Saw coworker sex video, not sure what to do
September 21, 2010 3:24 PM   Subscribe

100% by accident, I discovered a sex video of a coworker online. Normally, my course of action would be to forget it ever happened and never mention it to anyone. But this might be a different kind of case and I don't know what to do about it.

Asking via sockpuppet because while there's nothing wrong with porn, and I have no problem with either starring in it or staring at it, I'd rather keep that part of my private life private. I have also mentioned my workplace by name with my other identity and, for reasons that I'll make clear, don't want to make the workplace identifiable.

I suspect my coworker would prefer that part of her life remain private too. But there is indeed at least one explicit video of her on xtube, playing with some toys at the behest of someone off-camera. I'll reiterate- it's explicit. Again, normally this would be a live-and-let-live issue for me and I would keep my lips sealed until death.

Complicating factors:

1. The problem is that the coworker is a faculty member at a large institution and her job is educating and training student teachers. She works with them in the college classroom and in their public school placements within local primary and secondary schools.

2. I recognize that the odds of me having come across a video of someone who works three doors down from me on a site with as much traffic and content as xtube are amazingly small. Like maybe I should buy a lottery ticket tonight, that kind of small. But if I found it on a site with that much traffic, who's to say that one of her students won't come across it?

3. What IF one of her students comes across it? Her job could be on the line. What if one of them uses it to blackmail her? She could lose her position at the college. She could lose her teaching credential with the state. Her career could be absolutely RUINED if the wrong person saw the video and tried to use it against her. And aside from professional concerns, she's already known as a flirt. She dresses the part. What if the wrong person got ahold of it and used it to pressure her into some sort of inappropriate situation or relationship?

All of these what ifs are assuming that the person behind the camera uploaded the video without her knowledge. If she is aware that it (and others like it?) are out there, this is all obviously moot. But if she doesn't, and the camera operator put it on the web and she doesn't know it, I'm wondering if I have some sort of responsibility to let her know that it's there and, yes it is possible for people you know to stumble across it.

Should I let her know? If I did, I'd take the chicken shit route and somehow notify her anonymously and as apologetically as possible. Email, I guess. It's not the most adult way to handle, I guess, but like I said I'd like that part of my private life to remain private. We're not friends, and she's not someone I'd reveal an occasional interest in porn to.

And say I did notify her anonymously -- would that just be more creepy than anything else? I don't think I'd want to walk through the halls knowing that someone had watched me get it on on the internet, but not know exactly which person it was. And another thing, how can you email/write someone with something like this and be sure that a spouse or child won't see it?

Again, I know it could be moot. She could just be a big old exhibitionist who'd be thrilled for me or her students to see her in action.

I also feel the need to apologize for even asking the question. I know that probably all signs point to "keep your mouth shut." She's an adult. She made the choice. But I suppose I feel involved and responsible for preventing what could be a catastrophe for her that she doesn't see coming, even knowing the odds of that catastrophe happening are maybe laughably small.
posted by Seahorse, rode hard and put away wet to Human Relations (78 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

Are you absolutely positive that it's her in the video? Is there anything that definitely identifies her as your coworker?
posted by kylej at 3:27 PM on September 21, 2010

posted by kylej at 3:27 PM on September 21, 2010

I'd suggest you just STFU about it and move on.

It sounds like you are kind of excited about the intrigue and porn connection - for her sake, let it go.
posted by RajahKing at 3:30 PM on September 21, 2010 [10 favorites]

I'm with kylej, how can you be sure it is her? Would other people be just as sure?
posted by amanda at 3:31 PM on September 21, 2010

If it were me, I would not be offended by an anonymous note, simply because if I knew it was there, I'd know there was a chance someone would find it, and if I didn't know it was there I'd want to know that it was out there.

I would keep it short: "I wanted to make sure you are aware (in case you were not) that there is an explicit video of you on the following website: [entire url here]. "

That's all I would say. And I wouldn't email it. I'd type it out on plain paper and either leave it in a sealed envelope in her mailbox or perhaps find a way to leave it on her desk or slip it under her door.

FWIW, I think your concern that it was uploaded without her knowledge or consent is spot on.
posted by anastasiav at 3:32 PM on September 21, 2010 [22 favorites]

Is there anything that definitely identifies her as your coworker?

It is definitively her from the neck up. There is no question. And I am now relatively equipped to identify her from the waist down, should the need ever arise.

It sounds like you are kind of excited about the intrigue and porn connection - for her sake, let it go.

I'm not sure where you got excited. The last thing I am is excited. I'm actually pretty embarrased and mortified by it. Also, worried that it might ruin her career without her ever even knowing that it's out there.
posted by Seahorse, rode hard and put away wet at 3:33 PM on September 21, 2010 [7 favorites]

Is this something she could reasonable do something about? That might factor into whether or not you tell her.

Were there such a video of me out there, and there was nothing I could do about it, I don't think I'd want to know. It's not something I could ever forget, and it would just represent endless anxiety. Indeed, maybe she already knows about it, can't do anything about it, and you'll confirm her worst fear by letting her know someone else found it.
posted by OmieWise at 3:34 PM on September 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

I suggest you do nothing.

The odds that your assumptions are correct are about as equal of them being incorrect. It may not be her. It may be her, but the video may have been made and posted online years ago, with her full knowledge and consent. She's an adult.

Consider also that a failed attempt to anonymously reach her about this could be easily misconstrued and damaging to you. "I found out it was you. Why are you talking to me about this? You were only trying to help? Suuuuure."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:34 PM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

If it's on the internet against her will, the likelihood of her being able to get it off is pretty slim. Meaning, telling her is of questionable value.

