just in case.” – WolfShaman
“NTA. You handled it perfectly.”
“Miles is young and stupid, and he will eventually get himself in a lot of hot water if he continues to be so nosy about things that are extremely inappropriate to pester coworkers about. You know, things like disabilities, medical history, and sexual history.”
“Calling him out is fine. You’re not Miles’s boss or his mother, and you have every right to defend your husband in public.”
“I would document this, though. If Miles does not take the hint that he needs to stop asking about inappropriate topics, you may need to eventually report him to HR or a superior for harassing you and your husband.” – BeanFiddler
“Insist on an apology from both Miles and the ‘conflict-avoidant’ (read: creep-apologist) coworker. If you don’t have HR, go to the managing partners or whoever is highest in the practice.”
“Breaking bad news to owners is a great skill, but anyone who would behave this way in response to Miles’ fully inappropriate, awful, pushy, harassing behavior is a liability when dealing with the public eventually. Which is, incidentally, also what Miles is.”
“Does he ask customers about their wheelchairs or birthmarks or baldness or whatever random thing piques his curiosity? Does he ask if their neutered pets can still get it on? Yikes on bikes.”
“P.S. You and your husband both sound like awesome people and a great couple. I’m sorry this happened to you. Neither of you deserves to be treated like this.”
“For the record, anyone listening is likely wondering about whether Miles grew up in a barn than about your husband’s anatomy and physiology. He’s clearly the bigger man.” – Myironlions
The subReddit was appalled that someone had the audacity to ask someone about their sex life within hours of meeting them, especially in an ableist way. Not to mention how the OP’s coworker then acted surprised when he was called out for it.
It was clear to the subReddit that it was time for the OP to have a conversation with someone higher up, like her boss or a representative from HR, to ensure that this incident was recorded. Hopefully, Miles would take a hint, but if he decided to act like this again, at least the OP would have a paper trail to help her legally and professionally support her husband.