Is this guy trying to say that his colleague was in a Zoom meeting topless and accidentally caught her boobs on camera? If so it sounds massively fake. I spend my life in Zoom meetings now and people are extremely correctly dressed all the time.


(If real), nothing like having her faux pas discussed in a nationally syndicated sex advice column to help everyone get past the event.


I know a guy who had a student in his Zoom class who didn't turn of his camera to take bong hits.


@1~ Agree, nobody in their right mind is going to enter a business video chat topless. So 1) letter is a fake, or 2) coworker is an idiot of impressive proportions, or 3) coworker secretly wants to bone Ed in accounts receivable and the boob flash was a message meant for him and they are currently fucking on the storeroom, floor, Covid be damned, or 4) this is a publicity stunt for a soon to be released porn movie, “Business MEATings” starring Morgan Semen and Sarah Jessica Porker.


If she was doing the meeting with camera OFF, I think it's entirely plausible she wasn't wearing a shirt... Pretty sure I heard a story of a professor accidentally showing the entire class that they weren't wearing pants. Working from home is weird (shrug)

And Dan's advice is spot-on :)


@1, @4, y'all's experiences are not universal.


Really? Bare tits, which are like everywhere in every movie. She’s an exhibitionist, and it’s lockdown, people are going feral.


Act like it didn't even happen, because it doesn't matter that it did.


Some people saw some breasts, and this guy has to write to an advice columnist because he's not-at-all uptight about it.


In my organization we used a Cisco videoconferencing tool that allows users to select whether they are dialing into the presentation using a phone or will use a camera and microphone. Accordingly, a user can log into the meeting using their computer to see shared presentations and to allow people to see them or dial-in using a phone with or without viewing a shared screens. If you are a bit careless and distracted, it would be entirely possible to turn on your camera inadvertently while setting up your computer for a meeting.

As for the question at hand, it seems obvious that any attempt, no matter how well meaning, would only serve to embarrass this woman or make her feel uncomfortable.


I’m leaning towards the fake letter assumption. When I sign in to zoom meetings I'm presented with the option of turning my mic and camera on. Those are very easy to follow and so far I never encountered such thing as a default mode when both are automatically on. Easily executed conscious actions on the bottom left corner of the zoom screen.

I'm having a hard time, intended, thinking of any person, especially the breasty female kind who must have experienced such meetings previously, joining topless while neglecting any of this.

That the letter was supposedly written by a gay man is another indication of its fake nature, hoping to set up the santorum-crowd much-maligned big Savage.


Not everyone is tech savvy. Perhaps this woman is a mother who is trying to take care of children while working full time at home. Perhaps a child was ill or misbehaving, not giving the coworker enough time to shower AND get dressed AND be at the meeting on time. People are varying levels of tech savvy. I once had a Zoom date completely unaware my camera was off (the date never said anything!) and entered a social room using my full name, which I generally don't do, because I hadn't figured out how to permanently change it yet. I think it's more plausible that a flustered mother accidentally attended a work meeting naked than that a colleague would be wondering if he should remind her of this mortifying moment.


Wait ten years, and then tell her you thought the twins were spectacular. It should be funny by then. (Caution: May not be funny by then.)


Hmm, in this new lockdown world, in our professional world were we have to use technology in legal cases, we are very aware of how we look and prepare for court cases and conferences. There is NO way that we would flash our bits without meaning to. This is a) fake, b) exhibitionism, or c) a complete moron. To be fair, the opposing counsel in a recent case couldn't work his microphone, but he was a slavish Apple user who presumed it would all work without preparation. Not the same though.


Hmm, read "where we", instead of "were we" above. It's a typo.


@16 JJ - Not all off us are as au fait with current technology as we could be. That doesn't make us complete morons, it just makes us feel old.


Seriously, can we not just communicate via slightly passive-aggressive group emails like we used to when we all worked in the same building?


