OkCupid statistics show that more than half of users have fanaticized about hooking up with a colleague. Picture: Pexels

Washington - "How does the idea of being slapped hard in the face during sex make you feel?" a software engineer named Will asked me in a conference room full of our co-workers.

"That's a great question," I said. "Statistically, 18 percent of men and 12 percent of women say they're into it."

No, we were not negotiating the terms of a Fifty Shades-style S&M contract. We were engineers at OkCupid, and this was one of many questions the app asked to determine members' compatibility.

"I think being slapped in the face during sex is the kind of thing you feel out as you get intimate with someone," Will said, leaning back in his chair. "Do we really need to ask about it?"


"I guess we know what Will likes in bed," another engineer finally said.

At 23, I'd worked at OkCupid for two years and was used to talking frankly about sex in the office. But did Will like getting slapped in the face? I buried my gaze in a spreadsheet, avoiding his eyes. I'd hoped I would learn the answer eventually, but not like this.

When I started at OkCupid, fresh out of Princeton with a computer science degree, I thought the literal database of New York City's single men at my fingertips would help me find a fellow math nerd. Instead I was hung up on the hipster without a high school degree who sat two desks across from me.

I hated this on principle. Even before #MeToo and Silicon Valley's reckoning with sexual harassment, I considered intra-office dating off-limits. I was one of the only women in the office as well as in my undergraduate computer science classes, and I knew the consequences of a strongly skewed gender ratio: A platonic study session could turn (unrequitedly) sexual at any second. 

Best to remove romance from the workplace altogether.

Discouraged but persistent, I kept at my old tactic. The next week, I held a board game night at my apartment and invited all my co-workers. At midnight they left, except for Will, who stayed back with a half-full glass of whiskey. "I just want to finish my drink," he said.

We sat close on my couch. Be cool, I told myself, don't talk about dating. "I think maybe you should kiss me," I said.

He looked down at me, still so tall he'd have to bend down to meet my lips. But this time, he did. "I've been into you for months," he said.

"Me, too," I replied.

"This kind of thing never happens," he said.

"Yeah, usually when you like someone you don't tell them about your Tinder dates and say you'd never date someone with their job and try to set them up with your brother," I said, feeling salty.

Will looked hurt. "I just didn't want to be one of those guys," he said. "One of those neckbeard engineers that hits on his coworker - the only girl in the office. I was so afraid of making you uncomfortable."

"What changed your mind?" I asked.

"When I realized I knew I'd rather quit than not tell you how I felt."

The next night, I stayed at Will's apartment. On the way to his bathroom in the morning, I met the programmer brother I'd messaged months ago. "Dale?" He looked surprised. I smiled, glad I'd held out for the original.

There was no explicit policy forbidding employee dating, but Will and I agreed not to tell anyone. The secrecy was kind of hot. We'd ignore each other until the end of the workday. Then I'd slip out of the office 10 minutes early to wait for him in the candle-lit lobby of the Ace Hotel.

After five months, Will quit his job. With nothing left to hide, we came out. "Well, obviously," a co-worker said. "Why didn't you just tell us? Nobody would've cared."

He was right - nobody seemed surprised. But then, as now, I still didn't know: When is it okay to ask out a co-worker? When you were sure the feeling was mutual? How could you ever be? OkCupid statistics show that more than half of users have fanaticized about hooking up with a colleague, and there's even a workplace dating app for Slack. But I'm still conflicted. When people ask me how we met, I just say: "Through OkCupid."