Dr Rajiv Desai

An Educational Blog

SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Sexual Harassment:

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Prologue:

In October 2016, a month before the presidential election, a 2005 tape came to the public’s attention. In raw footage from behind the scenes on Access Hollywood, Republican candidate Donald Trump bragged boldly about kissing women without their consent, grabbing at their genitals, and simply having his way: “…when you’re a star, they let you do it.”  In a subsequent debate, CNN’s Anderson Cooper called the actions that Trump described “sexual assault.” Trump called it “locker room talk.” Whatever the term, the behavior and the attitude ultimately proved inconsequential, not sufficiently meaningful or outrageous to derail Trump’s election victory. In January 2017, Trump took up the position as the most powerful man in the world. Yet, almost exactly one year later, scores of women are stepping up and speaking out. They tell heart-breaking, terrifying stories of sexual harassment, and sexual assault at the hands of powerful men – in Hollywood and New York, in politics and journalism, in religious and educational institutions – taking advantage of their powerful positions. One by one, by the thousands, women are joining around #MeToo to lend support to each other and voice their outrage, intent on being silenced no more. As the #MeToo movement gathers momentum in India, allegations of sexual harassment have surfaced against union minister of state for external affairs M.J. Akbar who has been accused of sexual harassment by many women journalists when he was editor.

Although majority of victims are women, the victim, as well as the harasser, may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex. The level of tolerance for sexual harassment varies from culture to culture.  We need to focus more on this problem, because a lot of men still don’t take it seriously. Men and women view it differently. When 1200 men and women were asked if they would consider sexual proposition flattering, 68% of men said they would, and only 17% of the women agreed. At the same time 63% of women would be insulted by it and only 15% of men.

I have already posted articles on ‘the rape’, ‘sex trafficking’ and ‘scientific punishment for rape’ on this website, and today I am posting article on ‘sexual harassment’ which is far more common than rape. Although few authors have classified rape as a type of sexual harassment, sexual harassment is distinct from rape, and sexual harassment may lead to rape.

I quote myself from my article ‘scientific punishment for rape’:

“Libido (sex drive) is a strong instinct. Thoughts about sex are constantly swirling in the minds of most men. Even seers are not exempt from it. Fulfilment of a sexual desire is a natural quest. All men have sexual desire but many do not rape despite getting an opportunity because their neo-cortex is trained by culture, religion, education, society, fear of laws and good upbringing to override sub-cortical sex drives. We ought to teach and train neo-cortex of our teens to control sub-cortical biological sex drive as they reach puberty, and to respect women. Rape is about mind-set of men and we need to change that mind-set.  Better upbringing, better education, better neighbourhood, better peers and better society can change that mind-set”.

About 80 women accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment in 2017. When movie stars don’t know where to go, what hope is there for the rest of women? What hope is there for the janitor who’s being harassed by a co-worker but remains silent out of fear she’ll lose the job she needs to support her children? For the administrative assistant who repeatedly fends off a superior who won’t take no for an answer? For the hotel housekeeper who never knows, as she goes about replacing towels and cleaning toilets, if a guest is going to corner her in a room she can’t escape?  Is sexual harassment all about fulfilment of sexual desire even if unwanted by victim, or is it about power and dominance over victim or both?

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Abbreviations and synonyms:

SSH = Stop Street Harassment (a non-profit organization)

ICC = Internal Complaint Committee

HR = Human Resources

OCR = Office of Civil Rights

EEOC = Equal Employment Opportunities Commission

PISB = Patient-initiated sexual behaviors

SEQ = Sexual Experiences Questionnaire

PCSH = Psychological Climate for Sexual Harassment

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Note:

Historically, the terms “sex” and “gender” have been used interchangeably, but their uses are becoming increasingly distinct, and it is important to understand the differences between the two.  Sex or sexuality refers to the physiological, biological characteristics of a person, with a focus on sexual reproductive traits, wherein males have male sexual traits (penis, testes, sperm) and females have female sexual traits (vagina, ovaries, eggs). Gender on the other hand primarily deals with personal, societal and cultural perceptions of sexuality.

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Read these powerful, inspirational quotes to encourage you to fight against sexual harassment:

“Don’t be ashamed of your story it will inspire others”

-Anonymous

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“Forgetting is difficult. Remembering is worse”

-Anonymous

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“I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it”

-Maya Angelou

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“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until now”

-Anonymous

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“She was powerful, not because she wasn’t scared but because she went on so strongly despite the fear”

-Atticus

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“Today in science class I learned every cell in our entire body is replaced every seven years. How lovely it is to know one day I will have a body you will never have touched”

-L.M.

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“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become”

-Carl Jung

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“I will never understand why it is more shameful to be raped than to be a rapist”

-Anonymous

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“Beauty provokes harassment, the law says, but it looks through men’s eyes when deciding what provokes it.”

-Naomi Wolf

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“If your flirting strategy is indistinguishable from harassment, it’s not everyone else that’s the problem.”

-John Scalzi

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“Women who accuse men, particularly powerful men, of harassment are often confronted with the reality of the men’s sense that they are more important than women, as a group.”

-Anita Hill

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“He told me he was used to getting what he wanted.”

-Celia Conrad

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“You know… You’re still my boss… Which means… This is sexual harassment…Oh really? I guess I’ll have to fire you then.”

-Alexandra V.

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A woman who was interviewed by sociologist Helen Watson said, “Facing up to the sexual harassment and having to deal with it in public is probably worse than suffering in silence. I found it to be a lot worse than the harassment itself.”

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One of the unfortunate consequences of the ever-growing number of women joining the labour force and working side by side with men is the increasing number of sexual harassment cases all over world. It is very difficult to find a woman who has never ever encountered sexual harassment of one kind or another, whether it’s a wolf whistle, sexual touch or outright sexual favour. While sexual harassment has been a pervasive problem for women throughout history, only in the past few decades have feminist litigators won definition of sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination and have women come forward in droves to demand remedies and institutional change. Women around the world are beginning to tell their stories and expose the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in their societies. A 1992 International Labor Organization survey of 23 countries revealed what women already know: that sexual harassment is a major problem for women all over the world. A recent poll found that such experiences are a brutal reality across the United States, and 60 percent of all U.S. women have been sexually harassed by a man at some point while 27 percent have not and 8 percent prefer not to say. In India, 90% of the total female workforce is engaged in the informal economy. The incidences of sexual harassment of women workers in workplaces such as construction sites, informal vendor markets, residential complexes, agricultural fields and small-sized factories go unnoticed. Unaware of legal recourses and fearing societal indignity, they just succumb to the might of men. Sexual harassment at informal workplaces should be included in all debates and discussions.

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Sexual harassment means any unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome request for sexual favours, or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated, and where that reaction is reasonable in the circumstances. Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to,

  • staring or leering
  • unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against you or unwelcome touching
  • suggestive comments or jokes
  • insults or taunts of a sexual nature
  • intrusive questions or statements about your private life
  • displaying posters, magazines or screen savers of a sexual nature
  • sending sexually explicit emails or text messages
  • inappropriate advances on social networking sites
  • accessing sexually explicit internet sites
  • requests for sex or repeated unwanted requests to go out on dates
  • behaviour that may also be considered to be an offence under criminal law, such as physical assault, indecent exposure, sexual assault, stalking or obscene communications

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Now let me show you some pictures of sexual harassment:

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Following are some examples of sexual harassment:

  1. Susan

Susan recently took a job in the skilled trades. The men on the job make lewd sexual remarks and refuse to cooperate with Susan on job assignments. They tell her if she’s “so good” she can do the job herself. She finds obscene messages pasted to her locker, her work bench, and in her tool kit. Her supervisor suggests if she can’t “take a little fun” she should transfer to a new assignment.

  1. June

June worked as a sales person at a retail establishment. Two male co-workers tell dirty jokes of a sexual nature to her and make lewd remarks. She tried to ignore the comments by walking away. The verbal comments increased, and one co-worker began to touch her in sexually suggestive ways. June complained to her manager, who said he “would take care of it”, but the harassment became worse over the next few weeks. June felt forced to leave her employment.

  1. Joan

Joan works in a company as a custodial worker. She has been employed only a short time when a male co-worker begins making obscene sexual remarks to her. She tells him to leave her alone, and he reacts by forcing her into a locker room to cooperate with his sexual demands. She complains to her supervisor, but her supervisor tells her that he can’t do anything and that she should “work it out.” The next day Joan is subjected to the same verbal and physical threats.

  1. Sam

Sam works for a firm in Sales and has to travel to other cities with his boss. The boss wants to share a hotel room “to save the company some money.” When Sam refuses she tells him to stop “acting like a baby” and “smarten up”. She later gives him a poor performance evaluation, and he is terminated shortly afterwards.

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  1. A woman has walked alone down the street when a man follow her for two blocks repeating “God bless you, beautiful,” “God bless your beautiful body,” and “God made you so beautiful.” Anything said to a woman by the man under the protection of “God” is just as threatening as any other kind of sexual comment. And to the people for whom God is a special thing, using him as a weapon of harassment is doubly offensive.

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Any of the examples above represent sexual harassment.  In all cases it is the consequences – not the intentions – that count.  The severity of the harassment is largely determined by the impact it has on the victim.  So “It was just a joke” or “I had too much to drink” is no excuse and no defence.  According to the law, actual intent is irrelevant; what is relevant is the impact the behavior has on the recipient.  Harassment usually relates to intimidation, exploitation and power; not to real, mutual personal attraction and respect.  Thus a relationship between two consenting adults would usually not be harassment.  Yet if the one party has far more power than the other, and abuses this in the work situation to coerce the other, it could still be harassment. If unwelcome attentions have been declined, but are repeated, or if the person is victimised because of having refused advances, the situation becomes worse.

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Varied behaviors:

One of the difficulties in understanding sexual harassment is that it involves a range of behaviors. In most cases (although not in all cases) it is difficult for the victim to describe what they experienced. This can be related to difficulty classifying the situation or could be related to stress and humiliation experienced by the recipient. Moreover, behavior and motives vary between individual cases.

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Terminology:

The terms “sexual abuse,” “sexual assault,” “sexual harassment” – and even “rape” – crop up daily in the news. We are likely to see these terms more as the #MeToo movement continues. Many people want to understand these behaviors and work to prevent them. It helps if we are consistent and as precise as possible when we use these terms.  Let’s start by defining each of these terms. Then, we can look at how these behaviors sometimes overlap.

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Discriminatory behavior:

An umbrella term that includes biased treatment based upon characteristics such as race, color, ethnicity, age, sex, and so on. This term includes the different forms of sexual harassment, as well as other forms of sex/gender discrimination.

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Sexism:

Sexism is an attitude. It is an attitude of a person of one sex that he or she is superior to a person of the other sex.

For example, a man thinks that women are too emotional. Or a woman thinks that men are chauvinists.

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Sex/gender discrimination:

A broad term that includes discrimination and harassment based upon gender or sex. In addition to sexually harassing behavior, examples of this include pay or hiring discrimination based on one’s sex or gender.

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Consent:

Consent is a clear, knowing and voluntary decision to engage in sexual activity.  Because consent is voluntary, it is given without coercion, force, threats, or intimidation. It is given with positive cooperation in the act or expression of intent to engage in the act pursuant to an exercise of free will. Consent is active, not passive. Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent. Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions consist of an affirmative, unambiguous, conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity. Consent is revocable, meaning consent can be withdrawn at any time.  Thus, consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual encounter.  Once consent has been revoked, sexual activity must stop immediately.

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Non-Consensual Sexual Contact:

Non-consensual sexual contact is any intentional sexual touching, however slight, with any object by a male or female upon a male or a female that is without consent and/or by force.  Sexual Contact includes intentional contact with the breasts, buttock, groin, or genitals, or touching another with any of these body parts, or making another touch you or themselves with or on any of these body parts; any intentional bodily contact in a sexual manner, though not involving contact with/of/by breasts, buttocks, groin, genitals, mouth or other orifice.

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Non-Consensual Sexual Intercourse:

Non-consensual sexual intercourse is any sexual intercourse however slight, by a male or female upon a male or a female that is without consent and/or by force. Intercourse includes vaginal penetration by a penis, object, tongue or finger; anal penetration by a penis, object, tongue, or finger; and oral copulation (mouth to genital contact or genital to mouth contact), no matter how slight the penetration or contact.

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Sexual assault:

According to the United States Department of Justice, sexual assault is “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” Sexual assault is basically an umbrella term that includes sexual activities such as rape, fondling, and attempted rape. However, the legal definition varies depending on which state you’re in, and can even be different depending on where you were when the assault happened.

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Rape:

In 2012, the FBI issued a revised definition of rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” The revised law is gender neutral, meaning that anyone can be a victim.

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Sexual Exploitation:

Occurs when a person takes non-consensual or abusive sexual advantage of another for his/her own advantage or benefit, or to benefit or advantage anyone other than the one being exploited, and that behavior does not otherwise constitute one of other sexual misconduct offenses.

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Sexual violence:

The World Health Organization (WHO) in its 2002 World Report on Violence and Health defined sexual violence as: “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.” Sexual violence include rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution.

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Sexual abuse:

Sexual abuse, also referred to as molestation, is usually undesired sexual behavior by one person upon another. It is often perpetrated using force or by taking advantage of another. When force is immediate, of short duration, or infrequent, it is called sexual assault. The offender is referred to as a sexual abuser or (often pejoratively) molester. The term also covers any behavior by an adult or older adolescent towards a child to stimulate any of the involved sexually. The use of a child, or other individuals younger than the age of consent, for sexual stimulation is referred to as child sexual abuse or statutory rape.

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Stalking:

Stalking is unwanted or repeated surveillance by an individual or group towards another person. Stalking generally refers to harassing or threatening behavior that an individual engages in repeatedly, such as following a person, appearing at a person’s home or place of business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person’s property. These actions may or may not be accompanied by a credible threat of serious harm, and they may or may not be precursors to an assault or murder.

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Voyeurism:

Voyeurism is the sexual interest in or practice of spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors, such as undressing, sexual activity, or other actions usually considered to be of a private nature.  A male voyeur is commonly labelled as Peeping Tom. Research found that voyeurism is the most common sexual law-breaking behavior in both clinical and general populations.  Non-consensual voyeurism is considered to be a form of sexual abuse. When the interest in a particular subject is obsessive, the behavior may be described as stalking.

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Sexual misconduct:

Sexual misconduct is a non-legal term used informally to describe a broad range of behaviors, which may or may not involve harassment. For example, some companies prohibit sexual relationships between co-workers, or between an employee and their boss, even if the relationship is consensual.  Sexual misconduct is an umbrella term for any misconduct of a sexual nature that is of lesser offense than felony sexual assault (such as rape and molestation), particularly where the situation is normally non-sexual and therefore unusual for sexual behavior, or where there is some aspect of personal power or authority that makes sexual behavior inappropriate. A common theme, and the reason for the term “misconduct,” is that these violations occur during work or in a situation of a power imbalance.

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Sexual harassment (vide infra):

Sexual Harassment includes behavior such as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other conduct of a sexual nature. It is conduct that affects a person’s employment or education or interferes with a person’s work or educational performance or creates an environment that a reasonable person would find it intimidating, hostile or offensive. Reasonable person standard is a standard established to establish whether or not a particular act or conduct constitutes sexual harassment. The basis of the standard is what a “reasonable person” would conclude regarding the act rather than focusing on the specific victim or perpetrator.

Sexual harassment includes:

-an unwelcome sexual advance

-an unwelcome request for sexual favours

-engaging in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that is offensive, humiliating or intimidating.

Examples of sexual harassment include staring or leering, unwelcome touching, suggestive comments, taunts, insults or jokes, displaying pornographic images, sending sexually explicit emails or text messages, and repeated sexual or romantic requests. It also includes behaviours that may be considered criminal offences, such as sexual assault, stalking or indecent exposure.

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Retaliation:

Action taken by an accused individual or by a third party against any person because that person has opposed sexual harassment or because that person has filed a complaint, testified, assisted or participated in any manner in sexual harassment investigation or proceeding.  This includes action taken against a bystander who intervened to stop or attempt to stop sexual harassment or sexual misconduct.

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Locker room talk:

As for “locker room talk,” experts say it’s not usually a crime, but it can feed into a culture of sexual harassment. In some situations, “locker room talk” could actually be seen as a form of sexual harassment. Inappropriate jokes or pinup pictures in the workforce can create a hostile work environment, which could fall under the umbrella of sexual harassment.

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What is the difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault?

Some authors have either confused the terms sexual assault and sexual harassment, or they have relegated sexual harassment to a back seat issue very different from sexual assault. Many believe that within the continuum of harm, sexual harassment eventually might lead to sexual assault. Both include unwelcome sexual advances to include touching.  While there is overlap between the definitions, this overlap doesn’t constitute conflict. The real distinction between sexual harassment and sexual assault is sexual harassment’s connection to the victim’s employment and/or work performance, which is why sexual harassment is a civil rights issue. However, in some contexts, sexual harassment may constitute a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Sexual assault is a crime against another person. However, unlike sexual harassment, it has nothing to do with their employment and/or work performance; it is a criminal assault of a sexual nature against another person. Sexual harassment is a broad term, including many types of unwelcome verbal and physical sexual attention. Sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior, often physical, that occurs without the consent of the victim. Sexual harassment generally violates civil laws—you have a right to work or learn without being harassed—but in many cases is not a criminal act, while sexual assault usually refers to acts that are criminal.  In dealing with both matters, our focus should not be to emphasize one over the other. Rather, we need to recognize their relationship, how poor command climate fosters sexual harassment which can prevent bystanders from intervening and can embolden predators. In the response side of the equation, it is important to recognize the very real possibility that a victim may in fact have been subjected to both sexual harassment and sexual assault by the time a report is made.

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Introduction to sexual harassment:

You’re not an A-list Hollywood actor, nor a mover and shaker in political circles. You’re just someone – probably a woman – with a job. And while they may not be powerful or important anywhere else, someone – a customer, a colleague, probably a man – is sexually harassing you at work. Maybe you’re a temping teaching assistant in a school, and the French teacher announces to a class full of teenage boys anyone can get a good look up your skirt – a comment none of them will ever let you forget. Said man then drunkenly tells you at the school Christmas party that he’d like to “rub one out against your leg”. Or maybe you’re a waitress in a wine bar, facing down a group of customers who think bits of your arse come free with the drinks, and who have not stopped trying to cop a feel of your tits all night. Maybe you’re the ambitious young lawyer working on mergers and acquisitions who finds herself the subject of a hilarious “joke” at an office function – one that involves being questioned on your sex life with your husband and having your boobs grabbed by the boss, both in front of the whole department. It’s humiliating, it’s reductive, and – inconceivably, to those who have not been in that situation – it’s an experience that provokes its victims, rather than its perpetrators, to feel guilt, anger, remorse and shame. And as gross and upsetting leers, inappropriate comments and touching up can be, it can get worse. So much worse. And become a consistent pattern. But when you’re in precarious work, or young, marginalised or just completely dependent on the income from your job, often harassment incidents that are illegal are endured by workers terrified of what will happen to their income if they take action.

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One of the consequences of the increasing integration of men and women in the workplace has been the increased opportunity for conflict based upon gender differences (Browne, 2006). Despite the inclusion of gender as a banned ground of discrimination in the Human Rights Act 2003, and the best efforts of legislators and employers, gender-based conflict has become a major issue for organisations, and a topic of interest in research (Colarelli & Haaland, 2002). It appears that the differences between the sexes assert themselves in organisational settings, with the outcome that men and women are not just simply interchangeable employees (Browne, 2006). One of the most prevalent forms of this conflict has been labelled sexual harassment (Colarelli & Haaland, 2002). Although a myriad of definitions exist, there is no universal agreement on an objective definition of sexual harassment (Golden, Johnson & Lopez, 2001).

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Sexual harassment is a kind of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964 in the United States. According to Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment occurs whenever there is an unwanted conduct on the basis of gender and which consequently affects an individual’s job. The legal definition of sexual harassment is “unwelcome verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive and affects working conditions and a hostile work environment. Sexual harassment refers to “unwanted sexual advances, whether touches, looks, pressures to have sex or even jokes” (Henslin & Nelson, 1996 p.300). Such behavior is imposed sometimes as a condition on a person’s employment. There are two types of sexual harassment. The first one known as ‘quid pro quo’, means ‘something for something’ consists of harassment that has a direct impact on the individual’s job. Suppose a manager imposes on his subordinate to get sexually cooperative, or else he or she will be fired from the job. The second one is known as hostile environment. It results from unwanted behaviors and conducts from seniors and other personnel on the job, such as discussing sexual topics, make use of inappropriate words such as ‘babe’ demonstrate indecent gestures and use crude and unusual language. Over few decades the American Supreme Court has declared sexual harassment as a reason of action under Title VII, sexual harassment still prevails in workplaces. Most complaints come from women. However, number of complaints filed by men is rising. There is an ever-increasing number of men reporting against female supervisors. According to EEOC, in 2007, 16% cases were reported by men. A Government study in UK stated that 2 out of 5 sexual victims are male.

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It is not about fun but abuse of authority. It is found that only 5% to 15% of harassed women report problems of sexual harassment. There are various reasons why victims are hesitant to make accuses of sexual harassment. They may fear to lose their or interrupt their career or they may even not be believed. They can also think that nothing will be done to cease the harassment and to help them. Likewise, men are also reluctant to report cases, because of their masculine stereotype. They may think that this can have a negative impression on their masculinity. However, there appears to be a short of consensus regarding the definition of sexual harassment, especially when investigating the behaviors and the conditions in which sexual harassment occurs (Bimrose, 2004; Fitzgerald and Ormerod, 1991; Fitzgerald et al., 1995; Stockdale and Hope, 1997). There is no single and precise definition of sexual harassment, either in terms of behavior or the circumstances in which it occurs (Bimrose, 2004; Fitzgerald and Ormerod, 1991; Fitzgerald et al., 1995; Stockdale and Hope, 1997).

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Sexual harassment is seen as one of the most difficult and emotional issue that employers, employees and human resource professionals are facing today. In fact no profession or occupation is exempted from this problem. Sexual harassment goes far beyond one’s social background, educational level, age group or ethnic belonging. It touches all the layers of the population without any exception (Kim and Kleiner, 1999). Sexual harassment has been called “an endemic feature of the contemporary workplace” (Jackson and Newman, 2004). Willness et al. (2007) find that sexual harassment results in the victim’s decreased job satisfaction, resignation from work, less socialization, bad health and some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder for persons, as well as lower productivity, mounted absenteeism and rising sick leave costs for organizations. To know whether unwanted behavior is pervasive enough to create unfriendly environment, factors such as frequency of discriminatory manner, harshness of the behavior, was it physically threatening or only offensive statement, must be considered. Sexual harassment must be considered as an issue to be discussed in organizations, before improving a person’s skills to prevent sexual harassment.

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It is complicated to recognize unfriendly and unwelcome environment. The fact must determine whether circumstances have crossed the line. Courts have declared that men and women do not have the same level of sensitivity. Two-thirds of men will be happy if they are approached sexually at work, and others will not like it, states a study. Causes of sexual harassment can be very complexed. Close relationships at work, having same interests, employees depending upon each other for teamwork are reasons that bring closeness and can step over professional limits and mislead people to cross the line. Factors such as personal problems may also give rise to sexual harassment. No job is distinct from sexual harassment.

In 2009 after a study at the University of Minnesota, it was found that women who occupy supervisory positions are most prone to sexual harassment. Researchers have found that most victims are women on supervisory positions. This strongly shows that sexual harassment is not only about sexual desire but also about to have power over and dominance. Nowadays men retain supervisory position and they decide if a report against sexual harassment lodged by a woman will be taken into consideration or not. As it is, women are considered to be less productive than men in organizations and it is necessary for the former to work, others tend to profit from such situations. So as not to lose their jobs, some women accept to be treated as such.

Sexual harassment may be a warning sign of life traumas such as divorce or death of spouse or even the child. It affects the victims professionally, academically, financially and socially. Even organizations suffer from low productivity, loss of staff, absenteeism and legal costs if the matter is taken into court. Cruel sexual harassment can have the same psychological effect as rape or sexual physical attack. Some victims, especially women may try to attempt suicide as well.

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We should care because of the human and organizational costs of sexual harassment. Research tells us that victims perceive sexual harassment as annoying, offensive, upsetting, embarrassing, stressful, and frightening. Sexual harassment often results in emotional and physical stress and stress-related mental and physical illnesses. Research in the United States links sexual harassment to increased absenteeism, job turnover, transfer requests, and decreases in work motivation and productivity. Sexual harassers may be supervisors, peers, customers, or clients. Although men sometimes experience sexual harassment (mostly young men, gay men, members of ethnic or racial minorities, and men working in female-dominated work groups), the vast majority of those who experience it are women. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the United States estimates that between 25 and 50 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. When women are minorities, either statistically because there are few of them or because they are ethnic minorities, they are often at increased risk for sexual harassment.

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Employers may be legally accountable for sexual harassment against employees and they may be liable to pay for damages. A victim of sexual harassment must report to an official. The victim must participate in investigation and cooperate fully. The matter must be kept confidential as reputation will be at stake. Both the complainant and the accused will have a chance to defend their cases. The law protects employees who cooperate in administrative complaints, thus one must not be afraid to collaborate. The person concerned must be able to answer questions such as name of harasser, where and when the incident occurred, when investigation is being carried out. The plaintiff has full rights to know everything about the investigation. The complainant must admit that the problem exists and have the courage to talk about it and say what is wrong. The victim must not blame himself/herself for some else’s behavior. He/she must not ignore hostile behavior and must not try to handle the situation alone. He/she must get help. Policies need to be adopted to prevent sexual harassment, such as: sexual harassment policy, general harassment policy. Managers must ensure that such situations do not occur at workplace. Employees need to be informed and addressed on such matters. They must be aware of the law that protects them. Independent bodies must take the responsibility to make regular checks in organizations so as to question staff and ensure that everything is going on well with their work.

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Not all workplace or educational conduct that may be described as “harassment” affects the terms, conditions or privileges of employment or education.  For example, a mere utterance of an isolated ethnic, gender-based or racial epithet which creates offensive feelings in an employee or student, while highly inappropriate, would not normally affect the terms and conditions of their employment or limits a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the University’s educational programs or activities.

A common myth is that sexual harassment is just a few notches down from sexual assault but it’s not that simple. Sexual harassment is uniquely tied to power structures, often in employment and career advancement situations. The perpetrator holds the key to moving onwards and upwards, creating a dilemma for the victim: submit and be exploited or resist and be punished. The victim is placed in an intimidating lose-lose situation without any power or control. Therefore, sexual harassment can and does run the gamut from demeaning comments to requests for sexual favors to unwanted sexual advances. In addition, it doesn’t always but certainly can include sexual assault, which is any non-consensual or coerced sexual act, including sexual touching.

Harassment is also different than unwanted sexual attention, which consists of unwelcome come-ons and comments that are not primarily designed to demean and intimidate. Think terrible pick-up lines: “I lost my teddy bear, will you sleep with me instead?” from a guy at the bar is unwanted sexual attention, but from your boss, its sexual harassment.

To be clear, it’s not only women as victims and men as perpetrators, even though that setup is the vast majority of cases. Of the 13,000 charges of sexual assault logged in 2016 by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (believed to be just the tip of the iceberg), 83 percent of them were filed by women. And the women who face sexual harassment by bosses and supervisors aren’t just rising Hollywood starlets or, like Anita Hill, Yale-educated lawyers. They’re everyday people—restaurant workers, clerks, flight attendants, students, health care workers, programmers—whose bosses control scheduling, raises, future promotions, and references.

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Sexual harassment in the workplace is unwelcome or unwanted attention of a sexual nature from someone at work that causes discomfort, humiliation, offence or distress, and/or interferes with the job. This includes all such actions and practices of a sexual nature by a person or a group of people directed at one or more workers. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a client or customer. Harassers or victims can be of either gender. In most modern legal contexts, sexual harassment is illegal. Laws surrounding sexual harassment generally do not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or minor isolated incidents—that is due to the fact that they do not impose a “general civility code”. In the workplace, harassment may be considered illegal when it is frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim’s demotion, firing or quitting). The legal and social understanding of sexual harassment, however, varies by culture.

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Sexually harassing behaviors differ in type and severity. Key determining factors are that the behavior is:

  • Unwelcome
  • Sex or gender based
  • Reasonably perceived as offensive and objectionable under both a subjective and objective assessment of the conduct.

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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines define sexual harassment as the following:

“Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment”.

Sexual harassment was first recognized in cases in which women lost their jobs because they rejected sexual overtures from their employers (e.g., Barnes v. Costle 19771). This type of sexual harassment became defined as quid pro quo sexual harassment (Latin for “this for that,” meaning that a job or educational opportunity is conditioned on some kind of sexual performance). Such coercive behavior was judged to constitute a violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Soon it was recognized in employment law that pervasive sexist behavior from coworkers can create odious conditions of employment—what became known as a hostile work environment—and also constitute illegal discrimination (Farley 1978; MacKinnon 1979; Williams v. Saxbe 19762). These two basic forms of sexual harassment, quid pro quo and hostile environment harassment, were summarized in guidelines issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1980.

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Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

  • The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
  • The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

The defining characteristic of sexual harassment is that it is unwanted. It is important to clearly let an offender know that certain actions are unwelcome. Hostile work or educational environments can be created by behaviors such as addressing women in crude or objectifying terms, posting pornographic images in the office, and by making demeaning or derogatory statements about women, such as telling anti-female jokes. Hostile environment harassment also encompasses unwanted sexual overtures such as exposing one’s genitals, stroking and kissing someone, and pressuring a person for dates even if no quid pro quo is involved (Bundy v. Jackson 1981; Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson 1986).

An important distinction between quid pro quo and hostile environment harassment is that the former usually involves a one-on-one relationship in which the perpetrator has control of employment- or educational-related rewards or punishments over the target. In contrast, the latter can involve many perpetrators and many targets. In the hostile environment form of sexual harassment, coworkers often exhibit a pattern of hostile sexist behavior toward multiple targets over an extended period of time (Holland and Cortina 2016). For hostile sex-related or gender-related behavior to be considered illegal sexual harassment, it must be pervasive or severe enough to be judged as having had a negative impact upon the work or educational environment. Therefore, isolated or single instances of such behavior typically qualify only when they are judged to be sufficiently severe. Legal scholars and judges continue to use the two subtype definitions of quid pro quo and hostile environment to define sexual harassment.

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When is sexually based conduct harassment?

Attraction between employees should be a private matter between the employees, so long as it does not cross the boundary between welcome conduct and harassment. To determine whether sexual conduct in the workplace amounts to sexual harassment, distinctions must be made between sexual advances that are:

  • Invited: if the conduct is welcome, harassment has not occurred but could cause difficulties down the line if an office romance goes sour.
  • Uninvited but welcome: again, while there is no harassment, the potential for harassment could exist if a relationship between two employees breaks up.
  • Offensive but tolerated: just because an employee does not make a complaint does not mean that harassment is not occurring — if you see it or hear of it, put a stop to it.
  • Flatly refused: this is clearly harassment and should be handled accordingly.

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Is gender-based harassment the same as sexual harassment?

There are forms of harassment that are gender-based but are nonsexual in nature. Gender-based harassment is harassment that would not have occurred but for the sex of the victim. So gender based harassment is a type of sexual harassment. It lacks sexually explicit content but is directed at one sex and motivated by animus against that sex, whether female or male.

Example:

A comment like “You’re a woman, you can’t handle this job” may amount to gender-based harassment even though it does not carry a sexual connotation.

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Who is harasser & who may be harassed?

It is commonly thought that workplace sexual harassment is limited to interactions between male bosses and female subordinates.  This is not true.  In fact, sexual harassment can occur between any co-workers, including the following:

  • peer to peer harassment;
  • subordinate harassment of a supervisor;
  • men can be sexually harassed by women;
  • same sex harassment – men can harass men; women can harass women;
  • third party harassment; and
  • offenders can be supervisors, co-workers, or non-employees, such as customers, vendors, and suppliers.

Another common perception is that the person who is the recipient of the behavior is the victim of the sexual harassment.  In fact, anyone who is affected by the offensive conduct, whether they were the intended “target” or not, is a victim of sexual harassment.  The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) states, ”the victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.”  Likewise, there is no “typical harassed woman.”  Women of all ages, backgrounds, races and experience and in every work environment experience sexual harassment.

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Is Sexual Harassment about Sex or Power?

According to a 1992 study conducted by the International Labor Organization (ILO),”Sexual harassment is inextricably linked with power and takes place in societies which often treat women as sex objects and second-class citizens.” Catharine MacKinnon, one of the foremost writers on the topic, describes sexual harassment as an “explosive combining of unacceptable sexual behavior and the abuse of power.”  A particular incident of harassment may or may not include any explicitly sexual behavior, but it always involves some form of abuse of power.  For example, when a harasser sabotages a woman’s work, he is not engaging in any kind of romantic sexual action.  He is engaging in aggression.  This situation is no different from that of the street harasser who comments on a woman’s body as she walks by, the co-worker who won’t stop touching her or the landlord who won’t repair the sink because she hasn’t been “nice enough” to him.  While not one of these actions is “sexual” in an affectionate or friendly sense, all are forms of sexual harassment.

It is very important to closely examine the “sexual” aspect of sexual harassment, because sexuality is often used as a justification for this social practice.  Confusion about the difference between sexual invitation and sexual harassment is common. Many men and women around the world believe that sexual harassment is a practice based on simple sexual attraction.  It is often seen as an expression of male interest and a form of flattering sexual attention for women – a sometimes vulgar but essentially harmless romantic game, well within the range of normal, acceptable behavior between men and women. However, the difference between invitation and harassment is the use of power. Harassment is not a form of courtship and it is not meant to appeal to women.  It is designed to coerce women, not to attract them.  When the recipient of sexual harassment has no choice in the encounter, or has reason to fear the repercussions if she declines, the interaction has moved out of the realm of invitation and courtship into the arena of intimidation and aggression. Confusion about the dynamics of sexuality and power in sexual harassment prevents women from reacting to harassers with strong, effective countermeasures.

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Can one incident of harassment or offensive behavior constitute sexual harassment?

It depends. Quid pro quo cases may be considered sexual harassment when linked to the granting or denial of employment benefits. On the other hand, the conduct would have to be quite severe for a single incident or isolated incidents of offensive sexual conduct or remarks to rise to the level of a hostile environment. Hostile environment claims usually require proof of a pattern of offensive conduct. Nevertheless, a single and extremely severe incident of harassment may be sufficient to constitute a Title VII violation. A general rule of thumb is that the more severe the harassment is, the less likely it is that the victim will be required to show a repetitive series of incidents. This is especially true when the harassment is physical.

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Situations:

Sexual harassment may occur in a variety of circumstances—in workplaces as varied as factories, school, college, acting, and the music business.  Often, the perpetrator is in a position of power or authority over the victim (due to differences in age, or social, political, educational or employment relationships). They can also be expecting to receive such power or authority in form of promotion.

Forms of harassment relationships include:

  • The perpetrator can be anyone, such as a client, a co-worker, a parent or legal guardian, relative, a teacher or professor, a student, a friend, or a stranger.
  • The place of harassment occurrence may vary from different schools workplace and other.
  • There may or may not be other witnesses or attendances.
  • The perpetrator may be completely unaware that his or her behavior is offensive or constitutes sexual harassment. The perpetrator may be completely unaware that his or her actions could be unlawful.
  • The incident can take place in situations in which the harassed person may not be aware of or understand what is happening.
  • The incident may be a one-time occurrence but more often the incident repeats.
  • Adverse effects on the target are common in the form of stress, social withdrawal, sleep, eating difficulties, and overall health impairment.
  • The victim and perpetrator can be any gender.
  • The perpetrator does not have to be of the opposite sex.
  • The incident can result from a situation in which the perpetrator thinks they are making themselves clear, but is not understood the way they intended. The misunderstanding can either be reasonable or unreasonable. An example of unreasonable is when a woman holds a certain stereotypical view of a man such that she did not understand the man’s explicit message to stop.

With the advent of the internet, social interactions, including sexual harassment, increasingly occur online, for example in video games or in chat rooms. According to the 2014 PEW research statistics on online harassment, 25% of women and 13% of men between the ages of 18 and 24 have experienced sexual harassment while online.

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Generalised versus targeted sexual behaviour:

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Etymology and history of sexual harassment:

The modern legal understanding of sexual harassment was first developed in the 1970s, although related concepts have existed in many cultures. The activists, Lin Farley, Susan Meyer, and Karen Sauvigne went on to form the Working Women’s Institute which, along with the Alliance Against Sexual Coercion (founded in 1976 by Freada Klein, Lynn Wehrli, and Elizabeth Cohn-Stuntz), were among the pioneer organizations to bring sexual harassment to public attention in the late 1970s. One of the first legal formulations of the concept of sexual harassment as consistent with sex discrimination and therefore prohibited behavior under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 appeared in the 1979 seminal book by Catharine MacKinnon entitled “Sexual Harassment of Working Women”. Although Catharine MacKinnon is sometimes credited with creating the laws surrounding sexual harassment in the United States, the first known use of the term sexual harassment was in a 1973 report about discrimination called “Saturn’s Rings” by Mary Rowe, Ph.D. though Rowe has stated that sexual harassment was being discussed in women’s groups in Massachusetts in the early 1970s, and wasn’t likely the first person to use the term. At the time, Rowe was the Chancellor for Women and Work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Due to her efforts at MIT, the university was one of the first large organizations in the U.S. to develop specific policies and procedures aimed at stopping sexual harassment. In the book In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution (1999), journalist Susan Brownmiller quotes Cornell University activists who believed they had coined the term ‘sexual harassment’ in 1975 after being asked for help by Carmita Wood, a 44-year-old single mother who was being harassed by a faculty member at Cornell’s Department of Nuclear Physics.

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‘Sexual Harassment of Working Women’ by Catharine A. MacKinnon:

Noted legal scholar and feminist Catherine MacKinnon defined sexual harassment as “the unwanted imposition of sexual requirement in the context of a relationship of unequal power”. Sexual harassment of working women has been widely practiced and systematically ignored. Men’s control over women’s jobs has often made coerced sexual relations the price of women’s material survival. Considered trivial or personal, or natural and inevitable, sexual harassment has become a social institution. MacKinnon offers here the first major attempt to understand sexual harassment as a pervasive social problem and to present a legal argument that it is discrimination based on sex. Beginning with an analysis of victims’ experiences, she then examines sex discrimination doctrine as a whole, both for its potential in prohibiting sexual harassment and for its limitations.  Two distinct approaches to sex discrimination are seen to animate the law: one based on an analysis of the differences between the sexes, the other upon women’s social inequality. Arguing that sexual harassment at work is sex discrimination under both approaches, she criticizes the effectiveness of the law in reaching the real determinants of women’s social status. She concludes that a recognition of sexual harassment as illegal would support women’s economic equality and sexual self-determination at a point where the two are linked.

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Historical antecedents of sexual harassment:

Ancient Rome:

In ancient Rome, according to Bruce W. Frier and Thomas A.J. McGinn, what is now called sexual harassment was then any of accosting, stalking, and abducting. Accosting was “harassment through attempted seduction” or “assaulting another’s chastity with smooth talk … contrary to good morals”, which was more than the lesser offense(s) of “obscene speech, dirty jokes, and the like”, “foul language”, and “clamor”, with the accosting of “respectable young girls” who however were dressed in slaves’ clothing being a lesser offense and the accosting of “women … dressed as prostitutes” being an even lesser offense. Stalking was “silently, persistently pursuing” if it was “contrary to good morals”, because a pursuer’s “ceaseless presence virtually ensures appreciable disrepute”. Abducting an attendant, who was someone who follows someone else as a companion and could be a slave, was “successfully forcing or persuading the attendant to leave the side of the intended target”, but abducting while the woman “has not been wearing respectable clothing” was a lesser offense.

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Definitions of sexual harassment:

Despite both national and international efforts to eliminate sexual harassment, there is no single definition of what constitutes prohibited behavior.  Generally, international instruments define sexual harassment broadly as a form of violence against women and as discriminatory treatment, while national laws focus more closely on the illegal conduct.  All definitions, however, are in agreement that the prohibited behavior is unwanted and causes harm to the victim.

-At the International level, the United Nations General Recommendation 19 to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women defines sexual harassment as including: Such unwelcome sexually determined behavior as physical contact and advances, sexually colored remarks, showing pornography and sexual demands, whether by words or actions.  Such conduct can be humiliating and may constitute a health and safety problem; it is discriminatory when the woman has reasonable ground to believe that her objection would disadvantage her in connection with her employment, including recruitment or promotion, or when it creates a hostile working environment.

-The International Labor Organization (ILO) is a specialized United Nations agency that has addressed sexual harassment as a prohibited form of sex discrimination under the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention (No. C111). The ILO has made clear that sexual harassment is more than a problem of safety and health, and unacceptable working conditions, but is also a form of violence (primarily against women).

-At the regional level, both the European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe (COE) address sexual harassment as illegal behavior. The European Commission of the EU defines sexual harassment as: Unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, or other conduct based on sex affecting the dignity of women and men at work.  This includes unwelcome physical, verbal or nonverbal conduct.  Unlike other international definitions of sexual harassment, the European Commission also distinguishes three types of harassment: physical, verbal, and nonverbal sexual harassment and states that there is a range of unacceptable behavior: Conduct is considered sexual harassment if it is (1) unwanted, improper or offensive; (2) if the victim’s refusal or acceptance of the behavior influences decisions concerning her employment or (3) the conduct creates an intimidating, hostile or humiliating working environment for the recipient.

Some examples of physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature are found in the European Commission’s guide:

  • Physical conduct of a sexual nature – ‘unwanted physical contact ranging from unnecessary touching, patting or pinching or brushing against another employee’s body, to assault and coercing sexual intercourse’;
  • Verbal conduct of a sexual nature – ‘unwelcome sexual advances, propositions or pressure for sexual activity; continued suggestions for social activity outside the workplace after it has been made clear that such suggestions are unwelcome; offensive flirtations; suggestive remarks, innuendoes or lewd comments’;
  • Non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature – ‘the display of pornographic or sexually suggestive pictures, objects or written materials; leering, whistling, or making sexually suggestive gestures’.

Finally, definitions of sexual harassment found at the international and regional level form the international laws that prohibit sexual harassment.

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At the national level, the United Sates was one of the first countries to define sexual harassment, as a prohibited form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, a federal law.  The U.S. government body that enforces the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature,” when

  1. submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
  2. submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or
  3. such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.

(1) and (2) are called “quid pro quo”(Latin for “this for that” or “something for something”). They are essentially “sexual bribery”, or promising of benefits, and “sexual coercion”. Type (3) known as “hostile work environment”, is by far the most common form. This form is less clear cut and is more subjective.

In addition to national definitions of sexual harassment, most states in the U.S. also prohibit sexual harassment, through state laws that may differ slightly from the federal definition.

Unwelcome Behavior is the critical word. Unwelcome does not mean “involuntary.” A victim may consent or agree to certain conduct and actively participate in it even though it is offensive and objectionable. Therefore, sexual conduct is unwelcome whenever the person subjected to it considers it unwelcome. Whether the person in fact welcomed a request for a date, sex-oriented comment, or joke depends on all the circumstances.

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One of the leading cases on sexual harassment, Janzen v. Platy Enterprises Ltd., identifies three key elements in its description of sexual harassment in the workplace.  They are:

  1. Conduct of a sexual nature which is gender based,
  2. Conduct that is unwelcome, and
  3. Conduct that detrimentally affects the work environment or leads to adverse job- related consequences.

Note, while women typically experience sexual harassment more often than men, sexual harassment can and does happen to men.  It can also occur between two people of the same sex.

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  1. What is Conduct of a Sexual Nature which is Gender Based?

“Gender based” refers to behaviour that relates specifically to gender.  In other words, the offensive behaviour references gender (e.g. overt sexual solicitation) or the behaviour occurs because of the gender (e.g. an offensive joke does not refer to sex, but the joke is played to embarrass the person because she is a woman).

“Conduct of a sexual nature” includes a wide range of behaviours or actions.  Some examples defined by the courts include:

  • Physical conduct such as:

Pinching, grabbing, patting, rubbing, sexual assault (which is also a criminal matter), sexual intercourse, unnecessary physical contact, kissing.  In other words, any kind of touching that has a sexual connotation.

  • Verbal conduct such as:

Making derogatory comments about a person’s appearance or body including insulting comments and gestures, insulting nicknames, verbal abuse or threats, unwelcome remarks, jokes, innuendoes or taunting. Also, comments about a person’s or colleague’s personal life including inviting a colleague out when it’s clear the person doesn’t want to socialize with you, making sexual propositions, spreading false rumours about a person’s sex-life or morals, referring to sexual affairs with previous employees, questions regarding sex life.

  • Environmental examples such as:

The display of pornographic or other offensive pictures, making practical jokes that cause awkwardness or embarrassment, crude, sexual or abusive remarks, making suggestive comments, innuendoes, and sexual jokes.

What about generally accepted banter or normal social interaction at work?

If other employees are not offended by crude comments, sexual innuendo, posters on the wall, or other “generally accepted banter” in the workplace, this doesn’t render your complaint or concern invalid.  It may however, require that you express an objection to the behaviour so as to let others know that you are offended.  If you’ve previously participated in the banter, it may be more difficult, to show that the conduct was unwelcome. If all parties were involved in the banter, there is a need for a specific objection since consensual conversations about sex are not prohibited in the workplace.

  1. What do you mean by “unwelcome” in nature?

Courts use an objective test for determining if conduct is unwelcome.  The test asks what a reasonable person would consider to be unwelcome, and assumes that one can only be expected to refrain from engaging in conduct which he or she could reasonably have known was unwelcome.  An express objection on the part of the victim to certain more overt behaviours such as rubbing, pinching, grabbing and patting, while prudent, is not likely required to show its unwelcome nature because a reasonable person ought to know these actions are unacceptable and unwelcome.  However, if someone flirts with the idea of dating a colleague and asks them out on a date, a reasonable person would not likely perceive this to be harassment so an express objection may be required.  If the pursuit persists and turns into a pattern of behaviour that demoralizes, humiliates and or impedes an otherwise healthy working relationship, a reasonable person ought to know their actions are unwelcome. If behaviour is not self-evidently offensive an express objection may be required as a ‘reasonable person’ may not be aware their behaviour is unwelcome.

  1. What do you mean by “detrimentally affecting the work environment?

Sexual harassment is any sexually-oriented practice that endangers an individual’s continued employment, negatively affects his/her work performance, or undermines their sense of personal dignity.

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Indian definition of sexual harassment:

Sexual harassment in India is termed “Eve teasing” and is described as: unwelcome sexual gesture or behaviour whether directly or indirectly as sexually coloured remarks; physical contact and advances; showing pornography; a demand or request for sexual favours; any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct being sexual in nature or passing sexually offensive and unacceptable remarks. The critical factor is the unwelcomeness of the behaviour, thereby making the impact of such actions on the recipient more relevant rather than intent of the perpetrator.

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Forms and kinds of sexual harassment:

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Sexual harassment can take many forms. Sexual harassment:

  • may include, but is not limited to sexual advances or request for sexual favors, inappropriate comments, jokes or gestures, or other unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
  • may be blatant and intentional and involve an overt action, a threat of reprisal, or may be subtle and indirect, with a coercive aspect that is unstated.
  • does not have to include intent to harm, be directed at a specific target, or involve repeated incidents.
  • may be committed by anyone, regardless of gender, age, position, or authority. While there is often a power differential between two persons, perhaps due to differences in age, social, educational, or employment relationships, harassment can occur in any context.
  • may be committed by a stranger, an acquaintance, or someone with whom the complainant has an intimate or sexual relationship.
  • may be committed by or against an individual or may be a result of the actions of an organization or group.
  • may occur by or against an individual of any sex, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.
  • may occur in the classroom, in the workplace, in residential settings, over electronic media (including the internet, telephone, and text), or in any other setting.
  • may be a one-time event or part of a pattern of behavior.
  • may be committed in the presence of others or when the parties are alone.
  • may affect the complainant (person experiencing the conduct) and/or third parties who witness or observe the harassment.

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A study found different sexually harassing experiences as seen in the figure below:

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Figure below shows different degrees of sexual harassment:

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Various forms of sexual harassment:

  1. Physical Sexual Harassment:

Physical sexual harassment is the most obvious and well-known form of sexual harassment. It is exercised through unwelcome touching such as rubbing up against a person or physically interfering with another’s movements or preventing another from completing their work.

  1. Verbal Sexual Harassment:

Remarks or comments that are disrespectful insults or slurs may also be considered as verbal harassment towards an individual.

  1. Visual Sexual Harassment:

At first glance “visual harassment” by definition may seem obvious in that one individual is exposing themselves to another individual who does not appreciate the exposure. However, visual harassment comes in other forms that are not as blatant as perhaps a fellow employee exposing themselves. Visual harassment can be demonstrated through cartoons, drawings, photos or video clips that are considered offensive and or insulting to the victim.

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Sexual harassment occurs in a variety of situations that share a commonality: the inappropriate and unwelcome introduction of sexual content or attention in a situation where sex should be irrelevant. Sexual harassment is distinguished from normal friendly social interactions by the introduction of elements of coercion, threat, intimidation, or insult. Sexual harassment does not refer to occasional compliments of a socially acceptable nature; it refers to behavior that is offensive, that lowers morale, and that interferes with the work or education of its recipients. Behaviour that is based on mutual attraction, friendship and respect is not sexual harassment. Sexual harassment does not refer to friendships or mentoring relationships that enhance the educational/employment environment; it refers to behavior that adversely affects the educational/employment environment. Sexual harassment includes sexual advances or demeaning verbal behaviors that are repeated and unwanted, even where they are exclusively verbal and not coercive. Sexual harassment can occur even when the victim suffers no tangible job detriment.

Generally, a single sexual joke, offensive epithet, or request for a date does not constitute sexual harassment; however, being repeatedly subjected to such jokes, epithets, or requests day after day despite having voiced objections may be sexual harassment. Coercive behavior, including suggestions that academic or employment reprisals or rewards will follow the refusal or granting of sexual favors, constitutes gross misconduct; a single incident may be grounds for dismissal as an employee or as a student.

Examples of Sexual Harassment:

Sexual harassment may occur between individuals of different sexes or of the same sex provided that the harassment is directed at the recipient because of his/her gender. Sexual harassment may occur between individuals in a hierarchical relationship (e.g., between supervisor and employee or between faculty member and students) or between peers (e.g., between co-workers or students.) It may be caused by “outside parties”; i.e., vendors, patrons, service persons, or other individuals who are not members of the company or university community but who come in contact with faculty, staff or students in the employment/educational environment. Also, the complainant does not have to be the person who is harassed, but may be anyone adversely affected by the offensive conduct. Examples of indirect, third-party harassment include conversations about sex in the hearing range of others to whom such conversations are unwelcome.

Sexual harassment can be verbal, nonverbal, or physical. Severe acts such as unwelcome sexual grabbing may be judged harassing based on a single act while less offensive actions may constitute harassment if repeated and/or pervasive. Listed below are examples of behavior that in the employment or educational environment could constitute sexual harassment.

Verbal:

  • Sexual innuendoes or other sexually suggestive comments
  • Sexually explicit questions, jokes or anecdotes
  • Sexual slurs
  • Graphic comments about an individual’s clothing, body or sexual activities
  • E-mail circulation or sexual materials or harassing messages
  • Graffiti
  • Repeated unsolicited propositions for dates and/or sexual intercourse
  • Initiating and/or spreading rumors about a person’s sex life
  • Sexually suggestive or insulting sounds

Nonverbal:

  • Lewd gestures
  • Indecent exposure
  • Display of sexually suggestive objects or pictures in the workplace or classroom without a job-related or educational purpose

Physical:

  • Patting, pinching or intentional brushing against the body in a sexual manner
  • Impeding or blocking movement
  • Invading a person’s body space, standing closer than appropriate or necessary for the work or activity being done
  • Attempted or actual kissing or sexual touching
  • Physical assault, coerced sexual intercourse, rape or attempted rape

The preceding examples are indicative of behavior that may constitute sexual harassment, or be considered part of a pattern of sexual harassment. They are not intended to be exhaustive and are used as illustrations only. Courts have also held that sexual harassment can occur even when the victim suffers no tangible job detriment and the University is not informed of the problem. Whether a particular act or course of conduct constitutes sexual harassment depends on a review of all the circumstances, including frequency, location and severity of the conduct, i.e., whether the conduct is physically threatening or humiliating as opposed to merely an offensive utterance and whether it unreasonably interferes with a person’s employment environment, educational environment, or environment for participation in a University activity. A victim is not necessarily required to object directly to the offending person in order to be deemed to be offended by it.

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Groping:

This is a tricky term that dominates headlines, encompassing allegations against President Trump, actor Dustin Hoffman, Sen. Al Franken and talent agent Adam Venit. The definition of groping can vary depending on state law but is mainly categorized as unlawful touching. Alemzadeh notes that there’s no single official legal definition, just that it falls under the context of assault. For example, in Illinois, where she practices, groping would fall under criminal sex abuse rather than assault because Illinois law requires penetration to file assault charges. Groping rarely gets prosecuted despite its rampant occurrence because most people categorize it and dismiss it as bad behavior instead of reporting it. David Cobbins, who’s part of a team at USC that trains U.S. Army leaders on how to prevent sexual assault and harassment, says that the body part being groped shouldn’t have bearing in terms of being reported as long as it’s unwanted.

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Grooming:

Typically, a predator will use their position within their community or industry to gain trust and ensure that the control they wield as the adult in the relationship means the ensuing abuse will remain secret.  Most of the allegations against Roy Moore, for example, depict a man who first established himself as a reliable, trustworthy individual to the parent of a girl he then sexually pursued.

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Catcalling:

Most women, particularly those living in or around big cities, have had the experience of being ‘catcalled’ – having someone loudly comment on your sexual attractiveness. The comments can range from the relatively benign (“Hello gorgeous!”) to threats of sexual assault. In recent years, however, commentators and feminists have been paying growing attention to catcalling, arguing that it represents an unacceptable assertion of power by men in public over the bodies of women. Others, however, argue that it’s just a bit of fun. The latest research from YouGov shows that, according to a large majority of the public, it is never appropriate (72%) to catcall. 18% say that it’s sometimes appropriate, while 2% think that it’s always appropriate. Men (22%) were only marginally more likely than women (18%) to say that it is ‘sometimes’ or ‘always’ appropriate. Asked whether catcalls are compliments or not, most Americans (55%) say that they constitution harassment, 24% aren’t sure while only 20% think that they are ‘compliments’.

Bystander Sexism in the Intergroup Context: The Impact of Cat-calls on Women’s reactions towards Men, a 2010 study:

Authors examine the intergroup reactions experienced by 114 female students at a U.S. university in New England who imagined being a bystander to a sexist cat-call remark or control greeting. Results indicate that women experienced greater negative intergroup emotions and motivations towards the outgroup of men after overhearing the cat-call remark. Further, the experience of group-based anger mediated the relationship between the effect of study condition on the motivation to move against, or oppose, men. Results indicate that bystanders can be affected by sexism and highlights how the collective groups of men and women can be implicated in individual instances of sexism.

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Obscene phone call:

An obscene phone call, as the term is commonly used, is an unsolicited telephone call where a person derives sexual pleasure by using sexual or foul language to someone, who may be known to them or who may be a complete stranger.  Making obscene telephone calls for sexual pleasure is known as telephone scatologia and is considered a form of exhibitionism. It is usually classed as a paraphilia from a medical viewpoint, in the DSM under the heading “Paraphilias Not Otherwise Specified”, although from the viewpoint of the recipient of the calls, it is generally considered to be both a form of sexual harassment and a form of stalking. In some US states, making obscene telephone calls is a Class 1 Misdemeanour. In the United Kingdom, obscene phone calls are punishable by a fine of up to £5000 or up to six months in prison under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994. Generally, unwilling recipients of obscene phone calls are advised to simply hang up on obscene callers, and to report the incident to the telephone company and/or the police.  The demographic that most commonly commits obscene phone calls ranges from the age of 12 to 16 years, with an average of 14 years of age.  Often they are emotionally or behaviorally maladjusted and have shown previous signs of sexual abuse, as well as having already committed sexual abuse. Obscene phone callers are often male, feel inadequate, have feelings of isolation, have trouble forming relationships and consider making obscene phone calls to be the only way that they can sexually express themselves.