JJ @16, TITS never said he or his colleague were lawyers.
I was also recently in a morning Zoom meeting with colleagues and my partner, unaware of this, walked into the room butt naked after getting out of the shower. I covered up the camera as quickly as I could but these are things that can happen.


Agree with Dan that LW shouldn't say anything now. What Dan misses is the potential aftermath. Depending on the workplace and the nature of their coworkers, I can easily see the potential for tittering stories in the staff lounge once people get back to work post-COVID. If LW starts to see this happening, he could step up and be supportive then, remind his coworkers that gossiping over her tits is sexual harassment, or stop acting like 13 year olds. Might quell some of that bullshit.


TITS should take one for the team, and show up at the next Zoom meeting naked.


There just boobs, lady:


Reverse @22, great suggestion. Fubar's @23 might be better though, it certainly made me laugh harder!


It was a Maya Rudolph interview on Late Night with Seth Meyers, posted 28 April. Worth watching, um, because it's funny.


You might say you’re not a pearl clutcher... though EmmaLiz and I being pearl lovers would prefer you all found a new stone to use... LW, but writing to Dan about this, belies your protestations. Next time you see her, LW, first up say ‘ Nice tits’, only in her hearing. Then walk away. She’ll laugh and that will break the ice. Easy.
Then never speak of it again.


@27 cont, my suggestion is for the LW, a gay man,


They are just tits so everyone on the call should move on. However I still think it's totally fake. This person apparently joined a Zoom meeting topless. They weren't walking around in the background. So, fake.


If she's a nursing mom, I can totally believe it. Your boobs become very desexualized, especially if the baby is the cranky fussy type, you're just hauling a tit out fifteen times an hour. The reason you don't see this in the workplace is that, in the workplace, the baby isn't there.


Why is it relevant that LW is gay? Does that mean he can talk to her freely about the matter without coming across like he wants to have sex with her? This is another reason I think this letter is fake, hoping to pull Dan's leg.

Approaching a woman and commenting about her breasts out of nowhere may not be a good idea regardless of orientation, let alone in a work environment. If LW must then maybe he can say something like, "Sorry about that zoom meeting, rest assured it's ok."

I would probably conduct such conversation while another person who attended the meeting is also present, just because of the potential for things to go wrong for whatever reason. Better yet, ask HR to deliver your calming message in an anonymous manner.
Best though is to avoid the subject unless she brings it up.


As for getting HR involved- don't do so if it will further harm the woman in question, only if you're sure they're already ware of what happened, will not take any disciplinary action due to who knows what and will welcome your calming message.

So many ifs... Why don't you just shut up?


@16 " There is NO way that we would flash our bits without meaning to." How about flushing your toilet? though I suppose that recording was as fake as this letter.

@30 has a good point in that an event like that seems at least as plausible as having your mistress walk by bottomless while doing a news cast. But the letter still sounds fake, "doesn't give me an adolescent thrill or the pearl-clutching wobblies."? "The lady doth protest too much, methinks" Sounds to me like he is looking for an excuse to bring it up.


CMD, why is it relevant the LW is gay? You ask a question like that after the last few years of gender/ sexual politics.
Because a gay man will be perceived to have no hidden motives, PAST putting the woman at ease. Pure motivation counts for a lot when discussing a woman’s breasts, in a workplace.


I think CMD is absolutely right, best to avoid the subject and STFU. Best not to talk to a co-worker about her tits. Just act like it didn't happen (which I hope means treat her professionally and with humanity, warmth, and respect).

The idea to "ask HR to deliver your calming message in an anonymous manner" is well-intentioned, but in my extremely considerable experience the people who work in HR aren't the most likely people to handle such a thing well.

I had to console one wonderful person who lost his HR job with "you're too human to work in HR". Most likely HR would find some way to fuck it up. They're there to serve the interests of the employer, not to calm a woman who made an innocent mistake that should be no big deal.

I imagine my sample was skewed since by the time I got called in as a chief steward for a couple unions, things were never great, but in many hundreds of cases I never saw HR do the right thing (except for the wonderful guy who lost his job because of it).

