I work for a small company, less than 25 employees so I have a good idea of what everyone is like (been working there 1.5yrs).

I got a boob mug for the lad I have for my secret santa which I feel will be funny, or at least I hope so...but I am slightly worried I could get in trouble.

I think I'm over-thinking it but what are your thoughts on it?

  • the general response is that this is clearly not appropriate for normal professional cultures (in the US+), based on known definitions of harassment. You are unwilling to mark any of these as correct, implying that you have already form an idea about what is "appropriate" — thus this will not be an effective Q&A. Dec 8, 2015 at 0:39
  • We can't possibly know this. In some places this will get you fired, in some places if you know the person it will go over well.
    – user9158
    Dec 8, 2015 at 0:54
  • Not all secredt santabames favor inappropriate gifts. Find out how the game is played in your office, and if still not sure ask someone there.
    – keshlam
    Dec 8, 2015 at 1:17
  • 2
    Go for it, you already spent the money on it, hopefully he takes it in the fun spirit it was intended, but if not, que sera sera, I got one of my old bosses a blowup doll once, didn't sign the card though.
    – Kilisi
    Dec 8, 2015 at 6:53
  • 6
    Argument to reopen: while the linked question is also about "rude" Secret Santa gifts, the context is rather different (OP doesn't want to participate, manager is enforcing it) and therefore the answers given there don't really apply to this question as the answer here is much simpler: give something else. It's a simple question with a simple answer, but it's not a duplicate.
    – Lilienthal
    Dec 8, 2015 at 10:00

3 Answers 3


Not appropriate for sure.

How would your female colleagues feel about that? Even if everyone was male and you are 100% sure everyone will get the humor and nobody will be offended, it's still a bad idea.

Would you like to have a boob mug on your desk? I don't think anyone who considers themselves professional would do that.

What if you have a client in your office?

It's a company, not a frat.

  • Not that I don't agree with you, but a few people have mugs with "c**t" on them so I figured my gag would be within limits...thanks for your input. Dec 7, 2015 at 22:40
  • 5
    That's very distasteful. Do people actually use that kind of language in your office?
    – ventsyv
    Dec 7, 2015 at 22:43
  • 6
    @teaanddoubledds Wow mugs with "c**t". Then boob is playing it way to safe - get penis mug.
    – paparazzo
    Dec 7, 2015 at 22:48
  • 1
    @teaanddoubledds - You are not working in the porn industry by any chance are you?
    – ventsyv
    Dec 7, 2015 at 22:50
  • 2
    Instead, buy a mug with the name "Dick" on it. As long as there is someone named "Dick" in your office, you have plausible deniability.
    – Mohair
    Dec 7, 2015 at 23:43

In almost every office around the world, this would be a wildly inappropriate gift. In many offices this would get you ostracised very quickly and might even result in tense conversations with management or HR. In some offices you'd be trying to talk your way out of sexual harassment charges but those kinds of knee-jerk reactions are hopefully a minority.

So no, this isn't really an appropriate gift. I'm not even going to tackle the more serious issue of how mugs like this or with the c-word(!) on it are demeaning and objectifying and proof of how society still has a long way to go.

You know your own office culture best and apparently this would be considered tame for your office but personally, I'd prefer a less-crude gift that doesn't perpetuate such a crappy office culture. Keep in mind that just because your office doesn't consider such gag gifts a problem, that doesn't mean that your colleague won't be mortified/disgusted/disappointed/horrified at receiving such a gift. A gift should be something safe and innocuous, it shouldn't have to come with a trigger warning.

Thrash the mug and buy something safer.

  • Well thanks also for your input, obviously I know this but I was going off the general vibe from the office and felt this would be tame lol. I'll maybe just play it safe or ask someone. Dec 7, 2015 at 22:56
  • @teaanddoubledds I've updated my answer with an additional note: your office might be okay with it but your colleague might not be. There are many reasons why someone might not be okay with such a gift and while I despise the word, the last thing you want is to trigger someone with what's supposed to be a nice gift.
    – Lilienthal
    Dec 7, 2015 at 22:59
  • I hear you. When you google for secret santa gifts though, everything is literally crude/rude gifts, it's hard not to assume that's the norm, especially as I've not worked any organisations which are corporate/large in anyway. Dec 7, 2015 at 23:01
  • 17
    Here's the thing: maybe the current culture is such that this is ok and even your female colleagues are genuinely ok with it(and not just pretending to fit in). Down the road, if your company survives, there will likely come a time where it's not. The more things like this people do, the more engrained the toxic culture will be and the harder it will be to change. So be the person who doesn't fertilize the weed, even if you aren't going to go so far as to root it out. Dec 7, 2015 at 23:32
  • 3
    @AmyBlankenship - I'd like to upvote that so many times! teaanddoubledds, you have an office culture that would make many of us not want to work for your company. Dec 8, 2015 at 0:22

What you're proposing isn't legal, even if your boss / management does nothing in response. By doing nothing, they would increase their risk of a successful sexual harassment lawsuit.

The Equality Act of 2010 defines harassment as

"unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual's dignity or creating and intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual."

Harassment is illegal when it is connected with

"a protected characteristic of the employee, such as his or her age, race, national origin, sex, religion or disability."

The existence and permission of mugs utilizing sexual words, such as "cunt," along with your gift, can contribute to the definition of a "pervasive" environment that constitutes violation of the law.

The law regards sexual context even when actions do not specifically target a person, and includes when actions pertain to women in general.

Where "cunt" could marginally be argued in the UK to have meanings other than a woman's genitals, adding a boobs-related example would likely create a compounding effect.

  • Someone should inform Pirelli.
    – DA.
    Dec 8, 2015 at 3:20
  • @DA. You've managed to mistake advertising standards for workplace standards. Dec 8, 2015 at 4:50
  • Or maybe I'm pointing out the absurdity of those standards differing. :)
    – DA.
    Dec 8, 2015 at 4:59
  • Common law does not support your assertion. I don't think your contradictions are improving the Q&A. "jus' sayin'" Dec 8, 2015 at 5:19
  • Well, I didn't mean for it to turn into a debate, but since it is, the Pirelli calendar, though a means of advertising for Pirelli is ultimately hung up in workplaces (or at least, traditionally) and would be seen the same as a boob mug would be today. It wasn't meant to contradict anything you said at all. Merely an observation and that if one finds nude calendars on a wall inappropriate in a work place, then they should consider the same for a boob mug.
    – DA.
    Dec 8, 2015 at 5:47

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