His part-time passion as a sex-positive dating coach was a turn-off to H/R. But being turned down for a “real job” turned out to be a good thing.
I love what I do. I educate, entertain, and connect with the world in a meaningful, sex-positive way. I host a web show about sex, love, and dating, and have a busy practice as a dating coach. Both these endeavors give me a sense of purpose, fulfill my desire to do good work, and allow me to connect deeply with clients and followers about my passions: sex, love, and dating.
That being said — did I know that this work wouldn’t exactly make me the scratch that I need to live in today’s uber-expensive San Francisco economy? I had a feeling, but I wasn’t prepared to get another part-time job to make up the missing income. Which is why it was time to get busy finding a good paying, full-time job.
Having had some success in the past as a sales rep for a tech company, and noting the current SF tech craze — I figured I might as well apply to some cool companies and cash in on all those free lunches I keep hearing about. I heard that every employee of Airbnb gets a new Macbook Air. Everyone, from the executive team to the janitorial staff. Hey, I could use a new Macbook Air.
So I applied at a bunch of companies in the Bay Area — about half called me back, and I interviewed with two. I won’t name names, but one is a major player in the routing and security hardware space, and the other is a rapidly growing startup in the software development space. It’s perhaps worth noting that the latter has recently faced some allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace. You’ll soon find out why this is relevant.
Now, I’m not cagey, discreet, or ashamed of what I do. I write articles, host a show, and coach clients using my real name. I’m proud to be a sex-positive educator, ally, and mentor in a space which frankly could use better male role models. I include my experience as a sex educator and writer in my resume, and usually bring it up in an interview as a talking point about how I connect with strangers. Not only is it valuable to be able to strike up conversations with strangers in sales, it’s pretty much mandatory.
After a few rounds of interviews at both companies, I waited. I was soon offered a job at the large network appliance company, which I turned down because it wasn’t the right fit. I waited for my feedback from the software startup, and was disappointed to hear that they were “going to move forward with another candidate”.
While I was disappointed, I also know that not everything goes in your favor sometimes, and you rarely get to know why you didn’t get the job. C’est la vie. Recruiters rarely give you feedback other than to say that you “weren’t the right fit” or that “the position has been filled internally”. I get that and I ain’t mad.
What I wasn’t ready for was what happened next.
I have a close friend who works at this startup. He pinged one of the interviewers to get more intel and the feedback was the generic “he interviewed great, we loved him, but not the right fit for the role.” Shortly after, my friend was approached by the HR Director and asked to step into an office to discuss my interview. This is where things get interesting.
The HR Director explained that “unanimously we think your friend interviewed well. We all loved him. He’s a great cultural fit, however, we had some concerns. His YouTube show, while sex positive, can be seen as a bit too racy for some of our clients. Since he’s interviewing for a customer facing role, we thought it was something to bring up.”
A bit far fetched for my taste. Few people have the time or the inclination to Google a sales rep before taking a call. They might check their LinkedIn profiles, but most potential clients are far too busy to worry about the outside interests of the person on the other end of the phone. I was skeptical, but I let it slide. The other piece of feedback was much more interesting, and honestly made me a little sick when I heard it.
“The other concern was that someone/some people got the sense that he is a “player” and would potentially hit on/flirt with employees and clients”.
I’ll be honest. I spun out a bit at receiving this feedback from my friend. I started doubting my choice for being openly sex-positive on the internet, and using my real name to post articles about how to flirt authentically, how to make sexual requests rather than demands, and how to have guilt-free sex while looking for a partner. I was then struck with just how presumptuous this claim is. What makes you think I want to hit on your employees?
Lastly, the HR Director finished giving his feedback by saying “Had we interviewed him prior to our little PR scandal last year, we would have hired him”.
So which was it? Am I simultaneously a great fit, well-liked by all interviewers, a potential sexual predator to employees AND clients, too racy, and a slam dunk hire prior to the scandal?
After the initial period of doubt, I started asking myself “what the hell just happened?” Was I labeled a sexual predator because of a dating guide I wrote outlining how to ask out women? Would a female candidate have been labeled the same thing if she had written articles about how to have guilt-free one night stands? Was I just an unfortunate casualty of a technology culture that fears sex positivity because of the risk those hires might bring to their company?
I understand a company’s desire to make good solid decisions when hiring folks. What I don’t understand is why a conversation wasn’t had about these potential issues. Perhaps they were unfamiliar with what’s acceptable to ask in an interview (questions about sex, sexual orientation, age, and race are not.) In any case, I quickly realized that a company which is unwilling to have a potentially uncomfortable conversation about sex culture, is not a company I want to work for.
This also led me to start thinking about the value of my work, versus the value of their work — and the respectability of both. Sex education is hard work. It’s often uncomfortable, comes with all sorts of complexities, brings shame, guilt, and hangups to the forefront, and often makes people feel a bit queasy. Helping people have more connected sex and love lives is fundamental to overall well being. When you’re happy with your sex and love life, that happiness bleeds into all other aspects of your life — making you a more productive human.
Weeks have passed since this experience and I’m happy to report that while I’m still not employed full time, I’m also no longer doubting my decision to be open about my sex-positive beliefs. There is more to gain by educating, entertaining, and supporting my followers and readers than by hiding behind a pen name, or discontinuing my pursuit of sex education.
Hard to believe now, but I’m really grateful for this experience. I realized that my passion lies in sex education, and while it may not pay great, you can’t put a price on living a fulfilled and happy life. Even if I have to make my own lunches and use this old computer.
Photo: Getty Images