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An Indian study found different forms of sexual harassment as seen in the figure below:

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Sexual Harassment does not always involve Touching:

Often when employers consider the issue of sexual harassment, they think of the manager or co-worker who engages in inappropriate physical touching of another employee. However, sexual harassment does not have to involve physical touching to be unlawful and to expose an employer to liability. Employers have been held liable when the harassment involved simply verbal conduct or visual displays.

Unacceptable Non-Physical Behavior:

Non-physical conduct can constitute sexual harassment in a variety of situations.

Examples of inappropriate behaviors include:

  • Idle chatter of a sexual nature and graphic sexual descriptions.
  • Sexual slurs or sexual innuendos.
  • Sexually provocative comments about a person’s clothing, body and/or sexual activities.
  • Sexual or risqué jokes or “kidding” about sex or sex-specific traits.
  • Sexual teasing.
  • Suggestive sounds such as catcalling, whistling or kissing sounds.
  • Comments or questions about the sensuality or sexual relationship of a person or his or her spouse or significant other.
  • Mimicking of a sexual nature about the way a person walks, talks or sits.
  • Implied or overt threats if sexual attention is not given.
  • Distribution or display of written or graphic materials that are derogatory or are of a sexual nature, including e-mails, graffiti, inappropriate Internet pictures or content, or posters.
  • Unsolicited propositions for dates or sexual contact.
  • Sexual gestures.

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Subtle signs:

Women should watch out for subtle signs of sexual harassment.

Here are some subtle signs to watch out for at office to know if you’re being harassed:

  1. Sexist behaviour:
  2. The so called harmless flirting:
  3. Inappropriate online behaviour:
  4. Not giving her personal space:
  5. The quid pro quo stance:
  6. Telling someone to smile
  7. Giving compliments
  8. Staring
  9. Speaking to someone who clearly does not want to be spoken to
  10. Becoming incredulous when he is ignored by her

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What about Non-Direct Harassment?

The above-mentioned examples of sexual harassment are common instances of direct sexual harassment. Non-direct (indirect) sexual harassment occurs when a secondary victim has been offended by auditory or visual conduct. For instance, if a bystander hears something offensive that wasn’t aimed at him or her, indirect sexual harassment may have occurred. This could take place by overhearing a lewd joke, seeing an email or letter that was sexual in nature, or coming across pictures on a screen saver that are deemed sexually offensive. Non-direct sexual harassment can also involve a person witnessing the harassment of someone else.

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Types of sexual harassment:

Sexual harassment is a type of sex/gender discrimination that encompasses gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual coercion. Psychologists who study gender-related behavior have developed more nuanced terms to describe sexual harassment in order to more precisely measure and account for the behaviors that constitute sexual harassment and to describe how targets experience those behaviors. A three-part classification system divides sexual harassment into distinct but related categories: sexual coercion, unwanted sexual attention, and gender harassment (see figure below).

  1. Sexual coercion entails sexual advances, and makes the conditions of employment (or education, for students) contingent upon sexual cooperation.
  2. Unwanted sexual attention also entails sexual advances, but it does not add professional rewards or threats to force compliance. In this category are expressions of romantic or sexual interest that are unwelcome, unreciprocated, and offensive to the target; examples include unwanted touching, hugging, stroking, and persistent requests for dates or sexual behavior despite discouragement, and can include assault.
  3. Gender harassment is by far the most common type of sexual harassment. It refers to a broad range of verbal and nonverbal behaviors not aimed at sexual cooperation but that convey insulting, hostile, and degrading attitudes about” members of one gender. Gender harassment is further defined as two types: sexist hostility and crude harassment. Examples of the sexist hostility form of gender harassment for women include demeaning jokes or comments about women, comments that women do not belong in leadership positions or are not smart enough to succeed in a scientific career, and sabotaging women. The crude harassment form of gender harassment is defined as the use of sexually crude terms that denigrate people based on their gender (e.g., using insults such as “slut” to refer to a female coworker or “pussy” to refer to a male co-worker.)

The distinctions between the types of harassment are important, particularly because many people do not realize that gender harassment is a form of sexual harassment.

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Figure above shows relationship between discriminatory behaviors, sex/gender discrimination, sexual harassment, gender harassment, quid pro quo sexual harassment, and hostile environment harassment. While sexual coercion is by definition quid pro quo sexual harassment, sometimes unwanted sexual attention can be considered quid pro quo sexual harassment if tolerating such behavior becomes a term or condition of employment.

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Both women and men can and do experience all three forms of sexual harassment, but some subgroups face higher rates than others. For example, women who are lesbian or bisexual, women who endorse gender-egalitarian beliefs, and women who are stereotypically masculine in behavior, appearance, or personality experience sexual harassment at higher rates than other women. Likewise, men who are gay, transgender, petite, or in some way perceived as “not man enough” encounter more harassment than other men.

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Interestingly, the motivation underlying sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention behaviors appears different from the motivation underlying gender harassment. Whereas the first two categories suggest sexual advances (the goal being sexual exploitation of women), the third category is expressing hostility toward women (the goals being insult, humiliation, or ostracism). In other words, sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention can be viewed as “come-ons,” while gender harassment is, for all intents and purposes, a “put-down”.

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Some researchers further define the verbal insults associated with gender harassment, along with accompanying nonverbal affronts, as microaggressions. This term refers to brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to or about historically stigmatized groups. This term can also be broken down into three categories: microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations. There is some concern that microaggression remains a poorly defined construct, with porous boundaries. Additionally, the use of the term micro is misleading, as it implies all these experiences are minor or imperceptible acts. Yet some microaggressions, such as referring to people by using offensive names, are obviously offensive and can be deeply damaging. Similarly the root word aggression is also misleading, as most experts reserve this term for behavior that carries intent to harm.

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Incivility refers to low-intensity deviant behavior with ambiguous intent to harm the target, in violation of workplace norms for mutual respect. Uncivil behaviors are characteristically rude and discourteous, displaying a lack of regard for others. Lim and Cortina’s 2005 study on two female populations in public-sector organizations (Ns = 833 and 1,425) revealed that sexual harassment often takes place against a backdrop of incivility, or in other words, in an environment of generalized disrespect. The authors argue that, based on their findings, the same perpetrator “may instigate multiple forms of mistreatment—both sexualized and generalized—in efforts to debase women and reinforce or raise their own social advantage. Lim and Cortina point out that if sexual harassment is tolerated in an organization or not seen as a deviant behavior, incidents of general incivility would be expected to be even less likely to receive attention from management. Based on these findings, it could be argued that generalized incivility should be a red flag for leadership or management in work and education environments, because when gender harassment occurs, it is virtually always in environments with high rates of uncivil conduct.

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Sexually harassing behavior can be either direct (targeted at an individual) or ambient (a general level of sexual harassment in an environment) and is harmful in both cases. It is considered illegal when it creates a hostile environment (gender harassment or unwanted sexual attention that is “severe or pervasive” enough to alter the conditions of employment, interfere with one’s work performance, or impede one’s ability to get an education) or when it is quid pro quo sexual harassment (when favorable professional or educational treatment is conditioned on sexual activity).

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Sexual harassment is often ambient, meaning it is “not clearly targeted at any individual or group of individuals” in the work or education environment or behavior that goes beyond the direct target of the harassment. Examples include bystanders who witness other students or co-workers repeatedly targeted by unwanted sexual attention. Ambient sexual harassment is determined by a general “frequency of sexually harassing behavior experienced by others” and can include all types of sexually harassing behavior. For example, it can include pornography being displayed in a common area or sexually abusive language being used publicly in the work or education environment. Ambient unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion refer to observed instances of unwanted sexual pursuit, targeted at a fellow employee. In other words, one need not be personally targeted to feel the effects of sexual harassment (much like second-hand smoke).

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U.S. law describes two different forms of sexual harassment:

Quid pro quo, and hostile work environment:

  1. Quid pro quo Sexual Harassment:

Quid pro quo is Latin for “this for that” or “something for something” and refers to an exchange. Quid pro quo (literally “this for that”) sexual harassment occurs when employment or academic decisions affecting an individual are made based on whether or not the individual submits to the sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature from someone in a position of authority. If the person’s submission to such conduct is a term or condition of employment, academic status or participation in a school program, the conduct constitutes quid pro quo sexual harassment.

  • It is sufficient to show a threat (either clearly stated or implied) of economic loss or educational harm to prove quid pro quo sexual harassment.
  • A single sexual advance may constitute harassment if it is linked to the granting or denial of employment or academic benefits, including limiting a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from a school program.
  • A subordinate who submits willingly to sexual advances and then changes his or her mind and refuses can still bring quid pro quo sexual harassment charges.
  • A subordinate who submits but claims that the submission was only because of the threat of an adverse employment or educational action, can still bring quid pro quo sexual harassment charges.

Note: Courts have held employers strictly liable for quid pro quo sexual harassment initiated by supervisory employees

  1. Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment:

A hostile work environment is one in which unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature creates an uncomfortable work environment for some employees.  Examples of this conduct include sexually explicit talk, sexually provocative photographs, foul or hostile language or inappropriate touching.

In instances where unwelcome sexual conduct in the workplace or academic setting does not include a quid pro quo component, illegal sexual harassment may still exist. These situations are known as “hostile environment’ sexual harassment and occur when unwelcome sexual conduct:

  • is from a superior, peer, subordinate or third-party;
  • creates a hostile, intimidating or offensive work or educational environment; or
  • unreasonably interferes with an individual’s job performance or ability to participate in, or benefit from, educational or campus programs.

The employer can be held liable in cases of hostile environment sexual harassment if the employer:

  • knew or should have known about the harassment, and
  • failed to take effective corrective action.

Generally, the employer or administration is expected to know about the hostile environment:

  • If a complaint was made
  • If administration failed to establish a policy against sexual harassment
  • If the harassment is openly practiced or well known among employees or students.

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The line between “quid pro quo” and “hostile environment” harassment is not always clear and the two forms of harassment often occur together. For example, an employee’s job conditions are affected when a sexually hostile work environment results in a constructive discharge. At the same time, a supervisor who makes sexual advances toward a subordinate employee may communicate an implicit threat to retaliate against her if she does not comply. “Hostile environment” harassment may acquire characteristics of “quid pro quo” harassment if the offending supervisor abuses his authority over employment decisions to force the victim to endure or participate in the sexual conduct. Sexual harassment may culminate in a retaliatory discharge if a victim tells the harasser or her employer she will no longer submit to the harassment, and is then fired in retaliation for this protest. Under these circumstances it would be appropriate to conclude that both harassment and retaliation in violation of section 704(a) of Title VII have occurred.

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The manipulative strategies used by sexual harasser to get victims to comply:

  1. Isolating and physically intimidating the victim:

According to the accuser’s accounts and the tapes, a common ploy of sexual predators is to first find a way to be alone with the woman and then physically intimidate or corner her. Whether it is under the pretext of showing the woman around a property or house, having a meeting that just happens to take place in a hotel room, or stopping by a residence to pick up something, the key is to get the woman alone. They then either grab the women, block the hallway so she can’t get through, or otherwise use their large physical presence to intimidate and dominate.

  1. Normalizing the harassing behavior:

A common manipulative strategy used by sexual harassers is to minimize their inappropriate behavior and act like it is completely normal and acceptable – an everyday occurrence.  In the Weinstein tape, after the model accuses Weinstein of touching her breast, he tells her that he’s “used to it.”  These kinds of strategies get women to question their own perceptions of the situation. “Am I crazy?” or “Am I overreacting?”  Another strategy described by accusers is to contact the woman shortly afterwards  and act like everything that happened was completely normal, even if they had just masturbated in front of the woman or groped her. This forces the victim to either confront them outright in the moment (something that is difficult to do) or go along with the denial.

  1. Trying to make the woman feel guilty:

Sexual harassers and other abusers frequently use guilt to manipulate. Women are socialized to care about and help other people – not to make a scene or create public conflict. In the Weinstein tape, he repeatedly asks the model not to embarrass him in public, saying he comes to the hotel often and implying that her refusal would hurt his reputation. Another guilt-provoking strategy might be for a sexual harasser to imply that the woman owes him a sexual favor because he has been a mentor, given her a job, or helped her career.

  1. Not taking “no” for an answer:

Weinstein tape shows was how much he persisted in trying to persuade the woman to come into the hotel room with him, after she refused firmly so many times. This type of persistence is designed to wear down the victim’s defences, forcing her to keep up a firm refusal over long periods. Weinstein repeatedly interrupts and talks over the woman, bulldozing past her reasonable attempts to tell him that she is not feeling comfortable. Pushiness gives the victim no option but to act harshly or rudely as the only way to set a boundary. Many women are uncomfortable acting harshly, even when appropriate, because of negative gender stereotypes. Women are supposed to be sweet and accommodating and if they’re not, they often pay a price.

  1. Veiled threats or enticements:

These men use their power explicitly or implicitly to intimidate women, perhaps bribing women to comply or hinting at negative consequences if they don’t. Often the predators don’t have to say much – their position and the power differential speaks for itself.  The implicit message is that you would definitely want to be on their good side otherwise they could make your life very difficult, block you from opportunities, or even ruin your career.

  1. The “foot in the door” technique:

An old trick used by salespeople is to get you to commit to a small purchase first because this makes it more likely you’ll make a bigger purchase later on. Social psychology studies show that once you’ve agreed to a small favor, it’s more difficult to refuse a larger favor down the road. This is known as “the foot in the door” technique and is a clever way to get people to do what you want, even if they feel a bit uncomfortable. In the Weinstein tapes, he repeatedly asks the model to come into the room “just for a few minutes.” Similarly, a man might ask a woman to give him a shoulder massage. Once she complies, this opens the door for more sexualized touching. This technique makes it difficult for victims to refuse because you’re asking for something small. The implied message is that it would be mean-spirited to refuse such a reasonable, ostensibly nonsexual request.

These manipulative strategies are used by many to get what they want including having sex. When it comes to predatory or manipulative behavior, being forewarned is being forearmed. If you can anticipate these tricks, it is easier to prepare a resistant strategy in advance. The larger issue, though, is that all people in positions of power have a responsibility to speak up when they see people preying on the vulnerable. We shouldn’t just leave it to the potential victim to figure out how to get away!

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Personal Checklist:

Any of the following behaviors could possibly constitute sexual harassment if they are sufficiently severe, repeated, and unwelcome to the recipient. Do you display any of the following behaviors?

  • Tell sexual jokes, used sexual innuendoes or make sexual gestures?
  • Ask questions about a faculty, staff, student or colleague’s social/sexual life?
  • Talk about your own social/sexual life (sexual encounters, prowess, or preferences)?
  • Make sexual comments about a person’s clothing, anatomy or appearance?
  • Use crude language?
  • Display or circulate sexually suggestive pictures, cartoons or other materials?
  • Repeatedly ask a person out on a date after that person has repeatedly declined?
  • Unnecessarily touch, kiss or hug other persons?
  • Demean or ridicule a gender through comments or jokes?

If you engage in one or more of these behaviors, does the recipient of your behavior equally initiate and participate in similar behavior? Or are you always the one who initiates the behavior or the only one who engages in the behavior? Remember that even if the direct recipient indicates by equal initiation and equal participation that your behavior is not offensive, it may be offensive to others who overhear or are otherwise indirectly exposed to it.

Do you supervise or have other authority or professional influence? The best course of action for those with supervisory or other authority is to avoid sexual conduct in the workplace or classroom, especially in relationships of unequal power where individuals may not feel comfortable with the conduct but may not feel free to object.

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Retaliation:

Retaliation has occurred when an employee suffers a negative action after he or she has made a report of sexual harassment, file a grievance, assist someone else with a complaint, or participate in discrimination prevention activities. Negative actions can include being fired, demotion, suspension, denial of promotion, poor evaluation, unfavorable job reassignment—any adverse employment decision or treatment that would be likely to dissuade a “reasonable worker” from making or supporting a charge of discrimination. Retaliation is as illegal as the sexual harassment itself, but also as difficult to prove. Also, retaliation is illegal even if the original charge of sexual harassment was not proven.

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Is there a typical target, or a typical harasser?

Often the target of the harassment has low power in the workplace, whether by dint of a temporary or precarious contract or being young. The Equal Opportunities Commission found in 2002 that the majority of harassment cases taken to tribunal were by people who had been in the workplace for less than a year. O’Grady says: “We believe that there is a clear association between harassment and women who are on zero-hours contracts who will just not get offered work again if they kick up a fuss. That is crude power operating in the workplace.” The victims of harassment are often framed as “vulnerable” for this reason, which is true in the sense that a lone shed on a moor with no surrounding buildings is vulnerable to a very strong wind. But this has become a way of saying that if only women were a bit more robust, it wouldn’t happen. In fact, there is nothing inherently fragile about a woman who is young and can’t afford to lose her job. Campbell refers to the work of criminologist Betsy Stanko, mapping the female victims of male violence, to explain the vulnerability narrative. “She isn’t saying that these women are vulnerable and men only target certain kinds of women. What it tells us is that cultures of masculinity that are interested in sexual abuse of women, they create the context in which that powerless woman is accessible, and in any subsequent moment, will continue to be powerless.” Powerlessness has no single source – Terry Crews has recounted his harassment by a senior Hollywood executive, as has James van der Beek; the operative vulnerability was race and age, respectively. The harassers are overwhelmingly male, and in a position of authority over the target.

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The first thing we have to do is decide if a good way to try to remedy the problem of sexual harassment is to study it, including looking for properties that correlate with being a victim  or perpetrator of harassment. It seems that this is not an unreasonable line of research into this social problem. This is not to say that if one finds such correlates that this in any way excuses the behavior in question. Nor is it to say that if such a correlate is found, then potential victims have some sort of obligation to change their behavior in light of it. If, say, it were found that men or women wearing blue were more likely to be the victims of harassment, such a finding does not imply that it’s morally acceptable to harass someone who is wearing blue, or that it is potential victims’ responsibility to sport non-blue outfits.

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Characteristics of sexual harasser:

Marital status, level in the organisation and age do not exclude people from being harassers. It appears than in many cases alcohol reduces inhibitions, and people who normally would not, become harassers. In many cases sexual harassment could also be linked to self-esteem problems on the side of the perpetrator, causing a need to “prove himself”. While behaviour and motives vary between individuals, harassers can be divided into several broad classes:

  1. Mr Macho, or One-of-the-boys:

This is usually linked to the bravado mentioned above, when groups of men embarrass women with comments, unwanted compliments or even physical evaluation, lewd jokes or gestures, and display of sexually distasteful posters. All these could create a hostile environment, and even if it goes no further than verbal and visual harassment, most women experience this as humiliating and disturbing.

  1. The Great Gallant:

This mostly verbal harassment occurs when the “gallant” pays excessive compliments and makes personal comments that are out of place or embarrass the recipient. While most men and women appreciate recognition and genuine compliments, comments focused on the appearance and the sex of a worker – rather than her competence or her contribution – are usually unwelcome. Such compliments are sometimes also accompanied by a possessive pride or by leering looks. Although the giver of compliments may see himself as the gallant gentleman, the recipient usually experiences him as patronising or annoying, or both.

  1. The Opportunist:

This kind of harasser is usually fairly promiscuous in his attentions to female staff, suppliers or clients. Whenever the opportunity presents itself – in the elevator, when working late, on a business trip, at the office party, when alone in an office or a car with a female colleague – the “office groper’s” eyes and hands start wandering. Every birthday, farewell or special occasion is also an opportunity to insist on (usually begrudged) kisses. Some of this behaviour may take place in public, but if not repelled, he is likely to try to go further in private. If confronted, he will insist that the women like and enjoy his attentions; or even that the single and divorced women “need it”.

  1. The Power-player:

In this case harassment is a power game, where the man insists on sexual favours in exchange for benefits he can dispense because of his position: getting or keeping a job, promotion, orders, bank overdrafts, getting a drivers’ licence, and so on. The Hollywood “casting couch” is probably the best-known example. Evidently some local trade union leaders have also forced women “to pay in kind” for admission to their unions. This can be described as “quid pro quo” harassment, and is closely allied to blackmail. Besides the effect on the victims, this form of harassment is an abuse of power and trust. It can lead to bad business decisions, and can cost the company dearly in terms of effectiveness, the cost of special favours, and company image.

  1. The Serial Harasser:

The most difficult type of harasser to identify, and the most difficult to deal with, is the serial harasser. This person is compulsive and often has serious psychological problems. He carefully builds up an image so that people would find it hard to believe ill of him, plans his approaches carefully, and strikes in private where it is his word against that of a subordinate. He can do a lot of damage before he is found out. Although serial harassers are in the minority, managers and personnel professionals should be aware of this possibility. This person’s aberrant behaviour is often a call for help, rather than deliberate harassment, as is usually the case in the above four types. In this case counselling is probably more important than mere disciplinary action.

  1. The Situational Harasser:

The trigger to this person’s behaviour is usually psychological, but more situational than compulsive. Incidents are often linked to specific life situations or emotional or medical problems, such as divorce, wife’s illness, impotence, hormonal imbalance, prostate disease, or psychiatric or systemic disturbances that suppress the higher brain functions, such as Alzheimer’s and alcoholism. If the situation changes or the disease is brought under control, the harassment usually stops – but by then both victim and harasser have been harmed.

  1. The gazer:

This guy is the pervert at the bus stop who constantly stares at you. He may board the same bus as you, just to gaze at you. He may even try to take pictures of you.

  1. The attacker:

These men will sexually assault you, usually without saying a word to you. They observe women from a distance and carefully choose their target. They may be men who feel unattractive and believe they are entitled to approach women in this predatory manner.

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Author Martha Langelan describes four different classes of harassers:

  • A predatory harasser: a person who gets sexual thrills from humiliating others. This harasser may become involved in sexual extortion, and may frequently harass just to see how targets respond. Those who don’t resist may even become targets for rape.
  • A dominance harasser: the most common type, who engages in harassing behavior as an ego boost.
  • Strategic or territorial harassers who seek to maintain privilege in jobs or physical locations, for example a man’s harassment of a female employee in a predominantly male occupation.
  • A street harasser: Another type of sexual harassment performed in public places by strangers. Street harassment includes verbal and nonverbal behavior, remarks that are frequently sexual in nature and comment on physical appearance or a person’s presence in public.

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Psychological Traits of Sexual Harassers:

From Clarence Thomas to Harvey Weinstein, sexual harassment is as rampant as it is repugnant. In 2017 savvy Psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen examined psychological traits of sexual harassers.

The Four psychological traits of Sexual Harassers:

  1. The Dark Triad
  2. Moral disengagement
  3. Employment in a male-dominated field
  4. Hostile attitudes towards women

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  1. The Dark Triad

The dark triad consists of: narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.

The first two are probably familiar to you: narcissism is an inflated view of one’s own talents coupled with a lack of empathy and a deep urgency for approval. Narcissists don’t care if you like them, but they do need you to think they’re powerful and worthy of admiration. Narcissists find a way to justify sexual harassment if they think they’ve been deprived of a sexual experience they “deserve.” They just can’t fathom that someone wouldn’t be interested in the opportunity to get attention from them. Next, psychopathy revolves around two things: fearless dominance and aggressive impulsivity. In other words, psychopaths are audacious, manipulative exploiters. They too have no empathy but excel at mimicking the correct emotions to exploit their victims.  Psychopaths sexually harass for one reason—because they want to. If the opportunity presents itself (or they create the opportunity), they’ll take full advantage. Finally, there’s Machiavellianism, named for the Italian Renaissance politician Niccolo Machiavelli. His masterwork, The Prince, describes an unscrupulous, deceitful political philosophy with an eye on long-term goals at any cost. Combine these three traits and you’re met with a gleeful enthusiasm for exploitation, deception, and manipulation coupled with an indifferent blindness to the feelings of others, all wrapped up nicely with a bow of grandiosity. In other words, a perfect recipe for sexual harassment. Indeed, in a study of almost 2,000 everyday community members, researchers found, unsurprisingly, that each of the Dark Triad characteristics added to a tendency to sexually harass others.

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  1. Moral disengagement

This is another whopper of a characteristic. Moral disengagement is a slippery slope; a cognitive process by which individuals justify their own corruption and create their own version of reality where moral principles don’t apply to them. Moral disengagement was first proposed by the psychologist Albert Bandura, who is often referred to as the greatest living psychologist. His theory, as applied to sexual harassment, has several parts:

-First comes moral justification, or portraying harassment as an acceptable action. Think of Harvey Weinstein’s line, “I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different.”

-Next is euphemistic labelling: Using sanitized terms for naming their behavior, like Bill Cosby’s characterization of his sexual assaults as “rendezvous.”

-Third is displacement of responsibility, attributing the harassment to outside forces beyond their control, like Weinstein’s “that was the culture then.”

-There’s also advantageous comparison which is the insistence that their behavior could have been worse, and distortion of consequences, where individuals minimize the harm wrought by their actions on the victims.

-And finally, there are dehumanization and attribution of blame, which respectively eliminate concern for the victim and blame her for the incident. Bill O’Reilly did both of these when he commented that a woman who was raped and killed was “moronic” because she was wearing a miniskirt and a halter top, and that “every predator in the world is gonna pick that up.”

The end result?  Harassers have no trouble sleeping at night because, through moral disengagement, they rest assured they did nothing wrong, that their actions were normal and deserved, and that they didn’t cause any harm. The mind is a tricky thing: we often choose behaviors that match our values, but sometimes, through moral disengagement, we change those values to justify our behavior. This is how sexual harassers can maintain their view of themselves as decent, even morally upstanding people.

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  1. Employment in a male-dominated field

Sexual harassment is well-documented to be more prevalent in traditionally masculine fields, such as the military, the police force, surgery, finance, and more recently, high tech and the upper echelons of the entertainment industry. This revelation is nothing new: an old 1989 study of 100 female factory workers found that women who worked as machinists—a male-dominated position—reported being harassed significantly more often than women who worked on the assembly line, which was more gender-equal.

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  1. Hostile attitudes towards women

Even though psychology is a science, it’s not a totally objective field, in most part because research is done by people, and people respond to and draw conclusions from their culture and the biases of a given place and time. Interestingly a study on sexual harassment from the early 1980s—almost a decade prior to Anita Hill’s testimony at Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings—stated that most male sexual harassers had no idea that their advances were unwanted or inappropriate. The conclusion was that people who engaged in sexual harassment were simply clueless and infatuated, but now we know better. The University of Bielefeld in Germany conducted a study in 2012 testing whether harassment was driven by what researchers called a “short term mating orientation,” basically an academic euphemism for love them and leave them—or was driven by something called hostile sexism, and therefore served less as a way to just get sex and more as a way to intimidate and coerce women.

The researchers asked 100 heterosexual male college students to chat online with “Julia,” an attractive 23-year-old woman. With each chat exchange, participants were asked to choose among three different pre-written messages to send to Julia. The men were also told that this was a memory test and that Julia would later be tested on memory recall. To create an air of competition, they were told that previous studies had found gender differences in the ability to remember. For each message, the men chose among a joke, a comment, and a neutral statement. Now, some of the exchanges were carefully calibrated to include opportunities to harass. For example, in one combination, the joke was a sexist joke about women in general: “What’s the difference between a woman having her period and a terrorist? With a terrorist, you can negotiate.” It also included a terrible pickup line: “You’re a sweet chocolate and I’ve got the filling for you.” Thankfully, there was also a simple neutral statement: “You seem like a cheerful person.” Participants chose one of the messages to send and then repeated this over 20 different trials. The results found that the men who were more likely to send the bad pickup lines were also more likely to agree with statements like “sex without love is okay,” or “I would consider having sex with a stranger if it was safe and she was attractive.” Their attitudes mapped onto the “short-term mating orientation.” Now, those who chose to send the sexist jokes also scored highly on the short-term sexual attitudes questionnaire. But there was more: they scored highly on a questionnaire of hostile sexism, endorsing items like, “Women are too easily offended,” and “The world would be a better place if women supported men more and criticized them less.” In other words, purely sexual motives predicted unwanted sexual attention but belligerent motives anticipated both unwanted sexual attention and gender harassment. Choosing to send the hostile joke wasn’t about sex at all; it was about creating a disparaging, inhospitable climate for Julia in the context of a competitive atmosphere. A good litmus test for whether comments are sexist or just a joke is to ask, “Would I say this to a man?” It’s a way to highlight statements that might get defended by a harasser as “harmless fun,” or “What, I can’t even give a compliment?” For instance, a male supervisor wouldn’t tell a man he should smile more, make a pass about the attractiveness of his body, or say, “You don’t have to get all emotional about it.”

To sum it all up, harassment indicates a willingness to exploit and manipulate as a way to maintain or gain power. It demonstrates carelessness toward the victims and aims to “keep them in their place.”

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Potential offenders should understand that sexual harassment is a serious matter that can have serious consequences.

You should:

-Pay attention to the response of others in order to avoid unintentional offense.

-If you know offense was taken by your behavior, apologize and do not repeat the behavior.

-Do not assume that employees, colleagues or students enjoy or want to hear risqué jokes or sexually oriented comments about their appearance, to be touched or flirted with, or to be propositioned for dates or sexual favors.

-If someone declines a polite offer to socialize outside of work/class, drop the matter and do not approach the individual again.

-Do not take warnings or complaints about sexual harassment lightly.

-If you are accused of sexual harassment, seek advice from your supervisor, from your Division Head, from the

Director of Human Resources (University EO compliance officer), or if a student, from the Vice President for Student Affairs.

-Do not retaliate in any way against the individual who complained or others who participate in investigation of the complaint.

-Cooperate with complaint investigations. You will have an opportunity to explain the situation from your perspective if you think your behavior was acceptable or that you are being falsely accused.

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Characteristics of sexual harassment victim:

Women of all ages are harassed – physically attractive or plain, sexily or soberly dressed. A woman’s high rank or status in the organisation, her age or her race, is no insurance or shield: a man may regard her as a special challenge. If she succumbs, he will feel more powerful, or say “after all, she is still just a woman”.

Women who are particularly vulnerable include:

  • Women heads-of-household, who need their jobs badly.
  • Divorcées or widows are often psychologically vulnerable because of loneliness and personal loss – and they can’t “plead virginity”.
  • Women who are timid or insecure about their abilities, and lack self-confidence and career-related education; who have limited potential for advancement and are easy to replace.
  • Women who are eager to be accepted and liked, and may find it difficult to be assertive and say “No”. Their friendliness and helpfulness is often misread as an invitation.
  • Saleswomen may be pressured by clients to meet sexual demands in exchange for their business. To make matters worse, their employers may urge them to comply.

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Sexual harassment statistics:

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Some 30% of South Africa’s women and 18% of its men have been victims of unwanted sexual advances in the workplace, a new 2018 survey has found. The Human Rights Commission has compiled survey data since 2008 that’s demonstrated “sexual harassment is a persistent and pervasive problem in Australian workplaces.” A recent survey by the union United Voice, which represents workers in Australia’s highly casualised hospitality industry, found 89% of respondents had been sexually harassed on the job. Harassment culture has become intrinsic to some workplaces, and normalised to those who have come to believe they have no power to address it. A report conducted jointly by the TUC and Everyday Sexism found that 52% of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment at work, nearly a quarter had been touched without invitation, a fifth had experienced a sexual advance. An earlier study by the law firm Slater and Gordon found that 60% of women had experienced inappropriate behaviour and nearly half of respondents had been warned to expect problematic behaviour from a particular person when they arrived. Egypt is a prime example of how the social and cultural environment – patriarchy, in particular – can affect the incidence, and acceptance, of sexual harassment. According to a study sponsored by the United Nations, 99% of surveyed Egyptian women admitted experiencing some kind of sexual harassment at some period in their lives, the most common feature being inappropriate touching. The survey, conducted in May 2018 by Martha Farrell Foundation, a social organisation, and Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), covered 291 domestic workers. It found that 29% women domestic workers had been sexually harassed and 19% of them chose to ignore the incidents. Many quit their jobs after sexual harassment.  The study also revealed that redressal mechanisms are missing in a majority of the districts in Delhi. Of the 11 districts, nine don’t have local committees for complaints. According to the National Council for Research on Women, women are 9 times more likely than men to quit their jobs, 5 times more likely to transfer, and 3 times more likely to lose jobs because of harassment (The WebbReport, June 1994).

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Statistics of sexual harassment in the U.S.:

As many as 70 percent of women and 45 percent of men have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace, said Amy Blackstone, a sociologist at the University of Maine. Six in 10 American women voters say they’ve endured sexual harassment, according to a 2017 November Quinnipiac poll conducted soon after the ongoing national reckoning blossomed; among those women, 69% reported experiencing it at work, 45% on the street, 43% in social settings and 15% at home. Approximately 90% of harassment victims do not file a claim. Meanwhile, just over one in five American adults — including more than a third of women — say they’ve been subject to workplace sexual harassment, a 2017 November Marist poll found. Twenty-nine percent of Americans also say they’ve witnessed sex harassment on the job.

A new ABC News-Washington Post 2017 poll found that more than half of all American women—54%—have experienced “unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances” at some point in their lives. Thirty percent of women have endured such behavior from male colleagues and 25% identified men with sway over their careers as the culprits. The poll found that, all told, 33 million U.S. women have been sexually harassed—and 14 million sexually abused—in work-related episodes. Yet nearly all women—95%—report that male perpetrators of such abuse usually go unpunished. The poll did provide some promising results: 75% of American call workplace sexual harassment a problem, while 64% deem it a “serious” problem—that’s an increase of 11 and 17 percentage points, respectively, since the last similar poll in 2011. But despite wider awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace, it remains prevalent—to an alarming degree.

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Locations of sexual harassment:

Sexual Harassment occurs most often in the Workplace:

Source: Quinnipiac University National Poll 2017.

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The theme for International Women’s Day in 2018 is a push for global gender parity which is being called #PressforProgress. To mark the occasion, Ipsos MORI released a major survey focusing on levels of concern about gender equality across 27 countries. Ipsos MORI is a market research company in the United Kingdom. One key question concerned whether sexual harassment is the biggest issue facing women today. In Turkey and India, people are most likely to say that it is the biggest issue facing women while in the UK, the share is far less.

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The figure below shows that sexual harassment complaints are increasing day by day:

 

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The figure below shows sexual harassment complaints in various public sector enterprises:

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A 2018 Study on Sexual Harassment and Assault:

Back in October 2017, women took to social media to share their experiences of sexual harassment. The #MeToo movement went viral, spurring a national and global discussion on the issue. Many women have since come forward with their experiences of being sexually harassed by colleagues and bosses, costing influential men in the entertainment industry and the media — including journalists. And yet, there has been little data collected on the national prevalence of sexual harassment, says Michele Decker, director of the women’s health and rights program at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. As a result, many people have asked, “Where’s the evidence?” she says. Now an online survey launched in January 2018 by a nonprofit called Stop Street Harassment offers some of that missing evidence. It found that 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men had experienced some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime. Those numbers are much larger than suggested by other recent polls. Those polls used a more limited sample or narrower definitions of harassment, says Anita Raj, director of the Center on Gender Equity and Health at the University of California, San Diego, who analyzed the results of the new survey. The new survey, on the other hand, included a larger, more nationally representative sample of men and women ages 18 and  above, says Raj. The survey also involved a broader definition of sexual harassment that includes the “continuum of experiences” that women face, she says. That includes verbal forms of sexual harassment, like being catcalled or whistled at or getting unwanted comments of a sexual nature. It also includes physical harassment, cyber harassment and sexual assaults. The results show that 77 percent of women had experienced verbal sexual harassment, and 51 percent had been sexually touched without their permission. About 41 percent said they had been sexually harassed online, and 27 percent said they had survived sexual assault.

The report also looked into locations where people experienced harassment. The majority of women — 66 percent — said they’d been sexually harassed in public spaces. “The public forums are where you see the more chronic experiences of sexual harassment,” says Raj. These include verbal harassment and physical harassment, like touching and groping. However, 38 percent of women said they experienced sexual harassment at the workplace. Thirty-five percent said they had experienced it at their residence. These experiences are more likely to be assaults and the “most severe forms” of harassment, says Raj. “The findings show that this is a pervasive problem and permeates all sectors of our lives,” says Holly Kearl, the main author of the report. “Most people who said they had experienced sexual harassment experienced it in multiple locations.” For men, the most frequently reported locations were in public (19%), at school (14%), and for 13% of men, at work, home, and by phone or text.

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The report also shows that most victims suffer from anxiety and depression as well, just like victims of sexual violence. It shows how challenging it is to confront someone. You’d rather change your life than confront the harasser.

When the survey’s authors asked about the impact of sexual harassment and assault, the results were sobering. Thirty-one percent of women and 20 percent of men reported feeling anxiety or depression. Twenty-three percent of women and 12 percent of men said they changed a regular routine or travel route. Less than 10 percent of both women and men said they had filed an official complaint or report about the experience.

Raj says her own teenage daughter’s experience illustrates this. A couple of years ago, her daughter stopped walking to the public library by herself after she was harassed by a group of boys. “She was walking from her high school in a very privileged, affluent area, an area that most people would define as very safe,” Raj recalls. “As she was walking alone around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, there was a group of boys that started calling out to her and saying things like ‘nice hips.’ And it just made her feel so uncomfortable [that] she didn’t walk alone anymore.”

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Like Raj’s daughter, most women (and men) first experience sexual harassment pretty early in life — during preteen or teenage years. “That’s really disconcerting,” says Raj.

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Similarly disconcerting is the fact that most victims don’t report their experiences, says Decker. “People don’t even mention it to friends, families.” And so, sexual harassment is “thriving on the silence of women,” granting impunity to perpetrators, she says. Some of that has been turned upside down by the #MeToo movement, because it broke that silence and made it more culturally acceptable to talk about sexual harassment.

When the survey’s authors broke down their results by race, they did not find significant differences in the prevalence of sexual harassment or assault among women. Hispanic men, however, reported experiencing more harassment and assault than either black or white men.

Lesbian and bisexual respondents did not experience significantly more sexual harassment than straight female respondents, but they were more likely to have experienced sexual assault, with 48 percent of lesbian and bisexual women reporting assault compared with 25 percent of straight women. Meanwhile, 42 percent of gay and bisexual men reported physically aggressive sexual harassment, compared with 25 percent of straight men, and 19 percent of gay and bisexual men reported sexual assault, compared with 6 percent of straight men.

People with disabilities were more likely to report all forms of sexual harassment and assault than people without disabilities, according to the survey. For instance, 69 percent of women and 39 percent of men with disabilities reported physically aggressive sexual harassment, compared with 59 percent of women and 23 percent of men without disabilities.

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A 2018 survey focusing on Hollywood reveals additional disturbing results:

Another survey conducted by USA Today in partnership with the Creative Coalition, Women in Film and Television, and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, looked specifically at sexual misconduct in Hollywood. Of the 843 women in entertainment who responded — actors, producers, editors, and others — a full 94 percent reported experiencing sexual harassment or assault at some point in their Hollywood careers. Meanwhile, 21 percent reported being forced to perform a sexual act, and 10 percent reported being unexpectedly ordered to appear naked for auditions.

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Why sexual harassment not reported? Reasons and statistics:

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Two organizational conditions create the perfect storm for sexual harassment: a climate of tolerance and a culture of silence. A climate of tolerance exists when employees see that harassment is tolerated and that there is no consequence for harassment behavior. A culture of silence exists when employees wilfully withhold valuable work-related information. One type of silence culture is futility. This exists when employees realize that nothing happens when they voice concerns, ideas or solutions. As a result, employees give up and stay silent because trying to voice views and opinions seem to fall on deaf ears. Victims’ harassment tolerance perceptions, the fear of being adversely labelled, potential retaliation, and a culture of silence can influence the disclosure decision. For example, in one study, only 25% of university employees who experienced sexual harassment actually reported it. Another study showed that of the 63% of victims who sought help after harassment, 93% experienced negative physical symptoms and 73% experienced emotional distress such as anger and increased anxiety. Another study showed that of the 447 female respondents, “64% said the harassment lasted between one week to six months, 66% rated the incident as ‘offensive,’ or ‘extremely offensive,’ 56% reported the incident as ‘upsetting,’ or ‘extremely upsetting,’ and 83% reported that they had to continue working with the perpetrator.” With the recent movement of women coming forward to share their stories of sexual harassment in Hollywood, in government, and in the media, many would be surprised that nearly 75% of sexual harassment victims in the workplace still do not report the abuse, according to a recent survey. So, why are so few people complaining about the harassment they suffer in the workplace? There are a variety of reasons that harassment is not reported in the workplace. The most common reason is that they did not want to be labelled a troublemaker. Nearly half as many chose not to report the harassment for fear of retaliation and losing their jobs. Others were discouraged because they knew it would come down to their word against the harasser’s word. Some of the key reasons stated by the women for not taking any action against the harassment were fear of losing job, absence of any complaints mechanism at the workplace, fear of getting stigmatised and lack of awareness about redressal mechanism.

Employees need to know that reporting is the right thing to do:

The statistics show that of the employees who did report being harassed, 76% also reported that the issue was resolved by their employer. A significant number also reported that the accused harasser stopped the harassing conduct after it was reported, and several others reported the harasser was actually terminated. Based on these statistics, employees should be reassured that reporting harassment is the best course of action. Employment anti-discrimination and antiretaliation laws protect employees from being treated adversely for exercising their rights.

If you feel that you have experienced discrimination or harassment at work and you decide to make a complaint about it to your employer, you are likely concerned about the risk of retaliation. Understanding what constitutes unlawful retaliation is important but having some idea of what to do after you file your complaint is equally important.

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Women who face demeaning sexual overtures from colleagues or superiors in professional settings often do not report them out of fears regarding job security. Moreover, the power dynamics within institutions means that women might be undermined, or face a lack of support, even when they do report harassment.  Punam Sahgal and Aastha Dang (2017) conducted research in India to understand the occurrence and dynamics of sexual harassment at workplaces. While the number of sexual harassment cases is staggering, little is known about the experience that women go through when their personal space and dignity is violated. Their research seeks to explore how women manage such behaviour meted out to them, the kind of policies and processes organisations have for protecting them from being sexually harmed, and whether the enactment of a law is adequate in safeguarding their interest and reputation.  In some organisations, even when there were systems in place, either due to a policy mandate or fear of law, organisations diluted these mechanisms. For instance, in a large public enterprise, the HR department reported that they put up posters on the notice boards to make women employees aware of organisational processes for dealing with sexual harassment. Interestingly, they confided that these posters were removed the same day because “if too many women become aware of the law pertaining to sexual harassment, they may take undue advantage.” In other organisations, sexual harassment committees have been constituted, but in a perfunctory manner, essentially to fulfil the legal requirements.

According to the paper, respondents often held themselves accountable and responsible in sexual harassment situations.

  • Underplaying the experience: The researchers found that the respondents tended to brush things off or reduce the intensity of the harassment in their descriptions. One respondent took a month’s time to report the incident to ensure that she was not “overreacting”.
  • Tolerating and ‘asking for it’: Respondents also showed an inclination towards tolerating bad behaviour and blaming their own friendliness. The women also did not report the cases because they were wary of causing a stir and did not want to “make an issue”.
  • Job insecurity: Women also remain silent and refuse to report due to loss of reputation, stigma, and blame coming on the women themselves.
  • A study on the internal complaints committees (ICC) in 15 government offices in Kerala found that while committees get formed and meet intermittently, the members of the committees and women employees remain unaware of the provisions of the act and hesitant to assert themselves in registering complaints or fighting for more women-friendly work structures.
  • This survey undertaken from 2012 to 2014 in Mumbai showed that even though the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act was passed in 2013, not many companies in Mumbai took its provisions seriously or formed the mandatory ICC. The manner in which complaints by women were treated by some companies and what the members had to say shows that employer response to their women personnel and staff victimises the victim. Overall, organisations flouted the Vishakha guidelines. However, persistent efforts by the women and pressure from external agencies compelled employers to implement the guidelines, even if half-heartedly.
  • The private sector seems to especially be in a state of denial regarding sexual harassment. Ravichandar (2010) names the five mental blocks that CEOs and managements face in implementing robust policies against sexual harassment: denial, dismissal, double up, delegation, and danger. They believe that sexual harassment does not exist in their organisation because there are no reported cases. They also believe that they are open enough, and any employee can openly report sexual harassment. The article says that the private sector needs to clearly articulate and uphold its code of conduct.
  • A study conducted over a period of three months from April to June 2006 in West Bengal showed that sexual harassment is still perceived as something that can happen in “other” workplaces but not one’s own. Men continue to be present as chairpersons in complaints committees. Organisations have cited the absence of senior women as reasons for having male chairpersons which also raises concerns about the absence of women in senior positions. Members continue to be confused about the range of behaviour that may be termed as sexual harassment. They often did not make necessary linkages between the acts of sexual harassment and consequent work related harassments. Significantly, although incidents of sexual harassment occurred in almost all the organisations, one third of complaints have been dismissed as either “motivated” or “trivial”.
  • Unless there is enough emphasis on sensitisation at the workplace, legal changes are hardly likely to be successful. Sexual harassment is rooted in cultural practices, exacerbated by power relations at the workplace.

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Here is the list of the most significant reasons why women do not come forward more often or delay in coming forward with sexual harassment complaint:

  1. Shame:

One of the primary reasons women don’t come forward to report sexual harassment or assault is shame. Shame is at the core of the intense emotional wounding women and men experience when they are sexually violated. As expert on shame Gershen Kaufman aptly stated in his book Shame: The Power of Caring, “Shame is a natural reaction to being violated or abused. In fact, abuse, by its very nature, is humiliating and dehumanizing.” This is especially true with sexual violations. The victim feels invaded and defiled, while simultaneously experiencing the indignity of being helpless and at the mercy of another person. Understanding more about the emotion of shame can help explain why women blame themselves when they are violated, and why more women do not report sexual assault or harassment. Shame is a feeling deep within us of being exposed and unworthy. When we feel ashamed, we want to hide. We hang our heads, stoop our shoulders, and curve inward as if trying to make ourselves invisible. Most people who have been deeply shamed take on the underlying and pervasive belief that they are defective or unacceptable. They feel unworthy, unlovable, or “bad.” Shame can also cause us to feel isolated — set apart from the crowd. In fact, in primitive cultures, people were banished from the tribe when they broke society’s rules. Being shamed feels like being banished — unworthy to be around others.

  1. Denial, Minimization:

This tendency to blame themselves and to be overwhelmed with shame leads into the next important reason why women don’t come forward: denial and minimization. Many women refuse to believe that the treatment they endured was actually abusive. They downplay how much they have been harmed by sexual harassment and even sexual assault. They convince themselves that “it wasn’t a big deal.”  Victims may experience self-doubt, which can lead to self-blame, and the hopelessness of the situation can also lead to depression. Other women are good at making excuses for their abusers. Victims of sexual harassment often say things like “I felt sorry for him,” or “I figured he wasn’t getting enough sex at home,” or even “I knew he couldn’t help himself.”   And finally, women convince themselves that they are the only victim of a sexual harasser or abuser. It is often only after other women step forward to say that they were abused by a perpetrator that a victim may realize that they are dealing with a serial abuser.

  1. Fear of the Consequences:

Fear of the repercussions is a huge obstacle women face when it comes to reporting sexual harassment or assault — fear of losing their job, fear they won’t find another job, fear they will be passed over for a promotion, fear of losing their credibility, fear of being branded a troublemaker, fear of being blackballed in their industry, fear of their physical safety. This is true whether it is a case of a young woman in her first job being harassed, an actress trying to make her way in the entertainment business, or a career woman desperately trying to break through the glass ceiling.

Many don’t disclose, because they fear they won’t be believed, and until very recently, that has primarily been the case. The fact that sexual misconduct is the most under-reported crime is due to a common belief that women make up these stories for attention or to get back at a man who rejected them. Victims’ accounts are often scrutinized to the point of exhaustion. In high-profile cases, victims are often labelled opportunists, blamed for their own victimization, and punished for coming forward.

Victims fear retaliation. Sexual harassers frequently threaten the lives, jobs, and careers of their victims. And many victims are frightened by the perpetrator’s position of power and what he could do with it. Those who have reported sexual harassment or assault, especially by powerful men, have reported that they lost their jobs, and that their careers or reputations have been destroyed. In the case of Harvey Weinstein, the New Yorker reported that he enlisted private security agencies staffed with “highly experienced and trained in Israel’s elite military and government intelligence units” to collect information on women and journalists who tried to expose sexual harassment allegations against him. This fear of retaliation does not only apply to high-profile cases; people who wield their power to prey on other people are often quite adept at holding onto that power by any means necessary.

  1. Low Self-Esteem:

Some victims have such low self-esteem that they don’t consider what happened to them to be very serious. They don’t value or respect their own bodies or their own integrity, so if someone violates them, they downplay it. As one woman who had been sexually violated by a boss when she was in her early twenties said: “Guys were always coming on to me and trying to grab me back then. When my boss did it, I figured, ‘Why not let him do what he wants, no big deal.’” But she had not anticipated what the short-term and long-term consequences of “giving herself away” might be. “When I look back, I can recognize that my boss violating me was a real turning point in my life. After that, I started acting out. I had never taken drugs before, but when someone offered me some cocaine, I thought, ‘Why not?’ When guys wanted to party, including having group sex, I figured, ‘What have I got to lose?’ I just stopped caring about myself.”

Sexual violations wound a woman’s self-esteem, self-concept, and sense of self. The more a girl or woman puts up with, the more her self-image becomes distorted. Little by little, acts of disrespect, objectification, and shaming whittle away at her self-esteem until she has little regard for herself and her feelings. There is a huge price to pay for “going along” with sexual exploitation. A woman doesn’t just give away her body; she gives away her integrity. By far the most damaging thing to affect the self-esteem of young girls and women is the way they are mistreated in our culture. Beginning in early childhood, the average girl experiences unwanted sexual remarks and sexual behavior from boys and men. Remarks about her body and her sexuality come from boys at school and from men on the streets. Young girls today continually complain that they are bullied in school — not in the way we think of boys bullying other boys — but by boys making remarks about their genitals, their behinds, and as they get older, about their breasts. In today’s schools, there is a common practice of boys running by girls and grabbing their behinds or breasts and running away. Even the most confident girl cannot sustain her sense of confidence if she is sexually violated. She feels so much shame that it is difficult to hold her head up high. She finds it difficult to have the motivation to continue on her path, whether it be college or a career.

  1. Feelings of Hopelessness and Helplessness:

Research has shown us that victims who cannot see a way out of an abusive situation soon develop a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, and this in turn contributes to them giving up and not trying to escape or seek help. Specifically, learned helplessness is a condition in which a person suffers from a sense of powerlessness, arising from a traumatic event or persistent failure to succeed and considered to be one of the underlying causes of depression. A concept originally developed by the research of psychologist Martin Seligman and Steven D. Meier, learned helplessness is a phenomenon that says when people feel like they have no control over what happens, they tend to simply give up and accept their fate.  Women feel it is useless to come forward, because they have seen the way others have been treated. They feel it is hopeless, because they won’t be believed, and their reputations will be tainted, if not ruined. Women who have already been sexually assaulted or harassed feel especially helpless, since the chances are extremely high that they did not receive the justice they so desperately needed. These fears can cause women to think there is nowhere to turn, to feel trapped and even hopeless.  Most women feel they are on their own when it comes to protecting themselves from sexual harassment. While they may take precautions to protect themselves, overall, they still feel helpless about changing the situation. Many women have learned the hard way that going to the HR in their company is useless, since HR departments are notorious for protecting the company at all costs.

Some women don’t have the emotional strength to stand up to intense manipulation, to sexual pressure, or to threats of rejection. While they may take precautions against being sexually assaulted, from avoiding walking alone at night, to avoiding eye contact, to carrying pepper spray in their handbags, measures such as these don’t take away their overarching fear, brought on by witnessing and experiencing the consistent objectification of women, as well as evidence of the rape culture which currently permeates in some countries. In a recent study, researchers found that the treatment of women as sex objects has shown to contribute to women’s fear of sexual assault. According to Dr. Laurel Watson, a psychology professor specializing in trauma at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, “Our research supports previous findings that the rampant sexual objectification of women, what some consider an act of sexual terrorism, can heighten women’s fear of incurring physical and sexual harm.”

  1. A History of being Sexually Violated:

Closely related to the above, women who have already been traumatized by child sexual abuse or by sexual assault as an adult are far less likely to speak out about sexual harassment at work or at school. Research shows that survivors of previous abuse and assault are at a higher risk of being sexually assaulted again. For example, research shows that 38 percent of college-aged women who have been sexually violated had first been victimized prior to college. Those who experienced previous abuse will likely respond to overtures of sexual harassment much differently than women who have not been abused. As one victim says, “Time after time I just freeze when a guy makes a sexual advance, hoping it will stop him or he will walk away.” This “freezing reaction” is a common one for those who were sexually abused in childhood. And as was mentioned above, those who have previously been victimized are more likely to keep quiet about the abuse, since they may have already had the experience of not being believed and not receiving justice.

  1. Lack of Information:

Recent statistics show that 70 percent of women suffer sexual harassment on the job. And yet many women, even highly educated ones, are uneducated about exactly what constitutes sexual harassment, don’t recognize sexual harassment as a real threat, don’t understand how sexual harassment or assault affected them, nor do they understand the real world consequences of not reaching out for help or not reporting it. For example, the emotional effects of this type of harassment can have devastating psychiatric effects. There’s a general lack of knowledge, training, and education when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace. And with the prevailing stigmas surrounding women and sex, not everyone sees it as a black and white issue. Sexual harassment training, civil rights, and anti-discrimination laws have little to no effect on women once they’ve becomes victims of sex discrimination, sexual assault, or an unwanted sexual advance. So when an employee or supervisor makes a lewd comment or suggestive joke, people don’t know if it’s that big of a deal or not. And when the conduct gets more aggressive from a harasser, there is still an element of shame and confusion that clouds making a sexual harassment claim.

  1. Disbelief, Dissociated, or Drugged:

Sometimes women don’t report sexual harassment or assault, because at the time of the abuse they were drugged, inebriated, or dissociated. As was the case with the Bill Cosby accusers — it is not uncommon for women and girls to have been drugged by their abusers and, because of this, to have only vague memories. Others may have been so drunk before the assault that they doubt their memories, and as we know, some are so traumatized that they dissociated during the attack and have only vague memories. It usually takes one woman coming forward before a woman is able to trust her own memories of the experience. Unless other women come forward to make a complaint about someone, most will continue doubting themselves and assuming they will be doubted if they report.