No matter what you decide, I think telling her anonymously is dick move. If you do that, then she has to go through her day looking people in the eyes wondering who knows. If you decide to tell her, tell her.
posted by milarepa at 3:35 PM on September 21, 2010 [10 favorites]

I also vote for letting her know anonymously. Sure it might be a bit creepy, but in the off chance that she didn't know about it and it was put up without her permission, I think she needs to know that it exists.
posted by sarastro at 3:37 PM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

If she has no way to control its use then all you will be doing by getting in touch with her to tell her you know is worrying her that she might be at risk. If you do it anonymously it suggests the potential for blackmail, and at the least for her ending up second guessing who knows in her social or professional circle. If she doesn't know its out there will letting her know help her at all? is there any potential for her to be able to take iut out of circulation? I would assume not. What aid are you proffering by telling her, either personally or anonymously?

It's her business, she doesn't need to know you know.
posted by biffa at 3:40 PM on September 21, 2010

I would not do this anonymously for two reasons:

One, your hallway scenario would be psyche-destroying. Two, if you do it anonymously and you're wrong, she'll lose her mind because she can't even refute this. That might be worse than the hallway.

On the other hand I don't think "Hey I saw you naked online you might want to do something about that" is the way to play it. It puts her in a postion where there is no good reply. How well do you know this woman? Would a very covert communication be something you could pull off? I'm thinking something like...

"Jane, do you have a minute to give me some sensitive advice? I came across a video online of a co-worker in what we might describe as a compromising position. I am wondering whether to let the person know because I'm concerned it could be found by others and potentially hurt her professional standing. I don't want that to happen. How would you approach this, if at all?"

And then thank her for her advice, tell her you'd appreciate she didn't mention this to anyone, and leave.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:40 PM on September 21, 2010 [9 favorites]

Anonymous email absolutely. Too many women have trusted their boyfriends to take a "private" video and have ended up plastered across the internet without their knowledge.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 3:40 PM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think you overestimate the impact this would have on her career. I am faculty at such an institution, and this wouldn't affect me at all. And even if this becoming public would cause her to lose her job, I can't see where telling her would help.
posted by coolguymichael at 3:44 PM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

And aside from professional concerns, she's already known as a flirt. She dresses the part. What if the wrong person got ahold of it and used it to pressure her into some sort of inappropriate situation or relationship?

This line of thinking isn't only a bit crazy, but it's also kind of creepy and male-gazey and, uh, pornish. If you want your own private sexual life to be respected as something you, as an adult, are able to do in the comfort and reasonable privacy of your own home, give her the same respect. The student teachers she educates are adults, as is she. I know that many elementary school distracts have particularly puritanical attitudes about this sort of thing, but there's no need to play into them by acting like it's a huge flipping deal that an educator once played with sex toys with another adult, even if it was in front of a camera.

Please, just ignore it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:45 PM on September 21, 2010 [11 favorites]

I think telling her anonymously is indeed creepy. If you're that concerned, drop her a note under her door as suggested, but sign it. Then you can both pretend it never happened.
posted by Wordwoman at 3:46 PM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is really tricky.

The bottom line is: there is almost nothing she can do about it. She could get really angry and sue someone who let that get out (or put it out there) but that opens her up to more people viewing it/finding out about it. And it will still probably be out there.

Given that there is nothing she can do about it. I vote to move on and forget you ever saw it.

I would be more worried about how this would damage your collegial relationship with her than how her potential reputation might be ruined if it got out.

I'm trying to put myself in her shoes and I think bottom line is I'd be worried about you. Whether you might use it against me or whether you might treat me differently or whatever. And, given that there is almost nothing to be done... I'm inclined to say you should zip it.

Hey kids: stay in school, don't use drugs and don't let your friends shoot porn of you.
posted by amanda at 3:48 PM on September 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

Agree with milarepa - if you tell her, put your name on it. An anonymous note says, "I may or may not blackmail you in the future."

I don't think you do it. You aren't responsible for her career (and her choices that may affect it.) Telling her involves you in ways you may not expect. What if you tell her, anonymously or not, and at some later date she's outed by someone else. Your institution investigates... "Hey, look... Seahorse knew about the video!"

Now your career is at risk (or at least your reputation is damaged.)
posted by m@f at 3:48 PM on September 21, 2010

I am confused as to why it would ruin her career and what good it would do telling her.

Telling her anonymously has so many drawbacks including the hallway scenario mentioned as well as the constant dread that the anon person was using this as a prelude to going public. The only thing telling her will do is speed up the time line of her freak out if she does not know this is on the web.

I say leave it be.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:51 PM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I vote for doing nothing. All you're going to do is make her vomit in terror of being found out. What's she going to do, pursue legal action? I would think that would just cause more attention.

Forget it and ideally she'll gain or lose ten pounds, dye or cut her hair, and God willing years will pass and she'll never be identified and you'll have developed a talent for forgetting. It'll probably come in handy.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:52 PM on September 21, 2010

Is there any way anyone could prove it's her? You say it's her because you recognize her—but there are many people who look alike. I vote for saying nothing. If someone else finds it, and claims it is her, trying to kick up a fuss, in all likelihood she can say "That's not me," and there will be very little anyone could say to contradict her.

Leave well enough alone.
posted by ocherdraco at 3:57 PM on September 21, 2010

I would rather get a respectful, anonymous note than hear about it from some leering student that I'm supposed to be supervising.

Dear [insert name],

I came across a personal video of you on the internet at [insert url] that may be damaging to you if it becomes public knowledge. I assumed that you are unaware of the video's public nature and wanted to inform you so that you can take whatever actions you think are necessary.

