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(Meta) Just wondering

6th March 2008 (19:07)


Poll #1149939 Workplace Affairs

A sexual relationship between people in a junior and senior position in a workplace heirarchy is:

Utterly wrong and immoral
Pretty skeevy, but not the worst sin imaginable
Slightly unwise
What's the problem?
I think it's romantic.

What nationality, cultural or ethnic group do you primarily identify with?

What gender do you identify as?

Prefer not to answer

How old are you?

Under 18
Prefer not to answer

The demographic type questions are because I'm wondering if this is something where culture makes a difference. Feel free not to answer them, or tell me any other things you feel may be relevant to your opinion.

Assume that the two people involved are both adults, free to form a relationship, and no coercion has been used beyond any inherent in their manager-subordinate heirarchical status.

ETA: The definition of 'adult' I'm using here is "legally old enough to have a sexual relationship with the other person".

Some people have questioned my use of 'slightly' with 'unwise'. Since I can't edit the poll, please use the following distinctions:
"Pretty skeevy" - your opinion of the person's character would be lessened; what they are doing is blameworthy.
"Slightly unwise" - you might criticise their judgement but you wouldn't think less of them on a moral level. In other words, "unwise" as well as "slightly unwise" comes here. However, if your judgement is more "not immoral, but an utterly stupid and unforgivable thing to do" then please use the higher category!

The question on nationality/culture/ethnicity etc - originally I just wrote 'nationality' but it struck me that some people might, let's say, hold citizenship from one country but actually live in and identify with a second instead. Or feel strongly that their culture or ethnicity took precedence over their legal nationality.

ETA2 - Some observations on the results:

Since most people picked the second or third choices, I'll concentrate on these and roll the other choices into them. I'll use 'negative' to depict people who went for 'utterly wrong' or 'slightly skeevy', and 'dubious' for those who picked 'slightly unwise' or the two neutral or positive choices.

Contrary to my original theory, nationality or culture seems to make almost no difference. 29% of Americans took a negative view of such relationships, compared to 31% of Europeans. (Australians were evenly split, but I'm afraid there weren't enough of you to be statistically significant. Sorry.)

On the other hand, age did have a big effect. Almost nobody in the youngest agegroup (19-25) was negative: just 9%. On the other hand, fully 80% of the 51+ agegroup had a negative opinion. However, it wasn't an even progression: the 26-35 agegroup was almost as hostile to such relationships as the 51+ group (67% negative), while those in the 36-50 group were much more in favour of them (28% negative). I wonder if this reflects the younger group identifying with the junior partner in such a relationship, and the older group having more sympathy for the senior?

Gender also had a significant effect. Men were far more hostile to the concept than women, with 56% of males being negative compared to 34% of females.


Posted by: Chani φ (frenchani)
Posted at: 6th March 2008 19:25 (UTC)

Define adult...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th March 2008 00:05 (UTC)

In this context, over the age of consent in your country. In other words, assume the relationship is legal, my question only relates to whether you think it's moral and/or sensible.

Edited at 2008-03-07 00:06 (UTC)

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 6th March 2008 19:30 (UTC)
Stopwatch by kathyh

Hmmm. This is tricky. It is obviously not a *good* thing, what with the inherent problems, but OTOH it can be one of the things that can make it interesting.

I'm thinking of Jack/Ianto here, which is just such a relationship - except there are TONS of other layers and very particular circumstances involved.

So I guess that *generally* I'd say it's a bad idea, but with possible exceptions...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th March 2008 00:08 (UTC)

Pretty much my thoughts on it... but I note that "marrying the boss" (or "boss's son/daughter") is a staple of some kinds of romantic fiction...

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 6th March 2008 19:30 (UTC)

As regards Buffy/Satsu, just a quick thought: even if we can be reasonably sure Buffy wouldn't kick Satsu out for being in love with her (or for not going to bed with her), it's obvious that Satsu up until recently thought she would; there's no coersion as such, that doesn't mean it's not an imbalance of power. I don't quite think any of your alternatives fit it, really; "unwise" would probably come closest, though given the situation, I'm not sure about the "slightly."

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th March 2008 00:14 (UTC)

The wording 'slightly unwise' was trying to convey the concept that you don't think there's anything in particular morally wrong with the situation, but it could well cause problems for the parties involved (or affect how other people regard them, etc).

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th March 2008 00:19 (UTC)

I pretty much agree with you - it would be a practical problem more than a moral one, because of issues of favouritism and so forth; and the slayer organisation is much less heirarchical than a standard company anyway. (Let alone, say, the army where a relationship between differnt ranks in the same chain of command is actually, I believe, illegal).