  1. Credibility and victim-blaming:

The credibility of the victim is often called into question, as it is usually her word against that of the harasser/s. (Although dealing with rape rather than harassment, the film The Accused was a striking example of victim-blaming and male solidarity trying to defeat justice, similar to what often happens in the case of harassment.) Several factors aggravate this problem:

  • The large majority of decent men who treat women with respect and would never dream of taking such liberties, usually find it difficult to believe that respected colleagues would abuse their position in this way.
  • Management may take the word of a senior person rather than that of a subordinate as they are likely to have known the senior longer, and a manager usually has more credibility in a dispute than a subordinate. Particularly if the managers concerned are all men, they may not understand the seriousness of the problem, or may “stick together” out of gender loyalty.
  • If the person deciding whether to take action or not, has himself been guilty of harassment, he is likely to go along with a cover-up, or at least give his “buddy” the benefit of the doubt.
  • The harassed may be a high-level or highly-skilled person who is difficult to replace, while the victim is likely to be on a lower level, and thus more expendable.
  • The common tendency of victim-blaming often causes the plaintiff to end up virtually as the accused. As in the case of sexual assault and rape, the dress, lifestyle and private life of the victim seem to become more important than the behaviour being investigated. Naturally it is advisable that women dress and behave appropriately at work. Yet any woman – whatever her appearance and lifestyle – has the right to decide whether, when, where, and from whom she wishes to accept any sexual approach or comment. And if she declines, she should not be victimised in any way. We should heed the saying: “However I dress, wherever I go my yes is yes, and my no is no”.
  • The victim may be very embarrassed by the events, or afraid of ridicule or revenge, and is likely to wait until matters become unbearable before she complains. She may then be blamed of having played along or condoned the behaviour initially.
  • Many women are also inclined to excessive guilt and self-blaming, and may even believe that they unwittingly did or said something to invite the unwanted behaviour. And if they are ashamed or afraid and don’t discuss the problem, they often don’t realise that it is a fairly common occurrence, and not their fault.
  1. Cone of Silence:

The cone of silence is the belief that a man can never rat out another man, regardless of how horrendous his behavior is. Woman who suffered sexual harassment at the hand of man feels that when she reports it, it will be heard by men who will support offending man rather than her.

I quote myself from my article ‘scientific punishment for rape’

“There is overwhelming evidence to show that male police officers are insensitive to rape; and believe that woman is lying, that she has loose character and she is herself responsible for rape due to her behavior, clothing and life style. When there is ambiguity between consensual sex and rape, men are more likely to perceive forced intercourse as consensual. Therefore, ideally, rape cases must be handled by women police officers and women judges to avoid gender bias”.

  1. Sexual harassment costs companies millions:

From the Weinstein events, as we saw with Fox News’s Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, there is often institutional pressure to push allegations under the rug — the idea being that companies with a public face don’t want sexual harassment claims to go public because the alleged harasser is often a company star. It’s why companies often process claims through mandatory confidential arbitration instead of an open court, and why so many cases allow for nondisclosure agreements. These tactics can be effective in hiding the problem on two fronts: They keep victims feeling isolated, and at times like the only people affected, and they insulate the perpetrator.

Instead of focusing so much energy on trying to figure out why victims don’t report, it would be far more productive to ask, “Why do we allow men to continue to sexually harass and assault women?” Perhaps even more important, we need to stop asking why victims wait to report and instead focus on how we can better support victims in their quest for justice and healing.

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Sexual harassment statistics: Do the numbers reveal the true extent of the problem? A 2018 paper:

A new article addresses the statistics of sexual harassment and questions how prevalent it is. The Statistics Views article notes that surveys indicate that if you’re a woman, you have about a 3 in 5 chance of experiencing sexual harassment, while if you’re a man, your chances are around or slightly less than 1 in 5. These figures are for reported cases of sexual harassment, however, and studies indicate that the vast majority of cases are never reported. Because power dynamics will never completely go away, statistics alone will probably never reveal just how much of a problem sexual harassment really is; however, the more aware people become of what sexual harassment is, and the safer people feel about coming forward with their allegations, the more accurate the data will be. “Statistics can only reveal a small part of the picture, but hopefully we’re moving toward a world where women—and men—feel safe about coming forward,” said author Allison L. Goldstein. “Because if we don’t have official reports, we’ll never know if we’re moving the needle.”

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Framing sexual harassment through media representations, a 2013 study:

This article examines mainstream news media texts reporting sexual harassment in four industrialized countries. The study first identifies the aspects of sexual harassment cases considered newsworthy by asking how the media texts characterize such cases. Second, the study illuminates the discourses evident in these texts, which are theorized as a mode by which understandings of workplace gender (in) equality shape, and are shaped by, individuals, organizations and the community. The analysis reveals that the media most frequently reports classical sexual harassment and emphasizes scandalous allegations and overtly sexualized conduct. The hegemony of a discourse of sexual harassment as an individualized problem of inappropriate employee behavior is also evident. By contrast, discourses presenting sexual harassment as a systemic issue, or as symptomatic of broader gender inequality, are less frequent. Authors argue that these media representations limit opportunities to frame sexual harassment as dynamic, complex, and part of the practice of gendering in and beyond organizational boundaries.

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Reasons people doubt sexual harassment Victims:

She took decades to come forward. She can’t remember exactly what happened. She sent friendly text messages to the same man she says assaulted her. She didn’t fight back. There are all sorts of reasons women who report sexual harassment, from unwanted advances by their bosses to groping or forced sex acts, are not believed.  But some of the most commonly raised causes for doubt, like a long delay in reporting or a foggy recall of events, are the very hallmarks that experts say they would expect to see after a sexual assault. “There’s something really unique about sexual assault in the way we think about it, which is pretty upside down from the way it actually operates,” said Kimberly A. Lonsway, a psychologist who conducts law enforcement training on sexual assault as the research director of End Violence Against Women International. “In so many instances when there’s something that is characteristic of assault, it causes us to doubt it.”

Partly this is because of widespread misconceptions. The public and the police vastly overestimate the incidence of false reports: The most solid, case-by-case examinations say that only 5 to 7 percent of sexual assault reports are false. Responses to trauma that are often viewed as evidence of unreliability, such as paralysis or an inability to recall timelines, have been shown by neurobiological research to be not only legitimate, but common.  Many of the same credibility issues surround reports of sexual harassment involving advances made by a boss or someone in a position of power over the victim. Of course, not every allegation is true. The credibility of those who report sexual misconduct, experts say, should be evaluated by looking for corroborating evidence or using relevant parts of accusers’ backgrounds, like whether they have habitually misrepresented the truth in the past. But experts say that because many people are not psychologically prepared to accept how prevalent harassment and assault are, they tend to look for reasons to disbelieve. For example, offenders are more likely to choose victims who have been previously assaulted, statistics show, but a woman who reports more than one assault is less likely to be believed.

Here is a look at some of the misconceptions that come up again and again when assessing whether a victim’s account is true.

  1. The victim doesn’t act like one.

A young woman said she was raped in a police van by two New York City officers, Eddie Martins and Richard Hall, in September 2017. Their lawyers have accused the woman, who is 18, of posting “provocative” selfies and bragging about news media attention and the millions of dollars she expects to win in a civil case. “This behavior is unprecedented for a depressed victim of a vicious rape,” the lawyers wrote, according to The New York Post.

But victims behave in a wide variety of ways. There is no one response to sexual assault. A trauma victim can as easily appear calm or flat as distraught or overtly angry. Later, they may react by self-medicating, by engaging in high-risk sexual behavior, by withdrawing from those around them or by attempting to regain control. Some child victims initiate sexual abuse, experts say, just so they can predict when it is coming. It is no surprise that a teenager conditioned to use “likes” as a measure of self-esteem would turn to social media to deal with post-traumatic stress, said Veronique Valliere, a psychologist who counsels sexual assault perpetrators and victims and consults with the military and law enforcement. “That’s a pretty normal reaction to helplessness and terror,” she added. “It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have PTSD, it means she thinks this is the way she’s going to be protected. This is the way she’s going to regain control.”

  1. She stayed friendly with her abuser.

Some of the women who say Harvey Weinstein groped or assaulted them kept in contact with him afterward, saying that good relations with such a powerful player in the entertainment industry were a must for their careers. After the allegations against Mr. Weinstein were published in The New York Times, one of his advisers at the time, Lisa Bloom, sent an email to the directors of the Weinstein Company, outlining a plan that included the release of “photos of several of the accusers in very friendly poses with Harvey after his alleged misconduct.” Offenders work assiduously to gain trust and appear benevolent, and that relationship does not disappear overnight, even after an abusive episode. Women in particular, experts point out, are conditioned to smooth things over. “Victims think that it was their fault, so in many cases they want continued contact,” said Roderick MacLeish, a Boston lawyer who has represented hundreds of victims of abuse by Catholic priests and schoolteachers. “And then later they realize that it was for the perpetrator’s sexual gratification, and that’s devastating.” The victim may have little choice but to stay in contact if the offender is a boss, teacher, coach or relative. Victims also distinguish between what is safe — taking a photo with Mr. Weinstein in public at an awards ceremony, for example — and what they must avoid, such as going to his hotel room alone.

  1. She did not come forward right away.

Leigh Corfman recently said that the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, Roy S. Moore, sexually assaulted her when she was 14, nearly four decades ago. She said she worried for years that going public would affect her children, and that her history of divorce and financial mistakes would undermine her account. After being approached by a Washington Post reporter, she agreed to tell her story, and later said, “If anything, this has cost me.”  But negative consequences are not the only thing to keep victims from coming forward. Experts point to a more fundamental issue: When the perpetrator is someone they trusted, it can take years for victims even to identify what happened to them as a violation. Reah Bravo, one of several women who say that the broadcast journalist Charlie Rose made unwanted sexual advances while they were working for him, told The Washington Post, “It has taken 10 years and a fierce moment of cultural reckoning for me to understand these moments for what they were.”  Scott Berkowitz, the president of RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, said confusion and self-blame are common: “A lot of people who call the national hotline, one of the first questions they ask is, ‘Was I raped?’ ” Offenders encourage confusion and shame and exploit people’s reluctance to identify themselves as victims. Ms. Valliere said the offenders she treats list two main tactics they use to obscure assaults: They camouflage the act as horseplay or humor, or they act as though nothing happened. “If they do this enough, the victim can get really confused, like they’re really the bad one for thinking badly about the offender,” she said.

  1. Her story doesn’t add up.

Andrea Constand, whose complaint that Bill Cosby drugged and raped her resulted in a criminal trial more than a decade later, was questioned on many fronts. One was discrepancies in her statements about when the assaults occurred. Similarly, Mr. Moore’s Senate campaign has questioned details in the story of Beverly Nelson, who said Mr. Moore forcibly groped her in a car in the late 1970s. They said she was wrong about details like what time the restaurant where they met closed and whether there were Dumpsters in back of the restaurant or on the side. Not only does memory fade with time, but when the brain’s defense circuitry is activated, the prefrontal cortex, which normally directs attention, can be rapidly impaired, affecting what information is recorded in memory, said James Hopper, a psychologist and teaching associate at Harvard Medical School. So the victim may remember a wallpaper pattern or a heightened sensation, but not the order of events. Even when the brain vividly records traumatic events, he said, it can sustain the so-called super-encoding mode for only a limited time before that function also becomes impaired. Rebecca Campbell, a psychologist at Michigan State University who has studied the institutional response to sexual assault victims, compares the recall of a survivor to hundreds of tiny notes that are scattered across a desk. The bits of information may be accurate, but disordered and incomplete. Yet the first questions asked of victims are often who, what, when and where.

  1. She didn’t fight back.

When people are mugged or robbed, they are not asked why they did not resist. But in sexual assault cases, failure to resist can be one of the biggest sticking points for jurors. Often both sides acknowledge that a sex act occurred, and the question is whether it was consensual. Fighting back is viewed as an easy litmus test. But women are conditioned not to use violence. Men and women both tend to compare a victim’s actions with what they think they themselves would have done in a similar situation, and research shows that their imagined response usually involves aggressive resistance — even when the attacker is larger and stronger. “In their heads, suddenly they know kung fu,” Ms. Valliere said.  Neurobiological research has shown that the so-called fight-or-flight response to danger would more accurately be called “fight, flight or freeze.” And even after that initial response, victims can be rendered involuntarily immobile, becoming either paralyzed or limp as a result of the brain and body’s protective response. Even so, the victim faces scrutiny of her failure to resist, and of every decision she made before, during and after the ordeal. To contrast sexual assault with other types of crime, Ms. Valliere said, she often shows a photograph of the Boston Marathon bombing. “We never said to the victims, ‘Why were you in that marathon, why did you put yourself in that position, why didn’t you run faster, why didn’t you run slower?’ “But when it comes to a victim of interpersonal violence,” she added, “we think there’s a way they should act.”

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Sexual harassment and romantic relationship:

A 2018 survey by Vault.com suggests that over 50% of employees have participated in at least one office romance, with “random hookups” being the most common type of relationship. However, the #MeToo movement has shifted the terrain and placed a higher level of scrutiny upon such relationships. While many office relationships proceed without incident, some efforts to engage in these types of relationships deteriorate into allegations of sexual harassment.

Are Consensual Romantic Relationships in the Workplace Sexual Harassment?

Of course the answer is no.

By way of example, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” Consensual relationships in the workplace that do not include promises or threats, real or perceived, generally are not considered sexual harassment under the law. But as with any romantic relationship, workplace relationships also are not always destined to last. At times, the behavior of a party after a romantic relationship has ended can rise quickly to the level of “unwelcome,” even if the same conduct had once been welcomed. A claim of sexual harassment can ensue if the employer learns or should know of the unwelcome conduct but fails to address it. Simply put, office romances create risk.

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One of the most sensitive areas of employee relations is that of consensual romantic relationships within an office environment. Since people spend most of their waking hours at work, it is natural for people to form friendships and relationships with their co-workers. When those relationships are of a romantic nature, the employer can have problems when the relationships end. However, even more difficult problems arise when individuals not at the same level of training or stature in a department become romantically involved. In those relationships, a power play becomes intrinsic to the relationship.  Any relationship at work is fraught with the potential for intimidation, but one between non-equals is especially dangerous to all involved and to the individuals in that environment, even if they are not in the relationship. For someone heading up organization, this is a position of power in the work environment, and a relationship with anyone in a subordinate role is inappropriate consensual or not, reciprocated or not. A person’s position in the department has a tremendous impact on what behaviors are perceived as appropriate. One newly promoted section chief discovered that his jokes and remarks, which worked so well in his old hospital where he was just one of many faculty members, were offending people. The irreverence and satire were no longer coming from the ranks but from the boss. People were insulted and hurt and misunderstood the humor. The lesson to be learned is that with leadership comes responsibility and gravity. As boss you simply cannot engage in the same activities that you can as a rank-and-file employee.

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Is dating your employee ever okay? Or is office romance always a recipe for disaster? What happens when a consensual relationship to turn into a sexual harassment problem?

The difficult job of managers, supervisors, and human resource experts is to ensure that consensual dating doesn’t end in sexual harassment claims. Some businesses adopt policies against employee fraternization, hoping that prevention will shield them from the risks. Even when these policies are in place though, sexual relations outside the office can sometimes find their way into a person’s work life. Employers and employees alike should be on the lookout for certain tell-tale signs that a relationship has gone too far and become sexual harassment:

-Hiring decisions are based off of the existence or denial of a romantic relationship

-Conduct escalates to a point that a reasonable person would be offended

-Protests and complaints about the conduct are ignored or downplayed

-The targeted employee requests a transfer or time off of work

When these things begin to happen, it becomes more likely that you have gone beyond dating your employee and may be looking at a sexual harassment claim.

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Sexual harassment vs. seduction:

What is the boundary between Seduction and Harassment?

Do women use their Bodies to manipulate men?

Seduction is the process of deliberately enticing a person, to engage in a relationship, to lead astray, as from duty, rectitude, or the like; to corrupt, to persuade or induce to engage in sexual behaviour. Women deliver conflicting messages: They dress and act like seductresses. When men see the “tangible invitation” of barred body parts, they respond to what they see and understand as an invitation. They are then charged with sexual harassment by a woman who feigns any understanding that her dress or behavior could have been interpreted as a license to express sexual appreciation. Remember, Seduction is consensual and does not make a person feel threatened. Man can seduce a woman and a woman can seduce a man. Harassment is unwanted, and makes a person feel uncomfortable, threatened or invaded. If a woman seduces a man and then claim sexual harassment, it becomes honey trap. If a man seduces a woman, then she cannot say that it is sexual harassment as seduction is consensual. A woman can always refuse a man attempting to seduce her and tell him that he is crossing a boundary and harassing her.

Sexual harassment is unwanted attention of a sexual nature, usually from a member of the opposite gender; the vast majority of sexual harassment charges are brought against men. Although women’s sexually harassing men might be a very real concern, ‘female seduction’ in order to gain power seems an unlikely scenario in which any form of serious harassment might occur. Where a male is in a position of authority with respect to a female, and the female offers sexual favors in return for career advancement, the male has only two choices: accept or refuse. If he accepts, her attention can obviously not be called “unwanted”; there has been no sexual harassment. In this scenario, if indeed she gains power through sexual favor; both parties may have violated hiring policies and both may be vulnerable to blackmail and the like, but sexual harassment has no part in the indiscretion.

If, on the other hand, he refuses her ‘seduction,’ her attention may be unwanted, but she will have little opportunity to prolong the harassment. Since she is in a lesser position of authority, she has little power to further manipulate him; this is in stark contrast to an employer who, in the absence of sexual harassment guidelines, may continue to harass an employee by threat of dismissal or demotion. In the case of female employee’s advances being refused by a male employer, he would be more proper to dismiss her on grounds of inappropriate behavior or violation of corporate policy than to claim personal suffering by sexual harassment. His communication to her that the seduction is inappropriate is enough to end the harassment at its earliest stages, without the need for explicit guidelines.  If a female employee is dismissed because of seduction and continues to harass her former employer, she may be charged with harassment properly–but this situation lies outside the sphere of sexual favors used expressly to advance one’s career.

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Sexual harassment vs. flirting:

Flirting is a social and sexual behavior involving verbal or written communication, as well as body language, by one person to another, either to suggest interest in a deeper relationship with the other person, or if done playfully, for amusement. Flirting is a pleasant and exciting exchange that arouses one’s sexual interest in the other person. In most cultures, it is socially disapproved for a person to make explicit sexual advances in public, or in private to someone not romantically acquainted, but indirect or suggestive advances may at times be considered acceptable. Flirting behavior varies across cultures due to different modes of social etiquette, such as how closely people should stand (proxemics), how long to hold eye contact, how much touching is appropriate and so forth. Nonetheless, some behaviors may be more universal. For example, ethologist Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt found that in places as different as Africa and North America, women exhibit similar flirting behavior, such as a prolonged stare followed by a head tilt away with a little smile.

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Covert Glances and Eye Contact:

Shooting frequent sideways glances from beneath the lashes, seeking open eye contact or even winking are all common flirting gestures in the U.S. The flirtatious meaning of eye contact is even more pronounced in Europe, where it is a sign of open admiration. The same behavior, however, could land you in hot water in Muslim countries. Eye contact, except the most fleeting, is not allowed between men and women in Arabic countries for religious reasons. The gesture is considered as “adultery of the eyes” and can have dire consequences for foreigners, who in the worst of cases might get themselves arrested. That does not mean that Arab men will not stare at a Western woman, but if she returns the glance, thinking that she is only flirting, she could be in for an unpleasant surprise. Glancing back means that she is sexually interested in the man in question and could be construed as an open invitation to have sex. She might be considered a prostitute and be treated as such. Chinese and Japanese women will not initiate eye contact either. It is considered rude and a sign of disrespect and the same applies to a man seeking prolonged eye contact. In Latin America, steady eye contact is not a sign of openness and trust, but often indicates aggression and a challenge. Spanish women, on the other hand, may still be guided by some atavistic rules of eye contact and flirtatious glances.

Hand Kisses:

Kissing a woman’s hand is very much a European habit and has recently seen a revival in Germany and Austria. Neither Englishmen nor Americans know much about hand kissing, let alone how to do it properly. A hand kiss, which involves only one hand each and no touching of the skin by the lips at all, is a sign of respect when a man greets a woman. However, the greeting becomes flirting, when the man grabs the woman’s hand with both his hands, squeezes, plants a kiss on the back of the hand and accompanies the entire ceremony with an open or seductive glance. Trying to kiss or even shake a woman’s hand in Arabic cultures is an absolute no-no. Islam forbids any bodily contact between the sexes, other than husband and wife or close family. In Turkey an exception might be, you could possibly kiss the hand of a much older woman as a sign of respect.

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Science of flirting:

Flirting is a time-honoured way of signalling interest and attraction, to say nothing of mutual awareness. It is a kind of silent language spoken by men and women around the world. The ways people communicate interest are so deeply rooted in human nature that the signals are automatically understood by all. Flirting is part of the behavioral repertoire we come equipped with to meet nature’s most basic command—find a good mate and multiply. Human flirting has a parallel in the animal world; it is akin to the behavioral displays many animals engage in to signal not only their availability but their suitability. The gestures and movements used in flirting provide clues to biological and psychological health. Flirting is not a trivial activity; it requires many skills: intellect, body language, creativity, empathy. At its best, flirting can be high art, whether the flirter is vying for a soul mate, manipulating a potential customer, or just being playful.

There’s a lot going on under the surface when we flirt. Yes, we’re sending the message that we’re interested, but why do those specific gestures say “I’m interested in you,” and what do they really say about us? According to scientists, it all comes down to our inherent desire to reproduce. When we flirt, we’re giving off information about how fit we are to procreate as well as our health. There are also specific aspects of our appearance that make us more attractive to others. Some of the “female” signs of flirting, such as angling her body and sticking out her hips, are attempts to draw attention to her pelvis and its suitability for carrying a child. In addition, men tend to be more attracted to women with a certain hip-to-waist ratio (specifically, the waist must be no more than 60 to 80 percent of the hip circumference). This is also an indication of fertility.

When a man makes intense eye contact and smiles often, he attempts to show that he is both virile and dependable. Women are attracted to prominent, square jaws, which are indicative of a man’s power and strength. Scientists point out that features like square jaws in human males have a connection to prominent features in the animal kingdom. Male peacocks attract females with their elaborate plumage, male cardinals are bright red and stags have large horns. Because these features require additional biological resources and also tend to make these animals more visible to their predators, an impressive display shows that these animals are strong. When we’re flirting with someone who fits the bill for us, the limbic system takes over (the same system responsible for our flight-or-fight response). We operate on emotion and instinct. If we only governed flirting with the most rational part of our brains, we might not ever flirt — or get a date — at all. In fact, according to biologist Dr. Antonio Damasio, there’s a connection between brain damage and flirting. He states that “people with damage to the connection between their limbic structures and the higher brain are smart and rational — but unable to make decisions”. Still, we’re not just animalistic in our flirting behavior. The ability to carry a conversation and engage in the joking back-and-forth of flirting also indicates our intelligence, which is always attractive.

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Is flirting sexual harassment?

No.

The key difference between flirting and sexual harassment is that sexual harassment is unwelcome. The contact was not invited or accepted. It is one-sided because only one of the people in the situation wants to be in that situation. It does not matter how the harasser says he or she “meant it”; it only matters how it makes you feel. The line between flirting and harassment is not, in fact, that blurry at all. Flirting is a bit of fun. Harassment is behaviour likely to make the person on the receiving end feel harassed. But as sentient adults, we can all recognise that there is a scale of sexual conduct, which starts somewhere around mutually enjoyable flirtation and ends with rape. A compliment is not harassment; a crude sexual remark shouted on the street and designed to intimidate a woman walking alone is. Flirtation is not harassment; lewd banter in a non-mutual, non-sexual context probably is.

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Many ask how one can tell whether the questionable behavior is normal flirting, the effect of raging hormones, or when it is sexual harassment. Nan Stein, of the Wellesley Center for Research on Women and an expert on the sexual harassment of young women, suggests considering the following checklist:

Sexual Harassment

  • feels “bad”
  • is one sided
  • makes you feel unattractive
  • is degrading
  • makes you feel powerless
  • is power-based
  • may include negative touching
  • is unwanted
  • is invading
  • is demeaning
  • makes you feel sad or angry
  • produces negative self-esteem
Flirting

  • feels “good”
  • is reciprocal
  • makes you feel attractive
  • is a compliment
  • makes you feel in control
  • is based on equality
  • may include positive touching
  • is wanted
  • is open
  • is flattering
  • makes you feel happy
  • produces positive self-esteem

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Many of these cases of harassment aren’t cases of “flirting gone awry”, as so many claim. Flirting isn’t one-sided. It’s not about one person saying outrageous things or touching women in order to get them aroused and compliant. Flirting is inherently mutual, a back-and-forth between two interested and consenting parties. It’s about two people building desire together, a playful exchange that everyone has agreed to. Flirting is a welcome game being played, not something that’s imposed upon another person. Quite frankly, when your version of flirting gets “mistaken” for sexual harassment, then you need to consider that maybe you suck at flirting.  When somebody is attracted to another person, they’re going to welcome attention from them. They want to flirt and tease and laugh with them. They’re going to not just encourage the behavior but be an active and eager participant. But when that attention is unwelcome, then it’s not flirting any more. Once again: you’re imposing your will over somebody else and telling them that you are entitled to override their desire.

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Flirting may become sexual harassment when the words or actions are unwanted and the aggressor refuses to stop. But is there any way to know for sure? Here are some scenarios to consider:

-Possibly not sexual harassment: If a co-worker asks you out, you say no, and there is no further contact

-Possibly sexual harassment: If a co-worker asks you out, you say no, and the co-worker continues to pressure you for a date

-Possibly not sexual harassment: If a co-worker flirts with you, you tell him or her to stop, and the behavior stops

-Possibly sexual harassment: If a co-worker flirts with you, you tell him or her to stop, and he or she continues to flirt with you

Sometimes telling a co-worker to stop may be enough. Sometimes it is necessary to take the issue to HR. In some cases, when HR dismisses your complaints or does little or nothing to stop the behavior, it may be time to talk to an employment law attorney.

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Banter vs. sexual harassment:

The employee alleged that a male co-worker made sexually suggestive comments to her and tried to massage her shoulders, which she “shrugged off.” The employee also claimed that her hours were cut after she rejected the co-worker’s advances, forcing her to quit her job. The accused harasser denied creating a hostile work environment for the employee, but he did admit to making comments about taking a client to Puerto Rico and knowing breast enhancement surgeons. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination hearing officer determined that the “banter” between the employees was not enough to establish a claim for unlawful sexual harassment. For sexually harassing conduct to be actionable, it must be sufficiently severe or pervasive to create an “abusive work environment.” The male employee’s comments may have been “inappropriate,” but they did not rise to the level of actionable harassment.

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Sexism:

Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on a person’s sex or gender. Sexism can affect anyone, but it primarily affects women and girls. It has been linked to stereotypes and gender roles, and may include the belief that one sex or gender is intrinsically superior to another. Extreme sexism may foster sexual harassment, rape, and other forms of sexual violence. Sexism is more than personal prejudice. It involves carrying into effect one’s prejudices, resulting in discrimination, inequity and/or exclusion. Sexism is understood as the negative valuing and discriminatory treatment of individuals and groups on the basis of their sex. Sexism can be manifested in both personal attacks and insults, and in the structure of social institutions.

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Sexual bullying:

Sexual bullying is a type of bullying and harassment that occurs in connection with a person’s sex, body, sexual orientation or with sexual activity. It can be physical, verbal, or emotional. It is when sexuality or gender is used as a weapon by boys or girls towards other boys or girls – although it is more commonly directed at girls. It can be carried out to a person’s face, behind their back or through the use of technology. It can be the use of sexual words to put someone down, like calling someone a slut, a slag, or gay, or spreading rumours about someone’s alleged sex life. In its most extreme form, it can be inappropriate touching, sexual assault or even rape.

Sexual harassment and Sexual bullying are similar, but not the same.

As the focus on bullying has grown, attention to incidents of and concern about sexual harassment has diminished. It is easy to understand that sexual harassment can be a form of bullying, especially when it is used to intimidate, but it is also a form of discrimination prohibited by federal and state laws.

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Non-sexual harassment:

A common misconception about workplace harassment is that workplace harassment is simply sexual harassment in the context of a workplace. While sexual harassment is a prominent form of workplace harassment, the United States Department of Labor defines workplace harassment as being more than just sexual harassment. Workplace harassment is known by many other names. “Mobbing”, “workplace bullying”, “workplace mistreatment”, “workplace aggression”, “workplace molestation” and “workplace abuse” are all either synonymous or belong to the category of workplace harassment. Mobbing is the emotional abuse of an employee by a co-worker, superior, or subordinate. The purpose of mobbing is to discredit someone through rumors, disrespect, humiliation, intimidation, and social and work isolation, and eventually to force this person out of the workplace. Workplace harassment includes different types of discrimination and acts of violation that are not confined to one specific group. The wide-ranging types of workplace harassment can be loosely categorized into emotional and physical abuse. All of these forms of workplace harassment target various groups, including women, racial minorities, homosexuals, people with disabilities and immigrants. In essence, workplace harassment requires pluralistic understanding, because it cannot be delineated in one coherent and concrete definition.

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Sexual vs. non-sexual harassment:

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Many people may believe that sexual harassment is the one and only type of harassment that can happen. In reality, sexual harassment is perhaps one of the most common forms of harassing behavior, but it is by far not the only one. In fact, many states and local governments have very specific anti-discrimination laws that also contain provisions that prohibit harassment for what are sometimes very unique classes of individuals. There are various kinds of harassment such as:

Sex-Based

Sexual Orientation-Based

Race, Ethnicity, Religion Based

Nationality Based

Disability-Based

Age-Based

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Contrary to popular belief, it is not illegal for a supervisor to harass an employee simply because he or she doesn’t like the employee’s work or doesn’t like the employee as an individual. Harassment is illegal only if it is based on some protected characteristic of the employee, such as his or her age, race, national origin, sex, religion or disability.  In addition, harassment must be severe or pervasive in order to violate the law. Courts have held that the government cannot make American workplaces pristine, but may ensure only that they are not hostile and abusive to an employee because the employee is a member of a protected class. Therefore, isolated or occasional use of racial or ethnic slurs, or sporadic dirty jokes, while offensive, will not violate the law. On the other hand, one incident of harassment, if it is severe enough, may be enough to violate the law. An example might be a sexual assault or a beating by co-workers. Likewise, harassment which is continual or which pervades the work environment is actionable. Such behavior includes constant dirty jokes or comments, repeated unwelcome passes, anti-Semitic or racist comments, or a workplace decorated with pornographic posters. Finally, the harassing behavior must be offensive to the reasonable person and to the employee. Behavior which offends a highly sensitive employee, but which would not offend a reasonable person in the same situation, would not violate the law. Likewise, behavior that might offend a reasonable person, but that clearly did not offend the employee, will not create a right for damages. Some courts define a reasonable person as an average employee in same the protected category as the employee, for example, a reasonable female employee or a reasonable Hispanic employee; other courts consider the reaction of a generic reasonable person.

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Examples of Non-Sexual Harassment in the Workplace:

  • Making negative comments about an employee’s personal religious beliefs, or trying to convert them to a certain religious ideology
  • Using racist slang, phrases, or nicknames
  • Making remarks about an individual’s skin color or other ethnic traits
  • Displaying racist drawings, or posters that might be offensive to a particular group
  • Making offensive gestures
  • Making offensive reference to an individual’s mental or physical disability
  • Sharing inappropriate images, videos, emails, letters, or notes
  • Offensively talking about negative racial, ethnic, or religious stereotypes
  • Making derogatory age-related comments
  • Wearing clothing that could be offensive to a particular ethnic group

Non-sexual harassment isn’t limited to these examples. Non-sexual harassment includes any comment, action, or type of behavior that is threatening, insulting, intimidating, or discriminatory and upsets the workplace environment.

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Different ways of non-sexual harassment faced by women:

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What if the harassment is not sexual in nature, but is still directed at me because I am a woman?

Non-sexual conduct is still unlawful if it is severe and pervasive and singles you out because of your gender. For example, if your supervisor says he doesn’t think a woman should have your job and deliberately insults or ridicules you or gives you impossible tasks because you are a woman, that is harassment. It is also harassment when your employer insults you because you are not conforming to the employer’s stereotypes about how it is appropriate for women to behave.

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Sexual harassment in work place:

Historically, the sexual harassment of female workers has been ignored, denied, made to seem trivial, condoned and even implicitly supported, with women themselves being blamed for it (MacKinnon 1978). Its victims are almost entirely women, and it has been a problem since females first sold their labour outside the home. Sexual harassment is neither an innocent flirtation nor the mutual expression of attraction between men and women. Rather, sexual harassment is a workplace stressor that poses a threat to a woman’s psychological and physical integrity and security, in a context in which she has little control because of the risk of retaliation and the fear of losing her livelihood. Like other workplace stressors, sexual harassment may have adverse health consequences for women that can be serious and, as such, qualifies as a workplace health and safety issue (Bernstein 1994). In the United States, sexual harassment is viewed primarily as a discrete case of wrongful conduct to which one may appropriately respond with blame and recourse to legal measures for the individual. In the European Community it tends to be viewed rather as a collective health and safety issue (Bernstein 1994). Because the manifestations of sexual harassment vary, people may not agree on its defining qualities, even where it has been set forth in law. Still, there are some common features of harassment that are generally accepted by those doing work in this area:

  1. Sexual harassment may involve verbal or physical sexual behaviours directed at a specific woman (quid pro quo), or it may involve more general behaviours that create a hostile environment that is degrading, humiliating and intimidating towards women (MacKinnon 1978).
  2. It is unwelcome and unwanted.
  3. It can vary in severity.

When directed towards a specific woman it can involve sexual comments and seductive behaviours, propositions and pressure for dates, touching, sexual coercion through the use of threats or bribery and even physical assault and rape. In the case of a hostile environment, which is probably the more common state of affairs, it can involve jokes, taunts and other sexually charged comments that are threatening and demeaning to women; pornographic or sexually explicit posters; and crude sexual gestures, and so forth. One can add to these characteristics what is sometimes called gender harassment, which more involves sexist remarks that demean the dignity of women. Women themselves may not label unwanted sexual attention or sexual remarks as harassing because they accept it as normal on the part of males (Gutek 1985). In general, women (especially if they have been harassed) are more likely to identify a situation as sexual harassment than men, who tend rather to make light of the situation, to disbelieve the woman in question or to blame her for causing the harassment (Fitzgerald and Ormerod 1993). People also are more likely to label incidents involving supervisors as sexually harassing than similar behaviour by peers (Fitzgerald and Ormerod 1993). This tendency reveals the significance of the differential power relationship between the harasser and the female employee (MacKinnon 1978.) As an example, a comment that a male supervisor may believe is complimentary may still be threatening to his female employee, who may fear that it will lead to pressure for sexual favours and that there will be retaliation for a negative response, including the potential loss of her job or negative evaluations.  Even when co-workers are involved, sexual harassment can be difficult for women to control and can be very stressful for them. This situation can occur where there are many more men than women in a work group, a hostile work environment is created and the supervisor is male (Gutek 1985; Fitzgerald and Ormerod 1993).

National data on sexual harassment are not collected, and it is difficult to obtain accurate numbers on its prevalence. In the United States, it has been estimated that 50% of all women will experience some form of sexual harassment during their working lives (Fitzgerald and Ormerod 1993). These numbers are consistent with surveys conducted in Europe (Bustelo 1992), although there is variation from country to country (Kauppinen-Toropainen and Gruber 1993). The extent of sexual harassment is also difficult to determine because women may not label it accurately and because of underreporting. Women may fear that they will be blamed, humiliated and not believed, that nothing will be done and that reporting problems will result in retaliation (Fitzgerald and Ormerod 1993). Instead, they may try to live with the situation or leave their jobs and risk serious financial hardship, a disruption of their work histories and problems with references (Koss et al. 1994).

Sexual harassment reduces job satisfaction and increases turnover, so that it has costs for the employer (Gutek 1985; Fitzgerald and Ormerod 1993; Kauppinen-Toropainen and Gruber 1993). Like other workplace stressors, it also can have negative effects on health that are sometimes quite serious. When the harassment is severe, as with rape or attempted rape, women are seriously traumatized. Even where sexual harassment is less severe, women can have psychological problems: they may become fearful, guilty and ashamed, depressed, nervous and less self-confident. They may have physical symptoms such as stomach-aches, headaches or nausea. They may have behavioural problems such as sleeplessness, over or under eating, sexual problems and difficulties in their relations with others (Swanson et al. 1997).

Both the formal American and informal European approaches to combating harassment provide illustrative lessons (Bernstein 1994). In Europe, sexual harassment is sometimes dealt with by conflict resolution approaches that bring in third parties to help eliminate the harassment (e.g., England challenge technique). In the United States, sexual harassment is a legal wrong that provides victims with redress through the courts, although success is difficult to achieve. Victims of harassment also need to be supported through counselling, where needed, and helped to understand that they are not to blame for the harassment.

Prevention is the key to combating sexual harassment. Guidelines encouraging prevention have been promulgated through the European Commission Code of Practice (Rubenstein and DeVries 1993). They include the following: clear anti-harassment policies that are effectively communicated; special training and education for managers and supervisors; a designated ombudsperson to deal with complaints; formal grievance procedures and alternatives to them; and disciplinary treatment of those who violate the policies. Bernstein (1994) has suggested that mandated self-regulation may be a viable approach.

Finally, sexual harassment needs to be openly discussed as a workplace issue of legitimate concern to women and men. Trade unions have a critical role to play in helping place this issue on the public agenda. Ultimately, an end to sexual harassment requires that men and women reach social and economic equality and full integration in all occupations and workplaces.

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Most contemporary workplaces present settings in which men and women work side by side towards a common goal. Relationship development processes are key to organisational functioning; it is through exchange interdependencies and coordinated joint member efforts that organisations are able to operate effectively enough to sustain themselves (Teboul & Cole, 2005). Therefore, it is critical for men and women to develop successful working relationships for organisations to run effectively. As well as increasing the opportunity for conflict, this critical relationship development process presents increased opportunities for workplace based friendships, and social-sexual interaction. Social-sexual interaction refers to messages that convey social interest of a sexual or romantic nature (Soloman & Williams, 1997). Accordingly, social-sexual interaction is a pre-requisite to any romantic or sexual relationship, and when this behaviour occurs in the workplace, it is the perception of this behaviour as either welcome or as harassing that determines whether sexual harassment occurs. Workplace romance has been linked to positive outcomes such as increased productivity, increased employee congeniality, and greater work satisfaction (Soloman & Williams, 1997). However, it should be noted that office romances, particularly when they finish, have been associated with negative organisational outcomes (Williams, Giuffre & Dellinger, 1999). Similarly, workplace friendships have been linked to improved workplace performance, reduced stress, favourable social support, creation of positive workplace atmosphere, and better management of organisational change (Teboul & Cole, 2005). The challenge for organisations is to find a way to effectively curb sexual harassment while reaping the positive benefits of amicable social exchange.

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Sexual harassment remains a persistent problem in the workplace at large. Across workplaces, five common characteristics emerge:

-Women experience sexual harassment more often than men do.

-Gender harassment (e.g., behaviors that communicate that women do not belong or do not merit respect) is by far the most common type of sexual harassment. When an environment is pervaded by gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion become more likely to occur—in part because unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion are almost never experienced by women without simultaneously experiencing gender harassment.

-Men are more likely than women to commit sexual harassment.

-Co-workers and peers more often commit sexual harassment than do superiors.

-Sexually harassing behaviors are not typically isolated incidents; rather, they are a series or pattern of sometimes escalating incidents and behaviors.

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Some industries are worse:

Sexual harassment is not an industry-specific problem, but some environments are worse, according to Emily Martin, general counsel and vice president for workplace justice at the National Women’s Law Center:

-In male-dominated industries like construction, where women are seen as interlopers, women experience high levels of harassment.

-Service-based industries, in which employers rely on tips and customer approval, can also breed an environment of harassment. Reports have also indicated customer behavior can impact how supervisors treat their employees.

-Women in low-wage jobs, like hotel cleaners or farm workers, experience high levels of harassment because they do not have bargaining power to push back.

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Sexual harassment in Media & Entertainment:

Media Industry has highest incidence of Sexual Harassment among White-Collar Workers, 2018 Survey:

About 41% of women in media and entertainment say they’ve been sexually harassed by a colleague or boss at some point in their careers, according to a new report — the highest rate among white-collar industries. The study, “What #MeToo Means for Corporate America,” was conducted by Center for Talent Innovation (CTI), a New York-based think tank focused on workplace issues. The report found that across eight industry categories, 34% of women and 13% of men have been victims of sexual harassment, defined as an unwanted sexual advance or obscene remark. The results confirm that the problem is unusually rampant in the media biz, an industry that has recently seen sexual-misconduct accusations against once-high-powered types like Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Bill O’Reilly and Charlie Rose. “In media, the power dynamics are more skewed than in other industries,” said Ripa Rashid, co-president at the Center for Talent Innovation and one of the lead authors of the study. Media is a very relationship-driven industry, where rewards in terms of money, visibility and influence controlled by a few gatekeepers, according to Rashid. Powerful media figures “have abused their power in these ways, because ultimately we find that sexual harassment is about power,” she said.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the CTI study found that the financial services sector — a historically male-dominated industry — had the lowest reported rate of sexual harassment among women among the industries covered. Rashid said that could be because three decades ago, banking and finance companies were hit with numerous class-action sex harassment lawsuits, and that appears to have led to a change in corporate policies and culture.

People who have been Sexually Harassed by a Colleague, by Industry according to CTI survey:

Industry Women Men
Media 41% 22%
Technology & Telecommunications 37% 12%
Consulting & Management 36% 20%
Health Care & Social Assistance 35% 14%
Architecture, Engineering & Aerospace 32% 16%
Scientific Research & Pharmaceuticals 27% 17%
Finance, Banking & Insurance 26% 7%
Legal Services 22% 7%

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Sexual harassment in Sports:

USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal:

The USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal involves the sexual abuse of female athletes—primarily minors—over the past two decades, in which over 368 individuals have been sexually assaulted “by gym owners, coaches, and staff working for gymnastics programs across the country”.  Particularly, Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics (USAG) national team osteopathic physician, has been named in hundreds of lawsuits filed by athletes who said that Nassar sexually abused them under the pretence of providing medical examination and treatment. Since the first public statements were made in September 2016, more than 265 women, including former USAG national team members Jamie Dantzscher, Morgan White, Jeanette Antolin, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Maggie Nichols, Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, Jordyn Wieber, Sabrina Vega, Ashton Locklear, Kyla Ross, and Madison Kocian have accused Nassar of sexually assaulting them. It is one of the biggest sexual abuse scandals in sports history.  On July 11, 2017, Nassar pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges; he was sentenced to 60 years in prison on December 7, 2017. On November 22, 2017, he pleaded guilty to seven charges of first-degree sexual assault and entered another guilty plea a week later to three additional charges of sexual assault. On January 24, 2018, Nassar was sentenced to an additional 40 to 175 years in prison, set to run after Nassar serves the 60-year federal prison sentence for child pornography. On February 5, 2018, Nassar received another 40 to 125 years.  An investigation over the period of nine months found that “predatory coaches were allowed to move from gym to gym, undetected by a lax system of oversight, or dangerously passed on by USA Gymnastics-certified gyms”.

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Sexual harassment in Medicine:

MeToo has encouraged discussion about sexual harassment in the medical field.  A mounting din of sexual harassment allegations has been echoing through entertainment and politics—it was only a matter of time before the issue was raised openly within the medical field. A career in medicine can be a gruelling endeavour. Long hours, heavy workloads, and high responsibilities make the job physically and emotionally demanding. Yet a report released recently by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) reveals often under-recognised additional challenges for women: a staggering 58% of female faculty and staff across academia have experienced sexual harassment, and female medical students experience sexual harassment at much higher rates than their peers in science and engineering. Research had indicated that among U.S. academic medical faculty members, about 30% of women and 4% of men have reported experiencing sexual harassment, and it has been noted that medical staff who complain often receive negative consequences to their careers.  Other evidence has indicated 60% of medical trainees and students experienced harassment or discrimination during training, though most do not report the incidents.

In a perspective published in the New England Journal of Medicine, radiation oncologist Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil (University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor), outlines some of her experiences following the publication of a study she led regarding workplace sexual harassment in medicine. For example, after detailing a harassing encounter she once had with a “luminary” of a male surgeon, Jagsi says she now keeps her distance from him and “even gave up a valuable scholarly opportunity just to avoid him.”  Her intuition, she writes, “is that the problem is at least as bad in medicine as elsewhere, especially if one adds harassment by patients to that by colleagues and superiors.” Jagsi says she has received many private messages from female physicians describing “appalling” incidents since the publication of her research. However, “none of the women who’ve contacted me have reported their experiences,” she writes. “They speak of challenging institutional cultures, with workplaces dominated by men who openly engage in lewd ‘locker-room conversation’ or exclude them from all-male social events, leaving them without allies in whom to confide after suffering an indignity or a crime.”

Kimberly Atianzar, MD (Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute, Seattle, WA) recalls one instance when a physician and a female fellow were reading echoes in front of the rest of the fellows, and he asked the fellow what part of the cardiac cycle she liked best. “She said, ‘Excuse me sir?’ And he said, ‘Everyone has a favorite part of the cardiac cycle.’ And she was like, ‘I really like diastole.’ And he was like, ‘Oh, so you like to receive.’”

Tolerance of sexual harassment must not continue to be the price that women pay for a career in medicine.

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Sexual harassment of doctors by patients:

A representative survey of 600 female Australian general practitioners (GPs) published in the Medical Journal of Australia in 2010 found that more than half (54.5%; 97) of the 180 who responded had experienced sexual harassment during their careers. Of those 97 respondents, nine had experienced harassment more than eight times. Behaviours reported ranged from inappropriate gifts or sexual remarks to requests for inappropriate examination or inappropriate exposure of body parts to touching or grabbing. A 1993 study of ‘Sexual harassment of female doctors by patients’ more than 75 percent of the respondents reported some sexual harassment by patient at some time during their careers.

More than 1 in 4 doctors told Medscape Medical News in a recent 2018 survey that they have been sexually harassed by a patient within the past 3 years. The 27% of doctors reporting the harassment is nearly four times higher than the 7% of doctors who said they had been sexually harassed by colleagues or administrators in the workplace, an analysis of the survey data shows. In the Patients Sexually Harassing Physicians Report 2018, published July 11, doctors said the most common form of harassment was a patient acting in an overtly sexual manner toward them (17%), followed by patients repeatedly asking for a date (9%) and patients trying to touch, grope, or grab them (7%). In all three categories, the harassment happened more frequently to female doctors.   A much smaller percentage of doctors (2%) reported that patients asked for a sexual encounter or sent sexual emails, letters, or provocative photos of themselves.

Respondents gave examples of the harassment: “A patient made a comment that he was going to grab my breasts if I caused pain to him while removing his nasal packing,” one female doctor commented in the survey. Another female doctor commented, “I had a patient who continually had the need to expose his genitalia to myself and female staff members. He tried to be intimidating in that he would attempt to link the exposure to a medical problem, when there never was one.”

Reactions to inappropriate behaviors differed significantly by gender. Female doctors were much more likely to report they told the patient no or to stop than male doctors were (62% vs. 39%). Female doctors were also more likely than their male peers to dismiss a patient from their practice (11% vs. 6%). Men, on the other hand, were more likely than women to make sure they were no longer alone with the patient (61% vs. 51%).

Studies by McComas et al. and deMayo indicate that a majority of clinical health care professionals and students experience inappropriate patient-initiated sexual behaviors (PISBs). McComas et al. studied 205 physical therapy students and clinical affiliates at the University of Ottawa. Of the 78% that responded, he reported that 66.2% of students and 92.9% of clinicians experienced some form of PISB incident to practice. He also found that 22.1% of students and 45.2% of clinicians reported experiencing severe PISBs, ranging from indecent exposure to sexual assault and battery. A statistically significant gender difference was noted, in that 83.1% of women, but only 56.3% of men, reported being victims of PISB. deMayo distributed 733 random surveys to American Physical Therapy Association members, with 358 (48.6%) responding. In this study, 86% of respondents (81.5% of whom were females) reported being victims of PISB.

Farber et al. surveyed 1000 internal medicine physicians about PISB, with 330 (33%) responding. Minor boundary violations by patients (including patients calling physicians by their first names) were reported by 75% of respondents. Use of sexually explicit language by patients was reported by 11% of respondents, and physical abuse by patients by less than 5% of respondents. White surveyed 310 Australian medical students, with a high response rate of 293 completed surveys (94.5%). In this study, 47.9% of females and 24.6% of males reported being victims of inappropriate sexual behaviors, mostly by fellow students. However, with medical student perpetrators removed from the data set, 73.3% of reports of unwanted physical contact were between male patients and female medical students. Comparing the findings of Farber et al. and White reveals that patients may be more prone to initiate sexual behavior against novice professional students than against seasoned health care professionals.

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Sexual harassment in Sciences:

A young female researcher is working at a field site in a foreign country. She and her supervising professor visit a local town and strike up a conversation with a woman in her native language. Midway through, the professor turns to the graduate student to compliment the local woman’s breasts in English. The comment nags at the student, but at the time she chalks it up to what she calls “hazing” at the work site; after all, her mostly male colleagues make lewd comments about her breasts as well, and sometimes leave pornographic photos on her desk. It’s all a joke. Except, of course, that it’s not. The woman begins to feel “marginalized” and “under attack,” and her work suffers. When she confronts her professor, things get worse. He says she’s too “sensitive,” and eventually revokes his promise to fund her through graduate school. She makes it through her program, but wonders how many others in similar situations – feeling isolated and without recourse at research outposts – won’t. Some might find the account incredible, but it’s real.

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Sexual harassment is rife in the sciences, finds landmark 2018 US study. Sexual harassment of US women in science is widespread and is worst in medicine, report says.

Ask someone for an example of sexual harassment and they might cite a professor’s insistent requests to a grad student for sex. But such lurid incidents account for only a small portion of a serious and widespread harassment problem in science, according to a report released recently by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Two years in the making, the report describes pervasive and damaging “gender harassment”—behaviors that belittle women and make them feel they don’t belong, including sexist comments and demeaning jokes. Between 17% and 50% of female science and medical students reported this kind of harassment in large surveys conducted by two major university systems across 36 campuses. The report, Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, noted that many surveys fail to rigorously evaluate sexual harassment. It used data from large surveys done at two major research universities—the University of Texas system and the Pennsylvania State University system—to describe kinds of sexual harassment directed at students by faculty and staff. Several surveys outlined in the report found staggering rates of sexual harassment in science, medicine, and engineering. Some 20 percent of female undergraduate and graduate science students, more than a quarter of female engineering students, and more than 40 percent of medical students have experienced sexual harassment by the faculty and staff they work with, according to a survey from the University of Texas.  Another survey, from the Pennsylvania State University system, came to similar conclusions: 33 percent of undergraduates, 43 percent of graduate students, and half of medical students have experienced sexual harassment. The most common was “sexist hostility,” such as demeaning jokes or comments that women are not smart enough to succeed in science, reported by 25% of female engineering students and 50% of female medical students in the Texas system. The incidence of female students experiencing unwanted sexual attention or sexual coercion was lower, ranging in both Texas and Pennsylvania between 2% and 5% for the former and about 1% for the latter.

Previous research has shown that the prevalence of sexual harassment in US academia, at 58%, is second only to the military’s 69%, and outpaces that of industry and government. Women of colour experience particularly high rates of harassment, as do people from sexual- and gender-minority groups.  Men in academia also experience sexual harassment, although at lower rates than women; one study published in 2016 found that female graduate students at a public university in the US Pacific Northwest were 1.64 times more likely than male graduate students to have been sexually harassed by faculty members or staff.

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Hundreds say #TimesUp for world’s largest scientific organization to address sexual harassment:

The #TimesUp movement started in Hollywood, but it is now pouring into the lab.  Recently scientists published an open letter calling on the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest scientific community, to address sexual harassment within its ranks.  While scientific academia is no stranger to harassment cases, many controversies involving scientists have recently taken center stage. Francisco J. Ayala, an acclaimed geneticist at the University of California Irvine, resigned after a university investigation ruled that the former Dominican priest had sexually harassed four faculty members and graduate students. Ayala is a former president of AAAS. The letter calls on AAAS to pass a new policy to address harassment and strip honors and fellowships from offenders. The open letter charges that there is no mechanism to prevent AAAS award recipients from retaining their honors if they are revealed to be harassers. The letter calls on AAAS to pass a new policy to address harassment and strip honors and fellowships from offenders. Currently, harassers could be reprimanded by their university, but still maintain their titles, honors or privileges from AAAS.

The letter references a recent study [vide supra] from The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that highlights the pervasiveness of harassment in the science community, especially towards women. The study says 58 percent of female faculty and staff in academia have experienced sexual harassment. Women of color and sexual- and gender-minority women also undergo increased rates of harassment.

AAAS released this statement in response to the letter:

“AAAS and others are working to ensure that there are adequate policies in place that codify that the scientific community will not tolerate sexual harassment. For example, AAAS has been working with other scientific societies and with funding agencies on relevant policies, such as NSF’s proposed reporting requirements for sexual harassment. The code of conduct and harassment policy for the AAAS Annual Meeting has been used as an example policy and process for other scientific society conferences. We are working within our organization’s bylaws and governance structure as relates to elected AAAS Fellows, including the development of a Fellows revocation policy which is currently under consideration by the AAAS Council.”

Duffy and Selin noted that the impact of harassment ripples across a laboratory. When female scientists are looking for advisors and job opportunities, it is critical to know the reputations of their superiors and the work environment. These choices could seriously impact a woman’s mental health and career. The National Academies of Sciences report points out that male-dominant gender ratios and organization leaders who fail to take claims of sexual misconduct seriously are the best predictors of sexual harassment in a work environment. Power and grant money tend to be concentrated at the top, which can drastically influence organizational hierarchy and leave lower-level researchers feeling at risk. Because of this, biologist Maryam Zaringhalam of 500 Women Scientists described how research institutions can sometimes prioritize harassers over victims if the abusers can win awards that make the university shine.  “Too many universities have allowed bad actors to get away with harassment, believing that their contributions to science and the funding they bring to their institutions absolve them of any accountability,” Zaringhalam said via email. “They’re treated more like ‘tortured geniuses’ than perpetrators of toxic behavior.” According to AAAS spokesperson Tiffany Lohwater, the organization is working to make sure there are policies in place to ensure that the scientific community will not tolerate harassment.

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Sexual harassment in the military:

Sexual harassment in the military is more common than among civilians. In the wake of #MeToo, #MeTooMilitary came to be used by service men and women who were sexually assaulted or harassed while in the military, appearing on social media in January 2018 the day after remarks by Oprah Winfrey at the Golden Globe Awards honoring female soldiers in the military “whose names we’ll never know” who have suffered sexual assault and abuse in order to make things better for women today.  A report from the Pentagon indicated that 15,000 members of the military reported being sexually assaulted in the year 2016, and only 1 out of 3 people assaulted actually made a report, indicating as many as 45,000 assaults occurred. Veteran Nichole Bowen-Crawford has said the rates have improved over the last decade, but the military still has a long way to go, and recommends that women veterans connect privately on social media to discuss sexual abuse in a safe environment.

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Studies of sexual harassment have found that it is markedly more common in military than civilian settings. Several reasons for this have been suggested. A Canadian study found that key risk factors associated with military settings are the typically young age of personnel, the isolated locations of bases, the minority status of women, and the disproportionate number of men in senior positions. Other Canadian research has found that an emphasis in military organisations on conformity, obedience, and hierarchical power relations, combine to increase the risk, particularly to personnel of low rank, who are less able than others to resist inappropriate expectations made of them. The traditionally masculine values and behaviours that are rewarded and reinforced in military settings are also thought to play a role. Canadian research has also found that the risk of sexual misconduct increases during deployment on military operations.

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While some male personnel are sexually harassed, women are substantially more likely to be affected. Women who are younger and joined the military at a younger age face a greater risk, according to American, British, Canadian, and French research. Cadet forces are military youth organisations for younger teenagers based in communities and schools, and are common around the world. There is some evidence from the UK, where hundreds of complaints of the sexual abuse of cadets have been recorded since 2012, and from Canada, where one in ten complaints of sexual assault in the military are from cadets, that these institutions are susceptible to a culture of sexual harassment.

Individuals detained by the military are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment. During the Iraq War, for example, personnel of the US army and US Central Intelligence Agency committed a number of human rights violations against detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison, including rape, sodomy, and other forms of sexual abuse. Another example is the detention of two Iraqi men on a British warship at the start of the Iraq War, when they were made to strip naked and were then sexually humiliated.