Yours respectfully,
An Anonymous Colleague
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:58 PM on September 21, 2010 [4 favorites]

If the consequences to her career are indeed as dire as you say, I would tell her. But, I would tell her in person, privately, where you can't be overheard. Nothing in writing. And while there may be nothing she can do if it's up without her knowledge or permission, at least she'd KNOW, and just - well, just to have prior warning is worth something. An anonymous letter is the second choice, but you weren't doing anything wrong, and neither was she, whether the clip was uploaded with or without her knowledge. So there's nothing to be ashamed of here, and that's the way to approach the situation, and her.
posted by lemniskate at 3:59 PM on September 21, 2010

I suggest you let her know via a sock puppet email. If it is up without her permission she would want to know. If it is up with her permission she won't care.
posted by Silvertree at 3:59 PM on September 21, 2010

This happened to me. Do nothing.

Several years ago, my boss called me into his office to have a chat. Apparently a co-worker of mine had seen a compromising picture of me on the internet (not that it matters, but it involved full nudity and oral sex). The boss and co-worker were both 100% convinced that it was me (the co-worker wanted to remain anonymous); my boss expressed concern about how it would affect my career. Guess what? It wasn't me. But I insisted that he provide me with the images he had, and despite his reservations, he obliged.

I swear to you, the woman in the photograph looked just like me from the neck up. My own mother would have thought it was me. I repeat, it was not me.

Do nothing.

On the off chance that it's her, then she's made some adult decisions in her life, including this explicit video. If it ruins her career, then that's her business.

If it's not her, she will likely be mortified that there is someone at work who thinks it is her. She will wonder how many people she knows have seen it and think it's her. It makes no difference that you say she's a flirt and dresses provocatively.

Do nothing. Don't tell her or anybody else, anonymously or otherwise.
posted by ellenaim at 4:00 PM on September 21, 2010 [30 favorites]

If she put a video of herself having sex online, what makes you think an anonymous note is going to embarrass her?

If she ISN'T the one that put it up, she deserves to know so she can try and get it taken care of.
posted by hermitosis at 4:04 PM on September 21, 2010

I'll just be brutally honest: You're coming across as a bit creepy. Your "deep concern" over what "may" happen if someone else were to find the video seems...well, a little hypocritical. Comments like "I could now identify her from the waist down should the need arise" (wtf?!) and "I'll reiterate: explicit" and "she dresses the part of a flirt" just makes this sound like you're getting a high from the scandal! of it all. This isn't 1950. Porn videos are used as "oops" career boosters/starters these days, man. Your elaborate what-if-someone-blackmails-her scenario seems unrealistic and penthouse-letters-ish to boot. I don't really know what to say other than that. This is only a big deal if you make it a big deal. I'd just let it go.
posted by Nixy at 4:13 PM on September 21, 2010 [13 favorites]

[comments removed - once you have a comment removed, please stop it or we will stop it for you. thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:16 PM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've tried to think about it from her perspective. I think, if it was me in that video, I would prefer not to be told.

Any sensible adult knows that porn pics/vids can be uploaded to the net in a heartbeat. Surely she knows it's possible that video could be online. (If I uploaded it myself, then obviously the chance it may be seen by a student or colleague wouldn't worry me.)

I would be mortified if I got an anon email saying "I saw this at". Paranoia would set in bigtime. It would screw with my head and I could see it eventually causing me to leave my job.

From that perspective, if I were you, I'd leave it alone and do nothing.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:16 PM on September 21, 2010

You have no proof the person you saw on the internet is this person. Neither does anyone else.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 4:17 PM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

The bottom line is: there is almost nothing she can do about it.

There's so much amateur porn available on the net now that I'm not sure how true this is. Some videos get passed around, but it's not as if each video clip is valuable like gold anymore. It's possible that this video on xtube is the only public copy of the video, and that xtube would be willing to take it down. (I'm not familiar with xtube, really. How responsive are they?)

If something like that was posted without my permission, I would want to know if I had a chance of doing something about it. Even having it removed from just one popular site would decrease the likelihood of someone I know stumbling across it.

(Also, what the hell is wrong with you, Biru? I hope that's a clumsy attempt at satire.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:19 PM on September 21, 2010

If you speak to her in person, you risk making work uncomfortable for her when she has to interact with you (and uncomfortable for you with her).

If you leave an anonymous note, you risk making work uncomfortable for her with ALL of her coworkers.

If you decide to inform her, do NOT do it anonymously. It is not fair to put your coworker in a situation where she can't trust anyone around her.
posted by maryr at 4:20 PM on September 21, 2010

Send email to the account which uploaded the video. Ask the account holder to remove the video. It'll never get completely removed from the net but you'll feel better for doing something.
"She could lose her teaching credential with the state."
Really? Wow. Is the video tagged with her name or a porn name? If it cannot be found via her real name, then forget about it.
posted by ecco at 4:30 PM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure what the right answer is here, but I would absolutely be concerned for her career. There are plenty of stories out there of people who work with kids (as possibly she does in helping set up student teaching placements in public schools) getting fired because of having compromising photos that they've posted on facebook. This seems worse than a photo of somebody drinking beer or what have you.
posted by leahwrenn at 4:31 PM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do nothing.

Agreed. Do not do anything. Unless she, or someone, says her name in the video there's no proof it is really her. And there are several weird scenarios where your anonymous note could be construed as sexual harassment or something. Just hope that it won't be a problem and for god sake don't tell anyone about it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:34 PM on September 21, 2010

If you feel you really really need to do something, why don't you get the school to have someone come speak to the faculty about internet privacy? You know, just a good general topic that every body should know about anyway. No need for specifics, just good advice.

