Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members. R. Eric Thomas is filling in as Prudie for Jenée Desmond-Harris while she’s on parental leave. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)
Q. Disturbed: My husband has a big group of college friends who still keep in touch through a group text, mostly about sports and major life updates. One of his friends is “Alan,” a high school teacher.
For at least the second time that I know of, Alan has sent the group texts making remarks about his female students being scantily clad, and telling the other guys they’d be “losing their minds.” My husband told me about them because he felt uncomfortable and found it to be shocking that his longtime friend is now a creepy teacher. The first time it happened, I encouraged my husband to tell Alan to knock it off because it’s grossly inappropriate and a potentially fireable offense. He avoided doing so to not stir the pot, and I let it go. Now that it’s happened again, and I feel like this guy is asking the other guys to validate his predatory goggling and sexualizing of students. Not a single friend made any comment in response, though none discouraged him either, which I feel like is as easy as, “Dude, we have daughters now. Stop.”
I am irritated that my husband can’t be bothered to say something to his friend simply because he fears conflict when he has admitted to me that he feels it’s inappropriate. Do you think my husband ignoring him is sufficient in shutting creepy Alan down, or do you think he should tell him to stop, or even report him to the school’s administration? None of the comments go past remarking on the lack of clothes on female students and how it’s hard to handle.
A: Ignoring Alan is not enough, clearly, as it hasn’t made any difference. But unfortunately, too many people think that “doing the right thing” means privately disapproving and taking no further action.
Your husband and this group may go back a while, but he’s got to ask himself what kind of pot he’s trying to keep unstirred, as it were. Is a group chat where teenage girls are being talked about so inappropriately a place where he wants to be? And is a group of men who are unwilling or unable to call in a friend the type of people he wants to keep up with? This is all stuff your husband needs to work out.
I think he should tell Alan to stop—he can call him out, making it clear that what he’s doing is inappropriate and unwelcome, or he can call him in, having a one-on-one conversation with Alan. Personally, I think this should happen in the group chat. It doesn’t need to be big or messy, but by saying nothing, the group has tacitly agreed to an agreement that this kind of thing is OK.
My husband and I, newly married, recently moved to the same town in which his bachelor brother lives. My husband travels frequently on business and encouraged me to invite his brother over if I ever felt lonely. He also told his brother to “watch out for me.” One night I caught his brother peering in my bedroom window. He told my husband that he thought he heard me cry out and wanted to make sure I was OK. A few weeks ago, he showed up in the middle of the night and said he wanted to make sure I was alone. The final straw came last night, when I was showering. I turned around, and there was my brother-in-law! He claimed he hadn’t known I was home and my husband told him where to find our hide-a-key. The issue is that my husband believes his brother’s explanations rather than my feelings that his brother’s behavior crosses the line. He has asked his brother to back off “a bit.” Is it reasonable for me to expect more?