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Although the risk of sexual misconduct in the armed forces is widely acknowledged, personnel are frequently reluctant to report incidents, typically out of fear of reprisals, according to research in Australia, Canada, France, the UK, and the US. Women affected by sexual harassment are more likely than other women to suffer stress-related mental illness afterwards. Research in the US found that when sexual abuse of female military personnel is psychiatrically traumatic, the odds of suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after deployment on operations increase by a factor of nine.

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Sexual harassment in Music:

In the music industry, the band Veruca Salt used the #MeToo hashtag to air allegations of sexual harassment against James Toback, and Alice Glass used the hashtag to share a history of alleged sexual assault and other abuses by former Crystal Castles bandmate Ethan Kath. Halsey’s poem “A Story Like Mine,” in which she told personal stories of sexual assault and violence throughout her life.  Her personal narrative included accompanying her best friend to Planned Parenthood after she had been raped, her personal account of sexual assault by neighbours and boyfriends, and women sexually assaulted by Olympic doctor Larry Nassar. Activists say sexual harassment is rampant at music festivals. Sexual harassment is among a litany of safety issues that music festival organizers face, not the least of which is drug and alcohol abuse.

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Sexual harassment of domestic workers:

A 2012 poll conducted by Oxfam India and Social And Rural Research Institute found that the most vulnerable women to workplace harassment were labourers (29%), domestic workers (23%) and workers at small scale manufacturing units (16%).  The survey, conducted in May 2018 by Martha Farrell Foundation, a social organisation, and Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), covered 291 domestic workers. It found that 29% women domestic workers had been sexually harassed and 19% of them chose to ignore the incidents. Many quit their jobs after sexual harassment. The study also revealed that redressal mechanisms are missing in a majority of the districts in Delhi. Of the 11 districts, nine don’t have local committees for complaints.  The research added that only 20% of the domestic workers complained to police. When probed further, they couldn’t share the outcome of the police complaints. They also said that the cops often hassle or ignore them. However, 13% of the women reacted on the spot, slapped or shouted at the harasser, or sought the help of passers-by.  “Domestic workers are an integral part of urban society, but only a marginal percentage has formal contracts, rights or benefits. A majority of these workers are confined to informal economy and work behind the closed doors of private households. Conventional policy tools often ignore them as they are not in the forefront of the formal workforce. The extremely invisible and privatised nature of domestic work also makes them very vulnerable to sexual harassment at the workplace,” said Nandita Bhatt, director, Martha Farrell Foundation.

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#MeToo:

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Movie stars are supposedly nothing like you and me. They’re svelte, glamorous, self-possessed. They wear dresses we can’t afford and live in houses we can only dream of. Yet it turns out that—in the most painful and personal ways—movie stars are more like you and me than we ever knew. In 1997, just before Ashley Judd’s career took off, she was invited to a meeting with Harvey Weinstein, head of the starmaking studio Miramax, at a Beverly Hills hotel. Astounded and offended by Weinstein’s attempt to coerce her into bed, Judd managed to escape. But instead of keeping quiet about the kind of encounter that could easily shame a woman into silence, she began spreading the word. “I started talking about Harvey the minute that it happened,” Judd says in an interview with TIME. “Literally, I exited that hotel room at the Peninsula Hotel in 1997 and came straight downstairs to the lobby, where my dad was waiting for me, because he happened to be in Los Angeles from Kentucky, visiting me on the set. And he could tell by my face—to use his words—that something devastating had happened to me. I told him. I told everyone.” She recalls one screenwriter friend telling her that Weinstein’s behavior was an open secret passed around on the whisper network that had been furrowing through Hollywood for years. It allowed for people to warn others to some degree, but there was no route to stop the abuse. “Were we supposed to call some fantasy attorney general of moviedom?” Judd asks. “There wasn’t a place for us to report these experiences.” Finally, in October 2017—when Judd went on the record about Weinstein’s behavior in the New York Times, the first star to do so—the world listened. (Weinstein said he “never laid a glove” on Judd and denies having had nonconsensual sex with other accusers.)

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The Me Too Movement (or #MeToo Movement) with many local/international alternatives is a movement against sexual harassment and assault. #MeToo spread virally in October 2017 as a hashtag used on social media in an attempt to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. It followed soon after the sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Tarana Burke, an American social activist and community organizer, began using the phrase “Me Too” as early as 2006, and the phrase was later popularized by American actress Alyssa Milano, on Twitter in 2017. Milano later acknowledged earlier use of the phrase by Burke. On October 15, 2017, actress Alyssa Milano encouraged spreading the hashtag #MeToo, to attempt to draw attention to sexual assault and harassment. Milano encouraged victims of sexual harassment to tweet about it and “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”. As a result, this was met with success that included but not limited to high-profile posts from several American celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Lawrence, and Uma Thurman. For all public cases of the MeToo Movement the presumption of innocence applies until a final conviction.

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The phrase “Me too” was tweeted by Milano around noon on October 15, 2017, and had been used more than 200,000 times by the end of the day,  and tweeted more than 500,000 times by October 16. On Facebook, the hashtag was used by more than 4.7 million people in 12 million posts during the first 24 hours. The platform reported that 45% of users in the United States had a friend who had posted using the term. Tens of thousands of people replied with #MeToo stories, Some men, such as actors Terry Crews and James Van Der Beek, have responded to the hashtag with their own experiences of harassment and abuse, while others have responded by acknowledging past behaviors against women, spawning the hashtag #HowIWillChange. In addition to Hollywood, “Me Too” declarations elicited discussion of sexual harassment and abuse in the music industry, sciences, academia, and politics. Feminist author Gloria Feldt stated in Time that many employers are being forced to make changes in response to #MeToo, for example examining gender-based pay differences and improving sexual harassment policies. Others have noted there has been pressure on companies, specifically in the financial industry, to disclose diversity statistics. The hashtag has trended in at least 85 countries, including India, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom. The European Parliament convened a session directly in response to the Me Too campaign, after it gave rise to allegations of abuse in Parliament and in the European Union’s offices in Brussels. Cecilia Malmström, the European Commissioner for Trade, specifically cited the hashtag as the reason the meeting had been convened.

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Person of the year:

In December 2017, Time magazine announced that their Person of the Year was a group they dubbed “The Silence Breakers.”

Burke was named as one of The Silence Breakers, along with movie stars Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, and a host of other (mostly) women who refuse to be silent about sexual harassment and abuse.  And while Burke is extremely well-deserving of the honor, she was not featured on the cover, which upset many people, including filmmaker Melissa V. Murray. Murray penned an article for BET, and in it noted, “This was Tarana’s moment. She’s a very gracious woman and hasn’t so much as uttered any displeasure about the cover. And probably won’t. But I cannot sit silently why this Black woman has to stand in the shadows of her own creation so that others can take the credit.”

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Why would a woman end up alone in Harvey Weinstein’s hotel room?

A few practical reasons: for instance, she had been lied to, told there was a party there or started off in a group that had then evaporated; meetings are routinely held in hotel rooms in the entertainment industry; the junior party in any given business meeting rarely has a decisive say over where it’s held. But really, the slide from civilised interaction into threatening behaviour is all in the hands of the aggressor. There are no formal waypoints, where consent is understood before moving to the next waypoint. Harassment isn’t like a date with a communication failure. However, the fact that this question is asked contributes to the shame and builds the wall of silence. So it is an illuminating question, in a roundabout way.

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Sexual harassment in Bollywood and Hollywood:

The casting couch, casting-couch syndrome, or casting-couch mentality is the demanding of sexual favors by an employer or person in a position of power and authority, from an apprentice employee, or subordinate to a superior in return for entry into an occupation, or for other career advancement within an organization. The term casting couch originated in the motion picture industry, with specific reference to couches in offices that could be used for sexual activity between casting directors or film producers and aspiring actors.

Every year thousands of young men and women head to the western city of Mumbai, India’s film capital, in search of their own Bollywood dream. But for many the experience becomes a nightmare. The BBC’s Rajini Vaidyanathan and Pratiksha Ghildial spoke to several actresses who say they have been sexually harassed by directors and casting agents.

A survey has found that 94% of women employed in the American film industry have experienced sexual harassment or assault. Conducted by USA Today in conjunction with the Creative Coalition, Women in Film and Television and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the survey had nearly 850 respondents across many branches of the film industry, including directors, actors and editors, and the vast majority reported some form of sexual misconduct. This ranged over “unwelcome sexual comments, jokes or gestures” (87%), “being touched in a sexual way” (69%) and “being shown sexual pictures without consent” (39%). In addition, 21% said they had been “forced to do a sexual act” and 10% that they had been “ordered unexpectedly to appear naked for auditions”.

The survey was conducted online in December 2017 and January 2018 via an email callout to bipartisan advocacy group Creative Coalition and the development group Women in Film and Television. USA Today acknowledge that the sample is self-selecting, but Anita Raj, director of the Center for Gender Equity and Health at the University of California, San Diego’s medical school, is quoted as saying the results are “credible and important”. “It makes sense to me that we would see higher numbers (in the entertainment industry),” where the ‘casting couch’ has prevailed for decades and is considered ‘normal’.” Also reported was that only one in four made a complaint, and that of those who did, only 28% said their situation improved as a result.

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What made Hollywood harassment so prevalent for so long?

Here are some big reasons.

  1. The idea that any behavior is acceptable in the pursuit of great art (or great commerce). Both Harvey Weinstein and Alfred Hitchcock were known for their abusive behavior.
  2. In Hollywood, firing one person can lead to firing everybody. Hollywood employs hundreds of people who are reliant on the movie for their next paycheck. For many that money may be necessary just to keep going. The vast majority of Hollywood technicians live at a middle-class or lower level, and they count on the steady work to keep things going during the lean times. So when producer/director/star needs to be punished for unacceptable behavior, it’s easier for everybody involved to just pretend that unacceptable behavior doesn’t exist — even if they’re the victims of it. Thus, whenever anyone star or director or showrunner becomes so powerful that they’re essentially irreplaceable; the danger is they are given a blank check to behave as badly as they want. And there’s no simple or easy solution to this.
  3. The entertainment industry requires environments that foster intimacy — and make lines easier to cross. It is often argued that making great art requires certain socially unacceptable behaviors, and creative environments need a certain amount of intimacy that would be inappropriate in most workplaces. This is true throughout the TV and film industries.

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Weinstein effect:

The “Weinstein effect” is a global trend in which people come forward to accuse famous or powerful men of sexual misconduct. The term came into use to describe a worldwide wave of these allegations that began in the United States in October 2017, when media outlets reported on sexual abuse allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein. The allegations were described as a “tipping point” or “watershed moment” and precipitated a “national reckoning” against sexual harassment. USA Today wrote that 2017 was the year in which “sexual harassment became a fireable offense”. The subsequent #MeToo campaign encourages people to share their experiences of sexual harassment and assault, and the two events triggered a cascade of allegations that brought about the swift removal of many men in positions of power in the United States, while tarnishing and ending political careers of additional men as it spread around the world. In the entertainment industry, allegations led to the dismissal of actors and directors alike.  Most prominently, actor Kevin Spacey and filmmaker Brett Ratner had projects cancelled following at least six allegations each. More than 300 women accused filmmaker James Toback of sexual harassment. In journalism, allegations led to the firing of editors, publishers, executives, and hosts, including high-profile television figures such as Charlie Rose, Mark Halperin, and Matt Lauer. In politics, accusations of varying degrees of severity were made against U.S. House Representative John Conyers (D-MI) and U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN), both of whom resigned their seats in Congress/senate, and Roy Moore (R-AL), who lost his 2017 bid for election to the United States Senate. Celebrity chefs Mario Batali and John Besh were also removed, as well as some financial and public relations executives.

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A new study in 2018 shows that the #MeToo movement has made concrete change in attitudes about sexual harassment:

Over the past year, the #MeToo movement has helped countless survivors of sexual harassment and assault come forward with their stories. However, some have wondered if the movement has actually led to any measurable change in our culture, and—thanks to a new study—it’s clear that it’s making a difference. The Fawcett Society, a British charity focused on gender equality and women’s rights, published the study on October 2, 2018. To reach their conclusions, researchers from the society looked at survey results from 2,056 adults across the U.K. The researchers found that 53% believe that the threshold for acceptable behavior has changed since the #MeToo movement began. And, in even more good news, more than half of respondents age 18-34 said they were more likely to call out sexual harassment. This figure includes 58% of young men. But the findings weren’t all positive. The study found that while people 55 and older were likely to think that the boundaries for behavior had changed, they were less likely than younger people to talk about sexual harassment or call it out when they see it. According to the results, older men were 27% less likely than younger men to say that their thoughts about acceptable behavior had changed as a result of #MeToo. While the results of the study are encouraging, the Fawcett Society noted that society still has work to do in order to prevent sexual harassment. In May 2018, a survey from the American Psychological Association found that only 32% of Americans felt their employers had made changes to address workplace harassment.

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Criticism of #MeToo:

  1. Undefined purpose

Some feminists and women criticized the movement. There has been discussion about whether the movement is meant to inspire change in all men or just a percentage of them, and what specific actions are the end goal of the movement. Other women have stated #MeToo should only be examining the worst types of abuse in order to prevent casting all men as perpetrators, or causing people to become numb to the problem.

  1. Overcorrection

Richard Ackland, a lawyer and award-winning journalist, described the response to defamation cases “an asphyxiating vortex of litigation”.  There has been discussion on whether harsh consequences are warranted for particular examples of alleged misconduct. An especially divisive story broke on Babe.net on January 13, 2018 when an anonymous accuser detailed the events of her date with Aziz Ansari and referred to what transpired as “sexual assault”. Jill Filipovic wrote for The Guardian that “it was only a matter of time before a publication did us the disservice of publishing a sensational story of a badly behaved man who was nonetheless not a sexual assailant”. Some actors have admonished proponents of the movement for not distinguishing between different degrees of sexual misconduct.

  1. Possible trauma to victims

The hashtag has been criticized for putting the responsibility of publicizing sexual harassment and abuse on those who experienced it, which could be re-traumatizing. The hashtag has been criticized as inspiring fatigue and outrage, rather than emotionally dense communication.

  1. Not including sex workers

There have been many calls for the #MeToo movement to include prostituted women and sex trafficking victims. Although these women experience a higher rate of sexual harassment and assault than any other group of people, they are often seen by society as legitimate targets that deserve such acts against them. Autumn Burris stated that prostitution is like “#MeToo on steroids” because the sexual harassment and assault described in #MeToo stories are frequent for women in prostitution.  Melissa Farley argues that prostitution, even when consensual, can be a form of sexual assault, as it can be for money for food or similar items, thus, at least according to Farley, making prostitution a forced lifestyle relying on coercions for food.

  1. Fact-checking

There has been discussion about the extent to which accusers should be believed before fact-checking. Some have questioned whether the accused are being punished without due process confirming their guilt.

  1. Not addressing police misconduct

Despite the prevalence of sexual misconduct, some have pointed out the lack of discussion regarding law enforcement misconduct in the #MeToo movement. Police sexual misconduct disproportionately affects women of color though women from all walks of life are affected. The Cato Institute reported that in 2010, more than 9% of police misconduct reports in 2010 involved sexual abuse, and there are multiple indications that “sexual assault rates are significantly higher for police when compared to the general population.” Fear of retribution is considered one reason some law enforcement officers are not subjected to significant consequences for known misconduct.

  1. Lack of representation of women of color

Many have pointed to a lack of representation of women of color in the #MeToo movement or its leadership. Most historical feminist movements have contained active elements of racism, and have typically ignored the needs of non-white women despite the fact that women of color are more likely to be targets of sexual harassment. Women of color are overrepresented in industries with the greatest number of sexual harassment claims, for example hotels, health, food services, and retail.  It has been pointed out that undocumented women of color often have no recourse if they’re experiencing sexual violence.  Activist Charlene Carruthers said, “If wealthy, highly visible women in news and entertainment are sexually harassed, assaulted and raped—what do we think is happening to women in retail, food service and domestic work?”

  1. Overemphasis on specific cases

The #MeToo movement has been criticized for putting too much public focus on the consequences of specific individuals who have been accused of sexual misconduct, as opposed to discussing policies and changes to institutional norms that would help people who are currently experiencing sexual abuse. It’s been noted that although allegations surrounding high-profile public figures tends to attract the most attention, the stories of regular workers often go unacknowledged.

  1. False allegations

The #MeToo movement is now an undeniable force but a new poll is a reminder that not everyone thinks it’s entirely a force for good. According to a new poll of 6,251 adults released by the Pew Research Center recently, 31% of respondents say that women making false claims about being sexually harassed or assaulted is a major problem in today’s workplace. Another 45% think baseless allegations are a minor problem.

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Sexual harassment in school and colleges:

Note:

Sexual Harassment in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is already discussed earlier in the article.

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Sexual harassment may occur between:

  • Faculty and Students
  • Faculty and Faculty
  • Students and Staff
  • Staff and Faculty
  • Student and Student

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Sexual harassment is a serious problem for students at all educational levels. Students in elementary and secondary schools, as well as vocational schools, apprenticeship programs, colleges and universities can be victims of sexual harassment. This problem is more common than you might think because many students are scared or too embarrassed to report sexual harassment. It is different from flirting, playing around, or other types of behavior that you enjoy or welcome. Sexual harassment can be requests for sexual favors or unwelcome sexual behavior that is bad enough or happens often enough to make you feel uncomfortable, scared or confused and that interferes with your schoolwork or your ability to participate in extracurricular activities or attend classes. Sexual harassment can be verbal (comments about your body, spreading sexual rumors, sexual remarks or accusations, dirty jokes or stories), physical (grabbing, rubbing, flashing or mooning, touching, pinching in a sexual way, sexual assault) or visual (display of naked pictures or sex-related objects, obscene gestures). Sexual harassment can happen to girls and boys. Sexual harassers can be fellow students, teachers, principals, janitors, coaches, and other school officials.

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Sexual harassment in schools includes sexually disparaging comments, unwanted sexual interest, unwanted touching, and sexual coercion. It can involve physical aggression (e.g., unwanted touching, sexual coercion) or verbal aggression (e.g., unwelcome sexual comments, homophobic insults). Also, it can be expressed directly in face-to-face interactions or via electronic messages sent to the victim; or sexual harassment can be expressed indirectly behind the target’s back (e.g., spreading sexual rumors). In general, boys were more likely than girls to be perpetrators of sexual harassment. Among the students experiencing sexual harassment, 66% identified boys, 19% identified girls, and 11% identified a combination of boys and girls as the perpetrators. The attributes associated with students viewed as most likely to be sexually harassed reflected characteristics associated with sexual attractiveness or traditional gender roles. The qualities attributed to girls who were most likely to be sexually harassed included being physically developed (58%), very pretty (41%), not pretty or not very feminine (32%), or overweight (30%). The attributes associated with boys considered most likely to be sexually harassed included being not athletic or not very masculine (37%), overweight (30%), or good looking (11%). According to Hostile Hallways, 83% of the girls and 60% of the boys reported experiencing sexual harassment in school. Sexual harassment is an epidemic in U.S. middle and high schools. In a 2014 study of 1,300 middle school students, University of Florida Professor Dorothy Espelage and colleagues found that one-quarter had experienced verbal and physical sexual harassment. Another survey by Espelage’s team found that 68 percent of high school girls were sexually harassed at least once, compared to 55 percent of boys.

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While sexual harassment often occurs when there is a power differential between two people, it can also happen between peers or colleagues where there is no power difference. Sexual Harassment with girls most frequently reporting being told an embarrassing sexual joke (67% of the sample experienced at least once), being called a nasty or demeaning name (62%), being teased about their appearance (58%), receiving unwanted physical contact (51%), or being teased, threatened, or bullied by a boy (28%). These data suggest that adolescents (both boys and girls) might be sexually harassing peers as a means to gain or maintain high status within their peer networks. Girls are also at increased risk for academic problems, school absenteeism, school disengagement and are more likely to question their own potential happiness in a long-term relationship.

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Nearly two-thirds of students experience some form of sexual harassment during their college education. Sexual harassment is more common on large campuses than smaller ones and more prevalent at four-year colleges than two-year colleges. Sexual harassment is more common at private than public colleges (although public college students are more likely to say it is happening on their campus). Both male and female students can be targets of sexual harassment, although they tend to experience different types of harassment. LGBT students are more likely than their heterosexual peers to experience sexual harassment. Although both male and female students harass, male students are more likely to be named as harassers and to admit to harassing others. Harassers justify their behavior by noting that they thought it was funny or the other person liked it. It is easy to conflate what is normal or common with what is acceptable. Prevalence should not, in and of itself, imply tacit approval. Students do not speak out against sexual harassment for many reasons, even if they are deeply troubled by it.

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Examples:

  1. “I tried to get into a class three times but was always put on the waitlist. When I told the professor that I had to take the class in order to graduate, he told me he could make an exception to the class size if I went out for a drink with him. I really need to take this class, but now the professor scares me. I don’t know what to do.”

-Asking for sexual favors or making unwanted advances in return for academic privileges or considerations can be a form of sexual harassment (quid pro quo).

  1. “One of the women on the first floor of my residence hall taped provocative pictures of naked men and women all over her door. Her room is next to mine—I can’t just avoid her door or pretend the pictures don’t bother me. She teases me because I am obviously uncomfortable with this. It makes me really angry.”

-Posting pictures on a residence hall door that others may find sexually offensive and not responding to requests to remove them may create a hostile environment on the floor. This could be an example of sexual harassment.

  1. “One of my coaches commented on my involvement with sexual assault issues on campus. He asked me if my interests inhibited my sexual experiences with men and if I was lonely at night. This makes me feel uncomfortable. I no longer meet with him in his office.”

-Unwanted conversations of a sexual nature, particularly initiated by someone in a position of authority, can substantially interfere with a student or employee’s educational/work environment and may be an example of sexual harassment.

  1. Mary is a student in Mr. Smith’s history class. Mr. Smith is everyone’s favorite teacher, but he has started to make Mary feel uncomfortable. He asks her to come to his room alone after school to discuss her schoolwork. When she shows up, he only talks about how pretty she is and once or twice he put his hand on her knee. He always asks for a hug before she leaves. He is now suggesting that they hold these after school meetings at a café in town. He tells her that she must continue to attend these extra discussion sessions if she wants to earn a good grade in his class.

-If a teacher or school employee offers you a better grade or treats you better if you do something sexual, that is a type of sexual harassment often called quid pro quo harassment.

  1. Luis gets constant attention from a particular group of girls in his high school. They send him sexually explicit notes, blow kisses at him, and rub up against him in the hallway. They wait for him when he gets off the school bus and when he gets out of class. They always seem to show up wherever he is. Someone keeps calling his house, asking for him and then hanging up, and Luis is sure it’s those girls. He has even seen them drive by his house in the afternoon. At first, he thought it was funny, but it’s starting to embarrass and frustrate him. He’s started to avoid going out so he won’t have to see them, and he’s pretended to be sick a few times so he didn’t have to go to school.

-When unwanted touching, comments, and/or gestures because of your sex are so bad or occur so often that it interferes with your schoolwork, makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe at school, or prevents you from participating in or benefiting from a school program or activity, this is called hostile environment harassment.

  1. Diana’s school soccer team coach is constantly telling her sexual jokes and making suggestive comments. During practice, he whistles and winks at her when she runs by him. Diana told the coach that his behavior makes her uncomfortable, but he responded by saying that she needs to learn how to accept compliments. Recently, he showed her a calendar of bikini-clad female athletes and told her she is sexy enough to pose for such a magazine. She is thinking of quitting the soccer team just to avoid the coach.
  2. Elisha is a student in a science class where Mr. Burns is a teacher-in-training. Elisha uses a wheelchair and usually has to wait for her aide after class. Mr. Burns often waits with her and at first she liked talking with him. He says she inspires him and sometimes strokes her hair. Their conversations have included him asking questions about her body, how it works, and what things she can do. One day he confessed being curious about whether girls like her can have sex when they’re old enough. When Elisha said talking about that with him was weird, he got flustered and said he would make sure she got an A if she didn’t mention their conversation to anyone.

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It is not only acts of harassment that harm girls. It is the expectation that they not resist them. Harvey Weinstein was once a boy. So were Matt Lauer, and Charlie Rose and Louis C.K. Early on, they likely internalized lessons in what experts call toxic masculinity: the expectation that a real man, as sociologist Michael Kimmel says, should “be strong, be tough, and never show [his] feelings.” To be a real man is to be hypercompetitive, get rich at all costs and have sex with women. These messages are delivered by members of a boy’s inner circle: fathers, uncles, coaches, male friends and older siblings. As they get older, boys develop their masculinity by punishing peers who don’t measure up, writes University of Oregon Professor C.J. Pascoe in the book Dude, You’re a Fag. To affirm their maleness, boys stigmatize sensitive peers as “gay” or a “fag,” gossip about girls’ bodies, and brag about sexual experiences.  Victims may respond to the abuse by modifying their own behavior: Espelage and her colleagues found that children taunted with homophobic slurs are more determined to prove their masculinity ― and significantly more likely to perpetrate sexual harassment in order to do it.

Harassment is one of puberty’s darkest, most unreported rites of passage. When adults do step in, it’s often to rebrand a snapped bra or yanked bathing suit as flirtation, a thing a girl might even be encouraged to feel grateful for (“He’s doing that because he likes you!”). As the lines blur between play and aggression, and desire and coercion, perpetrators progress in learning how to carry out harassment ― and victims learn to be silent.

At one high school in Philadelphia, a school counsellor says, a 14-year-old girl pulled out her phone in class to find a Snapchat from a peer asking if she wanted to measure the size of his penis. A therapist in Toronto shared that, during class, a male student texted her 14-year-old patient to ask her to perform oral sex on him in the bathroom. Clinicians say that these incidents are commonplace, not rare.

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#MeTooK12 helps raise awareness of sexual harassment in schools:

The organization Stop Sexual Assault in Schools recently launched the #MeTooK12 campaign to bring greater attention to the issue of sexual harassment in schools, a place where these negative behaviors often take root. A 2015 study of students in the Oakland Unified School District in California, for example, revealed that girls in the district identified sexual assault and harassment as the one of the biggest reasons for chronic absences and suspensions. Schools also need to look at crafting new sexual harassment policies, hiring Title IX coordinators to investigate reports of gender-based discrimination, provide more professional development to teachers on the issue, and place greater emphasis on sexual harassment as a part of anti-bullying programs.

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Sexual harassment on streets (street harassment):

Gender-based street harassment is unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation.  Street harassment includes unwanted whistling, leering, sexist, homophobic or transphobic slurs, persistent requests for someone’s name, number or destination after they’ve said no, sexual names, comments and demands, following, flashing, public masturbation, groping, sexual assault, and rape.

Of course, people are also harassed because of factors like their race, nationality, religion, disability, or class. Some people are harassed for multiple reasons within a single harassment incident. Harassment is about power and control and it is often a manifestation of societal discrimination like sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, classism, ableism and racism. No form of harassment is ever okay; everyone should be treated with respect, dignity, and empathy. Street harassment is a human rights issue because it limits harassed persons’ ability to be in public, especially women’s.

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Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that consists of unwanted comments, gestures, honking, wolf-whistling, catcalling, exposure, following, persistent sexual advances, and touching by strangers in public areas such as streets, shopping malls, and public transportation.  According to the founder of the non-profit organization Stop Street Harassment, it can also consist of physically harmless behavior, such as “kissing noises” and “non-sexually explicit comments,” to “more threatening behavior” like stalking, flashing, sexual assault, and rape.

Recipients include people of all genders, but women are much more commonly victims of harassment by men. According to Harvard Law Review (1993), street harassment is considered harassment done primarily by male strangers to females in public places. In 2014, researchers from Cornell University and hollaback! conducted the largest international cross-cultural study on street harassment. The data suggests that the majority of females have their first street harassment experience during puberty. Street harassment happens without the consent of the harassed and is done with a sense of entitlement or disrespect for that person, as if the harasser has the right to comment on, touch, or follow the harassed person. Street harassers do not care that the person they are harassing has their own thoughts, pursuits, and reasons for being in public. Two common refrains of people who are sick of street harassment are, “My body is not public space,” and “Stop telling women to smile.”

In much of South Asia, public sexual harassment of women is called “eve teasing”. The Spanish term piropos most widely used in Mexico holds a similar effect. Studies show that what is considered street harassment is similar around the globe. Many perpetrators of these actions would not characterize them as harassment, though most recipients would. Harassment can also be disproportionately directed at those with what is perceived by passers-by as a non-typical gender identity or sexual orientation.

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Taking photos of strangers without permission, as street photography and photojournalism practitioners do, is not considered street harassment. Consensual flirting, polite hellos, and respectful small talk are not harassment. Asking someone if it’s okay to talk to them is always a good idea. If they say no, don’t get upset. Leave them alone.

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There is a high prevalence for street harassment to become sexual violence. Worldwide, statistics show that 80% of women endure at least frequent street harassment, 45% feel that they cannot go alone to public spaces, 50% have to cross the street to find alternate routes to their destinations, 26% claim that they are in a relationship in order to avoid harassment, 80% feel the need to be constantly alert when traversing local streets and 19% have had to switch careers to escape the area in which harassment occurred. This problem is not only transnational, but also transcultural and affects people of all identities, races, and ages—everyday.

A representative survey of 2,000 Americans was commissioned in 2014 by activist group Stop Street Harassment and conducted by GfK. 65% of women and 25% of men reported having been the victims of street harassment in their lives. 41% of women and 16% of men said they had been physically harassed in some way, such as by being followed, flashed, or groped. The perpetrators are lone men in 70% of cases for female victims and 48% of cases for male victims; 20% of men who were harassed were the victims of a lone woman. For men, the most common harassment was homophobic or transphobic slurs, followed by unwanted following, then catcalling and comments on body parts. For women, the most common harassment was catcalling, followed by comments on body parts, unwanted touching or brushing up against, and then sexual slurs like “bitch” or “slut”.

Street harassment often begins around puberty.  In a 2014, nationally representative survey of street harassment in the USA, half of harassed persons were harassed by age 17.  In an informal international online 2008 study of 811 women conducted by Stop Street Harassment, almost 1 in 4 women had experienced street harassment by age 12 (7th grade) and nearly 90% by age 19.  While street harassment often occurs on a more frequent basis for teenagers and women in their 20s, the chance of it happening never goes away and women in their 80s have shared stories.

66% of LGBT respondents in a 2012 European Union survey said that they avoid holding hands in public for fear of harassment and assault. 50% said they avoid certain places or locations, and the places they listed as most unsafe to be open about their sexual orientations were “public transport” and “street, square, car parking lot, or other public space.”

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Motivation of street harassment:

In some cases, men may enjoy the thrill of doing something illegal or taboo, and some may experience sexual gratification from groping, flirting, or sexual humiliation. Negative remarks can also be the result of transphobia or homophobia. Australian reporter Eleanor Gordon-Smith recorded interactions in the 2010s in Kings Cross, New South Wales, and found that men who catcalled women enjoyed getting attention, flirting, and the public performance. The men were also under the impression that the women who were the subject of their remarks and gestures enjoyed the attention and believed they were helping the women have a good time or were giving a compliment about physical appearance that would be appreciated. The vast majority of women in the area, in contrast, found such conduct degrading, wished they could avoid it, and worried that it could escalate into a physical assault. Gordon-Smith pointed out that pretending to enjoy the attention was one way to avoid provoking an escalation which could lead to a physical attack.

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Does street harassment matter?

  1. It signals a lack of safety and impacts lives.

Street harassment keeps many harassed people from feeling safe in public spaces. It can dictate where they go, when, with whom, and how they dress. It can impact their hobbies and habits, their routes and routines. It even causes some people to move or quit jobs because of harassers in the vicinity.

  1. It has an emotional and psychological toll.

A 2008 study featured in the Journal of Social Justice Research found that street harassment was positively related to women objectifying themselves. Multiple studies have linked self-objectification with an increase in rates of depression, anxiety, and eating disorders as well as lower academic achievement. A 2007 report by the American Psychology Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls found that girls are socialized by the media, parents, and peers to believe that their worth is their sexuality and ability to please men. The report listed scores of negative effects from such sexualization, including impairments to girls’ and young women’s physical and mental health. Street harassment reinforces this belief.

  1. It prevents equality.

No country has achieved gender equality, nor have they reached equality for members of the LGBT community. Street harassment is a symptom of that inequality, and it keeps harassed persons from fully participating and thriving in the world. If we want to see equality for every person, we must work to end street harassment.

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Sexual harassment on internet:

Sexual harassment on the Internet can occur in a variety of ways and through a variety of mediums.

Some of these mediums include, but are not limited to:

  1. Chat rooms;
  2. Internet forums/message boards;
  3. Social networking sites;
  4. Instant messaging;
  5. E-mail;
  6. Avatars;
  7. Flame wars
  8. Internet Advertising
  9. Redirected/automatic linking
  10. Spam
  11. Pop-ups

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A common form of sexual harassment on the Internet occurs when a harasser sends unwanted, abusive, threatening, or obscene messages to a victim via e-mail or instant messaging.  Another common form of Internet harassment occurs when a victim is subject to unwanted, abusive, threatening or obscene messages and/or comments on internet forums, blogs, and discussion boards.

The majority of sexual harassment activity on the Internet can be categorized into one of the following:

  1. Gender Harassment:

Gender harassment can be communicated in both verbal and graphic forms. It is often described as “unwelcome verbal and visual comments and remarks that insult individuals because of their gender or that use stimuli known or intended to provide negative emotions.”  Verbal gender harassment refers to offensive sexual messages aimed towards a victim that are initiated by a harasser.  Such offensive messages include gender-humiliating comments, rape threats, and sexual remarks which are unwelcome, and are neither invited nor consensual. Verbal harassment can be either passive or active depending on whether the harasser targets a specific victim (active) or targets potential receivers (passive). Graphic gender harassment refers to the intentional sending of erotic, pornographic, lewd, and lascivious images and digital recordings by a harasser to specific or potential victims.  Graphic harassment often occurs via email, instant messaging, redirected/automatic linking, and pop-ups.

  1. Unwanted Sexual Attention:

Unwanted sexual attention on the Internet occurs when a harasser uses direct personal communication to harass a victim.  Additionally, the harasser uses personal communication to convey messages directly relating to sex and/or sexuality which are unwanted or unwelcome by the victim.  Such messages often:

-refer to the victim’s sex organs;

-refer to the victim’s sex life

-refer to intimate subjects

-impose sex-related images or sounds; or

-insinuate or offer sex-related activities.

Furthermore, a harasser who uses unwanted sexual attention to harass a victim online, intends to solicit sexual cooperation from his/her victim either on the Internet or in person.

  1. Sexual Coercion:

Sexual coercion is the least common form of sexual harassment encountered on the Internet. Sexual coercion uses various means online to obtain sexual cooperation by placing pressure on a victim.  This pressure is often achieved by the use of explicit threats of harm directed towards the victim or relatives and friends of the victim.

Sexual coercion is substantially seen more in cyberstalking.

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In June 2014, the Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel conducted a nationally representative survey of internet users’ experiences with online harassment. The survey found that:

  • 40% of internet users have personally experienced online harassment.
  • Social media is the most common way that users experience harassment. Online gaming communications, websites’ comments sections, and email are other common venues.
  • Young adults between ages 18-24 are most likely to experience it; 70% reported having been the target of some kind of online harassment. Young women are most likely to experience severe forms of harassment; 26% have been stalked online, and 25% have been the target of online sexual harassment.
  • 38% of people who have experienced online harassment said that a stranger was responsible for their most recent incident, and 26% said that they did not know the real identity of the perpetrator.
  • 37% of those who have experienced more severe forms including sexual harassment, stalking, physical threats, or sustained harassment reported that the incident was “extremely” or “very” upsetting. About 33% felt that their reputation had been damaged by the experience.

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In a recent study in the journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, they surveyed 1015 students between the ages of 11 and 19. Over 300 had experienced sexual harassment through social media within the previous six months. The study defined harassment as unwelcome or graphic “sexual and gender-degrading comments.” Only 60% reported the abuse to social media providers and only half of them responded — while the offending content was removed in only 18 cases.

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Severe Sexual Harassment on Social Networking Sites: Belgian Adolescents’ Views, a 2015 study:

Online sexual harassment is increasingly encountered by adolescents and is associated with various negative psychosocial outcomes. In particular, social networking sites (SNSs) may facilitate sexual harassment. This study used focus groups to examine sexual harassment on SNSs from adolescents’ (aged 12–18 years) point of view: what do they perceive as severe cases and who do they think should play a role in addressing them. The qualitative data suggested that sexual harassment was appraised as more severe when it concerned personally targeted gender harassment, situations with restricted escape possibilities, the use of insulting words, the non-consensual use of pictures for sex-related purposes, or frequent adult-initiated sexual attention. Adolescents think that educating potential victims and harassers is important. In addition, SNS providers can play a crucial role in decreasing the impact of sexual harassment by providing a safe environment and by warning or sanctioning harassers.

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What can you do when you’ve been sexually harassed online?

  1. Document the Wrongdoing: The first thing is to document what happened. Screenshots are an excellent way to do this.
  2. Report the Wrongdoing: Report the inappropriate behavior to the platform. If the sexual harassment was made by someone employed by a large company, reach out to the company executives or human resource department and report the conduct. Don’t text or email. Send your complaint in writing. This way they will know you have documentation that your complaint was received. This is called “legal notice,” and it’s a big thing in the legal world. It requires companies to take action.
  3. Block the Wrongdoer: Use technology to delete this person from your life.

If the online business related sexual harassment has caused you or your business harm, think about lawyering up. In addition to sexual harassment claims, there are many related causes of action that you may be able to assert against the wrongdoer such as interference with economic relationships, defamation, fraud and emotional distress.

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Sexual harassment by Priests and God-men:

Catholic Church sexual abuse cases:

Cases of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests, nuns and members of religious orders in the 20th and 21st centuries has been widespread and has led to many allegations, investigations, trials and convictions, as well as revelations about decades of attempts by the Church to cover up reported incidents. The abused include boys and girls, some as young as 3 years old, with the majority between the ages of 11 and 14. The accusations began to receive isolated, sporadic publicity from the late 1980s. Many of these involved cases in which a figure was accused of decades of abuse; such allegations were frequently made by adults or older youths years after the abuse occurred. Cases have also been brought against members of the Catholic hierarchy who covered up sex abuse allegations and moved abusive priests to other parishes, where abuse continued.  By the 1990s, the cases began to receive significant media and public attention in some countries, especially in Canada, the United States, Australia and, through a series of television documentaries such as Suffer The Children (UTV, 1994), Ireland. A critical investigation by The Boston Globe in 2002 led to widespread media coverage of the issue in the United States, later dramatized in Tom McCarthy’s film Spotlight. Over the last decade, widespread abuse has been exposed in Europe, Australia, Chile, and the USA.  From 2001 to 2010 the Holy See, the central governing body of the Catholic Church, considered sex abuse allegations involving about 3,000 priests dating back fifty years, reflecting worldwide patterns of long-term abuse as well as the Church hierarchy’s pattern of regularly covering up reports of abuse. Diocesan officials and academics knowledgeable about the Roman Catholic Church say that sexual abuse by clergy is generally not discussed, and thus is difficult to measure. Members of the Church’s hierarchy have argued that media coverage was excessive and disproportionate, and that such abuse also takes place in other religions and institutions, a stance that dismayed critics who saw it as a device to avoid resolving the abuse problem within the Church.  In a 2001 apology, John Paul II called sexual abuse within the Church “a profound contradiction of the teaching and witness of Jesus Christ”. Benedict XVI apologised, met with victims, and spoke of his “shame” at the evil of abuse, calling for perpetrators to be brought to justice, and denouncing mishandling by church authorities. In 2018, Pope Francis began by accusing victims of fabricating allegations, but by April was apologizing for his “tragic error” and by August was expressing “shame and sorrow” for the tragic history, without, however, introducing concrete measures either to prosecute abusers or to help victims.

Nuns also speak of sexual abuse by priests in churches after #MeToo campaign. Nuns are forcing the Catholic Church to face another kind of sexual scandal among its clergy: the abuse of “religious sisters by priests and bishops”. In November 2017, the hashtag #ChurchToo was started by Emily Joy and Hannah Paasch on Twitter and began trending in response to #MeToo as a way to try to highlight and stop sexual abuse that happens in a church. In early January 2018, about a hundred evangelical women also launched #SilenceIsNotSpiritual to call for changes to how sexual misconduct is dealt with in the church. #ChurchToo started spreading again virally later in January 2018 in response to a live-streamed video admission by Pastor Andy Savage to his church that he sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl twenty years before as a youth pastor while driving her home, but then received applause by his church for admitting to the incident and asking for forgiveness.

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Mosque Me Too:

The Mosque Me Too movement (#MosqueMeToo) is predominantly a Muslim women movement where female pilgrims speak up about sexual abuse experienced on the Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to one of Islam’s holiest places, Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The movement spread to Muslim women sharing sexual abuse experiences at other Muslim religious centers and holy places across the world such as at Jama Masjid, New Delhi, India. The usage of the ‘Me Too’ in the movement stems from the Me Too movement which gained worldwide prominence in October 2017.

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The dark side of India’s self-styled God-men:

An increasing number of so-called “spiritual” gurus or “godmen” in India are implicated in ghastly crimes ranging from sexual abuse to murder. It is not uncommon for the sprawling network of godmen, gurus and swamis in India to commit sexual crimes. Strangely, millions of Indians seem to be in thrall of these smooth-talking “godmen” who have built vast empires preying on their gullibility. Few years ago police had to battle the supporters of Rampal Singh Jatin, a controversial guru from the northern state of Haryana before they could arrest him. Their investigations uncovered sordid details about the supposedly holy man’s sex life – a world of abuse and excess that was just as remarkable as his sprawling abode. He preferred “hostesses,” whom he called “sadhikayaen” and during the raids police recovered pregnancy kits from Rampal’s room, besides sexual potency drugs.  Another self-styled spiritual godman, Asaram Bapu, was arrested in 2013 after a teenage girl accused him of rape. She claimed that the guru lured her by promising to cleanse her of evil spirits. Mahendra Giri, 65, was also arrested in 2013 for illegally confining and repeatedly raping a 24-year-old woman at his ashram over four months. Apparently, the victim’s husband and mother-in-law were his accomplices. All three have now been imprisoned. In 2010, controversial Hindu godman Swami Nityananda was arrested after a leaked video showed him engaging in sexual activities with an actress from southern India. Godmen like Gurmeet Ram Rahim raped in the name of faith.  Preying on women becomes a power trip as the female ‘devotee’ is turned into a glorified sex slave. Recently a 23-year-old law student in the southern state of Kerala chopped off the genitals of a self-proclaimed holy man who tried to rape her and who she alleged has been sexually assaulting her for the past eight years. She realized that there was no other way to escape her tormentor.

Indians are great believers in miracles and feel that somebody can get them out of their miseries. This is the prime reason they fall for these godmen.  Starting out as small time preachers from villages and towns in the country’s rural hinterland, these so-called holy men cultivate a relationship with poor locals and over time, they acquire cult status commanding a huge following (and sometimes even political connections) to camouflage their nefarious activities. From Asaram of Rajasthan to Nityananda, to Rampal of Haryana or Ganeshananda Theerthapada of Kerala, sexual oppression forms the matrix of these godmen’s “spirituality”, and women – often from families desperate to believe in the Baba, are pushed into what can only be described as a life of a glorified sex slave.

In a 2013 essay for the Open magazine, Mihir Srivastava had chalked a variety of experiences that the victims of different godmen had shared with him. Hidden behind anonymity, the women, and sometimes even men, opened up about the power trip that the godmen wants to feel, while lulling the victims into a sexual trance, often mixed with psychotropic substances mixed in the smoky setting. Srivastava went through a number of FIRs, testimonies of victims, views of sociologists and psychoanalysts interacting with the godmen and counselling the victims during their rehabilitation. Of course, the first thing he noted was that the rockstar godmen form only the top slice of an elaborate and many-tiered system, in which “yogis, maulvis, fakirs, gurus, swamis, pastors and priests who make mystical claims and hold devotees in awe … operate as sexual predators”. Srivastava notes the general observation among the social psychologists that voyeurism, paraphilia, sexual gratification through elaborate rituals, paedophilia, and rape become standard operating procedure for the godmen. In fact, much in the loose Indian esoteric tradition of tantra is coopted to exploit gullible women from families all too keen to believe in the guru, having developed a strong dependency and trust syndrome bordering on the irrational. Women, young girls, virgins and teenagers are often willingly offered by families who want the guru’s advice on various matters, and sacrifice the girl to be a “sadhvi” at the ashram or dera, a job description cunningly hiding the actual sexual abuse component deeply entangled in it.

While sexual abuse and systemic rape has been documented among ISIS’ enslavement of Yazidi women, or among Boko Haram terrorists who rape women for recreation and also to use them as terror breeding factories, the murderous component of the Indian godmen’s sexual exploits is relatively less.

Mihir Srivastava mentions sociologist Sanjay Srivastava, who says “The disciples are abject in front of the guru”. This abjection creates an automatic power structure in which the guru is supreme and unquestionable, and serving the guru is made to be the only source of salvation. Much like in the cases of the god-king and the “divine sanction” that such feudal orders espoused, the godmen evoke the same unchallenged god-like aura for the devotees, particularly the women, to be drawn to them, without realising how their consent hadn’t been sought even when there was perhaps no resistance from the victims. The question of consent doesn’t arise because consent presumes sexual activity between “equals” and the godman considers over and above the mortals who serve him, so that he can give them the smattering of hope and delusion. So rape becomes the only way the godmen exercise and vent their sexual energies, to suit their larger-than-life images.

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Sexual Harassment of the disabled:

People with disabilities are sexually assaulted at nearly three times the rate of people without disabilities. A 2005 survey of people with disabilities indicated that 60 percent of respondents had been subjected to some form of unwanted sexual activity. Unfortunately, almost half never reported the assault. In general, people with disabilities experience domestic and sexual violence at higher rates than people who do not have a form of disability. Consider the following:

  • 83% of women with disabilities will be sexually assaulted in their lives.
  • Just 3% of sexual abuses involving people with developmental disabilities are ever reported.
  • 50% of girls who are deaf have been sexually abused compared to 25% of girls who are hearing; 54% of boys who are deaf have been sexually abused in comparison to 10% of boys who are hearing.
  • Women with a disability are far more likely to have a history of undesired sex with an intimate partner – 19.7% vs. 8.2%.
  • Approximately 80% of women and 30% of men with developmental disabilities have been sexually assaulted – half of these women have been assaulted more than 10 times.

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Role of consent in sexual harassment of disabled:

Consent is crucial when any person engages in sexual activity, but it plays an even bigger, and potentially more complicated role when someone has a disability. Some disabilities may make it difficult to communicate consent to participate in sexual activity, and perpetrators may take advantage of this. People with disabilities may also not be given the same education about sexuality and consent that people without disabilities receive. In addition, someone who has a developmental or intellectual disability may not have the ability to consent to sexual activity, as defined by the state laws. In many instances, the person who has a disability may rely on the perpetrator for care or support, making it even more difficult to come forward. Take steps to reduce the risk of something happening to a loved one by asking prospective caregivers questions about safety and standards of care.

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Impact and effects of sexual harassment:

As the Commission of the European Union states, “sexual harassment pollutes the working environment and can have a devastating effect upon the health, confidence, morale and performance of those affected by it. The anxiety and stress produced by sexual harassment commonly leads to those subjected to it taking time off work due to sickness, being less efficient at work, or leaving their job to seek work elsewhere. Employees often suffer the adverse consequences of the harassment itself and short- and long-term damage to their employment prospects if they are forced to change jobs. Sexual harassment may also have a damaging impact on employees not themselves the object of unwanted behaviour but who are witness to it or have a knowledge of the unwanted behavior.” “There are also adverse consequences arising from sexual harassment for employers. It has a direct impact on the profitability of the enterprise where staff take sick leave or resign their posts because of sexual harassment, and on the economic efficiency of the enterprise where employees’ productivity is reduced by having to work in a climate in which individuals’ integrity is not respected.” “In general terms, sexual harassment is an obstacle to the proper integration of women into the labour market.”

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The impact of sexual harassment can vary. In research carried out by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, 17,335 female victims of sexual assault were asked to name the feelings that resulted from the most serious incident of sexual assault that they had encountered since the age of 15. Anger, annoyance, and embarrassment were the most common emotional responses, with 45% of women feeling anger, 41% annoyance, and 36% embarrassment. Furthermore, close to one in three women (29%) who has experienced sexual harassment have said that they felt fearful as a result of the most serious incident, while one in five (20%) victims say that the most serious incident made themselves feel ashamed of what had taken place. In other situations, harassment may lead to temporary or prolonged stress or depression depending on the recipient’s psychological abilities to cope and the type of harassment and the social support or lack thereof for the recipient. Psychologists and social workers report that severe or chronic sexual harassment can have the same psychological effects as rape or sexual assault. Victims who do not submit to harassment may also experience various forms of retaliation, including isolation and bullying. As an overall social and economic effect every year, sexual harassment deprives women from active social and economic participation and costs hundreds of millions of dollars in lost educational and professional opportunities for mostly girls and women.

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Sexual harassment, especially in repeated events, does great harm to individuals physically, psychologically, and vocationally. Women who have been victims of sexual harassment often describe many of these symptoms, and these symptoms feel akin to extreme stress.

Some of the specific psychological side effects of sexual harassment include:

  • Insecurity, low self-esteem, and feelings of powerlessness
  • Fear, frustration, anger, and irritability
  • Self-blame, shame, or guilt
  • Isolation
  • Depression, shock, or denial
  • Anxiety

Although sexual harassment may not have physical interaction, it can cause physical side effects due to stress such as:

  • Headaches or migraines
  • Night terrors, nightmares, or trouble sleeping
  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Lethargy
  • Sexual problems; lack of drive or ability
  • Skin reactions
  • Digestive or gastrointestinal issues
  • Panic attacks
  • Development of phobias

Because of the undue stress both physically and mentally, many victims of sexual harassment become forced to leave or change their academic programs, job assignments, career goals and paths, or jobs. This can also lead to career-related side effects such as:

  • Decreased interest in job performance
  • Poor job performance evaluations
  • Termination or loss of promotion chance
  • Demotion
  • Sharp decline in work performance or academic work
  • Frequent absenteeism
  • Change in career goals or path without warning
  • Withdrawal from work, school, or even social situations

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According to data compiled by Equal Rights Advocates, a women’s law center in the U.S., 90 to 95% of sexually harassed women suffer from some debilitating stress reaction, including anxiety, depression, headaches, sleep disorders, weight loss or gain, nausea, lowered self-esteem and sexual dysfunction.  In addition, victims of sexual harassment lose $4.4 million dollars in wages and 973,000 hours in unpaid leave each year in the United States.

The consequences to working women as a group are no less serious.  Sexual harassment has a cumulative, demoralizing effect that discourages women from asserting themselves within the workplace, while among men it reinforces stereotypes of women employees as sex objects.  Severe or pervasive sexual harassment in certain types of businesses creates a hostile or intimidating environment that causes women to leave their jobs and look elsewhere for work or discourages them from seeking those jobs in the first place. The effect on the morale of all employees can also be serious.  Both men and women in a workplace can find their work disrupted by sexual harassment even if they are not directly involved.  Sexual harassment can have a demoralizing effect on everyone within range of it, and it often negatively impacts company productivity on the whole.

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Sexual Harassment damages Women’s Health:

Victims of sexual harassment can experience strained relationships in the workplace, but are also at risk for numerous health problems. Here are some health effects of sexual harassment:

  1. Depression:

Victims of sexual harassment can experience long-term depression, according to Blackstone. In a recent study of 1,000 youths, Blackstone found that people sexually harassed in their teens and early 20s can experience depressive symptoms into their 30s. Many people who experience sexual harassment have feelings of self-doubt, Blackstone said. “For some people, that self-doubt turned into self-blame,” she said, and victims can feel responsible for what happened. Such self-blame may have a negative effect on mental health, including promoting feelings of depression.

  1. Post-traumatic stress disorder:

Many studies have found a link between experiences of sexual harassment and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which includes re-experiencing the trauma, and avoiding people or things that may remind the victim of the harassment. In fact, women in the military who are sexually harassed are up to four times as likely to develop PTSD as women exposed to a traumatic event in combat, according to a 2009 study in the journal Law and Human Behavior. Those researchers found that experiences of sexual harassment were significantly correlated with PSTD symptoms in 450 women who were interviewed. The link held even after the researchers took into account previous psychological distress and trauma.

  1. Blood pressure:

Sexual harassment boosts blood pressure, according to a 2008 study. The study included about 1,200 union workers from Boston who were surveyed about workplace abuse in the past year and given a health exam. About 23 percent of the workers reported at least one incident of sexual harassment. The researchers found a significant correlation between sexual harassment and elevated blood pressure in women. Sexual harassment may trigger the same type of physiological reactions as stress, which is thought to raise the risk of cardiovascular disease.

  1. Sleep problems:

Sexual harassment has been linked to sleep disturbances, said Debra Borys, a psychologist with a private practice in Westwood Village, Calif. This may be because the stress and anxiety of the event affects sleep habits. For instance, victims may lie awake at night ruminating about the event, or the event may be the source of nightmares, Borys said.

  1. Suicide:

A 1997 study of more than 1,000 Canadian high school students suggested sexual harassment may lead to suicidal behaviors. The study found that 23 percent of students had experienced at least one incident of unwanted sexual touching, sexual threats or remarks, or indecent exposure in the past six months. Of women who had experienced frequent, unwanted sexual touching, 15 percent said they had made suicidal attempts “often” in the past six months, compared with 2 percent of students that had not experienced sexual harassment.

  1. Neck Pain:

Sexual harassment leads to physical aches and pains, according to a Canadian study published recently that involved nearly 4,000 women. In the study, women with neck pain were 1.6 times more likely to report having experienced unwanted sexual attention. If confirmed by future research, the findings suggest that interventions to prevent harassment in the workplace may decrease bone- and muscle-related problems for employees, the researchers said.

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Outcomes of sexual harassment for individuals:

Sexual harassment undermines women’s professional and educational attainment and mental and physical health. Negative outcomes are evident across lines of industry sector, occupation, race, ethnicity, and social class, and even when women do not label their experiences as “sexual harassment.” When women experience sexual harassment in the workplace, the professional outcomes include declines in job satisfaction; withdrawal from their organization (i.e., distancing themselves from the work either physically or mentally without actually quitting, having thoughts or intentions of leaving their job, and actually leaving their job); declines in organizational commitment (i.e., feeling disillusioned or angry with the organization); increases in job stress; and declines in productivity or performance. When students experience sexual harassment, the educational outcomes include declines in motivation to attend class, greater truancy, dropping classes, paying less attention in class, receiving lower grades, changing advisors, changing majors, and transferring to another educational institution, or dropping out.

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The greater the frequency, intensity, and duration of sexually harassing behaviors, the more women report symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety, and generally negative effects on psychological well-being. The more women are sexually harassed in an environment, the more they think about leaving, and end up leaving as a result of the sexual harassment. The more power a perpetrator has over the target, the greater the impacts and negative consequences experienced by the target. For women of color, preliminary research shows that when the sexual harassment occurs simultaneously with other types of harassment (i.e., racial harassment), the experiences can have more severe consequences for them. Sexual harassment has adverse effects that affect not only the targets of harassment but also bystanders, coworkers, workgroups, and entire organizations. Women cope with sexual harassment in a variety of ways, most often by ignoring or appeasing the harasser and seeking social support. The least common response for women is to formally report the sexually harassing experience. For many, this is due to an accurate perception that they may experience retaliation or other negative outcomes associated with their personal and professional lives.

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Numerous robust studies have documented links between sexual harassment and declines in psychological and professional well-being. As a result, researchers have established a conceptual model of the factors that predict sexual harassment experiences and the outcomes associated with sexual harassment experiences as seen in the figure below.