Otherwise keep calm and carry on. It's none of your affair. The internet is a big bay window and it's been like that for over twenty years. Adults, especially adults who work with the rising generations, should be fully aware of this and guard their privacy fiercely.

I'm amazed at how many people (on places like facebook, esp.) don't get this concept.
posted by jnrussell at 4:34 PM on September 21, 2010

I'm another vote for a respectful anonymous note. If you send it via email from a sockpuppet, make really sure it doesn't end up looking or sounding like spam.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:36 PM on September 21, 2010

Porn videos are used as "oops" career boosters/starters these days, man.

Um, what?? Maybe for aspiring reality tv starlets, but not in education. Think of the children! Just a hint of a "scandal" (even if completely untrue) is all it takes to ruin a reputation. Just ask this guy.

OP, don't do anything, forget you ever saw a video of someone who looks like your coworker, and go on about your life.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:37 PM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

And, yeah, "this looks a lot like you and i hope if it is it wasn't uploaded without your consent" rather than "OMG YOU MADE PR0N"
posted by rmd1023 at 4:37 PM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing that anonymous note screams "veiled blackmail threat" and that unless her name is attached to it (and even then) no-one has any proof that it is her.

Your complicating factors come off as pretty judgmental. Think of the children! She's a flirt who "dresses the part." Her career could be RUINED.

Again, I know it could be moot. She could just be a big old exhibitionist who'd be thrilled for me or her students to see her in action.

Okay, see, this is part of why people might be finding your tone creepy. Having something out there available to the internet does not equal "thrilled for her specific students or coworkers to see her doing naughty things." In zero to sixty you went from the possibility of a laisez-faire attitude toward privacy all the way to a XXX performance just for you.
posted by desuetude at 4:46 PM on September 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

It is definitively her from the neck up.

Oh really -- you know for a fact that she doesn't have an identical twin?

I'm guessing you don't know that, but you're leaping to the conclusion that it's her. And you're leaping to the conclusion that this could easily ruin her career. I believe you in your follow-up comment that you're not "excited" (in the positive sense) about the "intrigue." But you do seem overly ... I won't say "excited," but ... exercised about this. That alone could make uncomfortable if you talked to her about it, even aside from how inherently uncomfortable it'd be to have any coworker bring this up with her. (And anonymously telling her is out of the question for the reasons others have said.)

Fact of life: Many people have different priorities and standards and desires than you. You haven't mentioned any signs that she was coerced in any way. Presumably, she (if it is she) decided -- decided -- to make an explicitly sexual, nude, pornographic video for public consumption. You might consider this ill-advised. But under the presumption that she's the one in the video and she knew what she was doing, the evidence demonstrates that she felt this was an activity that was worth doing. Whether that was a good or bad decision in retrospect is none of your business.

Good for you, for stopping to think about the moral implications about what you've seen and whether you should take some action here. It seems that even while posting the question, you were already wisely leaning in the direction of "no."
posted by John Cohen at 5:01 PM on September 21, 2010

I vote for signed note which requests a private meeting, something like "Hey, I saw a certain video of you on the internet. I can tell you more about it in person if you're interested. If you have no idea what I am talking about, no worries. Signed, Name"

I would be inclined to read that as the start of a blackmail (for money or sex) attempt.
posted by orthogonality at 5:22 PM on September 21, 2010 [4 favorites]

Just because someone makes a video of herself having sex does not mean that she wants the public at large to see this video. I seriously doubt that the majority of amateur filmed sex scenes were made with the intention of the video being viewed by anyone who was not IN the video.

I qualified my statements to make it clear that I don't know the truth. None of us do.
posted by John Cohen at 5:30 PM on September 21, 2010

I would want to know. Not so that I could have it removed from the internet (that's totally unlikely), but so that I could kick the ass of the person who either uploaded it or showed it to someone else.

This a thousand times. I would most certainly want to know if an ex had posted something like that publicly without my knowledge.

As for anonymous versus seems like no one is taking the OP's feelings/privacy into consideration here. It would be very difficult and awkward to go to a colleague and say "So, I was checking out some videos on xtube and..." - how are you supposed to say you found it without talking about your own porn-viewing habits? I really think an anonymous note would be ok - why not be upfront and say you aren't trying to blackmail or be creepy; you just wanted to help/would have wanted to know if it were you?
posted by naoko at 5:36 PM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

While it's kind of creepy and hilarious, upon reflection, I'm in a VERY good position to answer this... someone I work with once DID find compromising pictures of me. Additionally, I once found similarly compromising pictures of a work acquaintance (I swear to Jehova that my workplace isn't some hotbed of sexy intrigue... it's quite stuffy!):

- The coworker who found my pics DID let me know. I felt deeply uncomfortable and kind of violated. It was sort of like he presumed an EXTREME level of familiarity, without my consent. I still despise running into him to this day.

- I never mentioned the pictures I'd found to MY coworker (I also deleted them from the shared network location where I found 'em... that's a whole 'nother story). Nothing every came of it. We are still friendly to this day.

Don't say a WORD. Please, don't.
posted by julthumbscrew at 5:37 PM on September 21, 2010 [5 favorites]

My rule of thumb for things like this is this: If it is something fixable, tell the person.

If it is NOT fixable, do NOT tell the person.

Honestly I don't think I would tell her. The horse is out of the barn, so to speak, so even if this was uploaded without her consent any damage is already done and your telling her will just embarrass her and make her life hell wondering when the other shoe is going to drop. If it really ISN'T her then there is no sense getting her all upset about it as if it does come up she can refute it. If she DOES know it is out there and perhaps uploaded it herself, she is a grown woman and can deal with any consequences.