@29 busy_quilting
Good point. One would have to be more zoom-ed in than I've noticed is customary for tits not to be visible from the start.


Ok, if it’s too risky and/ or outside the LW’s comfort zone, to say anything, then when he sees her, he gives give her a reassuring smile, and move on.


Lava @ 34
Because despite best intentions it's pretty odd to comment about one's intimate body parts out of the blue, let alone at the work place. Add to this that the woman who got caught must be ashamed and maybe even fearing for her job as a result. What one may perceive as a supportive joke may come as a smart ass insult to another who is already anxious about the incident.

"the last few years of gender/ sexual politics" also saw a dramatic change in the work place as to what constitutes sexual harassment. The bar may seem too low to some, yet it is a reaction to the many years of misconduct.


Doesn't matter if it is fake, as Dan has explained before, it's still just a hypothetical.

If LW is not close enough to Ms Whoopsie for her to confide in him over her mortification/cheap thrill/whatever, It Never Happened. Because obviously. I assume she did just mess up the tech, and not out her side hustle as a cam-lady. Anyone who has hit reply-all by mistake can sympathize.


Weighing in here to say that (while this isn't about me) the people who have suggested that it could easily happen to a nursing mother are entirely correct. I had a babe in February and had a zoom meeting from home with some colleagues about 3 weeks ago where I had just a bra on but the rest of my shirt I had slipped the sleeves off and it was around my waist. I realised at the end of the meeting rather than partway through so didn't have an awkward cover up moment that would have drawn attention to the fact it wasnt intentional for me to be in such a state of undress! I also frequently nurse the babe during meetings. Usually I push the camera up a bit so you just see me from shoulders up but can easily see forgetting to do that, or standing up while still with a boob hanging out and flashing folks, especially if there are a lot of people in the meeting so my pic of myself is not right in the middle and obvious.


CMD @31, presumably his sexual orientation is relevant because he wants to assure us (and her) that he was not turned on by the sight of her breasts. I still think saying nothing is the way to go. What could he possibly say? She knows that he, and the rest of them, saw the girls. He can show that he's over it by getting over it and never mentioning it again. Or he can take her lead. If she was mortified, he should never speak of it again. If she has a sufficient sense of humour to have laughed it off, perhaps he could show that he too wasn't bothered by saying something like, "Martha, please keep us abreast of the profit projections for next quarter." :)
(That's a joke, I agree he should say nothing.)


"I'd hate for her to be thinking that I'm snickering behind her back or thinking badly of her when really my heart goes out to her."

What's the consensus? Totally lacking in self-awareness or wink wink hilarious? All those busy bodies who start out with, "I'm no gossip but..."

LW, the answer is to drop it and not make a big deal about it because it's not a big deal. You are the one making a big deal about it.


A gay man can make sexualized insults or unwelcome comments about a woman's body just as easily as a straight man can. Or anyone else about anyone else for that matter. The point is to make the other person feel uncomfortable or to give yourself some sort of attention/response. It doesn't have to show any real sexual interest. His point of including that he's gay is to try to say that he's not interested in her breasts which I think is protesting too much. Granted he's not sexually interested, but he's certainly interested, certainly thinks it's a big enough deal to make a big deal about it and also that he somehow has some self-granted responsibility to DO SOMETHING about it despite the fact that if he really were in this position (say, if he were a close friend) then he'd know how to proceed already. So who cares if he's gay- the point is that this man is actively seeking justification to comment on a work mate's body.

@22 tittering stories, lol


Also his word choice is suspect. I'd hate for her to think I'm thinking badly of her? What?