Overall, the research has demonstrated that women’s experiences of sexual harassment are associated with reductions in their professional, psychological, and physical health. The research also shows that the relationships between sexual harassment and these outcomes remain significant even when controlling for (1) the experiences of other stressors (e.g., general job stress, trauma outside of the work, etc.), (2) other features of the job (occupational level, organizational tenure, workload), (3) personality (negative affectivity, neuroticism, narcissism), and (4) other demographic factors (age, education level, race) (Cortina and Berdahl 2008). Some research also shows that sexual harassment has stronger relationships with women’s well-being than other job-related stressors, which emphasizes just how significant this issue is in educational and work settings (Fitzgerald et al. 1997). Other studies, moreover, show that negative effects extend to witnesses, workgroups, and entire organizations. The more often women are sexually harassed in a context, the more they think about leaving (and some do ultimately leave); the net result of sexual harassment is therefore a loss of talent, which can be costly to organizations and to science, engineering, and medicine.

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Research has shown that even low-frequency incidents of sexual harassment can have negative consequences, and that these women’s experiences are statistically distinguishable from women who experienced no sexual harassment (Schneider, Swan, and Fitzgerald 1997; Langhout et al. 2005). Not surprisingly, the research has also shown that as the frequency of sexual harassment experiences goes up, women experience significantly worse job-related and psychological outcomes (Fitzgerald et al. 1997; Schneider, Swan, and Fitzgerald 1997; Magley, Hulin, et al. 1999; Leskinen, Cortina, and Kabat 2011). Relatedly, research has shown that gender harassment (a type of sexual harassment, which tends to occur at high frequencies) can have similar effects as unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion (types of sexual harassment, which tend to be rare). In other words, gender harassment can be just as corrosive to work and well-being (Langhout et al. 2005; Leskinen, Cortina, and Kabat 2011; Sojo, Wood, and Genat 2016). This emphasizes the importance of not dismissing gender harassment as a “lesser,” inconsequential form of sexual harassment. It is also significant to note that the impacts women experience are in no way dependent on them labelling the experience as sexual harassment (Schneider, Swan, and Fitzgerald 1997; Cortina and Berdahl 2008; Magley, Hulin, et al. 1999; Magley and Shupe 2005; Munson, Miner, and Hulin 2001).

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Costs of sexual harassment:

Case histories, experience and research have proven that sexual harassment can involve heavy costs, both to companies and to individuals concerned.

The costs of sexual harassment suffered by employers and consequently the global economy are high. These costs result from absenteeism, reduced job satisfaction and productivity, premature ill health and retirement, higher rates of staff turnover and insurance costs, legal defence and liability for sexual harassment claims.  According to the EEOC, in 1994 the Merit Systems Protection Board, a federal agency that oversee the abuses targeting federal employees, conservatively estimated that “as a result of sexual harassment, job turnover ($24.7 million), sick leave ($14.9 million), and decreased individual ($93.7 million) and workgroup ($193.8) productivity had cost the government a total of $327.1 million.” That’s in addition to settlements. In the United States, it is estimated that “ignoring problems of sexual harassment can cost the average company up to $6.7 million a year in low productivity, low morale, and employee turnover and absenteeism, not including litigation or other legal costs.”  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) indicates that $48.8 million in monetary benefits were provided to filers of sexual harassment claims in 2006; this amount does not include monetary benefits obtained through litigation.

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Costs to companies:

  • Harassment costs companies money by reducing productivity, morale and motivation. If a worker is constantly concerned that the harasser may strike again, she is unlikely to be able to work effectively. At the same time, colleagues who are not involved may be demotivated if they are aware of unacceptable goings-on, or fear possible favouritism.
  • Companies may lose valuable staff. Many women resign rather than go through the unpleasantness of a confrontation. In a division of a company employing many women, where the problem was rife, few women stayed longer than three months. This almost bankrupted the division due to high recruitment and training costs, and poor productivity.
  • The costs of bad decisions due to harassment are difficult to quantify. These include costs of appointing people because of their looks or compliance with “quid pro quo” demands, (rather than skills and competence), costs of perks or unearned increases for favourites, and hotel and travelling costs if women are taken along on business trips or to conferences for personal rather than business reasons. Other examples relate to giving loans or overdrafts unwisely, or placing orders in the hope of gaining the victim’s compliance.
  • High absenteeism among women could also be a result (or even a symptom) of harassment, as the stress caused by such an unresolved problem, or the fear of being harassed again can either cause illness, or encourage women to stay “safely” at home.
  • The knowledge that harassment is permitted can undermine ethical standards and discipline in the organisation in general, as staff lose respect for, and trust in, their seniors who indulge in, or turn a blind eye to, such behaviour.
  • If word gets around that a company allows sexual harassment to go unchecked, the company’s image among its staff, customers and the general public may also suffer.

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Legal costs:

  • Companies can incur legal costs if the problem is ignored. Action may be brought against an employer who knows or ought to know about harassment and fails to take appropriate preventive action. Where there are inadequate channels of complaint, an employer may be held liable even if there was no knowledge of the harassment.
  • If a company has no clear policy on sexual harassment, it may also have problems if it needs to take disciplinary steps against a harasser. Lack of clear definition of unacceptable behaviour would make it easier for a harasser to take the company to court to appeal against disciplinary steps or dismissal. In a case a few years ago a senior manager in a large South African company was dismissed when many years of serious harassment of more than a dozen women came to light.  His behaviour had cost the company heavily in terms of productivity losses, the cost of favours, and company image.  However, when he appealed to the Industrial Court, the company settled out of court because they feared losing the case, as they had had no specific policy or clear definition of sexual harassment at the time.

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Personal costs:

  • The victims usually suffer the highest personal costs, although the perpetrators and even observers can also be harmed if harassment is allowed to go uncontrolled.
  • Few people who have not experienced it personally understand the distress and even terror sexual harassment can cause. Most women experience it as an insult, that undermines their self-confidence and thus also their personal effectiveness. It may also undermine their trust in men and in people in authority.  In the case of women who were sexually abused as children or as adults, another negative experience can cause serious psychological damage.
  • Women who resign because of sexual harassment problems, often have difficulty getting references from their previous employers, or giving reasons for having left their previous jobs; and may thus have difficulty in finding another position. Obviously, this could disrupt such a woman’s entire life.
  • Women who resist harassment or complain, may be victimised, for example, overlooked for promotion. Thus this can hold back their career development and personal growth.
  • The harassers themselves could fall into bad habits if their behaviour is allowed to continue. This can negatively influence their effectiveness at work, their interpersonal relationships, their marriage, and their personal development.
  • Men or women who observe harassment going unchecked may lose trust in their superiors, may feel threatened by the situation if they believe that others are favoured because they play along, or may be tempted to indulge in the same type of behaviour if that appears to be “the rules of the game” in their company.

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Sexual harassment on the job: psychological, social and economic repercussions, a 1984 study:

This article is an effort to shed new light on what has been commonly termed sexual harassment, to identify its forms and, most importantly, to explore its effect upon those who have been subjected to it. The author’s hypothesis is that sexual harassment in the workplace is more a social phenomenon than a personal problem, and that it is the cause of lasting psychological, social and economic after-effects among its victims. Combatting sexual harassment is only part of the solution; we must look beyond its legal aspects to find ways of changing male-female occupational relationships, and we must provide support to victims of sexual harassment.

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The Psychological Impact of Sexual Harassment on Women in the U.S. Military, a 2010 study:

The purpose of this research is to study the prevalence, dimensions, and correlates of psychological harm that women experience as the result of sexual harassment in the workplace. Author employed data collected from a worldwide survey of sexual harassment in the active-duty U.S. military. The scientifically selected sample included over 10,000 working military women. Four general types of negative psychosocial reactions were identified among victims of sexual harassment: productivity problems, attitudes toward the organization, emotional reactions, and relations with family. Analyses explored the relations of these psychosocial reactions to (a) characteristics of the harassing behavior (what happened and who did it), (b) characteristics of the victim, (c) characteristics of the organizational climate in which the harassment took place, and (d) the victim’s coping responses.

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The Economic and Career Effects of Sexual Harassment on Working Women, a 2017 study:

Many working women will experience sexual harassment at some point in their careers. While some report this harassment, many leave their jobs to escape the harassing environment. This mixed-methods study examines whether sexual harassment and subsequent career disruption affect women’s careers. Using in-depth interviews and longitudinal survey data from the Youth Development Study, authors examine the effect of sexual harassment for women in the early career. Authors find that sexual harassment increases financial stress, largely by precipitating job change, and can significantly alter women’s career attainment.

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The effects of non-physical peer sexual harassment on high school students’ psychological well-being in Norway: consistent and stable findings across studies, a 2017 study:

Even the least severe forms of sexual harassment can have serious consequences for high school students who are targeted. Girls struggle the most. “Being exposed to non-physical sexual harassment can negatively affect symptoms of anxiety, depression, negative body image and low self-esteem,” say Associate Professor Mons Bendixen and Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair at NTNU’s Department of Psychology. This applies to derogatory sexual remarks about appearance, behaviour and sexual orientation, unwanted sexual attention, being subject to rumouring, and being shown sexually oriented images, and the like.

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Sexual harassment is a barrier that prevents women from rising through the ranks, Trudeau says in 2018:

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says movements such as Me Too play a role in changing a workplace culture that often keeps women from top-level positions. Speaking at a women’s summit in Toronto, the prime minister said sexual harassment is one of the barriers that can prevent women from rising through the ranks in business and in politics. Asked what the country could do to increase the number of women in senior corporate jobs, Trudeau invoked his own experience in recruiting women to politics so that he could appoint a gender-balanced cabinet, saying it took years of outreach to build his team.

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What is sexual harassment and what is not?

Sometimes understanding what sexual harassment is not can be helpful for someone trying to determine whether they are experiencing sexual harassment. The EEOC weighs in on this, to give an example that does not constitute sexual harassment. According to their website, “simple teasing, offhand comments, isolate incidents that are not very serious” is not illegal sexual harassment. Consensual office relationships that do not occur within your chain of command (e.g. your boss or boss’s boss) also don’t qualify as sexual harassment.

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In a recent poll by Reuters, 3,000 American adults were asked to look at eight different scenarios and define each as sexual harassment or not. On extreme examples, all agreed that it was.

On other examples there was disagreement. For example:

  • On “unwanted compliments about your appearance,” 38 percent said it was sexual harassment, and 47 percent said it wasn’t.
  • On “dirty jokes,” 41 percent said it was, and 44 percent said it wasn’t.
  • On “nonconsensual hugging,” 44 percent said it was, 40 percent said it wasn’t.

The problem is that people come to work with different ideas about what is and is not harassment.

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Is it Harassment?

It’s important to know how to determine whether or not you or another employee is being sexually harassed. To decide whether a behavior is acceptable, questionable or prohibited, follow this guide:

Acceptable:

Joe holds the door for his female co-workers.

Mary tells Jack he did a great job on last week’s reports.

A customer compliments Sue’s new haircut.

Questionable:

Joe touches the back of a female co-worker when he holds the door for her.

Mary touches Jack’s shoulders as she tells him he did a great job on last week’s reports.

A customer touches Sue’s hair as he compliments her haircut.

Prohibited:

Joe makes a comment about women being weak as he holds the door for female co-workers.

Mary suggests she’ll do Jack a ‘favor’ if he performs as well as he did last week.

A customer offers explicit words to compliment Sue’s new haircut, which make her feel uncomfortable.

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The war on sexual harassment quickly devolved into what many called “sexual McCarthyism,” with a growing list of absurd stories of overreaction. A manager at a wastewater treatment plant in Olympia, Washington was suspended for bringing a copy of Esquire magazine for his lunchtime reading, apparently offending a female co-worker with its racy lingerie ads. Another corporate manager was placed on probation for hugging a secretary who had just lost her mother—on a complaint from a co-worker who witnessed the hug. An insurance company manager was demoted with a big pay cut and transferred to a less desirable location after an office administrator unhappy about being denied a raise complained that he had given her humorously bawdy greeting cards—despite undisputed evidence that she had been at least as raunchy with him and other co-workers. A Miller Brewing Co. executive was fired for discussing a “Seinfeld” episode containing some risqué humor. (He sued and won $26 million in damages.)

It’s not just that these incidents were unfair to the men involved. They also contributed to a backlash that undermined legitimate concerns about sexual harassment: the issue came to be widely seen as being about trivial complaints from hypersensitive women and overzealousness rife with anti-male double standards. Nearly twenty years ago, dissident feminist academic Daphne Patai wrote a thought-provoking book titled “Heterophobia: Sexual Harassment and the Politics of Feminism.” Patai argued that while remedies against sexual assault and extortion are essential, it is better to tolerate “the petty annoyance of occasional misplaced sexual attentions” than to endure the repressive vigilance required to stamp out all unwanted or offensive workplace behaviors. It is not sexual harassment when a swimming coach touches his student as necessary while teaching her how to swim. If he touches her outside the pool once the class is over and she feels uncomfortable, it is sexual harassment.

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Some individuals misinterpret harmless, reasonable behavior as malicious and specifically directed at themselves. Psycho-Diagnostically this is called ideas of reference. This would suggest an individual with some type of psychological problem who overreacts to reasonable behavior because of their own perception of the world and the other person. This often occurs in individuals with personality disorders, paranoid disorders, or other psychological problems that might involve delusions or extreme exaggerations of negative events in their lives. Therefore, psychological evaluations in sexual harassment cases also focus on the expectations of the victim, and whether the victim presents with psychological symptoms which result in exaggerated negative conclusions about others.  For example, a person’s boss is of a different sex than the person. The worker believes that the boss is sexist and discriminates against the worker’s sex. The worker requests to work on a specific project, but is not chosen. The worker assumes the choice was based on sexist behavior, rather than merit or chance. The worker experiences a number of events like this over time, and feels harassed because of it, resulting in depression. Is this sexual harassment? The answer depends on many factors, such as alternative reasons for not selecting the worker, whether the worker was selected positively on other occasions, whether other individuals had credentials which led to choosing them instead, and whether other individuals of the same sex as the worker experienced similar problems and perceptions.

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A young IT professional was often teased by her fellow colleagues because of her conservative way of thinking. She felt uncomfortable when her male colleagues would try to be friendly with her and exchange inappropriate jokes and remarks in person or through emails and SMS. She was distressed since this began affecting her work. Finally, she approached her company’s ICC and filed a complaint of sexual harassment. On investigation, it was discovered that there was no malicious intent and her colleagues were only being friendly with her.

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A junior team member approached her senior and indicated that another senior employee from a different division had tried to hold her hand and invited her for dinner. She was uncomfortable, but since this incident happened outside office, she did not have any witnesses or proof. While she was still unsure, she went ahead and flagged the issue. The matter was taken up by the company’s ICC. After a thorough investigation, it was ascertained that the junior team member had raised a malicious complaint. This was because she wanted to change her profile and had approached the senior employee from the other division to help her out. However, he had refused and told her to take it up through the right channels. Upset by his response, she had filed the complaint. She was later dismissed from the company.

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When a co-worker was newly hired, she asked you out for coffee after work. You went once to be friendly, but quickly saw that she was interested in you as more than a friend, so you have declined all invitations since. Now, months later, she sees you in the break room and compliments your new sport jacket, asking if you’ve lost weight. You think she may be hitting on you again, and are unsure if you are being harassed. This is NOT Sexual Harassment. Although you are feeling a bit uncomfortable, your co-worker has not threatened you or made sexually-charged remarks. Yes, she commented on your appearance, but in a way that could be taken as friendly and complimentary. Keep in mind, however, that if these encounters become so frequent and repetitive to the point where you are uncomfortable walking around the office, it could escalate to a hostile work environment sexual harassment case.

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Do men look the same at workplace sexual harassment as women?

Figure below shows difference between men and women about definition of sexual harassment:

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There are differences between men and women in their approach towards workplace sexual harassment. When it comes to quid pro quo (‘this for that’), men and women agree: this is sexual harassment. The difference lies in the grey area of sexual harassment, like the sex jokes among co-workers. Men seem to think these comments are innocent. Besides that men often think that sex proposals should be interpreted as a compliment. Most women experience these proposals as intimidation. Men often see business lunches as a date and they adjust their behavior like they’re having a date instead of just having a meeting.

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A recurring issue from the beginning of social science research on sexual harassment has been the nature of gender differences in the interpretation of social-sexual behavior at work or in academic settings. For example, in an often-cited survey of Los Angeles working adults, Gutek, Nakamura, Gahart, Handschumacher, and Russell (1980) reported that 65.5% of women thought that nonverbal social-sexual behavior at work (e.g., leering, making gestures, and brushing against constituted sexual harassment, but only 35% of men thought so. However, recently across many studies, men and women evidence more agreement than disagreement about what is and what is not sexual harassment. Generally, characteristics of the behavior and situation are more important than rater characteristics in terms of their influence on perceptions or definitions of sexual harassment.

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When Men face Sexual Harassment:

While over half of all women in the workplace report experiencing some form of sexual harassment on the job, the issue of sexual harassment of men is starting to get more media attention. Of the 7,809 sexual harassment charges filed in 2011 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 16.1 percent were filed by men. By 2013, this had risen to 17.6 percent. A USA Today article published recently which looked at the issue of why men don’t file sexual harassment claims, cited federal statistics showing that slightly more than 16 percent of sexual harassment claims were filed by men. The overwhelming majority of claims, more than 80 percent, are filed by women. Despite the serious consequences that can stem from sexual harassment, whether it involves men or women, sexual harassment against men is often not taken that seriously. There has been extensive research looking at how sexual harassment can affect women, both in terms of the emotional consequences and reduced job prospects, but fewer studies have looked at how men are affected.

Both women and men have reported experiencing all three forms of sexual harassment in the workplace, with other men being most likely to be the perpetrators. Men belonging to sexual minorities are particularly vulnerable to this kind of treatment, which can also overlap with displays of outright homophobia.  Employers and employees often expect men to act as masculine as possible, and anything that deviates from that is more likely to get them harassed. For example, men who take time off to care for their children may experience more gender harassment in the workplace as a result. Since women are expected to do most of the actual childcare, men may find their careers affected if they deviate from traditional gender roles. Also, men who openly support feminist causes or who are seen as “unmasculine” may get harassed as well.

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Though most research looking at sexual harassment focuses on women, relatively few studies focus on men who are harassed. A new research study published in the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity tries to address this gap and examine some of the factors that can increase the chances of men facing harassment on the job. Carried out by Kathryn J. Holland of the University of Michigan and a team of fellow researchers, the study surveyed over 600 men and women recruited online and questioned them about their own experiences with harassment. Along with looking at the different ways that men can be harassed, the research study also explored some of the factors that can increase the likelihood of harassment. And the results might be surprising.

In the study, data was collected using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform. Of the 655 men and women surveyed, all of whom reported previous experience with harassment, 326 men were used in the study. Of these, the average age was 32, and most worked full-time in a wide range of different jobs. Twenty percent of the men sampled made $25,000 a year or less, and only 11 percent made more than $100,000 a year.

On average, the people in the study reported experiencing at least one form of gender harassment as part of their working lifetime. This included things such as having someone associated with their work (whether supervisor, coworker, or workplace visitor) engaging in one of eight gender harassment activities, such as “Repeatedly told sexual stories or jokes that were offensive to you,” “Referred to people of your gender in insulting or offensive terms,” etc. Also, the men in the study reported experiencing at least one form of sexual advance harassment in the previous year, including activities such as “Touched you in a way that made you feel uncomfortable” or “Implied faster promotions or better treatment if you were sexually cooperative,” etc.

As expected, the likelihood of experiencing either gender harassment or sexual advance harassment rose sharply in organizations that were more likely to tolerate that kind of behavior. Men who deviated from “traditional” stereotypes of masculinity, whether by belonging to a sexual minority or being actively involved in feminist causes, were far more likely to experience some form of harassment. These study results also demonstrate that backlash was particularly common against heterosexual men who challenge traditional gender roles.

Not surprisingly, sexual harassment, whether in the form of verbal or physical abuse, had a negative effect on job satisfaction and psychological well-being. Still, being active in feminist causes can also help protect against the negative effects of this kind of harassment, since it can make men feel empowered about their basic rights. One key finding for this study was to demonstrate how important organizational policies against sexual harassment are for women and for men. People working for organizations that tolerate harassment are most likely to experience these kinds of incidents, and the negative effects that harassment has on employees can’t be underestimated. Developing gender-fair policies and training programs to curb sexual harassment needs to focus on all the different ways that harassment can occur, including gender harassment of men and women.

Though this particular study was limited to sexual harassment as it occurs in the United States, it is important to develop a better understanding of the kinds of sexual harassment of men and women found in different cultures. Also, this study provides some insight into the impact of widespread ideas about masculine roles and how they can affect people at work. As organizations develop better policies to protect employees from different forms of sexual harassment, it will be important to understand these kind of attitudes and what they can mean for how people relate to each other in the workplace.

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Can and do women harass men?

Potential harassing behavior is a daily occurrence in many places and it’s not always men who are the offenders and women who are the victims. So yes women harass also, never think that women don’t abuse their power the same way as men do. Nowadays more women have superior positions and are also responsible for sexual workplace harassment. You can wonder if these women think that this way of power abuse is normal because they’ve experienced it themselves. And they believe that this behavior is accepted to show who has power and is in control. From 2010 – 2013 the amounts of reports of men who have been sexually harassed at work has been tripled. From these reports we see that 40% of the harassers towards men are men and 60% are women. Try to imagine how difficult it can be for men to step forward. The taboo relates to the subject and not on men or women.

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Combat sexual harassment through four means:

  1. Policy against sexual harassment
  2. Laws against sexual harassment
  3. Employer’s responsibility
  4. Prevention of sexual harassment

All these four means are inter-connected. For example, it is employer’s responsibility to formulate policies against sexual harassment, policies against sexual harassment emerge from laws against sexual harassment, policies and laws can prevent sexual harassment.

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Policy against sexual harassment:

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Sexual Harassment Policy:

Definition: A written policy specifically stating that harassment will not be tolerated at work

Laws concerning sexual harassment are steadily evolving, and your policies on harassment in the workplace need to keep pace. For example, one recent ruling says that a company without a strong anti-harassment policy is likely to be held liable if one of its supervisors commits sexual harassment against an employee.

Any harassment policy should contain:

  • a definition of harassment
  • a harassment prohibition statement
  • a description of your complaint procedure
  • a description of disciplinary measures
  • a statement of protection against retaliation

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Why should I have a sexual harassment policy?

The key to preventing sexual harassment is for employers and management to make it clear to every employee and workplace participant that sexual harassment is unacceptable in the workplace. Employers should ensure that they have in place a clear sexual harassment policy, which is effectively communicated to each workplace participant and is understood. In addition, it is important that appropriate behaviour be modelled by management throughout the workplace. A written policy on its own is not enough. A policy that is not implemented through communication, education and enforcement will be of little or no use in avoiding liability. Most companies have policies against sexual harassment, however these policies are not designed and should not attempt to “regulate romance” which goes against human urges. Ignoring problems of sexual harassment can cost the average company up to $6.7 million a year in low productivity, low morale, and employee turnover and absenteeism, not including litigation or other legal costs. Following clear and proactive formal policies against sexual harassment in the workplace is one way to prevent lawsuits and drops in productivity and efficiency.

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What are the essential elements of a sexual harassment policy?

A sexual harassment policy should include the following:

  • a strong opening statement on the organisation’s stance on sexual harassment
  • an outline of the organisation’s objectives regarding sexual harassment
  • a clearly worded definition of sexual harassment
  • specific examples of sexual harassment that may be relevant to the particular working environment
  • a statement of what is not sexual harassment
  • a statement that sexual harassment is against the law
  • examples of places and times where unlawful sexual harassment may happen e.g. in the office, work conferences, work field trips etc.
  • the consequences for employees if the policy is breached
  • responsibilities of management and staff
  • information on where individuals can get help, advice or make a complaint
  • a brief summary of the options available for dealing with sexual harassment

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Employers should ensure that their complaint procedures:

  • are clearly documented
  • are explained to all employees
  • offer both informal and formal options
  • address complaints in a manner which is fair, timely and confidential
  • are based on the principles of procedural fairness
  • are administered by trained personnel
  • provide clear guidance on internal investigation procedures and record keeping
  • advise a complainant that they can pursue the matter externally with the Australian Human Rights Commission, a state or territory anti-discrimination body or, if it appears to be a criminal matter, the police
  • give an undertaking that no employee will be victimised or disadvantaged for making a complaint
  • are regularly reviewed for effectiveness.

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The ongoing public conversation about sexual harassment has led to a torrent of stories about individual experiences, regressive workplace cultures, and the robust reforms needed to help shift the balance of power between perpetrators and their targets. The #MeToo movement has moved from word of mouth to social media and across the world to build on a campaign launched more than a decade ago by activist Tarana Burke and to create solidarity among survivors of sexual harassment. The movement has catapulted the discussion about the persistence and prevalence of workplace sexual harassment into the headlines: Incidents involving prominent, high-profile figures in entertainment, the media, and politics have dominated the airwaves and spurred calls for decisive action.

For the current movement to be most effective, however, it is critical that policymakers ensure any responsive measures reflect a comprehensive understanding of the breadth and depth of the problem for all workers. Research shows that sexual harassment pervades all industries and occupations, particularly those with a high percentage of low-wage workers—the majority of whom are women. While accusations against high-profile public figures are likely to attract the most attention, regular workers’ stories often go unacknowledged. Yet to ensure meaningful change, these workers’ experiences must be at the center of any policy solutions that lawmakers pursue. There are concrete actions that policymakers can take to achieve progress for all workers who face sexual harassment—especially those who live on the economic margins.

  1. Removing barriers to employment
  2. Empowering survivors
  3. Transforming workplaces to create greater accountability
  4. Strengthening enforcement of sexual harassment laws
  5. Increasing funding for survivor support services
  6. Educating the public about what constitutes sexual harassment
  7. Supporting research on the occurrence of sexual harassment
  8. Lifting up state innovation and best practices

All of the steps discussed above represent pieces of the broader effort to combat sexual harassment. The policymakers have a critical role to play in pursuing policies that can make a difference for all workers—not just those who grab headlines.

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According to Dr. Orit Kamir, the most effective way to avoid sexual harassment in the workplace, and also influence the public’s state of mind, is for the employer to adopt a clear policy prohibiting sexual harassment and to make it very clear to their employees. Many women prefer to make a complaint and to have the matter resolved within the workplace rather than to “air out the dirty laundry” with a public complaint and be seen as a traitor by colleagues, superiors and employers, adds Kamir. Most prefer a pragmatic solution that would stop the harassment and prevent future contact with the harasser rather than turning to the police. More about the difficulty in turning an offense into a legal act can be found in Felstiner & Sarat’s (1981) study, which describes three steps a victim (of any dispute) must go through before turning to the justice system: naming – giving the assault a definition, blaming – understanding who is responsible for the violation of rights and facing them, and finally, claiming – turning to the authorities. Studies show that organizational climate(an organization’s tolerance, policy, procedure etc.) and workplace environment are essential for understanding the conditions in which sexual harassment is likely to occur, and the way its victims will be affected (yet, research on specific policy and procedure, and awareness strategies is lacking). Another element which increases the risk for sexual harassment is the job’s gender context (having few women in the close working environment or practicing in a field which is atypical for women).

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Guidelines for School Administrators:

The responsibility for preserving an appropriate learning environment rests primarily with school administrators. Administrators can take several steps to help eliminate sexual harassment in their schools.

  1. Make the elimination of sexual harassment a top priority. Empower teachers to take a stand against inappropriate name-calling and sexual comments. Talk about the problem, hold in services, and bring in guest speakers to show the entire staff that this issue is important and that harassment is not acceptable adolescent behavior. Elicit staff participation in developing and implementing a plan to educate themselves, the students, and the parents about sexual harassment.
  2. Educate students about sexual harassment. Students must be taught the difference between friendly teasing and bullying, between flirting and harassment. Behavior expectations must be clearly defined and explained; fair and consistent consequences need to be outlined and reinforced.
  3. Get parents involved. Parental involvement is critical to long-term behavior modification. In many cases, parents will need to be educated about sexual harassment and its harmful effects in order to help them identify harassment and respond appropriately. When harassment occurs, parents of victims and perpetrators need to be informed of the details so that the emotional and developmental needs of both parties can be addressed. Family involvement and possibly outside counselling may be needed to avoid long-term emotional damage and to modify inappropriate behavior.
  4. Teach students how to deal with harassment. Ignoring the situation can often lead to a cycle of ongoing harassment and victimization. A perpetrator gets an emotional payoff from seeing others afraid and upset. Students must learn to be assertive and establish strong personal boundaries. They must tell their classmates to stop when their behavior is offensive and inappropriate. Bystanders, too, must speak out against harassment when it occurs. If students become moral spectators, there is little hope for change.

If harassment continues, students need to seek help from teachers, counsellors, and administrators. Students are often embarrassed to report sexual harassment because of its degrading nature. They need to know that the harassment is not their fault, nor is it a reflection on them. They need to keep asking for help until the harassment stops; it may take two or three interventions before the behavior is modified. That students continue to seek help is in the best interests of all: unresolved conflicts can emotionally damage the victim, harden the consciousness of the perpetrator, and possibly lead to lawsuits for the school system. Just as a lifeguard listens and looks for the signs of swimmers in danger, administrators must be on constant vigil to protect students from the needless suffering of sexual harassment. School personnel must never turn a deaf ear to students’ seemingly trivial cries for help. Sexual harassment is not something young people need to learn to tolerate. Rather, it must be confronted and stopped so that schools can be safe and positive places for children to learn.

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Laws against sexual harassment:

Sexual harassment is subject to a directive in the European Union. The United States’ Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states, “It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex.”  In India, the case of Vishakha and others v State of Rajasthan in 1997 has been credited with establishing sexual harassment as illegal. In Israel, the 1988 Equal Employment Opportunity Law made it a crime for an employer to retaliate against an employee who had rejected sexual advances, but it wasn’t until 1998 that the Israeli Sexual Harassment Law made such behavior illegal. In May 2002, the European Union Council and Parliament amended a 1976 Council Directive on the equal treatment of men and women in employment to prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace, naming it a form of sex discrimination and violation of dignity. This Directive required all Member States of the European Union to adopt laws on sexual harassment, or amend existing laws to comply with the Directive by October 2005. In 2005, China added new provisions to the Law on Women’s Right Protection to include sexual harassment. In 2006, “The Shanghai Supplement” was drafted to help further define sexual harassment in China. Sexual harassment was specifically criminalized for the first time in modern Egyptian history in June 2014. Sexual harassment is illegal in Kuwait.

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Laws against sexual harassment in various countries:

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Laws against sexual harassment in the U.S.:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that bars employers from discriminating against their employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion.  In 1980 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission(EEOC) issued regulations defining sexual harassment and stating it was a form of sex discrimination prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the 1986 case of Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, the Supreme Court first recognized “sexual harassment” as a violation of Title VII, established the standards for analyzing whether the conduct was welcome and levels of employer liability, and that speech or conduct in itself can create a “hostile environment”. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 added provisions to Title VII protections including expanding the rights of women to sue and collect compensatory and punitive damages for sexual discrimination or harassment, and the case of Ellison v. Brady resulted in rejecting the reasonable person standard in favor of the “reasonable woman standard” which allowed for cases to be analyzed from the perspective of the complainant and not the defendant.

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Figure below summarizes the elements of sexual harassment under Title VII.

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Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”) is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions, programs, and activities that receive federal financial assistance. The law applies to any academic, extracurricular (student organizations and athletics), research, occupational training, and other educational programs from pre-school to graduate school that receives or benefits from federal funding. Title IX prohibits various forms of sex discrimination in schools, including sexual harassment, gender-based bullying, and sexual violence. Under Title IX, schools are required to have and distribute policies against sex discrimination, and these policies which must specifically address sexual harassment. Creating such a policy lets students, parents, and employees know that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. Schools are also required to adopt and publish grievance procedures for resolving complaints about sex discrimination and sexual harassment. Under Title IX, schools are also supposed to evaluate their current policies and practices to ensure that they are in compliance with the law. Lastly, schools are required to appoint at least one employee to be responsible for making sure that Title IX is followed and enforced.

It is important to recognize that Title IX’s prohibition against sexual harassment does not extend to legitimate nonsexual touching or other nonsexual conduct. For example, a high school athletic coach hugging a student who made a goal or a kindergarten teacher’s consoling hug for a child with a skinned knee will not be considered sexual harassment.  Similarly, one student’s demonstration of a sports manoeuvre or technique requiring contact with another student will not be considered sexual harassment. However, in some circumstances, nonsexual conduct may take on sexual connotations and rise to the level of sexual harassment. For example, a teacher’s repeatedly hugging and putting his or her arms around students under inappropriate circumstances could create a hostile environment.

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Note:

  1. Title IX, Title VII, and case law reflect the inaccurate assumption that a target of sexual harassment will promptly report the harassment without worrying about retaliation. Effectively addressing sexual harassment through the law, institutional policies or procedures, or cultural change requires taking into account that targets of sexual harassment are unlikely to report harassment and often face retaliation for reporting (despite this being illegal).
  2. Educating employees via sexual harassment training is commonly implemented as a central component of demonstrating to courts that institutions have “exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior.” However, research has not demonstrated that such training prevents sexual harassment.
  3. The legal system alone is not an adequate mechanism for reducing or preventing sexual harassment. Even though laws have been in place to protect women from sexual harassment in academic settings for more than 30 years, the prevalence of sexual harassment has changed little in that time. Adherence to legal requirements is necessary but not sufficient to drive the change needed to address sexual harassment. An overly legalistic approach to the problem of sexual harassment is likely to misjudge the true nature and scope of the problem. Sexual harassment law and policy development has focused narrowly on the sexualized and coercive forms of sexual harassment, not on the gender harassment type that research has identified as much more prevalent and at times equally harmful. Much of the sexual harassment that women experience and that damages women and their careers in science, engineering, and medicine does not meet the legal criteria of illegal discrimination under current law.

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The ‘Reasonable Woman’ Versus the ‘Reasonable Person’:

One of the major unresolved issues in sexual harassment law concerns the appropriate perspective by which to judge whether a work environment is sufficiently hostile as to be illegal. Specifically, the question is whether the ‘victim’s perspective’ should take account of sexual harassment, that is, whether the environment should be viewed from the perspective of the ‘reasonable person’ or that of the ‘reasonable woman’.

The argument for a ‘reasonable person’ reflects concern that a ‘reasonable woman’ standard is paternalistic and imposes an obligation on men to conform to a standard of conduct that they cannot understand (Adler and Peirce, 1993). For example, one court, in rejecting the ‘reasonable woman’ standard, stated ‘the ‘reasonable woman’ standard may reinforce the notion that women are ‘different’ from men and therefore need special treatment, a notion that has disenfranchised women in the workplace’ (Radtke v. Everett, 1993).

In contrast, courts adopting the reasonable woman standard have relied upon just the differences that other courts have been reluctant to recognize. As one court stated, ‘conduct that many men consider unobjectionable may offend many women’ (Ellison v. Brady, 1991). The court acknowledged that women differ in their viewpoints but noted that they also ‘share common concerns which men do not necessarily share’ and that ‘women who are victims of mild forms of sexual harassment may understandably worry whether a harasser’s conduct is merely a prelude to violent sexual assault’

There is, of course, a question whether a judge or jury would actually reach different decisions depending upon whether they employ a reasonable- person or reasonable-woman standard. There is mixed empirical evidence on the question. Laboratory studies typically show that the choice of standard has a modest effect in some kinds of cases, with subjects using a reasonable-woman standard being somewhat more likely to label particular conduct as harassing (Wiener et al., 1995; Blumenthal, 1998; Gutek et al., 1999; Wiener and Hurt, 2000). A study of all reported federal cases over a 10-year period found no statistically significant difference in outcomes between cases explicitly relying on a reasonable-woman standard and those employing a reasonable-person standard (Juliano and Schwab, 2001), although the fact that most cases did not identify the standard being employed suggests caution in drawing too much from the null results. Another study examining the decided cases and controlling for a variety of other factors found that courts deciding cases in ‘reasonable woman’ jurisdictions were slightly more likely to find for the plaintiff (Perry et al., 2004).

When the man reasonably (from the perspective of the reasonable man) makes sexual overtures that a woman reasonably (from the perspective of the reasonable woman) finds disturbing or even threatening, who, if anyone, is to blame? The usual answer is that the man is responsible; after all, he has made a sexual advance that was ‘unwelcome’, and sexual harassment doctrine does not make the man’s intent particularly important.

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Love contract:

A love contract is a legal contract that is meant to limit the liability of an employer whose employees are romantically involved. An employer may choose to require a love contract when a romantic relationship within the company becomes known, in order to indemnify the company in case the employees’ romantic relationship fails, primarily so that one party can’t bring a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company. To that end, the love contract states that the relationship is consensual, and both parties of the relationship must sign it. The love contract may also stipulate rules for acceptable romantic behavior in the workplace.

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Laws against sexual harassment in India:

In 1997, the Supreme Court of India in a Public Interest Litigation, defined sexual harassment at workplace, preventive measures and redressal mechanism. The judgment is popularly known as Vishaka Judgment. In April 2013, India enacted its own law on sexual harassment in the workplace – The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. Almost 16 years after the Supreme Court’s landmark guidelines on prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace (known as the “Vishaka Guidelines”), the Act has endorsed many of the guidelines, and is a step towards codifying gender equality. The Act is intended to include all women employees in its ambit, including those employed in the unorganized sector, as well as domestic workers. The Act has identified sexual harassment as a violation of the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India and her right to life and to live with dignity under article 21 of the Constitution; as well as the right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business which includes a right to a safe environment free from sexual harassment. The Act also states that the protection against sexual harassment and the right to work with dignity are universally recognized human rights by international conventions and instruments such as Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, which has been ratified on the 25th June, 1993 by the Government of India.

Formation of Internal Complaint Committee (ICC):

Under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, all employers are required to constitute an Internal Compliant Committee at a workplace by an order in writing. In case the employer has multiple branches or factories or offices, an Internal Committee must be constituted at all administrative units or offices.  An Internal Compliant Committee constituted under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 will have the same powers as vested in a Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 when trying a suit in respect of the following matters:

  1. Summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath.
  2. Requiring the discovery and production of documents.
  3. Any other matter which may be prescribed.

The Internal Compliant Committee could recommend to the employer, the following actions:

  1. Grant such other relief to the aggrieved woman as may be prescribed.
  2. Transfer the aggrieved woman or the respondent to any other workplace.
  3. Grant leave to the aggrieved woman up to a period of three months.

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Can a person go to jail for harassment?

There’s a difference between sexual harassment as a civil claim—what most workplace harassment charges are—and a criminal claim. In a civil claim, although you can be sued for monetary damages, the process will not lead to jail time. However, in some cases, a crime may have been committed, which could lead to criminal charges, and that could result in jail time. Through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, Section 354 was added to the Indian Penal Code that stipulates what consists of a sexual harassment offence and what the penalties shall be for a man committing such an offence. Penalties range from one to three years imprisonment and/or a fine. Criminal charges could include, for example, “forcible touching,” “sexual battery or other offensive touching,” “molestation,” or “rape.”

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Culture of sexual harassment in France:

France’s reluctance to move more aggressively against sexual harassment reflects deeply rooted ideas about sexual relations and the relative power between men and women. There is a longstanding commitment to the notion that the French do gender relations differently — especially from prudish Americans — and that has to do with the French understanding of seduction. Seduction is the alternative to thinking about it as sexual harassment.  Christine Bard, a professor of feminism at the University of Angers, echoed these thoughts. There is an “idealization of seduction ‘à la Française,’ and that anti-feminism has become almost part of the national identity and is seen as a retort to Anglo-American culture,” she said.

Sexual harassment in the workplace was made subject to legal sanction in France starting only in 1992, in the wake of Anita Hill’s accusations during the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas, then a Supreme Court nominee. That controversy riveted France, which created, at about the same time, a civil and a criminal offense of sexual harassment. But the reach of those laws was not matched by vigorous enforcement, labor lawyers say. The effect has been to discourage women from pursuing cases, as reflected in a 2014 survey for France’s Defender of Rights, a government office that helps people enforce their civil rights. The survey found that at least one in five working women said they had confronted sexual harassment. But only 30 percent of them had reported it to management, and only 5 percent ever brought it before a judge. Far more said they had worked in an environment where there were sexist or crude jokes. Ms. Baldeck, the legal professional, notes that many women do not pursue claims “because it is too difficult since the judiciary is so poorly equipped to deal with these complaints.” “In France, 93 percent of complaints of criminal sexual harassment are not followed up on” because of insufficient staffing and funding, she said. There is no French equivalent of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the United States, which can bring cases but which also works directly with companies to resolve them through internal measures before they go to court.

French lawmakers voted in august 2018 to outlaw sexual harassment on the street, introducing fines of up to €750. It bans sexual or sexist comments and behavior that is degrading, humiliating, intimidating hostile or offensive. The bill also steps up sanctions for cyberstalking and outlaws taking pictures or videos under someone’s clothes without consent. The practice, known as “upskirting,” will be punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of 15,000 euros.  President Emmanuel Macron’s government pushed for the changes in the legislation in the wake of the #MeToo movement and said they would take effect in September 2018.

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Employer’s responsibility:

Employers must take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment from occurring. They must also promptly correct any sexually harassing behavior that has occurred. Effectively investigating harassment complaints and promptly intervening are critical to both of those goals. Prevention of the harassing behavior is the ultimate objective. Effective and immediate intervention also serves to minimize the injury to the victim and sends a clear message throughout the workplace that harassment is not tolerated.  Sexual harassment is an issue can easily ruin careers, both women’s and men’s. Companies should be active preventers, not enablers.

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Employers are responsible for the conduct of supervisors and managers. Employers also have a responsibility to protect their employees from harassment by non-employees (e.g., customers, vendors, suppliers, etc.). Managers are liable for sexual harassment between co-workers if they knew or should have known about it and took no steps to stop it. The existence of a company grievance procedure alone does not automatically insulate employers from liability. Employers should also take responsibility to take action against sexual harassment once they are aware it is occurring.  An effective sexual harassment policy stresses the illegality of sexual harassment and delineates a clear and appropriate complaint process while ensuring the confidentiality for the victim. Additionally, such a policy encourages witnesses or victims to report the behavior immediately and mentions that retaliation against persons reporting harassment is illegal and will not be tolerated.  Once finalized, an organization’s sexual harassment policy should be distributed to all employees and a copy posted in an accessible and prominent location. Employers should also consider scheduling seminars or workshops on sexual harassment to promote company-wide knowledge of the policy.

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Employers may be liable for monetary compensation and other forms of relief to employees who are victims of sexual harassment by:

  • the owner or manager;
  • supervisors, whether or not the employer knew of the sexual harassment;
  • co-workers, when the employer knew or should have known of the sexual harassment and failed to take immediate corrective action;
  • non-employees in the workplace when the employer knew, or should have known of the sexual harassment and failed to take immediate corrective action.

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Prevention of sexual harassment:

Hazing is bullying and harassment of a student in school. Sexual harassment and assault may be prevented by secondary school, college, and workplace education programs. At least one program for fraternity men produced “sustained behavioral change”.  Many sororities and fraternities in the United States take preventative measures against hazing and hazing activities during the participants’ pledging processes (which may often include sexual harassment). Many Greek organizations and universities nationwide have anti-hazing policies that explicitly recognize various acts and examples of hazing, and offer preventative measures for such situations.  Anti-sexual harassment training programs have little evidence of effectiveness and some studies suggest that training may in fact backfire, reinforcing gendered stereotypes that place women at a disadvantage.

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What can I do to prevent Sexual Harassment?

It is important to be aware that sexual remarks or physical conduct of a sexual nature may be offensive or can make some people uncomfortable even if you wouldn’t feel the same way yourself.

Follow these guidelines to help avoid making someone else uncomfortable:

  • Do not repeat behavior if you have been told that it is not wanted. If you are in doubt, stop the behavior.
  • Ask if something you do or say is being perceived as offensive or unwelcome. If the answer is yes, stop the behavior.
  • Pay attention to people’s nonverbal reactions.
  • Do not retaliate if someone accuses you of sexual harassment. Retaliation may be considered an additional or separate offense.
  • Speak up at sexist jokes, inappropriate innuendos, offensive gossip, or talk that is objectifying in nature.

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Ways your company can help prevent Harassment in the Workplace:

  1. Start from the top: Have your top leadership report annually on the steps your company is taking to prevent and address harassment. Workplace culture starts at the top and this will send a company-wide message about expectations and ramifications.
  2. Track and monitor: Conduct an annual survey that allows your employees to anonymously disclose workplace harassment. The survey can also ask if employees feel comfortable intervening or reporting harassment, and lastly, whether they understand the company’s policies and complaint process. Use the results to inform internal processes and training.
  3. Prioritize effective training: Conduct regular, in-person, interactive training for all employees on preventing and responding to harassment. The training should help employees and supervisors a) recognize sexual harassment in the context of their specific workplace; b) understand their rights and responsibilities; c) provide tips on how bystanders can speak out and intervene; d) explain how to report harassment as a victim or a witness; e) explain the company’s reporting and investigation process; and f) make clear the consequences for harassing others.
  4. Create a one-stop shop: Make it easy for your employees to find and access your company’s resources on harassment. For example, post on your intranet, internal website, or your employee handbook all relevant information including anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies, avenues for reporting or making a complaint, who to contact for complaints, an explanation of the complaint and investigation process, training materials, and company resources and external resources. This page should be easy to understand and find.
  5. Don’t impose mandatory arbitration requirements: Do not require employees to sign employment agreements that require arbitration of harassment and other discrimination claims and prevent your employees from bringing these claims in court.
  6. Don’t require non-disclosure agreements: Do not require your employees to sign nondisclosure and non-disparagement agreements as a condition of employment, with terms that prevent employees from discussing harassment that they experience, or reporting harassment or assault to enforcement authorities or others outside the workplace.
  7. Provide multiple ways to report harassment: Ensure your company has several avenues for reporting harassment. Include at least one option for anonymous reports, including by witnesses or bystanders.
  8. Be transparent: Ensure that your employees understand the process triggered by a report or complaint, including what an HR investigation entails, how long it will take and the time it will take for HR to follow up and advise the employee of the final resolution. When your employees understand the process and have clear expectations for how it will proceed, they are more likely to trust the process and the result.
  9. Be accountable: Create a mechanism for holding HR accountable for addressing harassment. For example, use performance reviews to assess HR employee’s handling of reports/complaints in a timely, fair and satisfactory manner. If you don’t have an HR department, ensure supervisors and managers are held accountable for responding to and following up on complaints.
  10. Be Prepared: Make sure the company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) providers are trained to provide assistance to victims of sexual harassment and assault, and have a list of referrals to trauma-informed service providers. If you don’t have an EAP, reach out to experts in your community to help you develop a referral list of appropriate service providers.

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UN Women convenes experts on sexual harassment at the workplace in 2018:

What does zero-tolerance to sexual harassment look like?

Feminists, gender experts and UN officials came together to discuss promising practices to curb sexual harassment and assault in a UN Women-organized “Feminist Think Space” from 30 to 31 July in New York. Hosted by Purna Sen, UN Women’s Director of Policy, currently on special assignment as Executive Coordinator and Spokesperson on Sexual Harassment and Discrimination, the two-day event gathered inputs from feminist thought leaders and gender experts to inform UN Women’s ongoing work on sexual harassment as a form and expression of gender inequality. This included UN Women’s engagement with the work of the UN Chief Executives Board High Level Task Force on sexual harassment.

Since its creation by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in November 2017, the Task Force on sexual harassment is working to strengthen prevention and investigation of sexual harassment as well as provide better protection and support to victims. “The data tells us that a lot of women fall by the wayside because the system is too difficult. We have to do better, especially within our own system,” said UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, speaking at the event. “Men become repeat offenders because they can. Now we’re seeing men who were previously untouchable being punished. And that needs to be the norm. You cannot harass hundreds of women over your career and then retire with a bonus and a golden watch and a party,” she added. The global outrage against sexual harassment spurred by #MeToo and other movements has challenged impunity across the world. Countless institutions, including the United Nations, are under scrutiny to end gender inequality and deliver justice and human rights for victims.

Catharine A. MacKinnon, a Professor of Law and a practising lawyer who created and implemented the legal claim for sexual harassment and the concept of “gender crime” at the International Criminal Court, agreed that leadership and survivor-centred policies are crucial for preventing and addressing sexual harassment. “I’ve never met a survivor who didn’t want to tell their story. It is just a question of when, how, to whom, under what conditions. It is our challenge to be worthy of their trust” she said, adding: “There’s a real role for leadership and accountability—people in leadership, people at the top standing up and saying we’re not for this and meaning it.” “Reporting won’t increase until people feel supported by the procedures,” said Ms. Sen. “While we must talk about procedures, we need to talk about how different leadership and cultural change make a difference.”

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Addressing sexual harassment starts at home:

Are you concerned or preoccupied with your children’s sex life? Well, to a certain extent, you should be. The current social climate of numerous allegations of sexual harassment and assault is not only highly concerning, but it also puts into evidence a gap in the education of children with respect to sexual harassment and assault. It is the responsibility of every parent out there to fill that gap. Sexual education alone cannot combat the litany of bad sexual information our children are exposed to on a daily basis. Parents need to do more to present children with a balance and nuanced picture of what is required for a healthy and respectful sex life.

A lot has been said about sexual harassment, and as much as this outrage is happening in a public forum, a lot can and should be said about how we address these issues at home. If we want to create a paradigm shift in how the world views sexual harassment, we need to start affecting change in our own homes and communities and, consequently, the world.  To create a paradigm shift in how the world views Sexual Harassment, we need to start affecting change in our own homes and communities. We need to use our collective powers to influence positive change by looking at how we raise the younger generation. For example, how can we promote new attitudes among teenagers as they grow and discover their own identity. To bring about social change, we need to call out those closest to us when they make sexist jokes or “locker room banter” and we need to teach our children about consent. Parents still consider sex a difficult topic to address with their children but they cannot afford to be complicit. This brings us back to the age-old idea that charity begins at home. For us to promote the employment, participation and retention of women in influential positions and create a culture that prevents sexual harassment from becoming the norm, we need to focus on the examples we set for the young people closest to us.  The focus should be on, among others, offering positive role models as well as equitable opportunities for all.

The premise is that a problem cannot be solved within the same mindset in which it was created.

I quote myself from my article ‘scientific punishment for rape’:

“Libido (sex drive) is a strong instinct. Thoughts about sex are constantly swirling in the minds of most men. Even seers are not exempt from it. Fulfilment of a sexual desire is a natural quest. All men have sexual desire but many do not rape despite getting an opportunity because their neo-cortex is trained by culture, religion, education, society, fear of laws and good upbringing to override sub-cortical sex drives. We ought to teach and train neo-cortex of our teens to control sub-cortical biological sex drive as they reach puberty, and to respect women. Rape is about mind-set of men and we need to change that mind-set.  Better upbringing, better education, better neighbourhood, better peers and better society can change that mind-set”.

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Criticism of policies and laws against sexual harassment:

Jana Rave, professor in organizational studies at the Queen’s School of Business, criticized sexual harassment policy in the Ottawa Business Journal as helping maintain archaic stereotypes of women as “delicate, asexual creatures” who require special protection when at the same time complaints are lowering company profits.  Camille Paglia says that young girls can end up acting in such ways as to make sexual harassment easier, such that for example, by acting “nice” they can become a target. Paglia commented in an interview with Playboy, “Realize the degree to which your niceness may invoke people to say lewd and pornographic things to you–sometimes to violate your niceness. The more you blush, the more people want to do it.”

Other critics assert that sexual harassment is a very serious problem, but current views focus too heavily on sexuality rather than on the type of conduct that undermines the ability of women or men to work together effectively. Viki Shultz, a law professor at Yale University comments, “Many of the most prevalent forms of harassment are designed to maintain work—particularly the more highly rewarded lines of work—as bastions of male competence and authority.”  Feminist Jane Gallop sees this evolution of the definition of sexual harassment as coming from a “split” between what she calls “power feminists” who are pro-sex (like herself) and what she calls “victim feminists”, who are not. She argues that the split has helped lead to a perversion of the definition of sexual harassment, which used to be about sexism but has come to be about anything that’s sexual.

There is also concern over abuses of sexual harassment policy by individuals as well as by employers and administrators using false or frivolous accusations as a way of expelling employees they want to eliminate for other reasons. These employees often have virtually no recourse thanks to the at-will law in most US states.

O’Donohue and Bowers outlined 14 possible pathways to false allegations of sexual harassment: “lying, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, psychosis, gender prejudice, substance abuse, dementia, false memories, false interpretations, biased interviews, sociopathy, personality disorders not otherwise specified.”

There is also discussion of whether some recent trends towards more revealing clothing and permissive habits have created a more sexualized general environment, in which some forms of communication are unfairly labelled harassment, but are simply a reaction to greater sexualization in everyday environments.  There are many debates about how organizations should deal with sexual harassment. Some observers feel strongly that organizations should be held to a zero tolerance standard of “Must report – must investigate – must punish.”  Others write that those who feel harassed should in most circumstances have a choice of options.

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Due process versus media trial:

There are more than a few juries where criminal accusations by “girlfriends” against males were heard and defendants ultimately exonerated. Other juries have found defendants guilty. In any case, however, these juries heard testimony, saw evidence, evaluated arguments, and had the opportunity to figure out what the facts were before applying the law and coming to a verdict of guilt or innocence. That is called due process. In contrast, in our current circus atmosphere of media coverage, there is no such thing as due process. Non-legal charges are broadcast against persons, often beyond a statute of limitations, with little, if any, discernible attempts to corroborate the charges before they are made public. Then rapidly these persons, usually male, are not only pronounced guilty by public opinion, but they are either quickly fired from their jobs or they resign into oblivion. In other words, the concept of due process has been thrown out the window. Surely there is a better way to redress or prevent grievances of such magnitude and seriousness, is there not? That is the question many are now asking, and I hope it is not answered with the crumbling of the rule of law.

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Free speech and sexual harassment:

Of all the threats to free speech in history, the one the media give the most credibility to without question is the feminist movement, which is trying to rebrand public debate as harassment.

-Milo Yiannopoulos

Though the phrase sexual harassment is generally acknowledged to include clearly damaging and morally deplorable behavior, its boundaries can be broad and controversial. Accordingly, misunderstandings can occur. In the US, sexual harassment law has been criticized by persons such as the criminal defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz and the legal writer and libertarian Eugene Volokh, for imposing limits on the right to free speech.

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In cases of alleged harassment, the protections of the First Amendment must be considered if issues of speech or expression are involved.  Free speech rights apply in the classroom (e.g., classroom lectures and discussions) and in all other education programs and activities of public schools (e.g., public meetings and speakers on campus; campus debates, school plays and other cultural events; and student newspapers, journals, and other publications). In addition, First Amendment rights apply to the speech of students and teachers.

Title IX is intended to protect students from sex discrimination, not to regulate the content of speech. Office of civil rights (OCR) recognizes that the offensiveness of a particular expression as perceived by some students, standing alone, is not a legally sufficient basis to establish a sexually hostile environment under Title IX.  In order to establish a violation of Title IX, the harassment must be sufficiently serious to deny or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the education program.

Moreover, in regulating the conduct of its students and its faculty to prevent or redress discrimination prohibited by Title IX (e.g., in responding to harassment that is sufficiently serious as to create a hostile environment), a school must formulate, interpret, and apply its rules so as to protect academic freedom and free speech rights. For instance, while the First Amendment may prohibit a school from restricting the right of students to express opinions about one sex that may be considered derogatory, the school can take steps to denounce those opinions and ensure that competing views are heard. The age of the students involved and the location or forum may affect how the school can respond consistently with the First Amendment.