I was wondering if there would be a cultural difference between America and Europe, since in previous discussions I've received the impression that Americans tend to take a more negative view of workplace relationships in general - your comment about lawsuits might be a reason for that, if it really is a difference.

Posted by: eowyn_315 (eowyn_315)
Posted at: 6th March 2008 22:24 (UTC)

I'd agree with the last couple comments. I picked "slightly unwise," because I don't think it's necessarily skeevy or wrong, but if unwise without the slightly had been an option, I'd have gone with that.

I think it's probably a much bigger deal in a corporate workplace with a definite hierarchy than it is with this group. While I think both Buffy and Xander open themselves up to accusations of favoritism by dating younger Slayers, the leadership does seem to be fairly casual - look at Andrew playing strip poker with his charges, or Xander encouraging Buffy to party with the girls. Although those with more experience seem to be in recognized leadership roles, it's not a strict corporate ladder. As long as they were discreet and did their best to minimize the appearance of favoritism, I don't think they'd have much of a problem.

Someone (possibly you) has previously pointed out Satsu's inherent formality in relating to her superiors, which may contribute to her fear that Buffy would kick her out. I don't know that another Slayer would have had the same reaction - if Xander had turned down Renee, for example, I don't think Renee would be expecting to get booted, just that it would be slightly awkward for a while. That could just be Satsu's personality and/or cultural influence coming through.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th March 2008 00:26 (UTC)

It's actually possible, I suppose, that Buffy and Xander would deliberately cultivate the sort of informality that would lead to this sort of relatonship being acceptable - as a reaction to what went wrong in Season 7. Of course, it may backfire on them... there seemed to be some grumbling about favouritism already in the scene where Buffy picked Satsu to help rescue Willow.

I think it was me that mentioned Satsu's formality. :-) I do think it's cultural, or just a personality trait of hers - Renee certainly has no problems giving backchat to Xander.

And Satsu herself seems to have dropped the 'Ma'am' now that they're sleeping together. ;-)

Posted by: eowyn_315 (eowyn_315)
Posted at: 7th March 2008 00:47 (UTC)

It never occurred to me to relate their leadership structure to season 7, but it is very different. Buffy doesn't have nearly the "I'm the leader, you'll do as I say" attitude she did back then - although I attribute that partly to her being under less pressure from a Big Bad in season 8. I do think it would be wise for them to cultivate a more informal atmosphere to avoid the kind of resentment Buffy inspired in season 7. Also, it's probably logistically difficult to have 500 slayers all reporting to one general, hence the numerous squads and the shared leadership status of Buffy, Xander, Andrew, Wood (presumably - he did seem to have a squad in NFFY), and Giles, until he left to play with Faith.

And Satsu herself seems to have dropped the 'Ma'am' now that they're sleeping together.

Thank goodness! THAT would be skeevy!

Edited at 2008-03-07 00:48 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th March 2008 11:24 (UTC)

It was the first thing that struck me back in 'The Long Way Home' - Buffy seems to be making a conscious effort to consider the morale and feelings of the other Slayers and treat them as equals instead of just soldiers under her command.

And it ties into the whole 'power' theme of Season 7, where the point of the ending was to replace traditional patriarchal models of power and control with a more egalitarian, feminist sharing of power. Season 8 shows Buffy's attempt to do that.

Posted by: JG (jgracio)
Posted at: 7th March 2008 01:27 (UTC)
Bangel Date


It's not a workplace relationship. It's an army one.

A relationship between a junior and a senior in a normal workplace can be problematic in a normal job, but how would it affect one where people get killed? What would happen the first time Buffy sent someone instead of Satsu to do something, and that person got killed?
And what if she keeps on sending Satsu to the big missions?

Will this matter at all? I have no idea. But in the real world it would.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th March 2008 11:25 (UTC)

I can see that, but then again - like I said in a comment above - I think Buffy is consciously avoiding the 'army/general' type of system that worked so badly for her back in Season 7.

Posted by: JG (jgracio)
Posted at: 7th March 2008 12:13 (UTC)

Hum... No?

She's avoiding the Don't get close to the soldiers cause' they're all gonna die anyway / can't care about anyone but Spike / don't want the viewers to think the Potentials are likeable, not the army system.

There are squads, there are leaders, people on the lower rings follow the leaders orders, even when it means their death, they train together, etc., etc.