Of all the things I'd imagine someone might think of me if I accidentally flashed my boobs, it would not occur to me to think that they'd think BADLY of me? Why would anyone think badly of her? Like it's bad to have boobs? Is he saying that she might think that he thinks that she did the flashing on purpose? That would be bad, but also that's not a reasonable thing to think at least not as he presents the occurrence in the letter. Or is he saying that she might think he thinks she's bad at technology? Or sloppy in a situation that should've been professional? I mean, that might be true, but it seems rather a larger issue to which her boobs aren't relevant and I'd assume you'd address this as you would any other problem of incompetence or lack of skills among colleagues- you'd address the larger cause, suggest solutions, and only bring up specific incidents as examples all through a chain of hierarchy that probably would not involve the LW speaking to the woman directly, like is he her boss?

I just think this guy, gay or not, has some underlying issues around either the naked female body or nudity in general. Like he's making a really big deal about nothing and projecting weird feelings on to her, spending WAAAAYYY too much time imagining her response and other people's responses to this.

I've seen some funny stuff on zoom calls. None of it was interesting enough to do more than just chuckle for a bit, tell as an anecdote to friends later. Most recently it was someone with a smoking bong right over her shoulder, ha ha ha ha.


Moral of this urban legend, keep your yips/yaps in your shirt/pants when you’re in front of a camera because Murphy’s Law.


That shouldn’t have needed to be said, but to paraphrase P.T.Barnum (or SOMEBODY) you’ll never go broke UNDERestimating the intelligence of the average person.


The letter is entirely plausible, certain protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.

Others have already suggested the possibility that the woman in question is a nursing mother.

There are other possibilities. For example, the LW is a bit vague in the description of the exposed chest. For example, perhaps it was a revealing down blouse view, rather than a complete lack of clothing.

She may have been topless, and not have realized that the camera was on. Think about the recent Flush Heard Around The World (the Supreme Court toilet flush). Someone didn't realize that the microphone was on in that instance.

For that matter, she may have momentarily forgotten that the camera was on. I have participated in a bunch of online video chats since the onset of the pandemic (and several before then). I have not yet seen any flashed body parts, but I have watched people pick their noses and do other things like that. These are actions that most people would not do in a person-to-person meeting, but would not think twice about doing on an audio-only conference or conversation. People sometimes slip on a video conference.

How else do I know that it's plausible? In a zoom conference last month, the host asked me (offline) if I was in my boxers. As it happens, I was wearing gym shorts. We both got a laugh out of it, but it does go to show that the camera sometimes reveals more than you realize.


Boobies!!! Got plenty gay friends who are also boobie afficionados--more like otters than wolves. I think LW may well also be a boobie buff but is kinda embarrassed about that part of himself, and projects his shame onto his boobie-having coworker. Who likely got the fuck over the momentary oopsie ages ago.


Entirely plausible - I've had to deal with dress code issues concerning tops that wouldn't cconsistently cover breasts in person when I was a supervisor; add in teleconferencing and people not really treating their time working from home as though they are at work (e.g. following office dress codes), and I'm not sure why any of you are doubting it.


@ 43 Of course any right-thinking person would think badly of a woman who allowed the world to be aware that she has dirtypillows.


Some gay men might be into tits, I’m into tits, they are not into pussy. And no way is the LW into tits with his sign off.


This 100% happened to me!! 3 years ago, I was on maternity leave and I was nursing. I went to get something from our office room where my husband was on a client conference call. His clients said “oh, is that your wife?” and then quickly “oh my god - she’s not wearing a shirt.” My husband then turned to me to inform me that he was on a video conference call. I was totally tits out and not in a sexy way, but in a frazzled new mom way. I have never made that mistake again. I now crawl into the office on my hands and knees if I need anything!


EL @ 43
Possibly also agony @ 49
“Why would anyone think badly of her? Like it's bad to have boobs?”
That’s not the point. It shows that she probably wasn’t ready for the meeting to begin with. It also shows disrespect for co-workers and behavior that could have been a reason for immediate termination had someone of the opposite camp attended the meeting would have been seen in his underwear, let alone allowing the world to know that his left testicle is bigger than the right one.