As an example of the application of free speech rights to allegations of sexual harassment, consider the following:

Example 1: In a college level creative writing class, a professor’s required reading list includes excerpts from literary classics that contain descriptions of explicit sexual conduct, including scenes that depict women in submissive and demeaning roles. The professor also assigns students to write their own materials, which are read in class. Some of the student essays contain sexually derogatory themes about women. Several female students complain to the Dean of Students that the materials and related classroom discussion have created a sexually hostile environment for women in the class. What must the school do in response?

Answer: Academic discourse in this example is protected by the First Amendment even if it is offensive to individuals. Thus, Title IX would not require the school to discipline the professor or to censor the reading list or related class discussion.

Example 2: A group of male students repeatedly targets a female student for harassment during the bus ride home from school, including making explicit sexual comments about her body, passing around drawings that depict her engaging in sexual conduct, and, on several occasions, attempting to follow her home off the bus. The female student and her parents complain to the principal that the male students conduct has created a hostile environment for girls on the bus and that they fear for their daughter’s safety. What must a school do in response?

Answer: Threatening and intimidating actions targeted at a particular student or group of students, even though they contain elements of speech, are not protected by the First Amendment. The school must take prompt and effective actions, including disciplinary action if necessary, to stop the harassment and prevent future harassment.

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Why so many sexual harassment cases in US and not in UK? Is free speech responsible?

There are huge differences between UK and US media law – this explains why more Americans are being accused of sexual harassment.  On 5 October 2017, Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual abuse and the dam broke. Since then, dozens of well-known Americans have been accused of sexual misconduct of some kind. The list includes film stars such as Kevin Spacey, politicians such as Roy Moore, and journalists such as Mark Halperin. The deluge of allegations swelled engulfing big media names. While people in other countries have also been accused, the majority of cases are American. One reason could be US media law and how it differs from other countries.

In the UK, there is a key point in libel law that explains a lot. When someone sues, they don’t have to prove the story is wrong.  The publisher – for example, the newspaper or website – has to prove their story is right. This means, before publishing, the media needs a water-tight case. To accuse someone of sexual misconduct, they would normally need proof (such as a recording) or a witness prepared to testify in court. In cases of sexual misconduct, both things are hard to find. There were, for example, rumours of Jimmy Savile’s sexual abuse for years. Louis Theroux even asked Savile about them in 2000. But the British media – worried about being sued – didn’t publish. It wasn’t until Savile died that ITV broke the story (in UK law, a dead person cannot be defamed). In 2012, BBC Newsnight wrongly linked Lord McAlpine to child sex abuse, without naming him.  He sued and within 13 days won £185,000 in damages.

Defamation in the UK – the main defences:

-Truth

-Honest opinion

-Protected by privilege (for example, court reports are protected)

-Published on a matter of public interest

In the US, it’s far harder to sue for libel. The reason is 227 years old, but as relevant as ever. The first amendment to the US constitution – adopted in 1791 – protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It means American media law is “radically different” to the UK. In the US, the burden is on the plaintiff – the person alleging that he or she has been defamed – to prove the statement is false. So – compared to the UK – the burden of proof is flipped. Americans are less likely to sue, so US media are more likely to break the story. Indeed, a New York Times editorial said “hardly anyone jousts with the (New York) Times when it comes to formally asserting libel”. And – for celebrities – there’s another hurdle to clear when suing in the US. When a public official (such as a government employee) or public figure (such as a celebrity) sues for libel, they must prove “actual malice”. Actual malice basically means the journalist lied.  Either the journalist published a story they knew was false – or they acted with reckless disregard over whether it was true or false. That basically means – you lied. But – despite the bar being higher – it doesn’t mean American media has carte blanche. And, when they do get it wrong, it can cost millions of dollars. In 2014, Rolling Stone magazine covered an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia in 2012. The story was retracted in 2015 and a university official – who handled sexual assault cases – sued for defamation. She was awarded $3m in damages. Further back, a prosecutor sued the Philadelphia Inquirer over articles published in 1973. He won $34m. Sometimes you hear in the United States, reputation isn’t valued. But the US laws are highly protective of reputation. The damages can be massive – far, far greater than one could get in the UK. So you have more (defamation) cases in the UK and more stories that aren’t published or broadcast. But in the US, if a plaintiff wins, the potential damages are in the millions – or tens of millions. For this reason – and for reasons of good journalism – American media often goes to great lengths to verify accusations. In their recent story about television presenter Charlie Rose, the Washington Post spoke to eight women – three of them on the record. In breaking the story about comedian Louis CK, the New York Times reported accusations from five women – four of them named. And – in an article about New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush – Vox writer Laura McGann recounted her own experience, interviewed three other women, and spoke to 40 people in the wider media.

If you’ve been wrongly accused, you may yearn for the British system – where publishing is riskier.

If you’re a victim, you may prefer the US system – where the constitution protects freedom of speech.

Either way, the effect is clear.  The US has a flood of cases. In the UK, it remains drip-drip.

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What to do if you are sexually harassed?

Since The New York Times published its first story on movie producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct, dozens of prominent men have been accused of harassment leading to firings, resignations and criminal investigations. It has also started a national conversation about sexual harassment – particularly in the workplace, but according to a new CareerBuilder survey, the majority of victims continue to keep quiet. Of those who have been sexually harassed, the majority (72 percent) did not report the incident, and more than half (54 percent) did not confront the person responsible for harassment. While the majority of those who say they have felt sexually harassed in the workplace say they did not confront the person responsible for harassment, of those who did (46 percent), 13 percent said the situation stayed the same and 9 percent said it actually got worse.

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A study found two approaches: non-confrontational and confrontational, as seen in the figures below:

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Non-confrontational approach:

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Confrontational approach:

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If you suspect that you are being sexually harassed, immediately let the perpetrator know, firmly and clearly, that his actions are unwelcome and unacceptable.

  1. Do’s:

-Indicate CLEARLY that you are uncomfortable with the behaviour. Say NO effectively and emphatically. It is more important to be firm than polite. If you are more comfortable not speaking to the perpetrator face to face, send an SMS or email. This message and the perpetrator’s reply may also be used as evidence.

-Collect evidence – Start a log and note down dates, times, places and who was present at the time of the incidents and give detailed accounts of the unwelcomed sexual behaviour.

-Keep any email or SMS correspondence with the harasser as evidence. Taped evidence is also useful.

-Alert or inform someone whom you trust at the workplace of the harassment. Talk to friends or family members that you trust about the incident. Even if they were not present at the harassment scene, they may be able to support your case as witnesses.

  1. Documentation:

-Document your own work and communications within the company in case the harasser starts to question your work performance to justify his or her behaviour.

-Consult your HR department or, at least, another superior, and give them a chance to help you resolve the situation. If possible, provide them with some concrete evidence of harassment. This could include written evidence or a witness. In this way, the company is deemed to have notice of this incident and has a legal obligation to act.  If you are planning to resign and want some action to be taken against the perpetrator, it is better to report the incident before you resign.

-In terms of working with HR/grievance procedures, they usually ask for names of people within the company who might act as your witnesses. Speak honestly based on what you know, who might have witnessed the incident and who you have told about the incident.

-Be mentally prepared that not all your colleagues are willing to testify for you. They may be afraid to get involved especially where the perpetrator is their superior.

-If possible, ask for a clear time line of the investigation process from the beginning. Also ask for a written clarification of how the investigation will be carried out.

-Try as hard as you can not to be alone with the harasser, especially avoiding after work functions with the harasser. If you have no other co-workers apart from the harasser and would inevitably have to be alone with the harasser in the office, consider having a recording device handy that you can discreetly turn on. In the cases of team events, try to make sure that you have at least one colleague that you trust around, so that he/she can be your witness, if necessary.

-Consult a lawyer in your first meeting about his professional experience in dealing with sexual harassment cases.

-Request that the lawyer set out in writing his policy on charging and an estimate of the fees.

  1. Don’ts:

-Don’t be unclear about your discomfort.

-Don’t be timid.  It will just fuel the perpetrator’s ego. If you find it hard to be assertive to the perpetrator, it might help for you to think about an appropriate assertive response, visualise how you can say this, practise doing this in front of a mirror or a trusted buddy.

-Don’t make excuses for not complying (‘Sorry I have a boyfriend’). It is not as effective as saying NO.

-Don’t ignore it. It is unlikely to stop if this is all you do.

  1. Seek Advice or Counselling:

It is important for victims of sexual harassment to process their feelings about their experience. Sexual harassment can be traumatic and may give rise to long term adverse psychological effects. Victims of harassment may experience a range of emotions, including confusion, humiliation, fear, anger, isolation and guilt.

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How to Confront and Stop Sexual Harassment:

In Back Off! How To Confront and Stop Sexual Harassment and Harassers, Martha Langelan recommends taking these steps:

  • Do the unexpected: Name the behavior. Whatever the harasser has just done, say it, and be specific.
  • Hold the harasser accountable for his/her actions. Don’t make excuses for the harasser; don’t pretend it didn’t really happen. Take charge of the encounter and let people know what the harasser did. Privacy protects harassers, but visibility undermines them.
  • Make honest, direct statements. Speak the truth (no threats, no insults, no obscenities, no appeasing verbal fluff and padding). Be serious, straightforward, and blunt.
  • Demand that the harassment stop. Make it clear that all people have the right to be free from sexual harassment. Objecting to harassment is a matter of principle.
  • Stick to your own agenda. Don’t respond to the harasser’s excuses or diversionary tactics.
  • The harasser’s behavior is the issue. Say what you have to say, and repeat it if the behavior persists.
  • Reinforce your statements with strong, self-respecting body language: eye contact, head up, shoulders back, a strong, serious stance. Don’t smile. Timid, submissive body language will undermine your message.
  • Respond at the appropriate level. Use a combined verbal and physical response to physical harassment.

End the interaction on your own terms, with a strong closing statement: “You heard me. Stop harassing women.”

You may also file an internal complaint through the appropriate avenues offered by the organization’s policy on sexual harassment if it has one.

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Coping:

Sexual harassment, by definition, is unwanted and not to be tolerated. There are ways, however, for offended and injured people to overcome the resultant psychological effects, remain in or return to society, regain healthy feelings within personal relationships when they were affected by the outside relationship trauma, regain social approval, and recover the ability to concentrate and be productive in educational and work environments. These include stress management and therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, friends and family support, and advocacy.  Immediate psychological and legal counselling are recommended since self-treatment may not release stress or remove trauma, and simply reporting to authorities may not have the desired effect, may be ignored, or may further injure the victim at its response.

A 1991 study done by K.R. Yount found three dominant strategies developed by a sample of women coal miners to manage sexual harassment on the job: the “lady”, the “flirt”, and the “tomboy”.

The “ladies” were typically the older women workers who tended to disengage from the men, kept their distance, avoided using profanity, avoided engaging in any behavior that might be interpreted as suggestive. They also tended to emphasize by their appearance and manners that they were ladies. The consequences for the “ladies” were that they were the targets of the least amount of come-ons, teasing and sexual harassment, but they also accepted the least prestigious and lowest-paid jobs.

The “flirts” were most often the younger single women. As a defense mechanism, they pretended to be flattered when they were the targets of sexual comments. Consequently, they became perceived as the “embodiment of the female stereotype,…as particularly lacking in potential and were given the fewest opportunities to develop job skills and to establish social and self-identities as miners.”

The “tomboys” were generally single women, but were older than the “flirts”. They attempted to separate themselves from the female stereotype and focused on their status as coal miners and tried to develop a “thick skin”. They responded to harassment with humor, comebacks, sexual talk of their own, or reciprocation. As a result, they were often viewed as sluts or sexually promiscuous and as women who violated the sexual double standard. Consequently, they were subjected to intensified and increased harassment by some men. It was not clear whether the tomboy strategy resulted in better or worse job assignments.

The findings of this study may be applicable to other work settings, including factories, restaurants, offices, and universities. The study concludes that individual strategies for coping with sexual harassment are not likely to be effective and may have unexpected negative consequences for the workplace and may even lead to increased sexual harassment. Women who try to deal with sexual harassment on their own, regardless of what they do, seem to be in a no-win situation.

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How to prove Workplace Sexual Harassment:

For legal reasons, if you plan to prove workplace sexual harassment, you should follow these seven steps to clearly show that you objected to the unwanted gestures, comments or physical contact. If these steps are not followed, then proving that you were not a willing recipient will be more difficult.

  1. Talk to the Person Directly
  2. Alert Your Manager or Supervisor
  3. Alert Human Resource Management
  4. Submit to Company Resolution Process
  5. Approach the EEOC
  6. File a Lawsuit
  7. Keep Track – Document Everything!

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Root causes of sexual harassment:

Why do sexual harassers behave that way?

Variety of conducts can be labelled sexual harassment and these conducts have a wide array of motivations and effects, makes it impossible to develop a unitary view of its causes and, necessarily, of its cures. It is no wonder that estimates of the incidence of sexual harassment vary so widely (Arvey and Cavanaugh, 1995; Gutek et al., 2004). Thus, while some assert that 90% of all women have faced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace (Terpstra and Baker, 1986), surveys reveal that most women do not think that it is a problem in their own workplaces (Gutek, 1985; Bowman, 1999). Because the incidence of harassment declines as its severity increases, there is little meaning to be drawn from such statements as ‘approximately 50% of female students have been harassed in some way by their professors or instructors, ranging from insulting remarks, come-ons, propositions, bribes, and threats to outright sexual assault’ (Fitzgerald, 1993, p. 1071). A label encompassing behavior ranging from insulting remarks to rape is largely devoid of any explanatory power. There are some patterns of behavior that recur, however.

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From what we know about sexual harassment, typically the person who commits the gesture is male, and typically the recipient of the gesture is female, although that’s not always the case.  The two characteristics of environments most associated with higher rates of sexual harassment are (a) male-dominated gender ratios and leadership and (b) an organizational climate that communicates tolerance of sexual harassment (e.g., leadership that fails to take complaints seriously, fails to sanction perpetrators, or fails to protect complainants from retaliation). Organizational climate is, by far, the greatest predictor of the occurrence of sexual harassment, and ameliorating it can prevent people from sexually harassing others. A person more likely to engage in harassing behaviors is significantly less likely to do so in an environment that does not support harassing behaviors and/or has strong, clear, transparent consequences for these behaviors.

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There are various theories behind sexual harassment:

  1. The socio-cultural theory:

It’s a consequence of gender inequality and sexism that exist in our society today already, so sexual harassment serves to maintain the status quo within the organization.

  1. Organizational climate:

We have gendered occupations [such as female nurses or male welders], plus in every organization you have the power status, the hierarchy like a CEO.

  1. Sexual spill-over:

The belief is men are more goal-oriented and powerful and aggressive, and women are supposed to be passive and family-oriented. We take our gender roles, and spill them over into the organization.

  1. Power-driven:

You’ve probably heard it said before that sexual harassment and assault has less to do with the act of sex and more with power. A quick look at the distribution of gender and power in the workplace might give some insight to one of the driving forces behind sexual harassment. Abigail Saguy, a professor of sociology and gender studies at UCLA explained, “One of the reasons it is men who harass women, and sometimes other men, is that this is about power and overwhelmingly (workplace) upper management is male, so the positions of power are disproportionately occupied by men and the bottom is disproportionately occupied by women.”

  1. Feminist Theory:

During the early 1970s, feminist groups like the National Organization for Women and Working Women’s Institute began zealously to raise awareness of the problems of unwanted sexual attention  on  the  job.  According  to  the  feminist  perspective,  sexual  harassment  is  linked  to  the sexist  male ideology of male dominance and male superiority in the society. Therefore, feminists’ theories view sexual harassment as the product of a gender system maintained by a dominant, normative form of masculinity.  Thus, sexual harassment exists  because of  the views  on women as the  inferior sex, but also sexual harassment serves to maintain the already existing gender stratification by emphasizing sex role expectations.

  1. Biological:

The root of sexual harassment and assault originates with sexual dimorphism; which is an artifact of biological evolution, as it is accepted that the first living organisms reproduced through cloning. Two sexes of the same species exhibit behavioral characteristics based on hormonal differences, in addition to the differences in their sexual organs. And natural selection has added behavioral traits that enhanced individual survival and probability of procreation; with those evolutionary forces influencing behavior not necessarily being based on moral principles. Although the range of response to stimulus varies between individuals, simplistically speaking, aggressive behaviors of males differ from submissive behaviors of females. According to this model, men have stronger sex derives, and are therefore, biologically motivated to engage in sexual pursuit of women. Thus, the harassing behavior is not meant to be offensive or discriminatory, but is merely the result of biological urges. Its assumptions include a natural, mutual attraction between men and women, a stronger male sex drive, and men in the role of sexual initiators.  Biologically  men  has  strong  physiological  urge  for  sexual  activity  hence  may  exert coercive powers towards women in order to satisfy the  sex drive.

Beyond genetic predisposition, there is individual experience. Emotional and physical abuse, particularly as a child, can lead to deviance from expected social norms. Culture, intoxicants, and situational/opportunity aspects (males tend to misread friendly gestures as romantic) also influence behavior.

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Causes of sexual harassment:

The causes of sexual harassment vary from person to person and from situation to situation.  This discussion can only cover some of the main factors. Many of the causes are interrelated, and are linked to the culture and values in society and in companies, and to the roles, relative power and status of the men and women concerned.

  1. Mind-set:

It may sound odd but it’s really true. Why can’t one change the way they look at others?

  1. Lack of values:

Modern nuclear family culture made many people unaware of the importance of relations. If we know how to respect our people, then we obviously know how to treat others.

  1. Misusing liberty:

Today’s parents are giving sufficient freedom to their kids with a good intention of making them feel comfortable so that they won’t feel that they are in a cage. But, some of them are misusing this freedom and going in a wrong way.

  1. Lack of company policy:

Many companies don’t have clear policies and complaint and disciplinary procedures to deal with harassment – or if they have them, they do not implement them. Women often resign rather than complain, since they do not know where to go, or if they do complain, it is either treated as a joke, or no action is taken by management. If management condones such behaviour or if victims end up being blamed, the perpetrator is encouraged to continue the pattern of harassment, affecting more and more women. If concerned authorities respond quickly to harassment cases and if proper actions are taken, the rate of growth of such cases may reduce.

  1. Patriarchal Structure:

The key reason behind all types of harassment against women lies in the society’s patriarchal structure whereby men always think that he is superior to the woman in every aspect of life. This complex behaviour discriminates the women, thus men employee does not want a female to be a co-employee to work with him equally or he would not like her to be at the higher post in the office; and they harass them to make her feel inferior and uncomfortable. In order to harass her, different kinds of techniques are used by the male employees.

  1. Sexual perversion:

Sexual perversion of mind among certain individuals is one of the major reasons of sexual harassment of women at the workplace. Today more and more female candidates are being recruited by public and private sectors, such men have got the easy access to indulge in sexually perverted behaviours.

  1. Violence and Male Self-Perception:

The relationship between the sexes in many countries around the world includes a considerable amount of violence against women.  Data about the United States, for example, indicate that one out of every ten women are raped or sexually assaulted during their lives, while more than half of all women living with men have experienced a battering or similar incident of domestic violence. Violence by men against women exists in the workplace, as it does in other settings.  Some scholars, such as Susan Faludi, the author of Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, suggest that male hostility toward women in the workplace is closely connected to male attitudes about the “proper” role of a man in society.  Surveys on men’s perception of masculinity, carried out in the U.S., for example, indicate that the leading definition of masculinity is being “a good provider for his family.”  Ms. Faludi concludes that some men perceive the “feminist drive for economic equality” as a threat to their traditional role.  Thus, sexual harassment is a form of violence perceived as self-protection.  The problem of sexual harassment relates to the roles which are attributed to men and women in social and economic life, which, in turn, directly or indirectly, affects women’s positions in the labor market.

  1. The Economics of Women’s Work:

Focusing on the economics of men’s work and women’s work exposes sexual harassment as a way for the men who harass women to express their resentment and try to reassert control when they view women as their economic competitors. The influx of women into the labor force brought about two simultaneous, but seemingly opposite reactions to women at work.  On one hand, some men resented female employees and perceived them as a threat in traditionally male dominated work environments.  In these cases the women were subject to overt discrimination, that is, they received lesser-valued job assignments, lack of promotions, lower pay, and sexual harassment to cause embarrassment and humiliation.  The second reaction was to exploit the presence of women and make sexual favors and submission to sexual behaviors conditions of employment, that is to keep from being fired, demoted, or otherwise adversely affected at work.  Both are forms of sexual harassment.

  1. Discrimination as a Form of Workplace Control:

Catherine MacKinnon, author of Sexual Harassment of Working Women, was the first legal scholar to draw attention to the connection between sex discrimination and sexual harassment:

  1. Jealousy at the workplace:

People having the feeling of jealousy, the male employee would not like to see his female colleague to get promotions or incentives, so he would harass her through sexually perverted behaviour.

  1. Feeling of Contempt and Disrespect:

The men always think that women are considered only as an object to fulfil his sexual desires. They might respect the women at home but other women in the society are not treated as such. People claim to respect women but in reality, many crimes committed against women shows that the claim in nothing but a falsity.

  1. Aggressiveness or bravado in groups:

Men in groups often behave differently from how they would as individuals. This can explain some of the “gang harassment” that occurs when a woman enters a plant or walks past a group of workers at lunch; after a few drinks at an office party; or when a group of colleagues attend a conference. Alone, these men would probably be “harmless”, or less bold.

  1. Socialisation:

The way in which men and women were brought up to see themselves and others strongly influences their behaviour. Various viewpoints could create a climate that allows sexual harassment:

  • In a culture where it is, or was until recently, “OK” to discriminate against people because they are different (in terms of gender, race, culture, religion, lifestyle, political conviction or whatever), the abuse of power or humiliation that is typical of sexual harassment will not be unusual. Harassment is often closely linked to prejudice in general, and to sexist attitudes.
  • Men who were brought up with macho beliefs like “real men pinch bottoms”, “girls were made to hug and kiss”, “the more, the merrier”, easily carry these social values into the workplace, and treat their female colleagues accordingly. Such men often even think that women take their harassment as a compliment.
  • Many women have been brought up to believe women’s highest calling is to please men, that popularity with men equals success, or that “real women look sexy”. This can give the impression – usually unintended – that they invite sexual advances at work. Some women who see sexuality as their only power base, play along. Although research has proven them to be a small minority, their behaviour can also encourage harassment of other women.
  • If women see themselves as dependent on, or of lesser value than men, or are unassertive, they find it difficult to handle harassers or to complain. Often women who are breadwinners are vulnerable and fear victimisation or even job loss, if they reject advances or complain.
  1. Power games:

Social and political changes in recent years have changed power relationships. Some men feel threatened by the career advancement of women and people of colour, or are uncomfortable with women’s newfound independence and assertiveness at home and / or at work. Other men who have recently gained positions of power (possibly after decades of discrimination) may also try to prove themselves by harassing women subordinates. Some men even regard it as a “fringe benefit” to which their position, their power and their sex entitle them. In tough times of uncertainty, fear, limited promotion opportunities, retrenchments, personal stress and pressure on performance, there is a real danger that sexual harassment and trading of sexual favours will form part of the power games played.

  1. Moral values, divorce and cultural differences:
  • In times of moral laxity, when extramarital affairs and “one-night stands” are broadly accepted, when some people equate monogamy with monotony, it is relatively easy for people to indulge in office flirtations, whether one-sided or mutual. The person who tries, and doesn’t accept rejection or sees the unwilling colleague as a challenge, easily becomes a harasser, or may victimise the reluctant colleague.
  • The prevalence of marital stress and divorce in our society means that some men and women come to work in a state of emotional distress that could make them vulnerable to sexual harassment.
  • Some confusion results from cultural differences about what is, or isn’t, acceptable in our rapidly-changing society. For example, when action was taken against sexual harassment at the University of Cape Town, black male students claimed it was their cultural and traditional right to act in that way. They were strongly challenged by the then vice-chancellor, a black woman. Black women complaining about harassment by black men have been accused of disloyalty to their own group, while whites may fear accusations of racism or prejudice of they reject or complain about such behaviour from black colleagues.
  1. Approval of sexual objectification:

Many men are surrounded by a culture that reduces women to sexualized objects, which normalizes female colleague in a less than professional manner.  Women in certain jobs, particularly those in which physical appearance plays a role, sometimes face increased levels of sexual harassment because their jobs implicitly condone their sexual objectification. Some men take this as permission to process and react to these women not as people, but as fantasy sex objects without personal sexual boundaries.  Ashley Judd spoke with the New York Times piece about a time when Harvey Weinstein invited her to a breakfast meeting in Beverly Hills when she was filming the 1997 film “Kiss the Girls.” When she arrived at the hotel she learned that the meeting would be held in Weinstein’s suite.  During that time, she says he made multiple attempts to get close to her by asking if she wanted a massage. When she refused, he asked if he could give her a shoulder rub. When she said no to that, he then directed her towards his closet and asked her to pick out his clothes for the day. Afterwards, he steered her towards the bathroom and asked her to watch him take a shower.  “I said no, a lot of ways, a lot of times, and he always came back at me with some new ask,” said Judd. More than 80 allegations of harassment have been levelled against Weinstein.  Regardless of industry, it’s important for men to know that no female ever signs up to be sexually harassed or assaulted. There should also be no career field that makes it acceptable for such behavior to take place without immediate consequences.

  1. Perceived invincibility:

There are intense issues of entitlement and power and control that have gone unchecked that lead to situations where men feel it’s perfectly fine to engage in these kind of behaviors and this behavior is closely linked to abuse of power. Not all people handle power and money with grace. Some use their power to exploit and maltreat others, knowing they can get away with it, and some getting off on it. Weinstein is a prime example of this. As a power player in Hollywood, Weinstein knew that any inappropriate actions conducted by him would likely go unchecked. Weinstein was a gatekeeper who could give actresses a career that would sustain their lives and the livelihood of their families. He could also give them fame, which is one of few ways for women to gain some semblance of power and voice inside a patriarchal world.

  1. Exhibitionistic disorder:

According to Psychology Today, exhibitionistic disorder involves exposing one’s genitals or sexual organs to a non-consenting person. While this disorder is linked to very specific behavior, it mirrors the allegations that many women have recently brought to light.  The New York Times reported several women accusing comedian Louis C.K. of masturbating in front of them.  To treat this behavior, Psychology Today suggests individuals enrol in cognitive behavioral therapy to identify the triggers that cause these urges and to find healthy ways to manage them. Psychotherapy and medication that inhibits sexual hormones may also be recommended.  At any level, these are crimes, regardless of the degree of sexual harassment or assault, such behavior in the workplace should be treated as a legal matter.

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Why boys harass girls in schools and colleges:

  1. Just for attention:

“I had a classmate in college, who would always call out mean things to girls. Most of the girls in my class were outraged with him. He always said that he was just joking,” says Neelesh Gupta, a post-graduate student. “But I realised that he was just doing it to get the attention of all the girls.” When such boys were confronted, they would claim that it was a joke, and that the girls were overly sensitive. Some boys also feel that since they do not receive attention from women otherwise, it is okay to verbally attack women. When this action provides the results they want to see (in the form of attention), they repeat that behaviour. This behaviour comes from a place where women’s attention or affection is seen as something the man is entitled to. “I had a friend who got rejected by a lot of girls he had a crush on, so he started developing hatred towards all women. He began verbally abusing every girl that rejected him as retribution. Soon, like-minded boys formed a group and abused girls together,” says Vikrant Kapoor, a 19-year-old college student.

  1. Masculinity:

Some boys attacked a girl even if they liked her because she preferred another man (perceived as more attractive). “My sister’s classmate was obsessed with her, but she was never interested in him. He was an uncouth lowlife. When she started dating her boyfriend, that maniac tried to attack her when she was alone in the classroom,” recalls Rahul, a student, in horror. “He would always stare at her in class, and try to get physically intimate with her. She pushed him away every time, and finally he attacked her.” When these men can’t ‘get’ women they want, it affects their ego since such rejection is perceived as an insult to their masculinity. But it doesn’t end there. “We got him arrested and expelled from college, but a year later, he was caught trying to assault another girl who resembled my sister,” adds Rahul. “One of my friends caught a bunch of classmates teasing a young girl; my friend insulted them and said, ‘You aren’t men at all’. One of the boys misinterpreted her statement and believed that he could prove his male dominance by showing her how physically weak she was. He attempted to assault her when she was alone at home,” says Dinesh Murthy.

  1. Because their sex drive compel them:

In a culture where men’s sex drive is seen as something that overrides the need for consent, some men cite sexual impulses as a reason for harassment. “There was a gang of boys in my class who always took pictures of pretty girls on their phones, and would stare at them for hours. These guys weren’t good students, and always got into trouble. They would always slyly take pictures of unsuspecting girls,” says Sumesh Shah, a web designer. I asked boys the obvious question, “When there are millions of porn websites, why chase and stare at girls?” “It’s not easy to watch porn in your house or at a cyber café. At home, anybody can walk in, and catch you. Being caught at a cyber café is even more mortifying. That’s probably why guys take pictures of random girls, so that they can stare at it as long as they want in their mobiles phones, whenever convenient. It’s because of sexual dissatisfaction that men do such things,” says Pavan Chakravathy, an artist.

  1. Because girls ask for it:

Another reason why men think it’s ‘normal’ to harass girls, is the influence of the movies. We all know this one – movies have convinced many boys that the girl really means Yes when she says No. Clothing: This clichéd reason that everyone uses to blame us women is not always the stated reason, but it is a part of it. “Guys stare at girls. If you’re an attractive girl, you will obviously be stared at. But the guy staring at you turn out to be a sexual harasser the day you decide to show more skin, or the day you look your prettiest,” Dhruv Kumar, a Ph.D. student informs me.

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Do sexual harassers know their behavior is wrong?

Of course they do, which is why it’s not overt, it’s not done publicly. Most of the news stories coming out are revelations of behavior that was concealed, and that would suggest that they do. Many harassers share characteristics such as narcissism and/or psychopathy, and those who share these attributes most likely know harassment is not an acceptable (and even illegal) behavior, yet choose to engage in these behaviors because they may feel most of these laws don’t apply to them. Keep in mind each harasser is different and may have different motivations. Many male and female harassers may still know what they’re doing is wrong. Many harassers have been known to justify their own behavior by saying “that’s the way it was when I was growing up.” They also might use words that minimize their behavior of the victimization…like “I just complimented her,” “if she wasn’t so emotional,” or comedian Bill Cosby called his alleged victimization a rendezvous, (or might call it a date or little tryst), or they displace responsibility (like “she asked for it wearing that short skirt, or if she didn’t go out to that club” or saying well “everybody does it in the office” attributing it to outside influences). There is little to no research on those men/women who cross the line knowingly or unknowingly.

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What makes some men sexual harassers?

Accusations of sexual harassment and coercion have been pouring out about powerful men like Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose and Mario Batali. Psychologists and recent research offer answers for why some men engage in such behavior.  What makes these men behave this way? Sure, some of the behavior can be chalked up to boorish personalities or outright misogyny. But how much of the behavior is driven by the man himself and how much by the culture around him? What exactly makes one man more likely to harass than another? And what is going on inside their heads when they make unwanted advances? These are questions that social scientists and psychologists have puzzled over in recent years. And their growing body of research has yielded interesting and at times provocative answers, which are especially relevant in this cultural moment.

  1. What causes some men to harass and not others?

For more than three decades, John Pryor has tried to come up with an answer to this question. As one of the pioneers in the study of sexual harassment, Pryor developed a test in 1987 to measure a man’s tendency to harass. Called the “Likelihood to Sexually Harass” scale, Pryor’s test has become a cornerstone of research on sexual harassers. His test consists of 10 scenarios. Imagine that you are an executive hiring a new secretary, one scenario starts out. A female candidate explains she desperately needs the job and looks at you in a way that possibly conveys she is attracted to you. How likely are you to give her the job? Offer the job in exchange for sexual favors? Ask her to go to dinner to discuss the job?  Over the years, Pryor — a psychologist at Illinois State University — and others have used socially engineered situations in laboratories to study how well the test predicts people’s behavior. And over time, they’ve identified these factors as the most distinctive in harassers: a lack of empathy, a belief in traditional gender sex roles and a tendency toward dominance/authoritarianism. They also found in studies that the environment surrounding such harassers has a huge effect, Pryor said:  “If you take men who score high on the scale and put them in situations where the system suggests they can get away with it, they will do it. Impunity plays a large role.”

  1. Why are people in positions of power so often doing the harassing?

In recent years, a growing body of research has shown how power warps one’s perception of others and alters people’s behavior. “In study after study, we’re seeing that power makes you more impulsive. It makes you less worried about social conventions and less concerned about the effect of your actions on others,” said Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at the University of California at Berkley. One of Keltner’s experiments, for example, found that people who see themselves as wealthier were more likely to cut pedestrians off on a crosswalk. Another found that those who felt powerful were even more likely to take candy from children. Other experiments have shown that powerful people become more focused on themselves, more likely to objectify others and more likely to overestimate how much others like them. “It becomes a kind of solipsism. You think what’s inside your head is true about the world around you,” Keltner said. “Someone like Harvey Weinstein may think ‘I’m so horny right now, so the whole world must feel that way.’ ”

  1. What makes these men think women want to see all that?

One of the most puzzling and icky details from the recent string of high-profile cases is this signature move of several powerful men: Exposing themselves to women, apparently with the expectation that those women are attracted to them or will be once they see their bodies. There is, surprisingly, a scientific explanation for this. A particularly eye-opening 2011 study found that people in leadership often pick up phantom sexual signals from subordinates that aren’t really there.  The experiment designed by Jonathan Kunstman and Jon Maner took 78 adults and paired them with a member of the opposite sex. Those pairs were assigned a Lego-building project, with one person put in charge of the other. In private interviews at the end of the project, those who were appointed leaders were much more likely to have perceived sexual interest from their subordinates, even when the subordinate said in surveys that they had no sexual interest at all. When researchers studied video of most pairs interacting, they found the leaders much more likely to act on that misperception, touching the subordinate’s leg or engaging in eye gazing. “Power creates this perfect mental storm for misconduct,” said Kunstman, an experimental social psychologist at Miami University in Ohio. “This tendency to overperceive romantic interest can lead to a feeling of freedom to touch, which can then lead to misconduct.”

  1. So what are these men really after? Sex or Dominance?

“The hackneyed phrase everyone always says about sexual harassment is that it’s not really about sex, it’s about power,” said Illinois researcher Pryor. “But that’s not really true. It’s about both.” In recent years, psychologists trying to understand the relationship between power and sex have found that, for many men who score high on the harassment scale, the two ideas are often intertwined. One of the biggest things is (men likely to harass) have this link to power and sex, or the belief that sex is power  “They are two sides of the same coin and so strongly fused that it’s impossible to cleave them apart,” Pryor said. “If these men have power over someone, they find it difficult not to have those sexual ideas come to mind. And more they think about it, the more that association is reinforced.”

  1. Why is it almost always men doing the harassing?

There’s a statistical answer for this: The way our society stands now, with all its flaws, discriminatory biases, and historical and cultural baggage, there remain many more men in leadership positions than women. (At least one woman in a position of power, however, has recently been accused of harassing a male subordinate.) There’s also a feminist structural reading of such harassment: that harassment often serves as a vehicle to exert dominance and put women in their place.  But behavioral science has also shown there are behavioral differences between the sexes, said Louise Fitzgerald, a psychologist at University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.  “It’s not like women are somehow immune from dark personality traits,” she said, “but we know from gender research that men are more aggressive, more socialized to seek sex and believe they have a right to it.”

  1. How likely is the #MeToo movement to change anything?

Fitzgerald, who has spent three decades studying the devastating effects of sexual harassment, is surprisingly pessimistic about the current movement producing momentous change. “I remember thinking the same thing during the Clarence Thomas hearings, that the cultural moment had come and everything would change,” she said. “But here we are 20-some years later when people are suddenly rediscovering yet again that sexual harassment exists.”  The cases now making headlines, she noted, largely involve high-  profile folks in Hollywood and media. “Will that have an effect on the woman being harassed at her job at Walmart or on the factory floor? I don’t know.” But one thing the #MeToo movement may be changing is the stigma of sexual assault and harassment, said Pryor, the longtime harassment researcher. “The #MeToo movement shows just how common these experiences are. And that may take away the silence that often allows the harassment to be hidden.”  Another important byproduct of the #MeToo movement may be increased interest in sexual harassment research, say Pryor, Fitzgerald and others. When Pryor began studying sexual harassment in the 1980s, there was little support for the work. Pryor funded many of his earliest studies himself, and had to work in his spare time to develop research like his “Likelihood to Sexually Harass” scale. In the decades since, the situation has improved but only marginally, said Pryor, now semi-retired. “With everything we’re seeing now, that will hopefully change — maybe too late to make a difference in my career — but for others this could be a turning point,” he said.

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Research on sexual harassment:

Most of the early studies of sexual harassment within social science were primarily aimed at capturing the sexually harassing experiences of women in the workplace. Although different survey researchers have devised different ways of operationally defining sexual harassment, the most common experience of sexually harassing behavior reported by women in the workplace is generally called gender harassment. Gender harassment is essentially the overt sexist treatment of women at work. It may include such things as being told that women are incapable of performing a job because they are women, having to endure a litany of offensive and sexist epithets from coworkers or supervisors, or being inundated with offensive pornographic images at work. The aim of gender harassment is not to gain sexual access to the target; rather, it is to express hostile attitudes based on a target’s gender. The next most common experience reported by working women in surveys is called unwanted sexual attention. This type of sexual harassment may include verbal behavior such as persistent requests for dates despite rejection and nonverbal behavior such as unwelcome sexual touching, conspicuous leering, and sexually suggestive gestures. The third and rarest type of sexually harassing behavior documented from surveys of female workers is called sexual coercion. Sexual coercion is essentially synonymous with the legal term quid pro quo sexual harassment. It is attempting to use threats or bribes to gain sexual access to a target. As research began to explore men as well as women as the potential targets of sexually harassing behavior, it became clear that even though men were less often targeted, a significant portion of men also experienced such behavior. In addition, a form of gender harassment sometimes called gender role enforcement or challenges to sexual identity was identified as an experience for men. This form of sexually harassing behavior includes ridiculing men who do not conform to masculine stereotypes. More recent studies have found that women may also experience similar harassment and find it just as emotionally upsetting as men do.

Social scientists have devoted a great deal of attention to the study of factors that influence interpretations of behaviors as sexual harassment. Although women and men more often agree than disagree on what should be considered sexual harassment, women have been found to interpret a broader range of behaviors as potentially sexual harassment. Women and men are less likely to disagree when it comes to more severe behaviors like sexual coercion and more likely to show some disagreement when it comes to less severe behaviors like unwanted sexual attention and gender harassment. Labelling one’s experiences as sexual harassment is related in part to their frequency and the severity of the consequences of these experiences. Many people who do not label their experiences as sexual harassment nevertheless suffer from negative psychological effects as the result of having been subjected to sexually harassing behavior. Experiencing sexually harassing behavior at work may be considered a form of work-related stress and has negative consequences on the personal and professional lives of men and women.

Research has found that sexually harassing behavior is more likely to occur in organizational settings where such behavior is tolerated or condoned. Traditionally masculine jobs where men dominate in numbers are settings in which sexually harassing behavior is also more likely to occur. As mentioned earlier, most perpetrators are men, but researchers have found that men vary widely in their proclivities for sexually harassing behavior. Individual differences in basic social cognition processes, such as associating ideas about sexuality with ideas about social power, seem to be correlated with male proclivities for some forms of sexually harassing behavior.

Research that does not include the study of women of color and sexual- and gender-minority women presents an incomplete picture of women’s experiences of sexual harassment. The preliminary research on the experiences of women of color, and sexual- and gender-minority women reveals that their experiences of sexual harassment can differ from the larger population of cisgender, straight, white women. Women of color experience more harassment (sexual, racial/ethnic, or combination of the two) than white women, white men, and men of color do. Women of color often experience sexual harassment that includes racial harassment. Sexual- and gender-minority people experience more sexual harassment than heterosexual women do.

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Sexual Harassment Interventions:

Research on interventions designed to reduce sexually harassing behavior has produced mixed results. Although participants in training and educational programs conducted in organizational contexts generally report that such experiences are useful, there is little evidence that the mere experience or even the thoroughness of training actually reduces sexual harassment rates in organizations. In fact, some studies have found increased reporting of sexual harassment following training, perhaps attributable to enhancements of awareness. One possible way that training in an organization can have a positive effect is simply by communicating to employees that management takes the topic seriously and providing awareness of mechanisms for targets to report complaints.

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Conducting surveys:

Conducting surveys on sexual harassment is challenging, but fortunately researchers have addressed many of these challenges. Those wishing to conduct a survey on sexual harassment ought to follow the scientific methods described below and the ethical and safety guidelines for this type of research (WHO 2001). Poorly conducting surveys on sexual harassment is unethical because responding to the survey could needlessly retraumatize the respondent. Additionally, the resulting inaccurate data from such a survey could be used to question the importance and legitimacy of such an important and sensitive topic (WHO 2001).

An initial challenge in conducting survey research on sexual harassment is that many women are not likely to label their experiences as sexual harassment. Additionally, women who experience the gender harassment type of sexual harassment are more than 7 times less likely to label their experiences as “sexual harassment” than women who experience unwanted sexual attention or sexual coercion (Holland and Cortina 2013). This illustrates what other research has shown: that in both the law and the lay public, the dominant understandings of sexual harassment overemphasize two forms of sexual harassment, sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention, while downplaying the third (most common) type—gender harassment (see figure below). Regardless of whether women self-label their experiences as sexual harassment or not, they all have similar negative psychological and professional outcomes (Magley, Hulin, et al. 1999; Woodzicka and LaFrance 2005).

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Figure above shows public consciousness of sexual harassment and specific sexually harassing behaviors.

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This labelling issue was first identified in research on rape and sexual violence. Surveys conducted by Koss (1992) revealed that when respondents were asked simply, “Have you been raped?” estimates of the number of people raped in the college population were very low, yet when asked whether they had experienced a series of specific behaviors that would meet legal criteria for rape, estimates of the number of people raped were much higher. Subsequent studies of sexual harassment found similar results (Ilies et al. 2003; Schneider, Pryor, and Fitzgerald 2011), and Fitzgerald and colleagues (1988) established the Sexual Experiences Questionnaire (SEQ) to standardize questions about specific sexual harassment behaviors rather than asking about “sexual harassment” generally. With extensive psychometric evidence supporting it, the SEQ has become the gold standard in the assessment of sexual harassment experiences in both work and school settings (Cortina and Berdahl 2008). Unfortunately, some recent studies attempting to measure the prevalence of sexual harassment have not followed this good practice and are thus likely to have low prevalence rates, be missing data about those who have experienced gender harassment, and as a result be unreliable for evaluating the prevalence of sexual harassment.

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The Psychological Climate for Sexual Harassment (PCSH) Questionnaire is a 9-item inventory rated on 5 point Likert-type scale. Its purpose is to measure the psychological climate as it might relate to, and encourage, sexual harassment.  Research has indicated that a key predictor of sexual harassment in the workplace is the degree to which it is perceived as permissible. Scales have been developed to measure this ‘climate of permissibility’ within the workplace but they suffer from limitations; namely, they are often too cumbersome and impractical, or atheoretical in nature. Most importantly, existing research had not examined the ‘psychological climate’ around sexual harassment; instead, it had focused mainly on persons’ experiences of harassment while ignoring possible situational triggers. These limitations were addressed in Estrada, Olson, Harbke, & Berggren (2011) through the development of the Psychological Climate for Sexual Harassment (PCSH) which is a brief and accurate measure of the ‘psychological climate’ in relation to sexual harassment.

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Another hurdle faced by surveys on sexual harassment is that women who have experienced sexual harassment may be reluctant to respond to a survey on the topic or to admit being a target or victim because sexual harassment can be stigmatizing, humiliating, and traumatizing (Greco, O’Boyle, and Walter 2015; Bumiller 1987, 1992). To encourage open self-reports, it is important that survey responses are confidential, if not anonymous, and to reassure survey participants that this is the case. Additionally, to help avoid a nonresponse bias (i.e., some segments of a population selectively declining to participate), sexual harassment experts do not use the term sexual harassment or sexual misconduct in the survey title and instead situate their questions about sexual harassment within a broader survey that asks about social concerns such as gender issues, civility, or culture. In a meta-analytic review of the incidence of sexual harassment in the United States, Ilies and colleagues (2003) found that directly asking respondents whether they had experienced sexual harassment (as opposed to using questionnaires that list behaviors that constitute sexual harassment) led to substantially lower estimates of sexual harassment incidence.

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When determining prevalence estimates, attention must be given to minimizing nonresponse biases in the survey sample. Nonresponse biases include attitudes and other characteristics that disincline people from survey participation (Krosnick et al. 2015). A reluctance to answer questions about sexually harassing experiences could represent a nonresponse bias. While low response rates are not synonymous with low levels of nonresponse bias, generally low response rates should be interpreted with caution and will raise limitations on what conclusions can be drawn because of the representativeness of the survey sample (Dillman, Smyth, and Christian 2008; Ilies et al. 2003). Just as it is important to be cautious about deriving prevalence estimates from samples with lower response rates, researchers and leaders in academic institutions must also be judicious when deriving such estimates from nonprobability samples (see Yeager, Krosnick, and Javitz [2009] for a discussion of the problems with opt-in internet surveys).

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A challenge for any survey that is particularly important for sexual harassment surveys is their ability to gather information about nonmajority members of a given workplace or campus. Often women of color and sexual- and gender-minority women have been underrepresented among survey respondents, resulting in unreliable prevalence rates for these specific populations. Recent research is beginning to address this by looking at sexual harassment through the lens of intersectionality and by working to oversample these underrepresented populations when conducting surveys.

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Psychology, biology and evolutionary psychology of sexual attraction and sexual harassment:

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Sexual attraction:

When people talk about attraction, they usually only mean sexual attraction. However the psychology of attraction is much deeper, and there are different types of attractions besides sexual attraction, for example aesthetic attraction, platonic attraction etc. The topic of discussion is sexual harassment and therefore only sexual attraction will be discussed. Sexual attraction is the desire to engage in sexual activity with a specific person. Sexual attraction, in species which reproduce sexually, is attraction to other members of the same species for sexual or erotic activity. This type of attraction is often important for the survival of sexually reproducing species, while in many species serves no immediate reproductive goal.  It’s what you see when people make out intensely at the clubs or when two people look at each other like they’re both apple pies. If that’s the only thing coming into your head when your eyes meet theirs, that’s sexual attraction. Often the result of a sexual attraction is sexual arousal. Yes, of course, if men and women weren’t attracted to each other, none of us would be around!

Sexual attraction is attraction on the basis of sexual desire or the quality of arousing such interest.  Sexual attractiveness or sex appeal is an individual’s ability to attract the sexual or erotic interests of other people, and is a factor in sexual selection or mate choice. The attraction can be to the physical or other qualities or traits of a person, or to such qualities in the context where they appear. The attraction may be to a person’s aesthetics or movements or to their voice or smell, besides other factors. The attraction may be enhanced by a person’s adornments, clothing, perfume or style. It can be influenced by individual genetic, psychological, or cultural factors, or to other, more amorphous qualities. Sexual attraction is also a response to another person that depends on a combination of the person possessing the traits and on the criteria of the person who is attracted.  Though attempts have been made to devise objective criteria of sexual attractiveness and measure it as one of several bodily forms of capital asset, a person’s sexual attractiveness is to a large extent a subjective measure dependent on another person’s interest, perception, and sexual orientation. For example, a gay or lesbian person would typically find a person of the same sex to be more attractive than one of the other sex. A bisexual person would find either sex to be attractive.  The ability of a person’s physical and other qualities to create a sexual interest in others is the basis of their use in advertising, film, and other visual media, as well as in modelling and other occupations.

You’re not just attracted to someone for their brains or their brawn, or even just for their perfectly symmetrical face. Those things are all part of the equation that also includes that person’s scent and voice. We’ve known for decades that attraction—and not just sexual attraction, mind you—has many components that fit together, yet it’s a relatively under-studied area. Physical beauty’s role has historically been far more central to the study of attraction. Symmetrical faces, specific chest-to-waist or hip-to-waist ratios, height—they’ve all been consistently tied to attractiveness.

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Why does female make conversation with physically attractive males while blowing the off more unattractive ones? Why do all males have the same prerequisites for the perfect female despite race and ethnicity: perky breasts, slim waist, and full lips? Despite most people’s lofty notions of equality, and beauty being in the eye of the beholder, we are all susceptible to certain physical and material traits that make some humans more desirable than others. Perhaps we cannot punish ourselves for our weakness when we see beautiful and successful people, part of the answer lies in the biology and evolution of humans. Males and females have different standards for a desirable mate, and we share many of these characteristics with other animals in the animal kingdom, yet these instincts are inherent for a reason: reproduction.

As unromantic and pragmatic as it may seem, nature’s programming of our brains to select out and respond to stimuli as sexually compelling or repelling simply makes good reproductive sense . Recent studies have indicated that certain physical characteristics stimulate a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which is followed by sensations such as elevated heart rate, perspiration, and a general feeling of sexual arousal. So what visual cues instigate these feelings of sexual arousal in men? How does it differ from what women find attractive?  A preference for youth, however, is merely the most obviously of men’s preferences linked to a woman’s reproductive capacity. The younger the female the better the capacity for reproduction, hence attributes that males find attractive and contingent on signs of youthfulness. Our ancestors had access to two types of observable evidence of a woman’s health and youth: features of physical appearance, such as full lips, clear skin, smooth skin, clear eyes, lustrous hair, and good muscle tone, and features of behavior, such as a bouncy, youthful gait, and animated facial expressions. Cross-cultural studies have found that men, despite coming from different countries find similar traits attractive in females. Men’s preferences are biologically and evolutionarily hardwired to find signs of youth and health attractive in women in order to determine which females are best suited to carry on their gene, and legacy. Healthier and more youthful women are more likely to reproduce, and be able to take care of the children after birth, hence ensuring a perpetuation of the male’s gene. Scientists have also been establishing that scent plays an important role in deeming females attractive. At certain points during their menstrual cycle women produce more or less estrogen accordingly. During certain times thought the menstrual cycle their sent can be more or less appealing to males. A research team reports that the brains of men and women respond differently to two putative pheromones, compounds related to the hormones testosterone and estrogen. When smelled, an estrogen like compound triggers blood flow to the hypothalamus in men’s brains but not women’s.

Men are not the only ones subject to biological predispositions in deeming attraction. Women are judicious, prudent, and discerning about the men they consent to mate with because they have so many valuable reproductive resources to offer. Men produce sperm by the millions, yet women produce about 400 eggs in their lifetime and the trials of pregnancy and child rearing are long and arduous, hence their preferences and what they find sexually attractive in a male are based more on security and longevity of relationships. Athletic prowess is an important attribute to most women that hearkens back to the beginning of man. An athletic and well-muscled male is more likely to be a good hunter hence provide for a family. Large and athletic male can also provide physical protection from other males. Women are interested in having relationship with a lawyer, doctor, or investment banker. What do all of these professions have in common? Money. Women are attracted to a successful male because this is indicative of his ability to provide for a family. This is a desirable trait that is shared by females thought the animal kingdom. When biologist Reuven Yosef arbitrarily removed portions of some males’ (Gray shrike, a bird that lives in the desert of Israel) caches and added edible objects to others, females shifted to the males with the larger bounties. Yet a man has had more than just the resources to attract a female, he also has to be willing to share them. Women tend to be attracted to more generous men because this is indicative of how they will treat them in the future, a man cannot withhold his resources from a female and their offspring.

Sexual attraction does have biological and evolutionary traits. We are not fully beyond the basic drives of our biological and evolutionary makeup, yet not all of our desires for a sexual mate are purely physical and material, there is always the mysterious capacity to fall in love and maintain a lasting relationship with one other person.

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Sexual attraction in animals:

Sexual attractiveness in non-human animals depends on a wide variety of factors. Often, there is some element of the animal’s body which exists for sexual attraction, like the bright plumage and crests of some species of birds. In many species, there are behaviours which appear to be sexual display. Some of these attributes seem to exist solely to demonstrate fitness and health, for example by demonstrating the ability to sustain an “expensive” feature with no other apparent survival function. Conversely, the receiving sex may be predisposed to perceive these features as sexual attraction. It is possible that these features by the giving or the receiving ends cause major survival problems, especially where, as in moose, a direct competitive element is involved.  Frequently (especially in insects) chemical signals are used to generate sexual interest and to locate potential mates. These signals, known as pheromones, can produce a profound effect upon an animal’s behaviour even when present in very minute quantities.

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Common elements of sexual attraction in humans:

Typically, sexual attraction refers to a person being drawn to another in order to have a sexual relationship. The concrete meaning of a sexual relationship differs across cultures and history. Because human social behavior is often highly complex, a sexual relationship may entail one which, at its beginning, has little or no sexual behavior, and only after a period of time, which can be a courtship period, or a threshold such as marriage, does sexual activity enter the interaction patterns.  Certain aspects of what is sexually attractive is universally agreed upon across the human species, or nearly universal among particular cultures or regions, while other factors are determined more locally, among sub-cultures, or simply to the preferences of the individual, which may come about as a result of a variety of genetic and psychological factors. Sexual attractiveness of a person to another person depends on both persons;

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Much of human sexual attractiveness is governed by physical attractiveness. This involves the senses, in the beginning especially:

  • Visual perception (how the other looks)
  • audition (how the other sounds (in their voice and movements))
  • Olfaction (how the other smells, naturally or artificially; the wrong smell may be repulsive).

Some studies suggest that one source of physical attraction of a human male to a human female is dependent upon a proportion between the width of the hips and the width of the waist (waist-hip ratio). As with other animals, pheromones may also enter into the picture, though less significantly than in the case of other animals. Theoretically, the “wrong” pheromone smell may cause someone to be disliked, even when they would otherwise appear attractive. Frequently a pleasant smelling perfume is used to encourage the member of the opposite sex to more deeply inhale the air surrounding its wearer, increasing the probability that the pheromones from the individual will also be inhaled. The importance of pheromones in human relationships is probably limited and widely disputed, although it appears to have some scientific basis.

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A sexually attractive visual appearance in humans generally involves:

  • a general body shape and appearance sanctioned by the local culture.
  • a lack of visible disease or deformity.
  • a high degree of mirror symmetry between the left and right sides of the body, particularly of the face.
  • pleasing bodily posture.

However, these factors are complicated by many other factors. There may sometimes be a focus on particular features of the body, such as breasts, legs, hair, or musculature.

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Factors determining sexual attraction to human females:

A youthful, or neotenic, appearance is a notable factor governing the degree to which a female individual is regarded as sexually attractive.  In Western societies, various cultural features may reflect the preference for neotenic female partners; many are dated to antiquity. These include depilatory practices (acomoclitism: intentional hair removal for visual and other effects) and a preference for light or blonde hair. A strong aspect to sexual attraction is proportion. It is typical for a plastic surgeon to correct a perceived error of proportion, such as making a nose that is too big smaller via rhinoplasty, or making breasts larger via breast implants.  One idea of physical beauty regarding the breasts of women is that the best shape approaches the shape of a three dimensional parabola (which is called a Paraboloid of revolution) as opposed to a hyperbola, or a sphere. Conversely, the shape of the buttocks of an attractive person (male or female) tends to resemble the shape of a cardioid, which is the inverse transform of a parabola. In regard to the female genitalia, the aesthetic consensus stresses the roundness and largeness of the labia majora, and the symmetry of the labia minora. Vulval aesthetics are relatively new in being observed, as previously the female genitalia was regarded as either repulsive, uninteresting, nonexistent, or taboo in Western culture. The realization to the contrary following the feminist movement and sexual revolution has brought about a new realm of plastic surgery and so-called designer vaginas.