Sure, it's a fluffier, friendlier army than the one in S7, but it's an army still, and she's clearly the general.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th March 2008 12:42 (UTC)

In another thread, someone compared it to an activist group. I think that's closer to the mark than a disciplined army.

Rona gave Buffy-2 a dangerous mission in 'The Chain', but she was describing it conditionally... "you would..." (if you agree to the misison) not "you will...".

Posted by: JG (jgracio)
Posted at: 7th March 2008 12:58 (UTC)


At the end of the day, favoritism could get people killed, and in the real world that would have implications.

I saw a documentary somewhere about that group that tried to bomb the Glasgow airport some time ago (think that was it), and I was impressed on how closely the formation of a terrorist group followed the lines the Scoobies took after high school, the looking inward, being more and more focused in the group...

Posted by: Peasant (peasant_)
Posted at: 7th March 2008 10:58 (UTC)

I would have liked to answer 'unwise' without the 'slightly' because while I don't see any moral problem, I do think it is more than slightly unwise in practical terms.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th March 2008 12:44 (UTC)

I've edited the original post to clarify. 'Unwise' can come under 'slightly unwise', unless you actually mean "utterly stupid and brainless" which should go in the higher category. ;-)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 7th March 2008 15:36 (UTC)

With your edit re: unwise, that's pretty much exactly my opinion. There's two questions here, IMO:

The moral one is whether it's OK for Buffy to go to bed with Satsu, knowing that Satsu is in love with her and that she doesn't (and most likely never will) return those feelings; to borrow an expression I've always wanted to use, her body is writin' checks her heart can't cash. That doesn't really have anything to do with their rank; it's essentially the "Dead Things" speech over again, though from a different angle.

The wise one is whether it's OK for Buffy to use her superior position to a) get the upper hand in a relationship (which I don't think she would do consciously, but again - Satsu thought she might get kicked out, and Buffy has dangled the promise of promotion in front of her), and b) what it might look like to the other hundreds of girls she's responsible for. As jgracio said - what will it look like if she sends someone who's NOT her best Slayer on a mission and they get hurt or killed? Even if she had perfectly good non-sexy reasons not to send Satsu, the people who depend on her (and vice versa) might not see it like that... Plus, Satsu in turn is responsible for other Slayers and needs them to trust her. Didn't you once write a drabble where Rona told Kennedy, "Shame we can't all sleep our way into the top ranks"?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th March 2008 20:06 (UTC)

The moral one is whether it's OK for Buffy to go to bed with Satsu

For that matter, is it OK for Satsu to go to bed with Buffy, knowing she's not really into it and is only doing it out of a desire not to hurt her and a feeling of loneliness?

As for the practical implications... to me, that spells lots of interesting possibilities for drama down the line. Characters who always make sensible decisions make for boring stories. :-)

Put it this way: if you were Buffy's best friend right now, would you be telling her "Get away from her right now, what on earth were you thinking!!"? Or would you be saying "Oh boy, you've just made your life much more complicated. You're going to have to make sure you do X, and think about what you'll do if Y happens, and what you need to say if anyone says Z."

And Rona was being jealous and bitchy in that drabble. :-)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 9th March 2008 20:30 (UTC)

that spells lots of interesting possibilities for drama down the line

Oh, absolutely. I'm saying it's problematic in more than one way - both the moral and the practical angle. That doesn't mean I don't want it to happen, or that I'm demanding that every fictional character follow my set of morals; I want them to follow their own. What annoys me is when people (including, once or twice, Joss himself) try to write off a problematic issue simply by declaring that Buffy hasn't done anything malicious or evil, and thus there is no problem. From a story-telling POV, conflicts are GOOD. Problematic is GOOD. Complicated is GOOD.

And Rona was being jealous and bitchy in that drabble.

Sure. And if that's the story is headed, I expect more than one of the New Slayers will take Buffy/Satsu as a reason to act jealous and bitchy. Just because someone might be unfair (and bitchy) in their assessment of a situation doesn't mean it won't make for a good story.

Posted by: Owen (owenthurman)
Posted at: 8th March 2008 07:29 (UTC)

What nationality, cultural or ethnic group do you primarily identify with?


What gender do you identify as?

But not "What age do you identify as?" Why not? Are you insisting on the objective reality of age but pure subjectivity on gender? How close-minded.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 8th March 2008 12:16 (UTC)

On the contrary. People claiming to be 21 when they're really 17 or claiming to be 39 when they're really 43 belongs to the old-fashioned outdated ageist paradigm. Be open and proud about your number of years!

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