DG @ 51
Your experience seems to be quite different than that of the breasts at hand. You did not sign for the session and had no idea what your husband is up to. The person on the other side was kind enough to alert you both.
You can still clue in LW as for his approach. Did anyone ever mention it to either of you? How would it feel if they did?


@52 - his clients never mentioned it to my husband after the fact. There were 3 middle-aged women on the call so it was less embarrassing for me than if it had been a bunch of bros. I still get a kick out of the story and share it all the time. I mean, it’s just boobs - I don’t think the LW has to worry about any follow-up.


@CMD yes I considered that angle in the post above (that she fears he thinks she's unprofessional or incompetent), but how would he address that as a coworker? And why? He's not her supervisor. Surely he's not saying he's motivated to soothe her fears that he sees her as unprofessional/incompetent by pretending that she was not acting this way? Because in fact she WAS unprofessional in letting this happen- regardless of whether or not professional sloppiness is a trend.

But let's take that motivation at face value. If she's usually and otherwise professional and competent, and he is motivated to soothe her concerns that he might think she's not, then he can simply show appreciation/recognition for other tasks/contributions that she handles professionally and competently- in short he can recognize her work respectfully without mentioning her breasts at all.


BTW CMD regarding reasonable grounds for termination, I've never worked somewhere or known anyone who worked somewhere that had different grounds for termination regarding exposing genitalia depending on if it's male/female. And I don't see the point in comparing breasts to testicles- the correct comparison would be if she exposed her vagina or if a man exposed his bare chest including nipples. I do understand that it's inappropriate for a woman to expose her breasts to coworkers almost all of the time, but it does not fall into a "never" in the same way that genitalia does. For example, nursing a child. (Another example- totally irrelevant to the situation in the letter- if you are at a company event that involves swimming or other outdoor activities in which one might be reasonably topless.)

Personally I think the nursing hypothesis floated by other commenters above is unlikely as I'd guess the LW would've mentioned it though he might be unaware. I think it's far more likely that she was just sloppy and unprepared, shirtless. And if being shirtless in a meeting is grounds for dismissal, it should be so for men and women. My guess is that most workplaces do in fact have this policy- you can't take your clothes off in front of colleagues.

I think making the comparison between genders here is tricky- I think coworkers would be far more likely to file a complaint about a man exposing his genitals in a meeting than they would about a woman appearing shirtless in a meeting, for sure. But I also think coworkers would be more likely to file a complaint about a woman shirtless in a meeting than a man shirtless in a meeting, so... We'd have to start talking about m v f genital exposure to come to a gendered trend, and yes absolutely I think male exposure of genitals would receive more complaints than female exposure of genitals and would be more likely to result in termination. But this isn't what happened.

(By the by, zoom workplaces while everyone works from home is so new that I suspect there's a bit more leeway while norms get settled- nonetheless if her managers do not make a note of it then they are being irresponsible too. Once is a sloppy accident. Twice? There should be a papertrail IMO.)


I'm still very much in favor of letting go and not mentioning the incident, a position I took early on this thread. That said, portraying this incident as trivial no big deal and possibly fun to tell the grand children is not serving those who may be inclined to believe it and follow carelessly on their next work related online meeting, which those two threads may unintentionally allude to.


@CMD Ah I see. I agree but I think it's a matter of how each person takes it. The LW should take it as a trivial no big deal and possibly fun anecdote as he is merely a coworker and this was (at least as far as we can tell from the letter) a one-off accident that did not target him or anyone else present. I do not think HR or supervisors nor the woman in question should take it as such though I'd think it would have to be in a greater pattern of incidents for it to warrant severe consequences.


EL- "I agree"
Me too.


As a woman, I've never attended a zoom meeting topless - in fact I usually put a bra on and throw a cardigan over my PJ's so I look "professional". Although possibly if a woman were leaning forward to adjust the camera in a V neck top, I could imagine a scenario where a woman might flash ample cleavage at coworkers. Or I suppose a nursing mom. Otherwise this seems like intentional exhibitionism.

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