The appearance of health also plays a part in physical attraction. Often, women with long hair are thought to appear more beautiful, as the ability to grow long, healthy looking hair is an indication of continuous health of an individual. Another indication of health of an individual is the ability to grow long, strong, healthy-looking fingernails. The preference for this effect has resulted in the fact that artificial nails and manicures have grown extensively popular for women beginning in the 20th century. Toenails also feature as a component of sexual attractiveness to some degree. Healthy-looking skin is also considered a beauty trait.

Weight, whether tending toward thinner or heavier, has sometimes been considered a physical factor governing attractiveness of both genders (typically women), but there is some debate suggesting that this is actually a social factor indicating desirability. In some cultures, both historically and in the present day, a female with greater than average weight has been seen as sexually attractive. However, this cannot be solely because fat deposits provide the energy needed for developing a healthy fetus, as in other cultures, women so thin as to stand a high risk of miscarriage are considered attractive. Rather, weight is a visible indicator of social status and wealth; in some societies, only the rich can afford to be fat, while in others, only the rich can afford liposuction and personal trainers, or have meaningful employment that promotes healthy diet and exercise habits. Therefore weight is at least partially an indicator of social status, which is itself sexually desirable to many. It may also merely be that, as it is unhealthy to be too fat, this can be seen as unattractive.

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Factors determining sexual attraction to human males:

It is thought that sexual attraction to a man by a woman, is somewhat determined by the height of the man. For the woman, the man should be at least a few percent taller than her in order to be perceived as handsome. In European populations the average height of males is about 175 cm whereas the average height of females is about 165 cm – a 6% difference. It would be preferable if the man is at least a little above the average in height in the given population of males. Among heterosexuals, the initial attraction usually begins with the physical features of the human form and attire. Those who believe that the muscular contour of a male is attractive, will choose other males with well-defined muscles. Males who make use of their hormone testosterone through exercise or bodybuilding techniques find themselves attractive as their muscles take shape.

At various times in history and throughout various cultures and sub-cultures the growth, maintenance and display of facial or body hair produced as a by-product of testosterone activity within male bodies has been considered a primary characteristic of sexual attractiveness, and of a display of masculinity in general. Cultural development seems to oscillate through multi-generational cycles from one pole to another: extreme hair growth, especially of facial hair accompanied by elaborate grooming rituals is often followed within a couple of generations by a widespread antipathy to body hair and the widespread adoption of depilatory practices.  The causal mechanism for this oscillation has not been established but differences in the simultaneous characterisation of body hair attractiveness within a culture between different social classes may indicate that the dynamic force driving the diffusion of differing male body hair social practices is in fact mate selection by females.

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Social context:

Aesthetic relativism is common in the social sciences and in feminist thought. “Beauty” is regarded as a social construct rather than as fulfilling a natural function (e.g. in terms of sexual attraction and reproduction). For example, the tendency to cultural tolerance of signs of ageing such as gray hair and wrinkled skin in men, to a greater extent than in women, is seen by some as culturally determined. This view, however, ignores the fact that the age-span for reproduction is markedly different in the two sexes, and consequently the criteria for aesthetic (sexual) attraction may be correspondingly different. (On the other hand, men as well as women are under increasing pressure to conform to what some might argue is a media-determined ideal of a youthful appearance.)  According to Schopenhauer, the criteria for sexual attraction are (in women from the perspective of men) beauty, youth and health; and (in men from the perspective of women) status, strength and wealth. This is because these are believed to be the optimal conditions for the reproduction of the species: the well-being of the potential offspring is always the key concern, although one or both of the partners may be quite unconscious of this.

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Reasons for sexual attraction range from brain biology to fashions:

The problem of how different tastes in physical attraction emerge is surprisingly complex. Influences range from brain biology to fashions. If we knew how heterosexual men and women develop a physical attraction for each other, we would know a lot more about human psychology than is currently understood. What we do know is that the phenomenon involves many levels of biological explanation as well as different kinds of learning.

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Events before Birth:

Research on gender orientation indicates that hormonal events before birth affect who we are attracted to. It seems that masculinization of the brain by sex hormones increases the probability of being attracted to women. One clue is the fact that females exposed to unusually high levels of hormones in the womb (when mothers mistakenly continued to take diethylstylbeserol – a discontinued contraceptive) are more likely to grow up with a sexual attraction to women. It is worth noting that the majority of exposed females did not develop a lesbian orientation, however. Perhaps, the prenatal environment has relatively weak effects that are washed out during childhood, puberty, and subsequent development.

Childhood has received a lot of attention as a time when gender differences in behavior emerge. This is not entirely a matter of imitating others given that gender differences in vigorous physical activity and aggression are linked to the effects of testosterone during prenatal development based on masculinzing experiments on female monkeys. Otherwise, children may acquire a strong expectation that they will marry a member of the other gender by observing love and marriage in their community.

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Puberty as another Beginning:

In the past, prior to beauty pageants for young girls, puberty marked sexual awakening, at least for most boys. It appears that the spike in production of sex hormones not only develops secondary sexual characteristics like beards and breasts but also triggers sexual desire in the brain. Girls are more precocious than boys by various indications and some elements of sexual behavior far precede puberty. Lowering of the eyelids and aversion of the gaze is a flirting gesture seen in very young girls. In societies where children have free sexual expression, girls are sexually active several years before boys and well before puberty. In general, though, it is likely that puberty triggers increased sexual attraction to the other gender in most girls as well as most boys. Sexologists like Alfred Kinsey emphasized that attraction to one gender or the other is a matter of degree with the human population broadly distributed between poles of exclusive heterosexuality and exclusive homosexuality with bisexuals being equally attracted to each gender but this approach has not received much traction possibly because so few people self identify as bisexual. Kinsey was certainly correct in emphasizing the variability in human sexual behavior and this point is underscored by the surprising degree to which sexual attraction can be conditioned by experiences.

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Fetishes and Pavlovian conditioning:

This phenomenon was explored in controversial experiments where male subjects were conditioned to be sexually aroused to the image of a pair of black boots that initially produced no erotic response. The black fur-lined boots were paired with a nude picture of an attractive woman. Not only did they acquire the capacity to arouse the subjects but this quickly-conditioned response showed no sign of going away after the nude photographs were no longer shown. Such research suggests remarkable flexibility in the human sexual response. The implications for normal sexuality seem clear. One possibility is that for people in a stable sexual relationship, sexual responsiveness may be conditioned to aspects of the partner. In fact, such conditioning in the service of a pair bond may explain why sexual arousal is so easily conditioned in the first place (at least for males of the species).

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Apart from the various layers of biological influences, and associative learning, sexual attraction is affected by fashions and traditions in some remarkable ways.

Traditions and Fashions:

In developing countries, men are attracted to women who have plenty of fat whereas the standard of attractiveness in developed countries is increasingly slender. The underlying logic of such systematic shifts seems clear. In societies where it is difficult to get enough to eat, having stored body fat helps women to overcome the energetic challenges of pregnancy and breastfeeding. In developed countries, there is an excess of food and women who are slender are perceived as more professionally competent and as more likely to succeed in careers. In modern societies, just as women lose weight and deemphasize bodily curvaceousness, men shave their facial hair and tune down this sexual signal. Beards are more popular in conservative societies where there is little premarital sex. This suggests that men shave so as to project honesty and transparency in societies where premarital sex is common and where women may be seduced and abandoned. Whatever the underlying reasons, men are more attracted to fat women in some societies and slender women in others. Likewise, women prefer bearded men in some places and times and clean-shaven ones in others. So far, this relates purely to physical attraction. The psychological aspects of mate selection are even more complex – and possibly more important – ranging from social status, religion, and politics, to personality compatibility, leisure interests, family ties, and intelligence.

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The evolutionary psychology of physical attractiveness: Sexual selection and human morphology, a 1995 study:

Psychological evidence suggests that sex differences in morphology have been modified by sexual selection so as to attract mates (intersexual selection) or intimidate rivals (intrasexual selection). Women compete with each other for high quality husbands by advertising reproductive value in terms of the distribution of fat reserves and by exaggerating morphological indicators of youthfulness such as a small nose and small feet and pale hairless skin. Men’s physical appearance tends to communicate social dominance, which has the combined effects of intimidating reproductive rivals and attracting mates. In addition to their attractiveness and intimidatory effects, human secondary sexual characters also provide cues to hormonal status and phenotypic quality consistent with the good genes model of sexual selection (which includes parasite resistance). Low waist-hip ratio is sexually attractive in women and indicates a high estrogen/testosterone ratio (which favors reproductive function). Facial attractiveness provides honest cues to health and mate value. The permanently enlarged female breast appears to have evolved under the influence of both the good genes and the runaway selection mechanisms. The male beard is not obviously related to phenotypic quality and may have evolved through a process of runaway intersexual selection.

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Psychology of Attraction:

  1. Women with older fathers are often attracted to older men.

As it turns out, the common stereotype that women are attracted to older men because they have underlying “daddy issues” is not totally true. Recent studies have found that women who were born to older fathers are more likely to find older men attractive. Specifically, they’re more likely to consider men with more facial creases and less hair to be attractive. As you might assume based on this, women who were born to younger fathers are more likely to be attracted to younger men.

  1. Attraction comes down to more than just sight.

It’s easy to assume that the crux of attraction comes down to sight, with maybe a few brain chemicals thrown in. Sight certainly is crucial in the psychology of attraction. But it turns out that sound and smell also play a big role. A study published in Frontiers of Psychology says that people are able to discern a number of characteristics about a potential partner — including weight, dominance level, and emotional state — simply by listening to them speak. The same study found that people are able to determine the same characteristics through smell. Yes, those brain chemicals that deal with physical attraction are prompted by not just sight, but sounds and smell as well.

  1. Different scents incite different levels of attraction.

We know that smells play a big role in the psychology of attraction, but which smells are considered hot and which not? A study published by the Social Issues Research Center found that women are attracted to androstenol, a natural chemical found in fresh male sweat. But while androstenol acts as a pheromone, the scent of androstenone, which is produced when there is too much sweat, acts as a natural turn off. Men, on the other hand, may be attracted to the smell of perfume, but turned off by the smell of tears. A 2011 Science magazine article found that when men sniffed tears, they felt a decrease in sexual arousal, whereas there was no change when they sniffed a neutral saline solution.

  1. Opposites really do attract.

You’ve likely heard the maxim that “opposites attract.” Well, as it turns out, it’s true! A recent study conducted at the University of Dresden found that both men and women are naturally attracted to those with a different human leukocyte antigen (HLA complex) — basically a genetic blueprint — than their own. Because a person’s HLA complex is vital to immune function, this fascinating fact suggests that this subconscious attraction has to do with survival of the species. So how do we know which potential mates have genetic blueprints different than our own? According to the study, our brains are able to tell based on scent alone.

  1. The quickest way to a person’s heart is through their…eyes.

That may not be the traditional ending to the popular maxim, but scientifically speaking, it’s most accurate. A study published in The Journal of Research in Personality found that people who share prolonged eye contact form stronger attachments with, and increased affection for, their staring partner, as opposed to those who are introduced with the more traditional handshake.

  1. Beards are attractive, but not all beards.

A study published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology reveals that heterosexual women are naturally attracted to men with beards. But not every beard made the cut. The study concluded that men with stubble, or some small degree of facial hair were deemed more attractive by the female participants. The males considered least attractive were those who were clean shaven and those with large, bushy beards. This may suggest that women subconsciously view men with stubble as active, healthy, and more likely to be a good parent.

  1. A woman’s cycle determines the type of man she finds attractive.

Though a heterosexual woman may be in a happy, committed relationship, she’s likely to find a range of men attractive over the course of her menstrual cycle. According to several different studies, normally ovulating women are attracted to different things depending upon their hormone levels during menstruation. During a woman’s fertile stage (usually lasting 3-6 days), she is most likely to prefer men with deeper voices, competitive natures, and other typically masculine features. At peak fertility — the day of ovulation — a woman is the most likely she’ll ever be to seek out a male stronger than her usual partner. Psychologists attribute this to the genetic hardwiring in mammals that drives the need to find a stronger mate.

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Gender is central to Sexual Attraction, a 2017 study:

Sexuality research has generally privileged attractions based on partners’ sexed physical bodies over attractions based on other features, including gender expression and personality traits. Gender may actually be quite central to sexual attractions, however, according to a recent study. Researchers assessed how sexually diverse individuals described their attractions to feminine, masculine, and gender-nonspecific features of women and men. A sample of 280 individuals responded to the open-ended questions: “What do you find attractive in a man?” and “What do you find attractive in a woman?” Researchers coded responses as pertaining to physical and/or psychological features, and as being gendered masculine, feminine, or gender-nonspecific.

They found:

  • Participants named gender-nonspecific features most frequently in responses to both questions, feminine features more than masculine features in attractions to women, and masculine features more than feminine features in attractions to men.
  • Additionally, participants named feminine physical features more than masculine physical features, and masculine psychological features more than feminine psychological features, both in their attractions to women and overall.
  • These results highlight the importance of considering attractions based on gender, rather than sex alone.

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Sexual fluidity:

Fascinating research shows that we may not consciously realize who attracts us. While straight and gay men seem to accurately detect their sexual attraction toward women and men, it appears that straight women and lesbians may not. Researchers Chivers et al. (2004) presented straight men and women, as well as gay men and lesbians, with three different sexual films. One depicted two women; one featured one man and one woman; and the last involved two men. The researchers measured participants’ self-reported sexual arousal as well as genital arousal. The results for men were straightforward: Gay men exhibited more subjective and physiological arousal to the film involving two men, and straight men exhibited more arousal to the film involving two women. The authors’ findings regarding women, however, were surprising: Although lesbians thought they were more aroused by the film with two women, and heterosexual women thought they were more aroused by the film involving one man and one woman, both lesbian and heterosexual women were physiologically aroused by all three films, regardless of the gender of the actors. Researchers believe that women’s sexuality is more fluid or flexible than men’s. And although they do not believe that women are inherently bisexual, they believe that women’s sexual attraction can shift more easily than men’s. This fluidity may have served an evolutionary purpose: Women whose male mates did not invest in their offspring may have benefited from forming partnerships with other women (Kanazawa, 2016; Kuhle and Radtke, 2013). Recent research suggests that some men do exhibit sexual fluidity as well (Katz-Wise, 2015).

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Theoretical Perspectives on Sexual Harassment:

Adaptations about physiological mechanisms, such as the heart, lungs, and immune system, are common in evolutionary biology. Evolutionary psychology is a theoretical approach to psychology that attempts to explain useful mental and psychological traits—such as memory, perception, or language—as adaptations, i.e., as the functional products of natural selection. Evolutionary psychology is focused on how evolution has shaped the mind and behavior. Though applicable to any organism with a nervous system, most research in evolutionary psychology focuses on humans. Evolutionary Psychology proposes that the human brain comprises many functional mechanisms, called psychological adaptations or evolved cognitive mechanisms designed by the process of natural selection. Examples include language acquisition modules, incest avoidance mechanisms, cheater detection mechanisms, intelligence and sex-specific mating preferences, foraging mechanisms, alliance-tracking mechanisms, agent detection mechanisms, and so on. Evolutionary psychology has roots in cognitive psychology and evolutionary biology.

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Currently two broad fields of research address the instrumental function of sexually harassing behaviors: (1) the socio-cultural approach and (2) the evolutionary approach. These two major opposing theoretical viewpoints that have been used to study sexual harassment.

  1. Socio-cultural theorists propose that sexual harassment serves to maintain political and economical male dominance by suppressing women on an interpersonal and on a societal level (e.g., Samuels, 2004). Thus, the motive would be hostility toward women.
  2. Evolutionary psychologists explain harassing behavior as either adaptation or evolutionary by-product that derives from sex differences in socio-sexual behavior. They perceive it as a kind of misunderstanding between women and men that arises from typically male short term mating orientation (cf. e.g. Studd & Gattiker, 1991). Thus, sexual harassment would be mainly motivated by sexuality.

Socio-cultural and evolutionary approaches suggest two different motives for sexual harassment: hostile degradation in order to maintain male dominance versus initiation of sexual contact; i.e. a power motive (depicting “powerful men”) or a sexual motive (depicting “sexy women”).

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Is sexual harassment about power?

Consider the case of a male supervisor who, in the midst of a conversation with a female employee about an assignment, asked her out of the blue, “Are you wearing panties?” and then blithely continued the conversation seemingly pleased that he had left her rattled. The story underscores a picture that is emerging from extensive research on such harassment: it has less to do with sex than with power. It is a way to keep women in their place; through harassment men devalue a woman’s role in the work place by calling attention to her sexuality. “Sexual harassment is a subtle rape, and rape is more about fear than sex,” said Dr. John Gottman, a psychologist at the University of Washington. “Harassment is a way for a man to make a woman vulnerable.” While sexual harassment may on first glance be taken as simple social ineptness or as an awkward expression of romantic attraction, researchers say that view is wrong and pernicious because it can lead women who suffer harassment to blame themselves, believing that something in their dress or behavior might have brought the unwanted attention. In fact, only about 25 percent of cases of sexual harassment are botched seductions, in which the man “is trying to get someone into bed,” said Dr. Louise Fitzgerald, a psychologist at the University of Illinois. “And in less than 5 percent of cases the harassment involves a bribe or threat for sex, where the man is saying, ‘If you do this for me, I’ll help you at work, and if you don’t, I’ll make things difficult for you.’ “The rest, she said, are assertions of power.

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In experiments in which one group of people is randomly assigned to a condition of power, people in the “powerful” group are prone to two shortcomings: They develop empathy deficits and are less able to read others’ emotions and take others’ perspectives. And they behave in an impulsive fashion—they violate the ethics of the workplace. In one experiment, participants in power took candy from children without blinking an eye. The research also shows that these two tendencies manifest in inappropriate sexual behavior in male-dominated contexts, echoing the accounts of the women assaulted by Weinstein. Powerful men, studies show, overestimate the sexual interest of others and erroneously believe that the women around them are more attracted to them than is actually the case. Powerful men also sexualize their work, looking for opportunities for sexual trysts and affairs, and along the way leer inappropriately, stand too close, and touch for too long on a daily basis, thus crossing the lines of decorum—and worse.

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We should also take a lesson from the now-canonical studies of Stanley Milgram on obedience to authority. Those studies, inspired by Milgram’s quest to understand the conditions that gave rise to Nazi Germany, showed that authoritarian contexts can prompt ordinary, well-meaning citizens to give near-lethal shocks to strangers off the street. In a similar fashion, contexts of unchecked power make many of us vulnerable to, and complicit in, the abuse of power. We may not like what’s going on, but many of us wouldn’t do anything to stop it. This doesn’t excuse the rest of us any more than it excuses the powerful for their crimes, but it should prevent us from telling ourselves the comforting lie that we’d behave better than the people in The Weinstein Company who reportedly knew what Weinstein was doing and failed to put a stop to it. The challenge, then, is to change social systems in which the abuses of power arise and continue unchecked

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Gendered Constructions of Power during Discourse about Sexual Harassment: Negotiating Competing Meanings: a 2007 study:

Summary: In the hands of the wrong person, power can be dangerous. That’s especially the case in the workplace, where the abuse of power can lead to sexual harassment.

Issues of power, workplace culture and the interpretation of verbal and non-verbal communication associated with sexual harassment were the focus of a study by Debbie Dougherty, assistant professor of communication in the College of Arts and Science at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Working with a large healthcare organization in the Midwest, Dougherty examined the question: why does sexual harassment occur?  “Power,” she said. “It was the common answer. It came up repeatedly. However, what I found were multiple definitions of power.”  Those definitions varied by gender. Dougherty’s assessment was based on the opinions and perceptions of 23 participants (11 women and 12 men) representing a range of hierarchical levels and job types within the healthcare organization. The average participant’s age was 38, and each participant had been employed by the company an average of seven years. None were doctors. After being placed in discussion groups, they openly discussed sexual harassment and confirmed what some researchers have argued – sexual harassment is more about power than sex, Dougherty said. In fact, moderators never asked participants to address the issue of power.

The findings indicate that:

  • For men, power comes from formal authority, and they view sexual harassers as primarily managers and supervisors. “I have power, so I sexually harass,” Dougherty said, citing a reason for such actions. Men acknowledged that co-workers could sexually harass one another, but co-worker harassment was mainly seen as a “misunderstanding.”
  • Women view power in a more complex manner; formal authority is but one dimension in male-dominated workplaces. Power to women is a negotiated process between the harasser and harassed. Dougherty said women often perceive all members of an organization as possible harassers – thinking it can be initiated by any person who is perceived as having power.
  • There is a discrepancy regarding the types of actions, behavior and communication that men and women consider sexually offensive. They also differ in their views of how power in the workplace can contribute to sexual harassment. In the study, the participants never recognized that they defined power differently, Dougherty said.

“The fact that men and women were using the same word to describe different behaviors may contribute to the continued existence of sexual harassment,” she said. “So if a man thinks that sexual harassment only comes from a supervisor, he may feel free to make sexual comments to a female coworker. The female coworker is likely to see the sexual comments as a quest for power and label it as sexual harassment.”

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In 2017 an impeccably timed study, added to what we already know about the links between sexually aggressive behaviour and power. ‘Sexual Aggression When Power Is New: Effects of Acute High Power on Chronically Low-Power Individuals’, was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by a team from Stanford’s business school. The authors, Melissa Williams, Deborah Gruenfeld and Lucia Gillory countered previous research that sexually aggressive behaviour is simply an expression of power. ‘We hypothesize’ they wrote ‘that power can indeed create opportunities for sexual aggression’ but ‘it is those who chronically experience low power who will choose to exploit such opportunities’. They found that ‘low-power men’, when placed in ‘a high-power role, showed the most hostility in response to a denied opportunity with an attractive woman’ and, more than this, that ‘having power over an attractive woman increased harassment behaviour among men with chronic low, but not high, power’. What this means, in a nutshell, they said is that people who, for whatever reason, see themselves as having been denied power appear to have a greater desire to feel powerful and, as a result, are more likely to use sexual aggression as a means of feeling powerful or gaining power.

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Does insecurity drive Men to Sexual Harassment? a 2018 study:

New research suggests that sexual harassment is related to feeling threatened and wanting to maintain one’s social status. Thus the high-profile men who have recently been accused of sexual harassment may not have been simply exercising their power. Instead their behavior could be related to feeling insecure and believing that others find them ill-suited to or undeserving of their dominant position. Researchers came to this conclusion after conducting three different studies using a combination of adults and college students, some of which included only men and some of which included both men and women. The review, led by Drs. Leah Halper of Ohio University and The Ohio State University, and Kimberly Rios, also of Ohio University, appears in the journal Sex Roles. The findings indicate that sexual harassment is not always about sexual gratification; sometimes it is about trying to look more competent and in control in the eyes of others.

Most studies about sexual harassment have focused on the characteristics of victims, and how they experience and deal with the harassment. Some work that has been done on the perpetrators has shown that men in powerful positions are more inclined to sexually harass others. However, not all men at the top are harassers. In this study, Halper and Rios set out to understand whether there are specific aspects of a man’s disposition that make him more prone to misusing his power to sexually harass others, which can include attempts to gain sexual favors.

In one study, 273 men had to imagine themselves in the powerful position of a male employer who was in a position of power over a female employee or interviewee. These men were asked to indicate whether they would ask for sexual favors in return for securing her a job, a promotion, or some other job-related benefit. Participants also had to answer questions that measured their self-esteem and how narcissistic they were, as well as how important they perceived others’ opinion and criticism of them.

The outcomes of the study support the idea that powerful men are especially inclined to sexually harass others when they worry that they will be perceived as incompetent. This fear was consistently found to predict sexual harassment among men in powerful positions. The same did not hold true for women. These findings corroborate the theory that sexual harassment is in part a byproduct of a person feeling threatened and wanting to maintain his social status. “Fearing that others will perceive you as incompetent is a better predictor of sexual harassment than your self-perceived incompetence,” said Halper. “The findings also suggest that men do not necessarily sexually harass women because they seek sexual gratification, but rather because their insecurity about being perceived as incompetent prompts them to want to undermine a woman’s position in the social hierarchy,” Rios said.

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Power’s effect on brain could help explain sexual harassment: 2018 study:

Smith led the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology study. In seven experiments, she and her collaborator showed a range of ways that people made to feel powerful—like by writing about times in life where they felt in control of a situation—think differently than their low-power peers.  In study after study, Smith and researchers like her started piecing together evidence for the profound ways that holding power—whether through experimental manipulation or real-life experience—changes the way people process their worlds, in ways that explain not only corporate greed or erratic executive behavior, but sexual harassment.

Power is nonconscious, Smith and her colleagues have found; we can have power, and absorb its cognitive effects, without realizing that we’re doing so. Other researchers have found that powerful people consider others’ perspectives less, and that the experience of power increases optimism about risky decisions. It also gives people an “illusory” sense of control over what will happen, increases the anticipation of reward while reducing the perception of threat, and prompts people to perceive sexual interest that isn’t there, among other effects.

  1. Power blinds you to others’ perspectives

Powerful people “aren’t thinking about the meaning of the world in other people’s heads,” says Joe Magee, a psychologist studying power at New York University. “They’re only thinking of the world and their actions from their own perspective.”

  1. Power turns people into abstract thinkers

At the close of Smith’s formative 2006 paper, she and her co-author proposed an abstraction hypothesis. “We propose that … those with power tend to process information in a more abstract manner than those without power,” they wrote. “The ability to see the bigger picture, to plan ahead, to keep an eye on higher goals, may be prerequisites for obtaining power as well as requirements for maintaining it.” In subsequent studies, she found that abstract thinking increases your own personal sense of power, and that just using more abstract, rather than concrete, language makes people appear more powerful. Other researchers found that when experimental participants were asked to think about their lives in a year, they used more abstract thinking in an unrelated follow up task than those who mused about tomorrow—suggesting that abstract thinking in one thing you’re doing can bleed into the next.

While abstract thinking sounds innocent, it too has implications for harassment. Researchers have identified a gap in how people describe their sexual experiences: men will self-report more coercive sexual behaviors when presented with more concrete survey items (“Have you ever coerced somebody to intercourse by holding them down?”) versus abstract ones (“Have you ever raped somebody?”). Women will also report greater victimization when given concrete, versus abstract, survey items. Relatedly, men are more likely to interpret vignettes of sexual harassment positively than women looking at the same prompts.

  1. Power leads to unrealistic optimism about goals

In addition to increased optimism, “illusory” control, and extra sensitivity to reward, powerful people also have a tougher time remembering—or even imagining—things that could get in the way of goals. Given that lack of risk sensitivity, organizations need to spell out the stakes of what’s to be lost with harassment. Linking behavior to outcome—like Yale did with their scenarios—is a start. The high-powered exits brought about by #MeToo, like Matt Lauer’s reportedly $20 million a year salary, signal to individuals and organizations just what the stakes are. When the risks are tied to bank accounts and budgets, powerful people are more inclined to listen.

  1. Power leads to people seeing the world in terms of goals

Power leads people to objectify other people, see them in instrumental terms, how they might help fulfil goals and that process can manifest itself as sexual objectification if someone has a sexualized goal. Smith echoes the sentiment: “If we hire men whose primary way of looking at women is in terms of sexual goals, and power makes you goal oriented, you can guess what happens next.” Indeed, research has found that sexually aggressive men rate women as significantly more attractive when they’ve been primed to feel powerful, and that power priming is also linked with hostile sexism and gender harassment.

In experiment, Magee and his colleagues asked male college students to select a partner for an analytical task. After being primed to feel high or low power, some were primed to have sexual goals by doing a word search with lots of sexual terms (“bed,” “skin,” and “feel”) while others had neutral terms (“clock,” “bread,” and “radio”). They were then shown the resume and photo of a young woman rated in pilot data to be moderately competent but highly attractive, and asked if they’d like to work together with her. The result: When high-powered men’s sexual goals were primed, they were more likely to want to work with her, more so than the low-power participants.

This doesn’t just happen in terms in sex: Power exaggerates the roles of goals in people’s lives, and turns down the volume on inhibition, to the point that you might take more candy from a jar marked for children, as happened in one brutally symbolic experiment. Power means that your personal goals trump social norms in terms of personal importance, which helps explain why employees at a major bank like Wells Fargo might make sham accounts to meet sales objectives.

But this doesn’t all have to be so bleak, Smith says: if a powerful person’s goals are prosocial—if they want to help their employees grow and benefit customers—then that will be magnified with the embrace of power. That’s why motivations for power are so important, especially in terms of promotions and succession planning: if people have self-serving drives, they’ll make antisocial decisions, and if they want to help others, they’ll act in that accordance with that urge, too. To update a phrase, power doesn’t corrupt—it amplifies goals, whether they’re sexual, financial, or social. Good goals become great goals, bad goals become toxic goals.

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Power versus Sex:

Many who write about sexual harassment assert with conviction that sexual harassment is not ‘about sex’ at all, but ‘about power’ and victims are not selected according to criteria of sexual attractiveness but rather chosen more or less at random to be victims of a male need to oppress women. For example, Gutek (1985, p. 54) asserts that sexual harassment ‘is likely to happen to almost any female worker’, but on the next page she points out that victims tend to be young and either single or divorced. Workman and Johnson (1991, p. 776) note that ‘some individuals believe only attractive women are sexually harassed’, but that ‘empirical studies do not support this belief, since women in all ranges of attractiveness have reported harassment’. Although this statement leaves the casual reader with the impression that unattractive women are as likely to be targets as attractive women, all the writers have actually said is that not all victims are attractive (although, for all we know, they may have been the most attractive victims available to their harassers).

Because of the centrality of sexual behavior to reproductive fitness, an evolutionary perspective should lead to acute scepticism about a claim that activities that result in sexual intercourse are not ‘about sex’. This scepticism is especially warranted when the claim is that power and sex are unrelated, as dominance and sexuality share some of the same roots. As Dabbs (2000, p. 10) has noted, ‘the major social effect of testosterone is to orient us toward issues of sex and power’. Sexual coercion, it should be emphasized, is not a cultural invention of humans born of an ideology of patriarchy, but rather is a widespread pattern throughout the animal kingdom (Clutton-Brock and Parker, 1995).

Throughout human history, men have used power as a way of obtaining sex, whether coercively or through making themselves more attractive as mates. Men with the most power in history routinely surrounded themselves with nubile women whose favors they could command at their pleasure (Betzig, 1986). Male ‘despots’ in the workplace sometimes adopt a similar strategy, and there is little reason to think that their motives are any less sexual than those of an eastern emperor. Thus, even the sexual harassment cases that most conspicuously involve power are about both power and sex: a supervisor is using his workplace power to extort sexual compliance. To say that it is only about power makes no more sense than saying that bank robbery is only about guns and not about money.

A study commonly invoked to support the argument that sexual harassment is not about sex was conducted by Tangri et al. (1982). They proposed and tested three models of sexual harassment: the ‘natural/biological’ model, which views harassment as a consequence of natural physical attraction; the ‘organizational’ model, which views harassment as a consequence of organizational hierarchy, allowing individuals to use their organizational power to oppress their subordinates; and the ‘sociocultural’ model, which views sexual harassment as a result of sex-role socialization and the differential distribution of power in the larger society. They concluded that there was evidence to support the latter two models but little to support the first (the explanations are not mutually exclusive, of course).

Following the Tangri study, the idea that there is any significant biological contribution to harassment is usually mentioned just to be dismissed. The rejection of the natural/biological model resulted from the failure of the data to satisfy the predictions that the researchers derived from the model. They had predicted that if this model were correct, harassers and victims would be of both sexes; victims would be similar to their harassers in age, race, and occupational status; both harasser and victim would be unmarried; and the harasser would direct his attention only toward the victim. They also predicted that the behaviors would resemble courtship behaviors, they would stop once the victim indicated a lack of interest, and victims would be ‘flattered’ by the behaviors (although why a woman should be expected to be ‘flattered’ by behavior she viewed as harassment is hard to fathom). Because their data did not satisfy those expectations, they rejected the model. Tangri and associates oddly concluded that the tendency of individuals with greater degrees of personal vulnerability and dependence on their job to experience more harassment was some of the ‘strongest evidence available in these data against the natural model’ (p. 52). Their apparent view was that young, unattached women are particularly vulnerable and that it is simply coincidental that such women would also be sexually attractive to a potential harasser (although they did not explain why a young single woman is more vulnerable than, say, a 55-year-old woman who has worked for the same employer for 30 years but has no pension). However, it is not clear why a finding that victims were vulnerable would undermine the natural/biological model. If the harasser’s strategy is to convert his workplace power into satisfaction of his sexual urges which is the essence of quid pro quo harassment, he must focus on targets susceptible to the exercise of that power. It is not just attractiveness that is important to him; it is attractiveness plus accessibility. The test of a model is valid only if the predictions derived from the model actually follow from the model. This study was actually constructed not to test whether the harasser’s motives were based upon sexual attraction but rather whether the harassers were looking for long-term exclusive mates. No one has suggested, however, that sexual harassment is mostly ‘about marriage’. What the researchers should have tested was whether the victims of harassment tend to possess those traits that would cause them to be viewed as attractive long-term or short-term mates.

A later study by Studd and Gattiker (1991), informed by evolutionary psychology, analyzed patterns of sexual harassment and concluded that the demographic profiles of targets were largely what would be expected if harassers are employing short-term sexual strategies (see Buss and Schmitt, 1993). The strongest prediction is that the harasser is male and the victim is female, since men are usually the sexual initiators in both long-term and short-term mating. Other predictions are that the target will be of reproductive age, physically attractive, and not involved in a serious long-term relationship. These predictions are largely satisfied. Less than 1% of federal cases over a 10-year period involved sexually based behavior aimed at a male employee by a female supervisor (Juliano and Schwab, 2001). The overwhelming proportion of victims are single, divorced, or separated women under the age of 35 (Terpstra and Cook, 1985; Studd and Gattiker, 1991). Studd and Gattiker concluded that the motivation of most men involved in coercive sex in the workplace was indeed sexual (although not romantic). Moreover, in laboratory studies, subjects seem to assume that harassers’ motives are sexual, as they are substantially more likely to find that sexual harassment occurred when the plaintiff is attractive and when the harasser is unattractive (Castellow et al., 1990).

There is some confusion in the literature about what predictions one should make concerning the effect of a man’s status on a woman’s reaction to sexual advances in the workplace. For example, Buss (1999, p. 319; also Buss, 2004, p. 318) has suggested that ‘The degree of chagrin that women experience after sexual advances, however, depends in part on the status of the harasser’, with women being less upset by advances from higher status men. Bourgeois and Perkins (2003) claim to have ‘overwhelmingly refuted’ Buss’s prediction through their finding that women report imagining greater upset if someone higher in their organization persisted in asking them out on a date despite their repeated refusals than if the requests came from someone with lower status. Thus, they assert, their findings support the socio-cultural explanation and refute the evolutionary psychology explanation. It is critical to note, however, that Bourgeois and Perkins’s study, unlike the study Buss was referring to, placed the high-status man above the woman in the organization. Bourgeois and Perkins do acknowledge, however, that in absent power differentials, ‘the evolutionary hypothesis seems to apply’ (p. 349).

Rather than refuting the evolutionary psychology account, the Bourgeois and Perkins results are actually predicted by evolutionary psychology. Two separate well-documented findings are relevant to these predictions. The first is that women tend to prefer high-status men to low-status men (Buss, 2004, pp. 110–115). Thus, all else being equal, they are likely to find advances by the former more welcome than advances by the latter. The second finding is that women are strongly averse to sexual coercion, as loss of control over mating decisions is potentially very costly to them (Thornhill, 1996). Thus, women will suffer more distress when the possibility of sexual coercion is high than when it is low. These findings yield two predictions. First, women are likely to find advances by high-status men in their own organizations to be more welcome than advances by low status men in their organizations. Second, if the advances are not welcome, women are more likely to be upset by persistent advances by their superiors who have the organizational power to coerce them than by persistent advances by peers, who likely lack that power. These predictions were tested by Colarelli and Haaland (2002), whose study varied the man’s power and status separately. They found that power and status interacted, with harassment ratings increasing as power increased and status decreased. Thus, advances by a relatively low-status man who held power over the woman were most distressing.  Although Colarelli and Haaland found no main effect for status in their particular sample, a female preference for high-status males is, as mentioned above, well-established in the literature.

An approach that focuses solely on power without resort to sex differences in sexual psychology cannot explain why women almost never coerce sex from their subordinates. Some argue that one seldom sees coercion by female superiors because women ordinarily lack the necessary power (Tangri et al., 1982; Fitzgerald and Weitzman, 1990). However, large numbers of women hold management and supervisory positions in the workplace and faculty positions in colleges and universities. Nonetheless, reported instances of sexual coercion by female managers and professors are relatively rare. Although one might argue that because of the readiness of many men to engage in casual sex, women do not need to coerce them, that response itself rests on the different sexual psychologies of men and women. However, there is, in fact, little evidence that women supervisors engage in frequent voluntary sexual relations with their subordinates, either, and women’s preference for higher-status mates would suggest that this would be a relatively uncommon occurrence.

One variant of the sociocultural theory holds that sexual harassment is an attempt by men to exert power because of their fear that women constitute a threat to men’s economic or social standing (Gutek, 1992). Such an argument would predict an inverse relationship between male societal power and sexual coercion. Yet, the most pervasive coercive sex in the history of the master– servant relationship is not between men and women in the modern workplace where women are participating in the workplace as equals like never before but rather between a slave owner and his slaves. Female slaves did not constitute a threat to their owner’s economic or social standing; instead they were a reflection of it. Nonetheless, sexual relations between slave and owner were extremely common, and indeed were one of the principal objections of many abolitionists to the institution of slavery (Genovese, 1976). The historical record is clear that slave owners did not seek slave women at random for sexual relations. Rather, they preferred those who possessed the attributes that men typically value in sexual partners: reproductive value as demonstrated by youth and beauty. This preference was reflected in price, as a prime field hand would sell in New Orleans for $1800, a top-quality blacksmith would go for $2500, while a ‘particularly beautiful girl or young woman might bring $5000’ (Genovese, 1976, p. 416).

One recurrent, yet implausible, theme in the literature is that sexual harassment represents an implicit conspiracy through which men combine to oppress women (Farley, 1978, p. xvi). Some researchers have suggested that the reason that married women are less likely to be harassed is that harassers are honoring the ‘property rights’ of other men (Gutek, 1985, p. 57; Lafontaine and Tredeau, 1986), as if men have a pact among themselves that they will sexually coerce each other’s’ daughters and sisters but not their wives. Under this view, male harassers (the majority of whom are married) are more willing to honor the marital vows of other men than they are to honor their own. This ‘property rights’ argument rests uneasily with Schneider’s (1982) finding that ‘closeted’ lesbians who might have a male partner for all the harasser knows are subjected to more sexual advances than ‘open’ lesbians whose partners are known to be women, a finding that suggests that predicted receptivity is a factor influencing men’s overtures.

The relationship between power and sexual harassment is considerably more subtle than is often appreciated. Bargh and Raymond (1995) have suggested that many men in supervisory positions do not realize they are exploiting their power, because for them there is an unconscious link between power and sex. When such a man is in a position of power over a woman, an ‘automatic power sex association’ becomes activated, which tends to enhance the likelihood that he will interpret a woman’s behavior as indicating sexual interest and also to enhance his perceptions of her attractiveness (also Bargh et al., 1995; Zurbriggen, 2000). The man may see a sexual situation in which the attraction seems to be reciprocated, although the woman is simply being deferential and friendly to a man who has power over her.

The finding that many men have an automatic association of power and sex suggests that modification of sexual harassment training may be appropriate. Much of that training is focused on warning men that they should not exploit their power over subordinates to coerce sex or, more generally, that sexual relationships between supervisors and subordinates are inappropriate. Neither of these messages is likely to be terribly effective in modifying the behavior of a man having the power/sex association. Such a man would not tend to view his conduct as exploitative if he is unaware that it is his power that creates the attraction. Moreover, if he perceives the relationship as one of mutual attraction, he is less likely to abide by institutional strictures against supervisor– subordinate relationships. Perhaps a better strategy is to educate men specifically that being in a position of power will sometimes result in erroneous perceptions, especially in light of Bargh and Raymond’s estimate that three-quarters of harassers do not realize that they are engaging in harassment.

Power is unquestionably an important component of some kinds of sexual harassment. It is an essential ingredient of quid pro quo harassment, since the harasser must have the apparent power to carry through on his threat if sexual access is denied, and therefore vulnerability to the exercise of that power will be a typical feature of extortionate harassment. But the claim that ‘the goal of sexual harassment is not sexual pleasure but gaining power over another’ (Bravo and Cassedy, 1992) gets the relationship exactly backwards. The focus on power to the exclusion of sex appears to be an unfortunate side effect of the fact that most of the scholarship on harassment has been from the woman’s, if not the feminist’s, point of view. From the perspective of the victim, it may seem like all power and no sex. But if the goal of the law is to regulate the harasser’s actions, it is his perspective that must be understood rather than that of the victim.

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From power to sex:

Previous researchers have looked at sexual harassment using a number of frameworks including organisational, feminist, role theory, and attributional models of sexual harassment; however, these models all share the same basic assumptions and can be labelled socio-cultural models of sexual harassment (Sheets & Braver, 1999). A socio-cultural view of sexual harassment maintains that society grants men more power than women, and that men sometimes use this power to coerce and sexually exploit women (Bourgeois & Perkins, 2003). Based on this view, the primary motivation to sexually harass is to exercise power over another individual (Bourgeois & Perkins, 2003). Much of the research on sexual harassment has been performed from this viewpoint (e.g. Bourgeois & Perkins, 2003; Berdahl, 2009; Berdahl, 2007).

In contrast, an evolutionary psychological approach maintains that the motivation to sexually harass arises from adaptations that involve biological factors. Evolutionary psychology is a relatively new and rapidly expanding field in psychology that attempts to explain psychological traits as functional adaptations to the environment of evolutionary adaptation (EEA) that solved survival and reproductive challenges (Bourgeois & Perkins, 2003; Studd & Gattiker, 1991). Touted as the new science of the mind (Buss, 1999), this school of thought reflects the application of Darwinian theory, which traditionally focused on physiology and morphology, to the human mind and brain (Buss, 1999).

To achieve this, evolutionary psychology considers how information is processed through the mind, and then seeks to reconstruct problems that human ancestors faced in the EEA, and the problem-solving strategies and behaviours used to overcome particular obstacles (Spohn, 2005). For example, evolutionary psychologists would argue that modern humans’ innate fear of snakes is a psychological adaptation driven by the danger posed to human life by snakes in the EEA (Buss, 1999). Snakes have poisonous and potentially life threatening bites; therefore, fear of snakes, and the resulting avoidance behaviours that are manifested today, were (and still are) functionally adaptive as they minimised the contact with, and danger to life posed by snakes.

Using this logic, evolutionary psychology has made some important contributions to understanding workplace behaviour; for example, research has examined the links between evolutionary psychology and work environment (Herman-Miller, 2004), leadership theory (Spohn, 2005), men’s and women’s relative workplace status (Browne, 1998), relationship development in organisations (Teboul & Cole, 2005), workplace motivations, the links between status and well-being (Lawrence & Nohria, 2002), group social structures (Pierce & White, 1999), absenteeism, risk behaviour, unions, career development (Nicholson, 1997), and gossip (Nicholson, 2001).

Evolutionary psychology also provides a useful framework for studying sexual harassment (Browne, 2006: Studd & Gattiker, 1991). According to an evolutionary psychological viewpoint, one of the primary motivations to sexually harass is to fulfil urges that result from the biological urge to mate (Sheets & Braver, 1999). Mating represents the ultimate solution to the problem of reproduction, and, therefore, when people get the chance to interact with members of the opposite sex, as often happens in the contemporary workplace, they will tend to initiate sexually courting behaviours.

Evolutionary psychology does not ignore the role of power in the workplace. However, unlike the socio-cultural approach, the display and application of power as a function of sex is not viewed simply as a product of cultural forces, but also in terms of adaptations linked to sexual selection. For example, evolutionary psychology predicts that women should be more attracted to status or power in a potential mate, than is the case for men, as a function of adaptations from the ancestral environment. Indeed, there is good evidence for this claim across cultures (Fletcher, 2002). Moreover the links between status, power, and perceptions of sexual harassment are complex and not readily summarised in terms of simple associations. Consequently, in a workplace situation, power and mate value are confounded; that is, overtures from a male president of a company to his female secretary may be more likely to be perceived as harassment (all being equal), than overtures from another male secretary (all being equal). However, the high status male may be perceived as more attractive by the female secretary (all being equal).

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As sexual harassment is a pervasive phenomenon that entails a wide variety of negative consequences for both individuals and organisations, empirical research has often focused on the factors that lead to perceptions of sexual harassment. This research has identified organisational factors that contribute to perceptions of sexual harassment such as organisational culture (Cantisano, Morales, & Depolo, 2008; Chamberlain, Crowley, Tope & Hobson, 2008; Handy, 2006; Mueller & De Coster, 2001; Timmerman & Bajema, 2000), workplace gender composition (Chamberlain, et al., 2008), managerial attitudes towards sexual harassment (McCabe & Hardman, 2005; Timmerman & Bajema, 2000), and structural aspects of organisations (Mueller & De Coster, 2001). Victim characteristics that contribute to perceptions of sexual harassment have also been identified, such as victim response pattern (Hunter & McClelland, 1991), gender (Golden et. al., 2001), age (Colarelli & Haaland, 2002), attractiveness (Golden et. al., 2001; LaRocca & Kromrey, 1999) and attitudes towards sexual harassment (McCabe & Hardman, 2005). Finally, harasser characteristics that contribute to perceptions of sexual harassment have been identified such as explicitness of message (Soloman & Williams, 1997), attractiveness (Golden et al., 2001), status (Golden et. al., 2001; Littler-Bishop; 1982, Sheets & Braver, 1999), gender (Bourgeois & Perkins, 2003; Colarelli & Haaland, 2002; Golden et. al., 2001; McCabe & Hardman, 2005; Russell & Trigg, 2004; Soloman & Williams, 1997; Wayne, Riordan & Thomas, 2001), and power (Bourgeois & Perkins, 2003; Colarelli & Haaland, 2002). Much of this research has been performed from a socio-cultural theoretical viewpoint, as previously noted, with some (e.g. Berdahl & Cortina, 2008; Bourgeois & Perkins, 2003) dismissing the evolutionary perspective. However, as Browne (2006) points out, many predictions made by the socio-cultural point of view can also be accounted for by the evolutionary perspective.

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The Evolutionary Psychology of Sexual Harassment:

Among the effects of sexual integration of the workplace has been an increase in the opportunities for, and incidence of, sexual harassment. Sexual harassment, and women’s responses to it, can be understood as reflections of the different evolved sexual psychologies of the sexes.  The principle of natural selection is often referred to as ‘survival of the fittest’, but this characterization places undue emphasis on survival, when in fact the key to fitness is reproduction. Natural selection favors those traits that enhance the organism’s ability to overcome obstacles and avoid dangers, thereby getting its genes into the next generation. Many of the obstacles are the same for both sexes, who must obtain sufficient food and water, be protected from extremes of temperature, and avoid predators. When it comes to mating, however, members of the two sexes face quite different problems, which has resulted in not just physical but also psychological divergence. The key to the difference between male and female natures is found in the concept parental investment and mate selection theory, discussed below along with a review of the relevant literature regarding the effects of gender, power, and mate value on perceptions of sexual harassment.

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Parental Investment Theory:

One theory from evolutionary psychology that is particularly relevant to sexual harassment is parental investment theory. Many of the obstacles that humans faced during evolution were the same for males and females; however successful mating posed different challenges for men and women as demonstrated by Trivers’ (1972) parental investment theory. Parental investment refers to the amount of effort and resource that a parent invests in an offspring to promote the offspring’s chances of survival. Due to the physiological demands of gestation, birth, and lactation, human females have a higher parental investment in offspring than human males. Thus, it is in the reproductive interest of females to be more selective when choosing a mate then men in either long-term or short-term contexts. Indeed, there is good evidence from studies looking at initial mate-selection contexts, such as speed-dating studies, for example, that women are generally much more selective than men (Todd, Penke, Fasolo & Lenton, 2007). As men expend less energy in reproduction, they are less selective in regard to potential mates, and more likely to seek out multiple partners (Trivers, 1972). Based on the short-term nature of men’s parental investment (the act of copulation), the most important thing for men to look for is an attractive partner. Attractiveness signals good genes and fertility, so an attractive partner will likely produce a healthy baby who has a stronger chance of survival.

Common stereotypes about the sexes are consistent with both the predictions of evolutionary psychology and empirical evidence. Women are ‘choosier’ in mate selection than men, meaning that they are less interested in pursuing casual sex without commitment (Clark and Hatfield, 1989). Men are much choosier in selecting wives than they are in selecting ‘one-night stands’, so that signals of sexual availability, which are somewhat attractive in short-term mates, are viewed quite negatively in long-term mates (Buss and Schmitt, 1993). Women are more interested than men in the economic potential of a mate, and men are more interested in youth (indicating fertility) and beauty. Men are also more interested in sexual variety, a fact that shows up not only in cross cultural surveys (Schmitt et al., 2003), but also in research on sex differences in fantasies (Ellis and Symons, 1990) and in erotica aimed at the different sexes (Salmon and Symons, 2004). Although men’s minimum necessary investment is low relative to women’s, the long period of dependency of human young creates substantial pressure for male parental investment through provision of resources and protection of mate and offspring. Unlike most mammalian females, therefore, women’s mating decisions are influenced not only by the man’s genetic quality but also his prospects for investing in her and her offspring. Therefore, in addition to good looks which are a reflection of good genes and good health, generosity, wealth (or prospects for it), strength, and bravery are all attributes of the ideal mate. Because a man’s reproductive fitness is bound up with his status and resources (Betzig, 1986), men have substantial reproductive incentives to climb status hierarchies, which, to a large extent, entails attainment of dominance not over females but over other males.

Stemming from the differences between men and women in reproductive strategy, men tend to see the world in a more sexualised way than women do, and have a tendency to overestimate sexual interest from women with whom they interact (Haselton & Nettle, 2006). This bias is so pervasive that it has been estimated by some that 75% of males who sexually harass do not realise that they are doing it (Bargh & Raymond, 1995). Thus, evolutionary psychology predicts that women will be more sensitive to, and more offended by, sexual pressure than men.

Research has generally supported this prediction. For example, Wayne et al. (2001) found that female jurors were more likely than male jurors to find an accused harasser guilty, and were more likely to see behaviour as serious, inappropriate and offensive. In a study looking at the effects of power on perceptions of sexual harassment, Bourgeois and Perkins (2003) found that female participants said they would be generally more upset by sexual harassment than males in two out of three proposed situations. Soloman and Williams (1997) found that females said they would be more upset by highly explicit sexual material than males, but not by low-level explicit material. Gutek (1985) asked male and female participants how they would feel if a fellow worker of the opposite sex asked them to have sex. Of the male respondents, 67.2% reported that they would be flattered while only 15% said that they would be insulted. This reversed for females, with 16.8% reporting they would be flattered while 62.8% said they would be insulted. In a similar study, Clark and Hatfield (1982) found that 75% of college aged men accepted a direct proposal from a member of the opposite sex whom they did not know to go to bed, while 0% of women accepted this offer. Many other studies have found similar results for gender (e.g. Golden et. al., 2001, LaRocca & Kromrey, 1999; Russell & Trigg, 2004). However, McCabe and Hardman (2005) found no significant differences between men and women from both blue and white collar organisations in terms of which incidents they perceived as sexual harassment. Furthermore, there remains disagreement in the literature concerning the extent that gender influences perceptions of sexual harassment (Elkins & Velez-Castrillion, 2008).

Research into factors that cause perceptions of sexual harassment has also focused on the effects of power as held by one individual over another; for example the power that a manager holds over an employee. As noted previously, parental investment theory suggests that women, but not men, should be sensitive to power as the possibility of sexual coercion is increased in power relationships, and any loss of control over mating decisions is potentially very costly for women (Browne, 2006). For example, a woman may feel that she has no options but to comply with the sexual advances made to her by her manager because he has the power to adversely affect her future career if she refuses.

In many studies examining the relationship between power and sexual harassment perceptions, however, power has been confounded with status. As Sheets and Braver (1999) pointed out, power and status are conceptually different. While status refers to a person’s position or standing relative to others, power refers to the situation where one person is dependent on another for valued resources. For example, in research examining the effects of status on perceptions of sexual harassment, Bourgeois and Perkins (2003) had participants imagine they were a middle manager in a software company, or teaching assistant at a college. Participants were required to rate incidences of social-sexual behaviour emanating from either their workplace or college superiors (vice president, professor), or those working under them (lower level programmers, undergraduate students). Results showed that those of higher status were perceived as more harassing, however, while higher standing on an organisational hierarchy gave the imagined individuals more status, it also introduced a power relationship, meaning that status and power were being manipulated simultaneously. In order to test the effects of power independently from status, Sheets and Braver (1999) performed a study where power and status were manipulated separately. While their attempt to decrease status while power remained high was ineffective, internal analysis of results supported their model where increased power lead to increased perceptions of harassment. In similar research where power and status were examined separately, Colarelli and Haaland (2002) found that initiator power had a strong effect on female perceptions of harassment. As previous results have suffered from methodological errors, more investigation into the effects of power on perceptions of sexual harassment is necessary.

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Mate Selection Theory:

Although males and females pursue different strategies to maximise reproductive fitness, they use the same basic criteria when selecting a mate. Research indicates that people look for three major things in a mate; a warm personality, attractiveness, and high levels of (or the potential to achieve) status and resources (Fletcher, 2002). According to mate selection theory, each of these three attributes is a different indicator of reproductive fitness falling under the categories of either good genes, or good investment (Fletcher, 2002). Attractiveness in a partner is an indication of good genes which should lead to fertility and the good health of an infant, while a warm personality in a partner indicates a good investment through the ability to provide the emotional and practical support necessary to support an infant. Status and resources (or the potential to attain them) in a partner is an indication of good investment as this signifies the ability to protect and provide for a family (Fletcher, 2002).

People aim to find a mate of the highest possible mate value based on these three categories; however, they differ in the weighting they give to each of the three categories based on their own self perceived mate value, and their gender (Fletcher, 2002). In accordance with parental investment theory, women tend to give more weight to the investment traits (warmth personality and status/resources), whereas men give more importance to good genes (attractiveness) as these differential weightings give any resulting offspring the best possible chance of survival (Fletcher, Tither, O’Loughlin, Friesen & Overall, 2004). Evolutionary psychology predicts that people will perceive more harassment from initiators who are low in mate value; namely individuals who are unattractive, of low status, and have a cold or harsh personality, relative to those who have high mate value.  Research has generally supported these predictions. In a study looking at the effects of attractiveness on perceptions of sexual harassment under ambiguous conditions, Golden et al. (2001) found that the behaviour of attractive males was perceived as less harassing than the same behaviour performed by unattractive males. In similar research LaRocca and Kromrey (1999) found that unattractive members of the opposite sex were seen as more harassing than attractive individuals and asserted that attractiveness moderates perceptions of sexual harassment. Castellow, Wuensch, and Moore (1990) found that the attractiveness of plaintiffs and defendants in a mock sexual harassment court situation significantly affected guilty judgments in favour of attractive individuals, and that attractive individuals were perceived to be more flirtatious than unattractive individuals. In research looking at the effects of status on perceptions of sexual harassment, Littler-Bishop (1982) found that flight attendants perceived the behaviour of lower status plane cleaners as more harassing than the behaviour of higher status pilots. Sheets and Braver (1999) found that increases in workplace status equated to increases in perceived social dominance, which in turn decreased the likelihood of the perception of sexual harassment. Golden et al. (2001) found that women saw socially dominant males as less harassing than less socially dominant males. Conversely, it should be noted that in a study looking at the independent effects of power and status, Colarelli and Haaland (2002) found no significant main effect for status on perceptions of sexual harassment, but they did find an interaction such that as status increased, and power decreased, sexual harassment perceptions decreased. Some research (e.g. Bourgeois & Perkins, 2003; Langhout, Bergman, Cortina, Fitzgerald, Drasgow & Williams, 2005) has even found that higher status individuals cause higher levels of perceived sexual harassment; however, these results need to be interpreted carefully as this research has confounded status with power. No research to date has examined the effects of warmth/trustworthiness on perceptions of sexual harassment. In addition, although the effects of attractiveness and power have been examined independently, no research has attempted to integrate them to examine the perceptions of sexual harassment.

