When women entered the office in the 1870s, so did sex. By that time, though barely 2,000 women had desk jobs, a revolution was underway, gender-wise, partially due to a Civil War-related “man drain.” It was also prodded along when a company called E. Remington & Sons was looking to diversify its post-war product line away from rifles and got into the typewriter business. Jump to 1900, and the proportion of female stenographers or “typewriter girls” was 76.7 percent, as secretarial work was well on its way to becoming a “pink collar” profession.
As Julie Berebitsky thoroughly documents in “Sex and the Office: A History of Gender, Power, and Desire: “The erotic connotations that Americans attached to the rapidly expanding number of female clerks and secretaries emerged in tandem with the bureaucratic ideal of the late 19th century corporation.”
In recent decades, the workplace and sex have become even more inextricably linked as it’s one of the most common places single adults meet other singles, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As men’s and women’s career roles have equalized gradually, and the 40-hour work week has metastasized into a 24/7 wireless work environment, it’s understandable that office romance has come out of the closet and transitioned, in part at least, from pulp fiction fodder to the poster kids of American pop culture’s most adorable couple, Jim and Pam Halpert.
From this statistical sampler, it’s clear that plenty of adults are mixing business with pleasure, and some til death do they part.
Looks like the water cooler is the new — and old — OKCupid.