I really hope that people will remember that there are no guarantees a picture or a video will always remain private. Heck, even Rielle Hunter thought she tore that particular tape up (we all remember which one.)

Anyway, your heart is in the right place but I kinda think maybe it's best if you try to forget you saw it. (If this were a family member I might tell you to go ahead and talk to the person but I don't see how this could go well seeing it's a coworker.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:37 PM on September 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

I see three possibilities here:

1. She made the video and consented to have it on the Internet. She may or may not realize the implications for her career.
2. She made the video but didn't consent to have it on the Internet.
3. It's not her.

In any of these three cases, the best action is to inform her.

In case 1, if she realized all the implications and doesn't care then there's no harm no foul. If she hadn't considered the implications she may want to start considering them.

In case 2, she has a right to know that someone she trusted broke trust. She has the right to try to take actions to get the video down or to prepare herself for hearing about it from someone less friendly than the op.

In case 3, she'll probably be upset, even angry. But it's still better for her to hear about this from someone who is friendly so she can prepare herself for the possibility of hearing about it from someone who is not so friendly.

I don't see any reason not to inform her beyond possible minor issues of etiquette. Those pale in comparison to the negative impact this could have on her life.

I agree with the OP and silvertree that this should done through a sockpuppet e-mail account so it can be kept anonymous but so she can respond and follow up if she wants. The e-mail should make it clear that the OP has no interest in blackmailing her or anything else. It shouldn't be hard to compose a note that points out the issues without judgement and without veiled threat.
posted by alms at 5:42 PM on September 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

"I suspect my coworker would prefer that part of her life remain private too. "

You really have zip, zero, no idea whether this is true or not unless you regularly discuss sexual practices and kinks with the person in question. Sexual preferences is one of the ultimate "Can't judge a book by it's cover" situations.

I vote if you weren't close enough friends to be comfortable just going and talking to her about it then you should do nothing as it isn't any of your business.

TooFewShoes writes "Dear [insert name],

"I came across a personal video of you on the internet at [insert url] that may be damaging to you if it becomes public knowledge. I assumed that you are unaware of the video's public nature and wanted to inform you so that you can take whatever actions you think are necessary.

"Yours respectfully,
"An Anonymous Colleague"

Don't put anything in writing you wouldn't want posted to the company bulletin board as it is entirely possible through misadventure that is where the note will end up whether you push it under her door or put it in her mailbox.

lemniskate writes "If the consequences to her career are indeed as dire as you say, I would tell her. But, I would tell her in person, privately, where you can't be overheard. Nothing in writing."

If you must intrude this is the way to do it.
posted by Mitheral at 5:48 PM on September 21, 2010

As I said, this happened to me. My boss really insisted that he brought it up, despite his admitted embarrassment of the situation, out of concern for my professional and personal well-being. I was totally creeped out by him and by whoever had brought it to his attention. And, for the record, I'm not creeped out by porn or any aspect of what was portrayed in the pictures. For the duration of my employment there I wondered if he had an ulterior motive and whether/how/when he was going to bring it up again. It didn't matter that he said it was out of concern for me, or that I wasn't creeped out by the content; I was creeped out by him.

It's been 7 or 8 years since that happened, and I can report that nothing seedy ever came of it. I told him it wasn't me, and it never ever came up again. In retrospect, I suppose everything he said was sincere, but when I think of him, I still think he's a creep.

Whether or not it's her, whether or not she consented to its publication online, whether or not she even cares if it becomes public... the best course of action is no action.
posted by ellenaim at 5:52 PM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm late - but chances are she knows all about it (and either can't remove it from the internet or doesn't want to). Her job possibly being "on the line" if her students see this is her problem. I vote to stay out of it mainly for the fact that it might not be her. The only reason to get involved would be if you knew - not only with certainty that it was her, but with certainty that this happened without her consent /under some kind of duress. Without such it remains in the realm of none of your business.
posted by marimeko at 6:22 PM on September 21, 2010

If you wanted to do something by yourself you could inquire to the website's legal people whether they have the requisite model releases and 18 USC 2257 compliance stuff in order. That might get the video down silently.
posted by rhizome at 6:38 PM on September 21, 2010 [4 favorites]

[few comments removed - folks if you can't answer the question without starting fights with other commenters please just keep moving. MetaTalk is available to you if you do not like the way this site works. Thanks.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:48 PM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do nothing.

If it appeared to have been filmed without her consent, or if you were very close friends, then telling her may be appropriate. But this is simple. Do nothing, forget about it, and move on.

I'd rank the options as follows, from best to terrible: Do nothing; talk to her in person (23skidoo's phrasing is my favorite); everything else.
posted by kprincehouse at 7:00 PM on September 21, 2010

Please don't send an anonymous email, regardless if she put it up herself or not. If you can't tell her in person or with your name attached, leave it be.

A friend of mine was a minor minor porn cam celebrity about 10 years ago, and did get recognized out IRL from time to time. Once someone unknown sent her a comment on a meal he'd seen her eating, and it still freaks her out when she's out. She's got other issues, but that one anonymous comment has added a nonzero amount of stress to her life. When real life and the online persona collide, it can be messy, especially if the collision comes from an unknown source.
posted by yellowbinder at 7:06 PM on September 21, 2010

Just a note for those who are approaching this from an "it's your moral duty to save her from possible peril/humiliation!" angle: no, it's not. This is NOT like a typical "damsel/unfortunate person in distress" situation at all.

