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Everyone is Having Sex at Work, at Least on TV

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Everyone is having sex with someone at work—or at least locking lips in the break room. In most offices, there’s more canoodling than networking, more flirting than filing, and more breaking hearts than calling on clients.

At least that’s what television would have us believe.

Think about it. Practically every show about work—from Grey’s Anatomy to The Office to Ugly Betty to NCIS to Studio 60—involves at least one romance, usually more.

The love triangle on The Office—Jim/Pam/Roy—has become a love square with this season’s new character, Karen. Plus, the boss of said office (Michael) is hooking up with his boss (Jan), and there are at least two other fires burning among the rank-and-file (Dwight/Angela, Kelly/Ryan).

And Grey’s? I’ve seen a near-smooch over a newborn in intensive care, a love tiff beside an open body on an operating table, and plenty of hot hook-ups in office supply closets. I thought doctors were supposed to be work-a-holics, not sex-a-holics.

So here’s my question: are these shows reflecting reality, influencing reality, or perhaps I am over-thinking it completely and they are just entertainment, nothing more?

A little research tells me the shows are indeed reflecting, if not exaggerating, a real-life trend. Seventeen percent of respondents in a 2007 survey admit to being caught trysting on the job, up from just 2 percent last year. Forty-seven percent of respondents said they have been in an office romance, and another 11 percent said they’d be willing. And in a online survey, 72 percent of men and 64 percent of women say they are “infatuated” with a co-worker.

Is it possible that television is encouraging all this corporate hanky-panky? Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture and television at Syracuse University, doubts TV has a big influence. In some cases, workplace romance is forbidden, and people aren’t likely to break that rule just because the characters on Ugly Betty are doing it, he says.

On the other hand, if a company doesn’t have any rules about dating, it is probably going to happen whether TV characters are going at it or not. After all, as Thompson points out, most people spend more time with their work colleagues than they spend at home.

“I’ve never believed this idea that if we watch violent TV, we become violent,” Thompson says.

Okay, fine. So you aren’t going to fall for the realtor at the next desk just because Brian (What about Brian) does. Still, if there is an increase in on-the-job romance on television (I don’t remember Mary and Lou disrobing each other on The Mary Tyler Moore Show) and an increase in real life, you better watch out. If a co-worker tells you he wants you to be his mentor, well, who knows what he really has in mind. And if someone leans over a little too slowly to get a Snickers out of the vending machine, he or she might have more in mind than an afternoon snack. And please, please beware of the supply closet—it seems to have an aphrodisiac quality at a Seattle hospital, or at least at one on TV.


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