Fifty Shades of Shhh!

Any die-hard romance lover is waiting impatiently for next Friday, not because it’s Valentine’s Day weekend, but because the film adaptation of best-selling trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey” will be released. It’s a major, major deal; trust me. I’ve been waiting for this with more anticipation than the Man of Steel sequel, and that’s a lot.

But one of my co-workers sent me a very important article related to the film that posits talking about it may be one person’s excited cinephile chatter and another person’s hostile work environment.

Writer Suzanne Lucas, also known as @RealEvilHRLady, penned a piece called “‘Fifty Shades’ at the Watercooler” that suggests talking about the film at work could lead to legal issues related to sexual harassment. 

For those who are not romantically inclined, or are potentially living under a very small rock, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the movie starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, is based on a trilogy of erotic romance novels by British writer E.L James — emphasis on erotic. The books feature scene after scene after explicit scene of BDSM — very graphic, rough sex involving toys — for those unfamiliar with that shorthand.

At last count, I think there was something like 100 million books sold worldwide, so there’s a fair chance someone in almost every office has at least seen — more likely taken a long peek into — one of them, so it’s definitely something bosses should think about.

Lucas said it’s best to shut down conversations about the film immediately — remind employees to “keep it clean” and that sexual discussions of any kind are not kosher in the workplace, where it’s best to keep things PG, not rated R. For added context, I think the Fifty Shades film just missed an NC17 rating.

Talking about the movie could in fact promote sexual harassment. Not that someone is more likely to be overcome with lust and start grabbing people at the idea of a fictional character being tied up and flogged with a — whatever it is you flog someone with — but these kinds of discussions could create a hostile work environment. Some people won’t be offended by the sexual nature of the film’s subject matter. Others? Well, you never know, and there lies the trick.

Lucas wrote, “If the discussions go on long enough and it’s deemed an acceptable topic the workplace, it’s possible it could create an environment where sexual discussion starts to be the norm, and that could mean a reasonable person would find it hostile.”

She also said if talk happens and someone complains, take it seriously. Tell the offenders to cease and desist immediately. “Sexual harassment law also allows for companies to remedy the situation outside the costly courtroom.”

So, even though there is at least one other person in my office with whom I could discuss the finer points of whether or not the film is true to the books' legacy — Kate, the one who sent me Lucas’ article — sadly, I won’t, unless of course, it’s after 5.