This is more like... more like... let's say you found a picture of her snorting coke. Let's say you found a picture of her at a Communist rally. Let's say you saw her trying to buy your old buddy Don's Daihatsu, and you KNOW the thing has a bad ignition coil.

You do not know the back story AT ALL. You don't know what she knows. And it is not your job to protect or "save" her from actions which are very likely to be voluntary and consensual.

In my case, knowing that a coworker was actively thinking about stuff that I preferred to keep VERY separate from work was really revolting and upsetting. And let's say a slimy ex-boyfriend HAD posted pics without my knowledge (which was not the case, but still)... I would have still felt revolted and upset, PLUS powerless to do anything about it. Lose-lose.
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:18 PM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

This is tough, but I'm pretty sure if I was the woman in this video, I'd want you to pull me aside toward the end of the day, and tell me as respectfully and quickly as possible. I actually liked the suggestion above about phrasing it as if it was another coworker (although that isn't my usual style). If her reaction indicates this is news to her, or she's upset, you could offer to help with the model release suggestion.

Then tell her you will never, never mention it again, and follow through with that promise.
posted by serazin at 7:21 PM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd listen to those in this thread who have been in this situation or a similar one. You're bringing this up to a coworker, not a friend or even a coworker-who-is-a-friend. There's no way you can make this not creepy.

The absolute best case scenario is that this person does not know the video is in the public eye, is able to contact the host of the video, and is able to successfully have it removed. Again, in the best case, your coworker's opinion of you remains neutral or this is seen as a positive thing since you helped her.

Read that a few times. Exactly how likely is it that it'd happen? The most likely scenario is one of the many "she tries to do something and fails, it's awkward between you" cases outlined in the thread. In the worst case, your continued attention to the video is already causing it to pop up in the "popular videos in your area" type of algorithms that some sites use. And trust me, it sounds like you've given it more than your fair share of traffic.

How about the worst case: you've found a video that is definitely not her, you approach her and it's really obvious you've been perving over an image that resembles her, and she not only finds you creepy but finds this to be harassing behavior.

I would say that for your own peace of mind, stop looking at this and disconnect it from her in your mind except as a distant possible anecdote.
posted by mikeh at 7:29 PM on September 21, 2010

Do nothing.

A: It might not be her. No, really. It might not be her. And if it isn't her, imagine the thoughts and fears she'll have if someone told her there were sex videos of her on the internet.

B: Why is it your job to notify her? Are you in charge of other professors at your institution? "The problem is that the coworker is a faculty member at a large institution and her job is educating and training student teachers." ...I'm missing the part that involves you. "What IF one of her students comes across it?" ...again, I'm missing the part where this becomes any of your business.

"I suppose I feel involved and responsible for preventing what could be a catastrophe for her that she doesn't see coming, even knowing the odds of that catastrophe happening are maybe laughably small."

People make choices and have to live with the consequences of those choices. Her choice to make an explicit video is hers to live with, and I suspect she knows this.
posted by 2oh1 at 7:29 PM on September 21, 2010

I initially thought that the best thing to do was tell her, but after reading all of the responses (particularly those who have been in similar situations), I'm against it. Do your best to forget you saw the clip, and just move on. Attempting to be kind by telling her of the clip's existence could very easily backfire in several upsetting ways.
posted by studioaudience at 8:35 PM on September 21, 2010

What an interesting thread! Many arguments for or against telling her, most valid.

However, any embarrassment etc. that she might feel upon being told pales in comparison to the magnitude of embarrassment she would feel if this were made public knowledge. (If it's up there with her permission, then being told about it would hardly constitute a breach of her privacy, no?)

So, tell her about it (preferably anonymously). Yes, there are reasons not to, but the possibility that 1) it's not up there with her knowledge, 2) she can have it taken down, and 3) it might be seen by others, over-rides all lesser considerations.
posted by zachawry at 10:14 PM on September 21, 2010

Email the owner of the site. Say the video is of you and that you will sue their asses off. Say it is you and you are 17. Get them to pull it down.
posted by LarryC at 11:04 PM on September 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

Email the owner of the site. Say the video is of you and that you will sue their asses off. Say it is you and you are 17. Get them to pull it down.

That is a huge line to cross in terms of...uh, personal involvement. I don't think encouraging such white-knight behavior is remotely wise, let alone realistic. And what if she put it out there knowingly?
posted by desuetude at 11:21 PM on September 21, 2010

Interesting question. I'd say do nothing, because:

1. Saying nothing is clearly best for your career-- you risk being identified, making your porn-viewing habits known. Since you found the video on a site with as much traffic and content as xtube i'm guessing you watch a lot. (Also, this seems like an example of a habit interfering with work and relationships-- is this kind of distraction really what you want?)

And, in the absence of visible tattoos or real, full names, I'd guess no one could prove it was her, and chances are excellent it wasn't. So:
2. Saying nothing is clearly best for her mental well-being (anonymous or not, this seems incredibly creepy, especially since you're (I'm guessing) a guy).
3. Saying nothing is likely best for her career. Mentioning it even anonymously risks more people finding out.
posted by sninctown at 11:23 PM on September 21, 2010

sheesh. The guy understands the possible repercussions of the discovery of this video. some of you are accusing him of being creepy or 'male-gazey' (seriously, even on MeFi, making up words is not right), but you seem to be ignoring: he's not doing it for any reason other than giving the coworker a chance to protect herself. Can she protect herself? I dunno, I kind of doubt it. If it's on one site, it's on all of them.

