I'm talking about Richard from "The Guy From The Internet", the one Holly reveals has been acting "dodgy" around her at work.
When writing this book, I wondered if only letting the reader know, second-hand, about Richard's dodgy behaviour was story-worthy enough. I wondered if readers would expect to be shown the guy in action, or if they'd expect to see something at the more extreme end of the behavioural spectrum — the stuff that's most certainly very bad. After all, that stuff does happen often enough to realistically portray in an office setting.
The thing is, I feel "mild" dodgy behaviour is bad enough too, and happens often enough to boot. I worry that when fiction focuses only on extremes of behaviour, we may come to exclude it from the lens through which we view reality.
In my opinion, letting slide behaviour that's "just dodgy" is a slippery slope to letting worse behaviours slide.
How many times have the recipients of dodgy behaviour been told (or told themselves) they're just "making a big deal" out of behaviour that's "not that bad" — and yet having to deal with it over time causes them a build-up of anxiety that undermines their self-confidence and ability to shine?
How many times are we willing to say it's fine that people we care about become the proverbial boiled frog?
Richard was inspired by those colleagues (both male and female) who behave intrusively and predatorily, who don't quite appreciate the meaning of consent, yet don't always tread obviously enough across the line that they get in real trouble.
They trawl the murky social waters, taking small advantage of those around them who are too nice, too non-confrontational, or too conforming to rock the boat by speaking up.
They may behave like "white knights". Sometimes they're called the "missing stair". They're the ones who get labelled as "kind of creepy", but no one can firmly quantify why.
At best, they simply demonstrate leftover habits from their toddler years that they were never taught to take responsibility for. At worst, they take advantage of how society still deems it normal to be disrespectful towards certain groups and individuals in the population.
It's not okay, and it never has been. If you've ever been bothered by behaviour like this, you're not crazy or over-sensitive for being upset about it.
Though Richard's character was a minor part in "The Guy From The Internet", having him in the story like this was my way of offering some validation to anyone caught in that "grey area". Anyone dealing with the anxiety of being preyed upon with no one to support them.
I see you. This is a thing. You are not alone.