But this guy is trying to figure out the right thing to do. If I were the girl, I'd want to know. I vote anonymous email and IGNORE THE PEOPLE WHO ARE ASSERTING THAT YOU HAVE NEFARIOUS AIMS IN THIS ENDEAVOR.
posted by flowerofhighrank at 11:46 PM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

If this were me and I received anonymous note, however carefully phrased, I would be terrified at work all of the time. It is not your business.
posted by theredpen at 11:51 PM on September 21, 2010

It's important to the answer exactly how sure you are that it's her. What's the probability? Are there visible tattoos and piercings that exactly match hers? A piece of furniture in the video that you've seen in her house? Her voice in the video with a unique accent?

If you are 100%, absolutely sure that it's her -- not based on her appearance, but on other corroborating evidence -- then, either the anonymous or the private talk makes more sense.

If you are less than 100% sure (even 95% sure), then I'd say, don't say anything.
posted by alternateuniverse at 11:55 PM on September 21, 2010


Yeahbut... I don't know why most people are assuming the OP is a guy. We don't know this at all. I'd say that if I were the colleague I'd feel much more comfortable with another woman giving me a heads-up in person, if you happen to be a lady Seahorse, OP — but either way the problem there is that if it isn't her (or even if it is), you've shared much more about yourself than you would normally, and it may not be appreciated at all. It may even be completely misread, no matter how carefully couched.

Anonymous note/email is bad because it can't help but make the colleague paranoid — there's just no way of getting around that. Plus, what if she knows it isn't her and complains of harassment? The message might be traced back to you, or at any rate create a messy situation. So, in person, or not at all, I'd say. But the first thing I would do is just flag the video. Who knows? Maybe it'll be taken down, and there won't be any need to worry about it any more.

fwiw and speaking personally, depending on my feeling about her personality, I probably would say a careful something to her, because I'm female, utterly nonthreatening, good at talking to people, and I'm pretty confident it's the kind of thing I could do without creeping the other person out. But a lot would depend on her... if she seems the type to easily take offense I wouldn't; if she seems the type to get involved in workplace dramas and feuds, I wouldn't. I'd be much more likely to if she had previously asked for my advice on any kind of problems, or otherwise reached out to me for help... so it's all complicated and I'd be using a lot of subjective criteria. Importantly, I wouldn't phrase the topic in such a way that she either has to admit to posting it or declare it couldn't possibly be her (and then not be able to get the url info, if she actually needed to check), or otherwise try to respond immediately to the situation. Likewise, I wouldn't want to be in a situation where I am emailing or writing down the url for an explicit sex video and giving it to my colleague. So I might say blah, blah, it's probably not you, but just in case someone you trusted is behaving badly, I thought you'd want to know so you could have it removed. Totally forget I said anything if that's out of the question, but if you have any doubts you can look on xtube with ABC tag(s)... or title, or username, or whatever. Something that wouldn't require her to sift through a lot of stuff to find it.
posted by taz at 3:54 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm really surprised at the people CONFIDENTLY STATING that she can't do anything about it. That's ridiculous. My guess is that an email from her will get it removed. If not, a strongly-worded letter from a lawyer.

Any site with pornographic videos like that has to have a procedure for getting videos taken down. Underage, illegal, copyright violations, lack of consent, etc. They want to avoid criminal and civil liability. They have thousands of videos. What would be their motivation for keeping this one particular video on the site? If you don't believe me, check out their TOS:

Furthermore, with User Submissions, you affirm, represent and/or warrant that:


2. you will not post, or allow anyone else to post, any material that depicts any person under the age of 18 years and you have inspected and are maintaining written documentation sufficient to confirm that all subjects of your submissions are, in fact, over the age of 18 years.

3. You have the written consent, release, and/or permission of each and every identifiable individual person in the User Submission to use the name or likeness of each and every such identifiable individual person to enable inclusion and use of the User Submissions in the manner contemplated by the Website and these Terms of Service.[...]

I highly doubt that someone who posted this video without her permission (if that is what occurred) has the appropriate documentation to prove that she was 18 when it was taken, and that she gave her written consent.

Xtube also allows people the right to take videos down, they don't retain them or any licenses to use them, so if she put it up there she can take it back down again.

Even if these weren't their policies--there's still a chance that a friendly employee would get an email or letter saying "hey, please take that down" and then just decide that taking it down is the right/convenient thing to do.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:54 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

[people, if we are getting to the ALLCAPS level of discussion, people need to calm down a little bit and be respectful of other commenters, or come back when you can be. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:35 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Honestly? You have two concerns that should be addressed, should you choose not to stay out of it entirely:

1: You want her to know about the video, so that she can take whatever action(s) she deems appropriate;

2: You don't want her to know that it was you bringing it up, because of what it implies about your own private behavior, because you might be wrong about it being her, and because you don't want to be hit for sexual harassment.

In order to do 1 while also doing 2, you'll need to notify her in a way that makes it likely she will view the video and thus know what's up, yet doesn't make her feel mortified every time she goes into work (if you slid it under her door, or sent it via email at work) or risk her family seeing it (if you sent it via her personal email or mailed it to her house.)

So if I were in your position, and if I chose not to stay out of it completely, here's what I'd do: I'd type up a brief letter, seal it inside an envelope inside another larger envelope (to make tampering more evident), and I'd mail it to her work address, c/o her, typed out and with no return address. The note would say this:

"I am sending this to your work address rather than your home address to reduce the risk of your family reading this note. I believe you may be familiar with one participant in the video at the link below, and after much consideration I thought it best to let you know about the video's presence on the internet. I am sending this anonymously because you may or may not be embarrassed about the contents of the video, but I am embarrassed to have been in a position to discover it, and you will not hear from me again on this subject. Also take comfort that I am only a casual acquaintance, and am not in a position to harm you personally or professionally. All best, and good luck."
posted by davejay at 10:41 AM on September 22, 2010 [6 favorites]

This is a situation fraught with unknowns, unknowables and possibly ugly unintended consequences. You could just as easily make it worse as make it better. I'd suggest a strong dose of MYOB and STFU.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 12:02 PM on September 22, 2010

Wow. Thank you to everyone who took the time to think about and answer this question. The divergence of opinions is surprising to me- I assumed there would be more of a clear "right" answer that I wasn't seeing myself. However, I'm glad for the contrasting opinions. They make me feel better about not knowing what to do.

I'd also like to apologize to anyone who now thinks I'm creepy. I appear to have shot myself in the foot. By being so careful with my wording as to actually be tortured with it, I actually ended up using careless wording. That was me trying to clearly detail what I felt were important mitigating circumstances. The crack about recognizing her from the neck down was a form of dry gallows humor that, when in print and from a stranger, does not translate. I should have known better.

After posting this, I've thought a lot about the assumptions we make blindly and how they affect the way we go through our day. Of course I made some assumptions when coming across this video- anyone would. Some people would have taken it to mean she's fair game and would have taken it as an invitation. My assumption was, she has a public job. It wouldn't have ended up online if it were up to her. This is bad for her. Some of you are right- there's no way to know. She knows. No one else does. (I am 99.5% positive it is her, however. I won't go in to why, because it would be more shooting self in foot.)

But another thing about assumptions- the male gaze. A lot of you, or most of you, assumed that I'm a man. I'm not. You took those assumptions and attached them to your idea of my intent. You used your assumptions to assert the idea that I must be titillated by all this. It wasn't a thrill. I feel icky. For her, and for me. Not because of what I saw, but because of who I saw. With pr0n, for me, there needs to be a remove. In this case, it was too personal.

I'm still not sure what to do, so I'm going to try to forget about it by now. I hear all of the arguments about the pitfalls of anonymous communication. But I'm not sure I'm comfortable violating my own privacy in order to protect hers, possibly without need. So for now, I will sit on it.

Thanks also to those who realize that I was very much not interested in blackmail. Damn, that was weird.
posted by Seahorse, rode hard and put away wet at 3:26 PM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

IMO, there are people in your life that you would feel comfortable telling that you saw them in a porn. If she is one of those people, then she's probably one of your really good friends, and you should tell her face to face. If she's not, then chances are, this is none of your business.

It's really than simple.
posted by empath at 3:47 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not to beat a dead horse, but seconding ellenaim in that you should do nothing. I have two photographer friends who each sent me copies of different photos from the state archives that they thought were me, photos near enough my likeness to even fool my mom (uh, mom, I've never worn a Michael Jackson t-shirt in my life. Really. I would have remembered. And no, I don't secretly own a Cadillac.) There are so many doppelgangers out there. Unless there's something like really unusual earrings or images of the inside of her apartment that proves to you that it's really her, you don't really know.
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 4:58 PM on September 22, 2010

A lot of you, or most of you, assumed that I'm a man. I'm not. You took those assumptions and attached them to your idea of my intent. You used your assumptions to assert the idea that I must be titillated by all this.

Certainly some people quite directly noted that they assumed that you're male. However, I would gently suggest that for at least some of the respondents, your gender is quite irrelevant to the sense that you were perhaps a bit titillated in some way.
posted by desuetude at 8:01 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm all for an anonymous note -
even the small possibility that she does not know, justifies it on the grounds of her being able to do damage control, and/or kicking the ass of whoever put it up. I repeat, she deserves to be able to do some *damage control*!

Secondly, you don't want to be the shot/mortified by messenger. And that's ok. If you think, as I do, that it's still better for her to know by anonymous note, and that's the only way you're willing to do it, then that's the right thing for you to do.

Finally, I believe it *is* possible to write a note that doesn't sound to the average person, like a blackmail note. Which hopefully should cover the main objection people have been raising.

Here's my attempt:
"Hey, just a heads up, but I saw a video online that might be of you?
If it's not you, sorry for the confusion, and if you already know about it, never mind!
But I felt I should let you know, as it if was me and I didn't know, I'd want to know about it.
It's at *site*.
Apologies for any embarrassment, and good luck."

May not be the best wording ever, but also doesn't sound at all like you're intending to blackmail (!?!?), or bring it up again.

That aside, I have to concur that this is a very weird thread.
With a lot of very oddly fixated posts?

Ah, sex. If you're not traumatized by it, your parents musn't've raised you right... :P
posted by Elysum at 11:00 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

This was an interesting thread. I supposed I'm too late, but I'll chime in anyway. Forget all about it. Telling your co-worker that you saw them in a pornographic movie is pretty much going to be sexual harassment. Also, ellenaim you should be clear to your boss that this is not you and that he should tell anonymous reporter that he's determined it isn't you and that anyone gossiping about the photograph would be engaging in sexual harassment. You should also state that you are uncomfortable talking about it further and as far as you are concerned this is the end of it. Lots of people look alike.
posted by humanfont at 9:09 PM on September 27, 2010

Thanks also to those who realize that I was very much not interested in blackmail.

It is perhaps not that some people assumed you were interested in blackmail, but that the possibility that you posited of contacting your colleague anonymously potentially opens up that person to worry that they might be blackmailed since they have no way of knowing your motivation in contacting them.
posted by biffa at 9:57 AM on October 1, 2010

« Older Need a Mac video download conversion automator   |   Shish my kebabs Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.