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Impact of evolved sex differences in the workplace:

These different reproductive strategies have resulted in men’s inhabiting a more sexualized world than women do, which can create substantial conflicts between men and women. Because men see the world ‘through sexual glasses’, they tend to see situations as more sexually oriented than women do. A line of psychological studies has shown, for example, that men tend to perceive sexual interest where women perceive only friendly interest. Abbey (1982) placed a mixed-sex pair of actors in a cubicle together, and had their interactions evaluated by a mixed-sex pair of observers. Males rated the female actor as being more seductive and promiscuous than females did. Male observers also rated the female actors as being more sexually attracted to their partners than the female observers did. In a subsequent study (Abbey, 1987), men and women were asked if their friendliness toward someone of the opposite sex had ever been mistakenly perceived as a sexual invitation. Significantly more women than men reported experiencing such misperceptions, and women also reported significantly more negative emotions surrounding the incidents. Because men tend to interpret friendly behavior as reflecting sexual interest and women tend to interpret sexually interested behavior as mere friendliness, there is much room for misunderstanding. A woman who has no interest in a sexual relationship with a man may first act in a friendly fashion, which the man may interpret as a sign of sexual interest and respond with what he believes are mild indications of sexual interest. If the woman takes the man’s sexual interest to be mere friendliness, she may respond with more friendliness, which the man may view as a positive response to his display of sexual interest, thereby prompting him to respond with sexual advances. It is just this pattern of miscommunication that caused trouble for Safeway, Inc., and its employees. In 1998, the supermarket chain implemented what it called its ‘superior customer service’ program, under which clerks were directed to smile at customers, make eye contact, and call them by name (Ream, 2000). A number of female clerks filed charges of sexual harassment, claiming that this overtly friendly behavior prompted some male customers to interpret their behavior as flirtatious, which led to sexual comments, propositions, and even stalking. Exacerbating the problem of miscommunication, the Safeway policy did not permit employees to discontinue the friendly behavior when customers responded inappropriately, which further encouraged the unwelcome attention from the customer. The harassment charges were dropped when Safeway agreed with some of its unions to make the policy somewhat more flexible.

The differences in perception that lead to miscommunication are easily understood from an evolutionary perspective. As Buss (1994, p. 145), has observed, a male tendency to infer sexual interest would have been selected for ‘if over evolutionary history even a tiny fraction of these ‘misperceptions’ led to sex’. In other words, a man who waits to make advances until he is absolutely certain that the woman is sexually interested is not likely to be as reproductively successful as a man who tries as long as there is a chance that she would be receptive, especially given the negative consequences to a woman of being too blatant about her sexual interest (Abbey, 1982), which tend to enhance the subtlety of the signals. The risk of miscommunication is exacerbated by the perception of many men that women often are just ‘playing hard to get’ and often mean ‘yes’ even if they say ‘no’. Although this notion is often referred to as a ‘myth’ (Semonsky and Rosenfeld, 1994, p. 515), there is substantial evidence that some women do employ this tactic. For example, more than a third of college women in one study responded positively to the question whether they had ever been in the following situation: You were with a guy you’d never had sexual intercourse with before. He wanted to engage in sexual intercourse and you wanted to also, but for some reason you indicated that you didn’t want to, although you had every intention to and were willing to engage in sexual intercourse. In other words, you indicated ‘no’ and you meant ‘yes’. (Muehlenhard and McCoy, 1991; also Muehlenhard and Hollabaugh, 1988). As Mealey (1992) noted, the fact that ‘females are selected to be coy will mean that sometimes ‘no’ really does mean ‘try a little harder’’. An inevitable consequence of this dynamic is that men sometimes make advances to women who do not welcome them. The converse of men’s bias toward perceiving sexual interest on the part of a woman appears to be women’s bias toward perceiving sexual threat on the part of men in circumstances in which opportunities for escape are limited. Because of the substantial fitness costs to a woman who loses control over her choice of sexual partner and the timing of reproduction, natural selection has favored a woman’s cautiousness about sexual coercion (Thornhill, 1996). Discomfort should begin well before an overt attempt at physical coercion is made, since by then it may be too late. Thus, the same behavior that may be perceived as friendly in an unthreatening atmosphere may be viewed as threatening where the possibilities of escape are diminished, even if the man intends no threat. Given these manifest sex differences in attitudes toward sex and sexuality and the conflict that inevitably flows therefrom, it was entirely predictable that as more women entered the work force much of this conflict would be played out in the workplace. A good deal of what passes under the name of ‘sexual harassment’ is, in fact, the playing out of these evolved sex differences.

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Evolutionary Perspectives on Sexual Offending, a 1995 study:

Evolutionary psychology has been successful in explaining diverse phenomena, such as the relative rarity with which people commit crimes against their biological relatives and the observed differences between males and females in romantic and sexual interest. According to an evolutionary view, the current sexual motivations of males and females were created in ancestral environments through their relationship with reproductive success. Sexual offending may arise in the context of a male sexual psychology that has been designed to maximize reproductive success by varying the proportion of mating effort and parental investment expended according to circumstances. Various kinds of sexual offending appear to be particular manifestations of this male sexual psychology either as modified by the offender’s ontogenetic history or as pathology caused by some aspect of the normal sexual preference mechanism gone awry.

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Biological Theories of Sexual Harassment and Assault:

This theory rests on the premise that men have a stronger sexual drive than women, which can lead to aggressive behaviour at the workplace due to an imbalance between men and women. In searching for more sexual partners, and not obtaining them, ‘frustrated’ men utilise their position of power to satisfy an innate human instinct. The theory does contain flaws, and it can certainly be disputed. The most obvious objection is that it echoes the reasoning used in defence of rape-culture, namely, that sexual harassment is a natural phenomenon and must be accepted as such. It also does not explain the fact that women are not the sole victims of sexual harassment, nor are men the sole perpetrators.

Biological theories assert that while there is no “gene” that causes men to rape, the existence of a predisposition to rape may be a consequence of evolution. According to this theory, men who are predisposed to rape may have more reproductive success (such as a higher number of offspring). Over long periods of time, this reproductive advantage results in a widespread predisposition to rape among males. Other theorists argue that predisposition to rape is not an adaptation itself, but the side-effect of reproductive adaptations, such as the pursuit of a number of partners. Paired with these biological explanations of the perpetrator’s behavior have been biological explanations of the behavior of a victim of sexual assault. For women, sexual activity with a limited number of partners is desirable and thus women have evolved to resist rape. Further, these theorists argue, the experience of “trauma” associated with sexual assault was a reproductively successful response because women who experienced such trauma subsequently avoided being raped.

Although some biological theorists maintain that acknowledging a biological basis for rape does not excuse rape, such theories can contribute to and perpetuate beliefs that excuse perpetrators from responsibility their actions and blame the victims. For example, some proponents of biological theories argue that because men cannot control their irresistible impulses to rape, it is women’s responsibility to avoid dressing provocatively. According to this view, women who are raped must have put themselves in circumstances that led to rape and the appropriate response is to teach them how to avoid being raped.

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Risk of sex offending linked to genetic factors, a 2015 study finds:

Male relatives of sex offenders are five times more likely to commit similar crimes, and 40% of risk is genetic, a study suggests. The study suggests that genetic factors are largely responsible for the effect and that environmental factors, such as sons learning from fathers, have only a minor influence. The authors urged authorities to consider interventions for the male relatives of sexual offenders, including counselling on appropriate sexual behaviour or even offering medications designed to lower sex drive. Niklas Långström, professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and lead author, said: “This does not imply that sons or brothers of sex offenders inevitably become offenders too. But although sex crime convictions are relatively few overall, our study shows that the family risk increase is substantial.”  There is no evidence for a “sex offending gene”, he added. Instead, a constellation of genes linked to factors such as impulse control, intelligence and sexual appetite are likely to influence the risk of a person committing an offence.

The scientists used the records of 21,566 men convicted of sexual offences in Sweden between 1973 and 2009. Around 2.5% of brothers or fathers of convicted sex offenders were themselves convicted of sexual offences, compared to an offending rate of about 0.5% of men in the general population. The authors looked at both rape and child sexual offences and found similar patterns for both. About 40% of sexual offending risk is explained by genetic factors, a statistical analysis found, and about 2% of the risk was attributed to environmental factors shared between siblings, such as parental attitudes, neighbourhood and education. Unique environmental factors, such as head injuries, peer group influence and social experiences, are likely to account for the remaining differences in risk between people.

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Are some primates wired for sexual harassment? a 2017 study:

Male baboons that harass and assault females are more likely to mate with them, according to a new study, adding evidence that sexual intimidation may be a common mating strategy among promiscuous mammals. The study’s authors even argue that the findings could shed light on the evolutionary origins of our own species’ behavior, although others aren’t convinced the results imply anything about people.

To conduct the research, Elise Huchard, a zoologist at the National Center for Scientific Research in Montpellier, France, and colleagues examined a group of chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) living in Tsaobis Nature Park in Namibia over a 9-year period. These brownish, dog-sized primates live in troops of dozens of males and females. Females will mate with multiple males throughout the year. The male chacma are about twice the size of females and aggressively fight one another and engage in howling competitions to establish dominance. The more dominant a male is, the more likely he is both to succeed in finding a mate and to sire offspring.

Males rarely force females to mate, but after years spent observing the animals in the wild, Huchard noticed that a subtler form of sexual coercion appeared to be going on. “Males often chase and attack some females of their own group when meeting another group, and they generally target sexually receptive females on such occasions,” she says. “I spent a great deal of time studying female mate choice, and my main impression … was that females don’t have much room to express any preference.”

When a study came out in 2007 showing that male chimpanzees sometimes sexually coerce females—assaulting and chasing them as a kind of violent, bullying courtship—Huchard and her colleagues wondered whether baboons behaved similarly. So they meticulously catalogued the interactions between individuals living in two troops in Tsaobis’s rocky grassland.

Males often chased, bit, struck, and scratched fertile females (easily distinguished by their bright red, swollen hindquarters), but not pregnant or lactating females. These assaults weren’t immediately followed by sex. Instead, weeks later when the females were most likely to be ovulating, they tended to mate with their attackers. If a male attacked a fertile female, he was 10%–50% more likely to mate with her than were nonaggressive males, the team reports today in Current Biology.

It wasn’t that the females preferred aggressive males in general. Instead, they gravitated to the specific males that harassed them. The authors conclude that the male baboons’ behavior amounts to sexual intimidation. Though the researchers don’t know precisely why females prefer their harassers, they speculate the females fear further injury if they refuse.

The fact that such intimidation has now been seen in both chimpanzees and baboons suggests it may be common in primates with promiscuous social structures and pronounced size differences between males and females, Huchard says. Controversially, she also argues the study suggests that sexual intimidation in humans may have an evolutionary origin as a mating strategy. “Our findings … open the possibility that human sexual intimidation has a long evolutionary history.”

But others say that baboon behavior may have no implications for humans. “I think the data and analyses in this study are first-rate,” says Susan Alberts, a biologist who studies primate behavior at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. “[But] I also think it’s a big stretch to infer something about the origins of human male aggression towards women.” Alberts is skeptical of drawing any evolutionary implications from the study, because human biology and social dynamics are so different from that of baboons. “While we are all primates, the two species are very different in key things, like how much bigger males are than females in baboons and how much male-to-male competition there is.” And although sexual customs and freedoms vary widely across human societies, women by and large have more choice in who they mate with than female baboons, she notes.

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The biology behind the ugly culture of sexual misconduct:

Humans are special, but not that special. We are animals, and just like every other animal we are driven by two things: sex and survival.  From bats and birds to otters and apes, rape or unwanted sexual contact is not an uncommon phenomenon in the natural world. Because reproduction is energetically significantly more expensive for a female in most species (think about how much more work a female must invest in laying eggs, feeding young, or birthing and suckling offspring), they tend to be more discriminating in choosing a mate. Often females are looking for good genetics, or a good provider, or protector. Females need to choose quality.  Males on the other hand, are in another game. Quantity. There is little energy required from males in most species for the reproductive process, and as such, males tend to be far more promiscuous and in some cases, dangerous, in order to procure mates.

Take for example, the behavior of male lions. Their first act as a dominant male is to kill off all the young cubs. Having cubs that are suckling prevents the females of the pride from coming into estrus and mating with the new male. This seems heartless.  From a human perspective, we are appalled at the idea of mating with the murderer of our offspring. We find this morally objectionable.  The real difference between us and lions is the massively expanded and connected frontal lobe of our brain that allow conscious reasoning and the ability to recognize the monstrosity of this behavior.  So, yes, by some arguments, we humans are indeed quite special. We have an incredible capacity to reason, and empathize, and behave “morally” but that doesn’t mean we always use it. In fact, we are in a constant battle between our more dominant subconscious, animalistic brain, and our relatively underutilized, thinking, processing, frontal lobe.

At our core, we humans are driven in a primal fashion like every other animal on this planet. Biologically, we are a complex mixture our two closest relatives with whom we share some 95% of our genetics:

  1. The peaceful, highly social bonobos which live in largely egalitarian societies where males and females enjoy a relatively equal social status and…
  2. the aggressive, highly territorial chimpanzees, which live in patriarchal societies, where males dominate and control females.

If we look objectively at anatomical clues, humans appear to have evolved from a species whose culture more closely resembled that of the chimpanzees. We are sexually dimorphic in a way suggesting that the typically larger, stronger male of our species would be able to more readily dominate the, on average, smaller, weaker females. In other words, our biological roots support highly male driven, possessive, and sexually aggressive behavior. Certainly, our cultural practices have contributed to this behavior by promoting status and strength as an attractive feature for males, and soft, nurturing coyness as preferential in females. Our biology may be to blame when it comes to the establishment of our patriarchal culture, and our willingness or complacency to accept the monstrous acts that often accompany any culture in which one gender is dominant, but this can no longer be an excuse for acting like animals.

If we all buy into the premise that men and women should have equal say, equal status, and equal rights, then the recent exposure of sexual misconduct is just the beginning of a cultural shift.  We are only starting to peel back the ugly realities of the animalistic ways we are driven biologically to behave, and our ability to rise above this nature by putting to use our gift of a moral, logical, and reasoning frontal lobe needs to take center stage.

Until we confront our less than favorable animalistic mindsets, we will not be any more special or morally inclined than any other species.  It’s time we acknowledge the role biology had in shaping us, but boldly pursue the higher power allotted us with a brain capable of overcoming these behaviors.  Let’s hold the focus in that special frontal lobe for as long as we can to become better than the biology that built us.

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Psychological force of sexual harassment to compel woman to have sex:

The human brain has an extraordinary ability to take a fundamental biological need and develop it in ways completely unknown to other species.  Many species build or inhabit shelters or nests: but only humans build houses.  Moreover, those houses have changed over the years, and in different cultures. Seventeenth century houses look very different from those of today, and we heat and cool them differently as well.  We use clothes to keep us warm, but also to proclaim our gender, status and wealth, and we change them as the climate changes.  The way we do this has changed over the years, as have the materials we invent to make them. The ability of humans to adapt, invent and vary the way we do things is an outstanding feature of our brains (and the extraordinary ability of our hands).  This applies to everything we do. Eating: we invent agriculture, foods and cooking; drinking: we invent clean and reliable water supplies; and so on. You can often see shadows of these abilities in other species, but the leap from them to humans is massive.

Our ability to invent also applies to the way we reproduce.  Interestingly, if we look at other mammalian species, we see huge variation in their methods of reproduction.  This is surprising. Reproduction is not only essential, it’s also expensive, complex and dangerous. You would think that once a good system had evolved, it would be used universally.  Not so. Even more interestingly, much of this variation between species applies to females. Some species have numerous, immature young: others a few, more mature.  Some females have short reproductive cycles, others much longer ones. Some only ovulate (produce a fertile egg) when they mate: others ovulate spontaneously. There are even species that carry their immature embryos in their wombs for months in a state of suspended animation, only starting development at the most advantageous season.

But if we look at the process of getting a mate, we see a much more consistent pattern. It can be summarized as: males compete with each other for access to females, then females make their choice. The males of some species compete by displaying their gorgeous colors, or defending desirable territories or offering food; others engage in actual combat (stags locking horns, elephants charging, giraffes flailing each other with their necks and so on). In general, the strongest, most aggressive or socially dominant male is the most sexually successful but also the most attractive. Occasionally does a male try to compel (as opposed to persuade) a female to mate with him.

Humans have complicated and elaborated this process, as all others. We use many more ways of advertising our sexual attractiveness: some are close to other species, for example, displaying our wealth (assets), though we may do this is indirect ways, or our attractiveness, including the use of clothes and make-up. Others are more complex: for example, using marriage to build collaborations, maintain hierarchies, classes or dynasties, or wealth.  We also use sex in ways unknown to other species: to sell goods, for example, or as a commercial transaction. Animals regulate patterns of sexuality in their societies by using individual characteristics like aggression, pecking orders or prowess in displays etc. We use laws, customs, traditions and social class to limit who mates with whom, but also individual features such as physical attractiveness or competition between males.  In some societies the role of social structure was formalized: the Incas allowed aristocrats to have 50 wives, the heads of 100,000 men had twenty, but those who commanded 10 men had only three.

But within our system lies another feature: just as power (strength) enhances the chances of the males of other species to find a mate, so it does in us. But is our case, we take sexual strategies to a level unknown in other species.  Power in humans includes the ability to promote careers, determine the fates of others, and enhance the social status of females. The difference is the cognitive recognition that this can be forcefully applied: the brain of a human male is able to realize that simple persuasion – though the most usual tactic – can be overridden by other, more coercive means. Not only physical force (though this occurs as well) but psychological force. The two have a common feature: they compel women to have sex and thus deprive them of their biological heritage of choice and their right to choose. The complex nature of human society makes psychological force an attractive option.  Historically this has been a recognized method for some males to get sex: nowadays, we call it harassment. None of this is an excuse for sexual harassment, nor does it trivialize the real problem of drawing lines between persuading a female to have sex or harassing her, which is not always as clear as some make out – though there are obvious instances of indisputable harassment.  But the unique ingenuity of the human brain, responsible for the world we now live in, with its computers, planes, medicines and mobile phones, would inevitably have given rise to complex and subtle methods of sexual advancement and competition, some acceptable (candle-lit dinners, persuasion) others not (harassment, coercion).

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Sexual harassment is about sex only:

Feminist theory posits that sexual harassment should be treated as a sexist act that aims to subjugate and disempower women, and punish their efforts to compete with men over jobs and status. This theory challenges the idea that sexual harassment is a sexual act and invites scholars to see it from a gender-based angle that reflects male dominance and women’s subordination, which are constantly condoned by society. The scholar who pioneered the study of sexual harassment is Kingsley R. Browne of the Wayne State University Law School, whom we’ve encountered before in this article.  Browne identifies two types of sexual harassment cases:  the quid pro quo cases (“You must sleep with me if you want to keep your job or be promoted”) and the “hostile environment” cases (where the workplace is deemed too sexualized for workers to feel safe and comfortable).  While feminists and social scientists tend to explain sexual harassment in terms of “patriarchy” and other nefarious ideologies, Browne locates the ultimate cause of both types of sexual harassment in the sex differences in evolved psychological mechanisms and mating strategies, thereby “seeking roots in biology rather than ideology.”

Studies unequivocally demonstrate that men are far more interested in short-term casual sex than women.  For example, in a classic study, 75% of undergraduate men approached by an attractive female stranger agree to have sex with her; most of the remaining 25% excuse themselves on the ground that they are already in long-term relationships and their girlfriends might find out about their affair.  In contrast, absolutely none of the women approached by an attractive male stranger agree to have sex with him.  Many men who would not go on a date with the stranger nonetheless agree to have sex with her.  In another study, men on average desire nearly twenty sex partners in their lifetimes; women desire less than five.  Men on average seriously consider having sex with someone after only one week of acquaintance; women’s average is six months.

The quid pro quo and similar types of harassment are manifestation of men’s greater desire for short-term casual sex than women’s, and their willingness to use any available means to achieve their goal.  While feminists often claim that sexual harassment is “not about sex but about power,” Browne astutely points out that it is about both; it is about men using power to get sex.  “To say that it is only about power makes no more sense than saying that bank robbery is only about guns, not about money.”

The sex differences in the desire for short-term casual sex are exacerbated by another sex difference in evolved psychological mechanisms:  a woman’s desire to understate her sexual desire in a particular man and to engage in what is known as “token resistance.”  In one study, nearly 40% of undergraduate women admitted to saying no to sexual advances from a man even though they actually wanted to have sex with him.  More than a third of these cases where the women initially said no eventually resulted in consensual sex.  As the late great behavior geneticist Linda Mealey, whom we’ve also encountered before, eloquently puts it:  “That females are selected to be coy will mean that sometimes saying ‘no’ really does mean ‘try a little harder.’”  Of course, women sometimes do mean no when they say no, but this isn’t always the case.

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Gender, Power and Mate Value: The Evolutionary Psychology of Sexual Harassment, a 2009 study:

Evolutionary psychological principles were applied to the issue of sexual harassment to investigate whether the gender, power, and mate value of harassers were related to perceptions of sexual harassment. One hundred and sixty heterosexual men and women were given descriptions of a target individual whose mate value and power was manipulated, and three behavioural vignettes involving imagined interactions with the target individual. Participants rated their perceived level of sexual harassment (the dependent variable) stemming from the imagined interactions. Participants also provided ratings of their self perceived level of attractiveness, attitude towards social-sexual communication in the workplace, and experience with social-sexual communication in the workplace. As predicted, females perceived higher levels of sexual harassment than males, and participants perceived higher levels of sexual harassment from low mate-value target individuals than high mate-value target individuals. Against predictions, no result was found for power. Additionally, self-perceived level of attractiveness was found to moderate the relationship between gender and perceived sexual harassment, and attitude towards social-sexual communication in the workplace was found to moderate the relationship between mate value and perceived sexual harassment.

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Sexual Harassment is about wanting sex, not wanting power over Women:

A 2012 paper in Evolution and Human Behavior by Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair and Mons Bendixen takes a much-needed evolutionary look at the issue of sexual harassment. They write in their paper:

While traditional social science theories have explained harassment as male dominance of females, the evolutionary perspective has suggested that sex differences in the desire for sex are a better explanation. And their finding, in brief, was that an “unrestricted” sexuality “motivates people to test whether others are interested in short-term relations in ways that sometimes might be defined as harassment.”  The competing prediction suggesting that male dominance over females is the primary motivation for harassment was largely unsupported in this study. Not only was female harassment of males quite prevalent, so too was same-sex peer harassment. In addition, other competing social factors did not outweigh the importance of sociosexual orientation in explaining variations in sexual harassment for either of the sexes.

They further explain:

The main idea behind our predictions was the hypothesis that harassment is an unrestricted sociosexual style of behavior, aimed at testing out whether a potential sexual partner is available for a short-term sexual encounter, and that perceived harassment behavior to a large degree is motivated by a desire for sex. However, many instances of harassment in their study were cases of same-sex harassment. This may be understood from a similar perspective. It is an example of sexual surgency or dominance, and sexual competitiveness (Campbell, 2004). Thus, the logic of the evolved psychology of derogation (Schmitt & Buss, 1996) is relevant for understanding this behavior.

And their conclusion:

While more boys sexually harass and coerce than girls, both sexes commit sexual harassment and coercive acts. And while many different negative precursors and correlates have been suggested, it would seem that the main motive is an interest in short-term sex indicated by an unrestricted sociosexuality. This same characteristic also causes behavior that advertises an interest in sex, increasing the attraction of nonattractive partners. Furthermore, these individuals probably have an increased interest in sexual competition, thus both being subject to and partaking in same-sex derogation. Thus, an unrestricted sociosexual orientation is related to both harassing behavior and being a victim of harassment in high school.

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A preference for casual sex increases risk of harassment, a 2017 study:

Summary:

Adolescents who are open to casual sex are more often involved in sexual harassment — both as victims and as perpetrators.  Adolescents who sexually harass others have had casual sex more often than those who do not harass others. They also fantasize more about casual sex and find it more acceptable to have sex without any commitment or emotional closeness. What may be even more surprising is that adolescents who have been sexually harassed are more strongly inclined to have casual sex than others.

These findings are at the core of what two researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) discovered when they studied the psychological mechanisms behind sexual harassment among adolescents.

Their study suggests that a person’s preference for casual sex may actually increase their risk of being harassed. It might be that a preference for casual sex results in more sexual solicitations in general, including undesirable ones, but the researchers have not yet examined this hypothesis. The researchers’ findings might give the impression that it’s the victim’s fault for being harassed, but the researchers, Associate Professor Mons Bendixen and Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, both at NTNU’s Department of Psychology, say their findings are not intended to “blame the victim.” “Absolutely not! We’re trying to understand the psychological mechanisms that underlie harassment,” Bendixen said. First and foremost, they see it as an individual’s right to have sexual relationships, of any length, without fear of being harassed. The researchers’ ultimate goal is to develop methods for reducing sexual harassment. To do this, they need to understand the underlying mechanisms behind sexual harassment. But this also requires them to ask uncomfortable questions.

The researchers distinguished between two different types of harassment. One type occurs between the sexes and usually consists of more or less successful exploration — and solicitation — of sex. So this is obviously related to a desire for sexual relations, usually of short duration. The harassment of same-sex peers, on the other hand, is about intrasexual competitiveness. In this case, the main point is to make oneself more attractive, at the expense of same-gender competitors. Understanding same-sex harassment of peers requires a fuller explanation. “It’s mostly about social positioning,” says Kennair. By denigrating someone of the same sex, you can show that you rank above the others in this hierarchy. Some of the same mechanisms occur in bullying, but these are not necessarily motivated by sex. But with sexual harassment, the goal, consciously or unconsciously, is to increase your probability of having sex by also reducing the other person’s probability. “A girl might say, for example, that another girl is ‘loose’, a whore or homosexual,” says Bendixen. Then the goal is to make herself more attractive at the other girl’s expense. “We don’t know if this form of denigration achieves the desired effect, but we think it has some role in girls’ and boys’ sexual negotiations and competition,” says Kennair.

Sexual harassment is very common. Fully 60 per cent of the girls and boys in the survey reported that they had been sexually harassed in the last year. Around 30 per cent of the girls and 45 per cent of the boys admitted that they had sexually harassed someone one or more times. People often think of sexual harassment solely as something boys do to girls. But that’s simply not the case. According to Kennair, the most common form of sexual harassment is between boys. “Typically, one boy makes comments about another boy being gay,” says Bendixen. Boys who harass girls make up the second most common type of harassment. But girls also harass other girls. Girls harassing boys is the least common scenario. “This topic requires us to look at all the constellations of harassment. Both sexes get harassed, both sexes harass, and we’ve considered the issue from the perspectives of both sexes both as target and perpetrators,” the researchers said.

It is worth noting that many more individuals report that they have been subjected to sexual harassment than report that they have harassed someone. This is especially true in the case of sexual solicitation toward the opposite sex.

This may be due in part to adolescents’ lack of sensitivity. Young harassers often behave in clumsy and awkward ways and don’t know the boundaries or rules of the game. And herein lies the key to doing something about the problem. “Maybe they didn’t mean to harass anyone,” says Kennair, who believes that some of the harassment reflects insecure adolescent behaviour. “Young people need good scripts for how to communicate their sexual interest and how to interpret this interest in others,” says Bendixen.

Preventive efforts to reduce harassment have helped change what we know about — and attitudes towards — sexual harassment. Boys and girls have a more negative view of harassment after someone has intervened. But these attitude shifts have not reduced the incidence of harassment. The researchers believe the time is ripe to develop methods that actually work. “We’ve studied this issue to find out more about the mechanisms at work. This gives us a more solid empirical base for doing something about sexual harassment,” says Kennair. “This clearly belongs to the schools’ sex education training,” Bendixen believes. Bendixen, who has previous experience with bullying prevention, wants to link educational instructors to the project to develop a sound methodology for working with sexual harassment. “Role playing with well-developed scripts, where students are active participants, is one possible avenue,” says Bendixen.

The study included 1326 heterosexual girls and boys with an average age of nearly 18 years. The psychologists only looked at non-physical forms of sexual harassment. The study also only included actions that were actually unwanted and offensive, to exclude the more common, loose jargon used among young people.

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Can we simply say “boys will be boys” and explain sexual harassment as the natural extension of maleness?

The answer is no. We cannot.

While natural selection has and continues to influence human evolution, such as the challenge of emerging and more virulent infectious diseases, it is vital to remember that it does so within the broad and crucial context of environmental influences, including social and economic factors that are squarely under our control. Evolution can inform our understanding of basic behavioral traits in all organisms, including humans. However, evolution cannot say much about individual behavior.

It is true that men are more likely to engage in sexual harassment than women — including in non-human primates and other distantly related animals, for which it is often the case that males are the harassers and perpetrators of violence against females. One of many contributing factors is that natural selection commonly leads to traits that embolden primate males, such as larger body sizes compared to females. This is often associated with males exerting power over females, including harassment. But while humans share many traits with these species, we are not just another primate. We are unique in many ways, including having evolved the heightened ability to adjust to our natural and social environment through our physiology, behavior and culture.

While feelings of aggression, the impulse to exert one’s will on another person and other negative behaviors are part of the daily life experience of virtually every human being, we have also evolved the ability to check those impulses. As sexual harassment and other unwanted behaviors are often viewed through the lens of evolution, we should remember that natural selection has also promoted the evolution of positive behaviors that are unique to humans and only a handful of other primates. Men care for their children. They bond with mates along a spectrum of sexuality. They look after vulnerable members of our society, such as the sick and elderly. Indeed, it is not aggression but instead empathy and caring for others that are among the most important evolved traits that define us as a species. It is these characteristics that have led us to our evolutionary success while other primates that have long gone extinct. Humans exhibit diverse behavioral repertoires that include the ability to behave responsibly and in a morally preferred fashion. That is, evolution has provided us with the skill sets to not only resist inclinations to behave badly but also to foster and deploy behaviors that might actually make the world a better place, especially for women. As Charles Darwin himself stated in his book, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, “With civilised people the arbitrament of battle for the possession of the women has long ceased.” In other words, civilized people do not disempower women.  As a species, we have not shed the influence of evolution by natural selection — both bad and good. But evolution has not only led to challenges in our ability to behave morally. It has also endowed us with the abilities to think critically, to reflect and to manage our actions. Collectively, the evolution of culture and social norms allow us to hold ourselves accountable. The issue is whether men are willing to leverage the morally desirable traits that natural selection has provided to all humans — care, empathy, social responsibility and accountability — and whether we all can better nurture their expression.

Sexual harassment and rape have given an evolutionary advantage to men in the past, so these ‘selfish genes’ seem to be expressed often. It is a short-term mating strategy for men that has obviously worked in history. Recognition of the fact that sexual harassment is a manifestation of our evolved psychologies does not mean that sexual harassment is either good or inevitable. Many behaviors having origins in our evolved psychologies are recognized to be social pathologies even if they do not reflect psychological pathologies (Buss, 2005). Behaviors are susceptible of modification, even if our underlying psychologies are not, and it should be remembered that our evolved psychologies are not only the source of sexual harassment but also of our desire to combat it.

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Moral of the story:

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  1. Sex/gender discrimination is a type of discriminatory behaviour. Other types of discrimination include discrimination based on age, disability, color, race, caste, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, nationality etc.

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  1. Sexual harassment is a type of sex/gender discrimination that encompasses gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual coercion. Sexual coercion entails sexual advances, and makes the conditions of employment or education contingent upon sexual cooperation. Unwanted sexual attention also entails sexual advances, but it does not add professional rewards or threats to force compliance. Gender harassment refers to a broad range of verbal and nonverbal behaviors not aimed at sexual cooperation but that convey insulting, hostile, and degrading attitudes about members of one gender. When an environment is pervaded by gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion become more likely to occur—in part because unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion are almost never experienced by women without simultaneously experiencing gender harassment.

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  1. Despite both national and international efforts to eliminate sexual harassment, there is no single definition of what constitutes prohibited behavior. Sexual harassment is any unwelcome physical, emotional, visual, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature that unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work or study performance or daily life and that a reasonable person would find it intimidating, hostile or offensive. Reasonable person standard is a standard established to establish whether or not a particular act or conduct constitutes sexual harassment. The basis of the standard is what a “reasonable person” would conclude regarding the act rather than focusing on the specific victim or perpetrator. Victims perceive sexual harassment as annoying, offensive, upsetting, embarrassing, stressful, and frightening. Sexual harassment often results in emotional & physical stress, and stress-related mental and physical illnesses. Sexual harassment also results in increased absenteeism, job turnover, transfer requests, decrease in work/study motivation & performance, and change in daily routine.

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  1. Sexually harassing behaviors occurs at workplace, at educational institute, at public/private places and even at home; these differ in type and severity. Key determining factors are that the behavior is:
  • Unwelcome
  • Sex or gender based
  • Reasonably perceived as offensive and objectionable under both subjective and objective assessment of the conduct.

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  1. The critical factor is the ‘unwelcomeness’ of the behaviour, thereby making the impact of such conduct on the victim more relevant rather than the intent of the harasser. In all cases of sexual harassment, it is the consequences – not the intentions – that count. The severity of the harassment is largely determined by the impact it has on the victim. So “It was just a joke” or “I had too much drink” is no excuse and no defence. A good litmus test for whether comments are sexist or just a joke is to ask, ‘Would I say this to a man?’

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  1. Sexual harassment is seen as one of the most difficult and emotional issue that employers, employees and human resource professionals are facing today. In fact no profession or occupation is exempted from this problem. Sexual harassment goes far beyond one’s social background, educational level, age group or ethnic belonging. It touches all the layers of the population without any exception. Sexual harassment has been called “an endemic feature of the contemporary workplace”.

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  1. Some authors have either confused the terms sexual assault and sexual harassment, or they have relegated sexual harassment to a back seat issue very different from sexual assault. Many believe that within the continuum of harm, sexual harassment eventually might lead to sexual assault. It is important to recognize the very real possibility that a victim may in fact have been subjected to both sexual harassment and sexual assault by the time a report is made. The real distinction between sexual harassment and sexual assault is sexual harassment’s connection to the victim’s employment, learning or use of public places, that is why sexual harassment is a civil rights issue. Sexual harassment generally violates civil laws—you have a right to work, learn or use public places without being harassed—and in many cases sexual harassment is not a criminal act although in some contexts, sexual harassment may constitute a crime. Sexual assault is a crime against another person and unlike sexual harassment, it has nothing to do with their employment, learning or use of public place; it is a criminal assault of a sexual nature against another person clearly without the consent of the victim.

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  1. Sexual harassment is distinguished from normal friendly social interactions by the introduction of elements of coercion, threat, intimidation, or insult. Sexual harassment does not refer to occasional compliments of a socially acceptable nature; it refers to behavior that is offensive, that lowers morale, and that interferes with the work, education or freedom of its recipients. Behaviour that is based on mutual attraction, friendship and respect is not sexual harassment. Pay attention to the response of others in order to avoid unintentional offense. If you know offense was taken by your behavior, apologize and do not repeat the behavior. If someone declines a polite offer to socialize outside of work/class, drop the matter and do not approach the individual again.

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  1. Some individuals misinterpret harmless, reasonable behavior as malicious and specifically directed at themselves. Trivial complaints from hypersensitive women and overzealousness rife with anti-male double standards do lead to overreaction and unfair allegations of sexual harassment. Simple teasing, offhand comments and isolate incidents that are not very serious, is not sexual harassment. It is not sexual harassment when a swimming coach touches his student as necessary while teaching her how to swim. If he touches her outside the pool once the class is over and she feels uncomfortable, it is sexual harassment.

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  1. When the man reasonably (from the perspective of the reasonable man) makes sexual overtures that a woman reasonably (from the perspective of the reasonable woman) finds disturbing or even threatening, who, if anyone, is to blame? The usual answer is that the man is responsible; after all, he has made a sexual advance that was ‘unwelcome’, and sexual harassment doctrine does not make the man’s intent particularly important. Most courts have rejected the ‘reasonable man standard’ in favour of the ‘reasonable woman standard’ which allowed for cases to be analysed from the perspective of the complainant and not the defendant.

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  1. About 50% of employees have participated in at least one office romance, and while many office relationships proceed without incident, some efforts to engage in these types of relationships deteriorate into allegations of sexual harassment. Although workplace romance has been linked to positive outcomes such as increased productivity, increased employee congeniality, and greater work satisfaction; and workplace friendships have been linked to improved workplace performance, reduced stress, favourable social support and creation of positive workplace atmosphere; breakdown of office romance/friendship may lead to sexual harassment.

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  1. For someone in the position of power in the work environment, a relationship with anyone in a subordinate role is inappropriate, consensual or not, reciprocated or not. This is so because a person’s position in the department has a tremendous impact on what behaviors are perceived as appropriate.

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  1. Seduction is consensual and does not make a person feel threatened. Man can seduce a woman and a woman can seduce a man. Harassment is unwanted, and makes a person feel uncomfortable, threatened or invaded. If a woman seduces a man and then claim sexual harassment, it becomes honey trap. If a man seduces a woman, then she cannot say that it is sexual harassment as seduction is consensual. A woman can always refuse a man attempting to seduce her and tell him that he is crossing a boundary and harassing her.

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  1. Flirting is a pleasant and exciting exchange that arouses one’s sexual interest in the other person. The key difference between flirting and sexual harassment is that sexual harassment is unwelcome. Flirting is inherently mutual, a back-and-forth between two interested and consenting parties. It’s about two people building desire together, a playful exchange that both have agreed to. Flirting is a welcome game being played, not something that’s imposed upon another person.

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  1. Quid pro quo (literally “this for that”) sexual harassment occurs when employment or academic decisions affecting an individual are made based on whether or not the individual submits to the sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature from someone in a position of authority. Hostile environment sexual Harassment is one in which unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature creates an uncomfortable work/learning environment for some employees/students. An important distinction between quid pro quo and hostile environment harassment is that the former usually involves a one-on-one relationship in which the perpetrator has control of employment- or educational-related rewards or punishments over the target. In contrast, the latter can involve many perpetrators and many targets. The line between “quid pro quo” and “hostile environment” harassment is not always clear and the two forms of harassment often occur together. While sexual coercion is by definition quid pro quo sexual harassment, sometimes unwanted sexual attention can be considered quid pro quo sexual harassment if tolerating such behavior becomes a term or condition of employment. Gender harassment is unequivocally hostile environment sexual harassment. The motivation underlying sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention behaviors appears different from the motivation underlying gender harassment. Whereas the first two categories suggest sexual advances (the goal being sexual exploitation of women), the third category is expressing hostility toward women (the goals being insult, humiliation, or ostracism). In other words, sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention can be viewed as lustful behaviour while gender harassment is about power and dominance over women.

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  1. Science of psychology is not a totally objective field because research is done by people on people, and people respond to and draw conclusions from their culture and the biases of a given place and time. A study did suggest that most male sexual harassers had no idea that their advances were unwanted or inappropriate, so people who engaged in sexual harassment were simply clueless and infatuated, but overall sexual harassers do know that their behavior is wrong, and that is why, baring few exceptions, it is not overt, it is not done publicly.

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  1. We often choose behaviors that match our values, but sometimes, through moral disengagement, we change those values to justify our behavior. This is how sexual harassers can maintain their view of themselves as decent, even morally upstanding people.

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  1. Women of all ages and races are sexually harassed no matter physically attractive or ordinary, and no matter sexily or soberly dressed. Most women first experience sexual harassment pretty early in life — during preteen or teenage years. Women experience sexual harassment more often than men do. Men are more likely than women to commit sexual harassment. Sexual harassers may be supervisors, peers, customers, or clients. Co-workers and peers more often commit sexual harassment than do superiors. Sexually harassing behaviors are not typically isolated incidents; rather, they are a series or pattern of sometimes escalating incidents and behaviors.

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  1. Sexual harassment is as rampant as it is repugnant. Sexual harassment involves a range of behaviors, and behavior and motives vary between individual cases. Variety of conducts can be labelled as sexual harassment, so estimates of the incidence of sexual harassment vary widely. Prevalence of sexual harassment should not, in and of itself, imply tacit approval.

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  1. Although most complaints come from women, number of complaints filed by men is rising. There is an ever-increasing number of men reporting against female supervisors. Slightly more than 16 percent of sexual harassment claims are filed by men. The overwhelming majority of claims, more than 80 percent, are filed by women. A Government study in UK stated that 2 out of 5 sexual victims are male. Stop Street Harassment survey of 2018 found that 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men had experienced some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime.

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  1. A study found that if you’re a woman, you have about 3 in 5 chance of experiencing sexual harassment, while if you’re a man, your chances are around or slightly less than 1 in 5. These figures are for reported cases of sexual harassment, however, and studies indicate that the vast majority of cases are never reported. Because power dynamics will never completely go away, statistics alone will probably never reveal just how much of a problem sexual harassment really is.

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  1. Sexual harassment is the biggest issue facing women in India, Turkey and Mexico.

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  1. Sexual harassment is unusually rampant in the media industry.

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  1. People with disabilities are more likely suffer from all forms of sexual harassment and assault than people without disabilities. About 60% people with disabilities are subjected to some form of unwanted sexual activity and in many instances a person who has a disability may rely on the perpetrator for care or support, making it even more difficult to come forward.

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  1. Large number of doctors and medical students experience sexual harassment from their patients and patients may be more prone to initiate sexual behavior against novice professional students than against seasoned health care professionals.

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  1. Sexual harassment of women is rife in the sciences and worst in medicine. There are staggering rates of sexual harassment in science, medicine, and engineering. Large numbers of female faculty, female staff and female medical students in medicine have experienced sexual harassment by their male peers and seniors. Tolerance of sexual harassment must not continue to be the price that women pay for a career in medicine. The prevalence of sexual harassment in US academia at 58%, is second only to the military’s 69%, and outpaces that of industry and government. Sexual harassment is more common in military than civilian settings.

 

  1. There are reports of female scientists being sexually harassed in various scientific organizations and research institutions, and these scientific organisations and institutes can sometimes prioritize harassers over victims if the abusers can win awards that make the institute/university shine.

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  1. Sexual harassment is rampant at music festivals and sexual harassment is among a litany of safety issues that music festival organizers face.

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  1. In Hollywood, Bollywood and Television; whenever any star or producer or director or show-runner becomes so powerful that they’re essentially irreplaceable; the danger is they are given a blank check to behave as badly as they want [sexually or otherwise]. 94 percent women reported experiencing sexual harassment or assault at some point in their Hollywood careers. The ‘casting couch’ has prevailed for decades and is considered ‘normal’ in entertainment industry. And only one in four made a complaint, and that of those who did, only 28% said their situation improved as a result.

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  1. Sexual harassment starts well before women enter the workplace. Sexual harassment is rampant in high schools. Nearly two-thirds of students experience some form of sexual harassment during their college education. Sexual harassers can be fellow students, teachers, principals, janitors, coaches, and other school officials. Students do not speak out against sexual harassment for many reasons, even if they are deeply troubled by it. Girls identified sexual harassment as the one of the biggest reasons for chronic absences.

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  1. Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that consists of unwanted comments, gestures, honking, wolf-whistling, catcalling, exposure, following, persistent sexual advances, and touching done primarily by male strangers to females in public places such as streets, shopping malls, and public transportation. Nearly 90% of women by age 19 experience street harassment. This problem is not only transnational, but also transcultural and affects people of all identities, races, and ages—everyday.

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  1. Sexual harassment on the Internet can occur in a variety of ways and through a variety of mediums, and about 37% internet users experience sexual harassment online.

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  1. Many god-men, yogis, maulvis, fakirs, gurus, swamis, pastors and priests who make mystical claims and hold the devotees in awe operate as sexual predators. Preying on women becomes a power trip as female devotees are abject in front of them.

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  1. Approximately 90% of harassment victims do not file a complaint. Sexual harassment is “thriving on the silence of women,” granting impunity to perpetrators. Some of that has been turned upside down by the #MeToo movement, because it broke that silence and made it more culturally acceptable to talk about sexual harassment. #MeToo movement shows just how common these experiences are and that may take away the silence that often allows the harassment to be hidden. #MeToo movement has helped countless survivors of sexual harassment and assault to come forward with their stories. #MeToo movement has made concrete change in attitudes about sexual harassment. #MeToo movement may be changing the stigma of sexual assault and harassment. #MeToo movement may lead to increase interest in sexual harassment research.

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  1. Many have pointed to a lack of representation of women of color in the #MeToo movement or its leadership. Most historical feminist movements have contained active elements of racism, and have typically ignored the needs of non-white women despite the fact that non-white women are more likely to be targets of sexual harassment than white women.

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  1. Why sexual harassment is not reported by victim?

-Fear of consequences like labelled as troublemaker, labelled as opportunistic, retaliation and losing their jobs, it is their word against the harasser’s word, getting stigmatised, not believed and their reputations will be tainted.

-Absence of any complaints mechanism at the workplace/school

-Lack of Information and lack of awareness about redressal mechanism

-Victim believes that issue is not so important

-Complaints have been dismissed as either motivated or trivial

-Denial and downplaying by victim

-Tolerating and self-blame by victim

-Shame felt by victim

-Low self-esteem of victim

-Feelings of Hopelessness and Helplessness by victim

-History of being Sexually Violated

-Gender bias by man who hears complaints of woman

Women cope with sexual harassment in a variety of ways, most often by ignoring or appeasing the harasser and seeking social support. The least common response for women is to formally report the sexually harassing experience.

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  1. She took decades to come forward. She can’t remember exactly what happened. She sent friendly text messages to the same man she says assaulted her. She didn’t fight back. There are all sorts of reasons women who report sexual harassment, from unwanted advances by their bosses to groping or forced sex acts, are not believed. Of course, not every allegation is true. However, long delay in reporting or a foggy recall of events is no excuse for doubting sexual harassment victim because these are the characteristics of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

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  1. A recurring issue from the beginning of social science research on sexual harassment has been the nature of gender differences in the interpretation of social-sexual behavior at work or in academic settings. There are differences between men and women in their approach towards sexual harassment. Men often think that sex proposals should be interpreted as a compliment while most women experience these proposals as intimidation. Woman who suffered sexual harassment at the hand of man feels that when she reports it, it will be heard by men who will support offending man rather than her. The common tendency of victim-blaming often causes the victim to end up virtually as the accused. Her dress, lifestyle and private life are made more important than sexual harassment being investigated.

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  1. Those who experienced previous abuse will likely respond to overtures of sexual harassment much differently than women who have not been abused and those who have previously been victimized are more likely to keep quiet about the abuse, since they may have already had the experience of not being believed and not receiving justice.

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  1. According to the National Council for Research on Women, women are 9 times more likely than men to quit their jobs, 5 times more likely to transfer, and 3 times more likely to lose jobs because of sexual harassment. Victims of sexual harassment lose $4.4 million dollars in wages and 973,000 hours in unpaid leave each year in the United States. Sexual harassment is one of the barriers that can prevent women from rising through the ranks in business and in politics.

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  1. Women who resign because of sexual harassment problems, often have difficulty getting references from their previous employers, or giving reasons for having left their previous jobs; and may thus have difficulty in finding another job. Obviously, this could disrupt such a woman’s entire life.

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  1. When students experience sexual harassment, educational outcomes include declines in motivation to attend class, greater truancy, dropping classes, paying less attention in class, receiving lower grades, changing advisors, changing majors, and transferring to another educational institution, or dropping out. The net result of sexual harassment is loss of talent, which can be costly to organizations and to science, engineering, and medicine.

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  1. Sexual harassment against men is often not taken that seriously. Men who deviated from “traditional” stereotypes of masculinity, whether by belonging to a sexual minority or being actively involved in feminist causes or heterosexual men who challenge traditional gender role, are far more likely to experience some form of harassment.

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  1. The boundaries of sexual harassment can be broad and controversial, and may clash with the right to free speech.

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  1. In current atmosphere of media coverage, there is no such thing as due process. Sexual harassment charges are broadcast against person with little, if any, discernible attempts to corroborate the charges before they are made public. Then rapidly these persons, usually male, are pronounced guilty by public opinion. There are plenty of sexual harassment cases in America as compared to Britain because of huge differences between UK and US media laws. If you’ve been wrongly accused, you may yearn for the British system – where publishing is riskier. If you’re a victim, you may prefer the US system – where the constitution protects freedom of speech so vehemently that it is harder to sue for libel.

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  1. First thing to do when you are sexually harassed is to let the perpetrator know immediately, firmly and clearly, that his actions are unwelcome and unacceptable. Many women prefer to make a complaint and to have the matter resolved within the workplace rather than to “air out the dirty laundry” with a public complaint. Most prefer a pragmatic solution that would stop the harassment and prevent future contact with the harasser rather than turning to the police.

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  1. Sexual harassment is not something anybody needs to learn to tolerate. Rather, it must be confronted and stopped. The most effective way to avoid sexual harassment in the workplace is for the employer to adopt a clear policy prohibiting sexual harassment and to make it very clear to their employees. Research shows that sexual harassment pervades all industries and occupations, particularly those with a high percentage of low-wage workers—the majority of whom are women. While accusations against high-profile public figures are likely to attract the most attention, regular workers’ stories often go unacknowledged. The policymakers have a critical role to play in pursuing policies that can make a difference for all workers—not just those who grab headlines.

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  1. Sexual harassment laws reflect the inaccurate assumption that a target of sexual harassment will promptly report the harassment without worrying about retaliation. The legal system alone is not an adequate mechanism for reducing or preventing sexual harassment. Even though laws have been in place to protect women from sexual harassment in academic settings for more than 30 years, the prevalence of sexual harassment has changed little in that time.

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  1. In both the law and the lay public, the dominant understandings of sexual harassment overemphasize two forms of sexual harassment, sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention, while downplaying the third (most common) type—gender harassment.

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  1. Sexual harassment often takes place against a backdrop of incivility, or in other words, in an environment of generalized disrespect. Generalized incivility should be a red flag for leadership or management in work and education environments, because when gender harassment occurs, it is virtually always in environments with high rates of uncivil conduct. Organizational climate is, by far, the greatest predictor of the occurrence of sexual harassment, and ameliorating it can prevent people from sexually harassing others. A person more likely to engage in harassing behaviors is significantly less likely to do so in an environment that does not support harassing behaviors and/or has strong, clear, transparent consequences for these behaviors. Lack of company policy is predominant cause of sexual harassment. Many companies don’t have clear policies and complaint and disciplinary procedures to deal with harassment – or if they have them, they do not implement them. Women often resign rather than complain, since they do not know where to go, or if they do complain, it is either treated as a joke, or no action is taken by management. If management condones such behaviour or if victims end up being blamed, the perpetrator is encouraged to continue the pattern of harassment, affecting more and more women. The key predictor of sexual harassment in the workplace is the degree to which it is perceived as permissible.

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  1. One of the reasons it is men who harass women is about power and predominantly the positions of power are disproportionately occupied by men and the bottom is disproportionately occupied by women. Power and control that have gone unchecked can lead to situations where men feel it’s perfectly fine to engage in such behavior. Weinstein is a prime example of this. As a power player in Hollywood, Weinstein knew that any inappropriate actions conducted by him would likely go unchecked. Weinstein was a gatekeeper who could give actresses a career that would sustain their lives and the livelihood of their families. He could also give them fame, which is one of few ways for women to gain some semblance of power and voice inside a patriarchal world. In study after study, researchers have seen that power makes you more impulsive. It makes you less worried about social conventions and less concerned about the effect of your actions on others. Power creates perfect mental storm for misconduct. Powerful men sexualize their work, looking for opportunities for sexual trysts and affairs. There is tendency to over-perceive romantic interest that can lead to a feeling of freedom to touch, which can then lead to misconduct. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But power also amplifies goals, whether they’re sexual, financial, or social. Good goals become great goals, bad goals become toxic goals.

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  1. Many men are surrounded by a culture that reduces women to sexualized objects, which normalizes female colleague in a less than professional manner. Women in certain jobs, particularly those in which physical appearance plays a role, face increased levels of sexual harassment because their jobs implicitly condone their sexual objectification.

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  1. The root of sexual harassment originates with sexual dimorphism: two sexes of the same species exhibit different behavioral characteristics based on hormonal differences, in addition to the differences in their sexual organs. Aggressive behaviors of males differ from submissive behaviors of females. Male baboons and male chimpanzees that harass and coerce female baboons and female chimpanzees respectively are more likely to mate with them, adding evidence that sexual intimidation may be a common mating strategy among promiscuous mammals. In other words, sexual harassment is common among some primates as mating strategy.

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  1. Sexual attraction, in species which reproduce sexually, is attraction to other members of the same species for sexual or erotic activity. Sexual attraction is the desire to engage in sexual activity with a specific person. Sexual attraction refers to a person being drawn to another in order to have a sexual relationship. Often the result of a sexual attraction is sexual arousal. Yes, of course, if men and women weren’t sexually attracted to each other, none of us would be around! Sexual attraction can be influenced by individual genetic, psychological, or cultural factors, or to other, more amorphous qualities. The attraction can be to the physical or other qualities or traits of a person, or to such qualities in the context where they appear. The attraction may be to a person’s aesthetics or movements or to their voice or smell, besides other factors. The attraction may be enhanced by a person’s adornments, clothing, perfume or style. A person’s sexual attractiveness is to a large extent a subjective measure dependent on another person’s interest, perception, and sexual orientation.

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  1. Men and women have different standards for a desirable mate, and we share many of these characteristics with other animals in the animal kingdom, yet these instincts are inherent for a reason: reproduction. Sexual attraction does have biological and evolutionary traits. We are not fully beyond the basic drives of our biological and evolutionary makeup. Nature’s programming of our brains to select out and respond to stimuli as sexually compelling or repelling simply makes good reproductive sense. Much of human sexual attractiveness is governed by physical attractiveness. Men and women’s preferences are biologically and evolutionarily hardwired so that the criteria for sexual attraction are beauty, youth and health in women from the perspective of men; and status, strength and wealth in men from the perspective of women. This is because these are believed to be the optimal conditions for the reproduction of the species: the well-being of the potential offspring is always the key concern, although one or both of the partners may be quite unconscious of this. According to evolutionary psychological viewpoint, one of the primary motivations to sexually harass is to fulfil urges that result from the biological urge to mate. Mating represents the ultimate solution to the problem of reproduction, and, therefore, when people get the chance to interact with members of the opposite sex, as often happens in the contemporary workplace, they will tend to initiate sexually courting behaviours. Evolutionary psychology does not ignore the role of power in the workplace. However, unlike the socio-cultural approach, the display and application of power as a function of sex is not viewed simply as a product of cultural forces, but also in terms of adaptations linked to sexual selection.

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  1. Sexual natures of men and women are different as outlined by parental investment theory, and mate selection theory. It is in the reproductive interest of women to be more selective when choosing a mate than men in either long-term or short-term contexts due to the physiological demands of gestation, birth, and lactation. Men are less selective in regard to potential mates, and more likely to seek out multiple partners. Men are also more interested in sexual variety, a fact that shows up not only in cross cultural surveys, but also in research on sex differences in fantasies and in erotica aimed at the different sexes. Stemming from the differences between men and women in reproductive strategy, men tend to see the world in a more sexualised way than women do, and have a tendency to overestimate sexual interest from women with whom they interact. Evolved sex differences and different reproductive strategies of men and women resulted in men’s inhabiting a more sexualized world than women do, which can create substantial conflicts between men and women. Because men see the world ‘through sexual glasses’, they tend to see situations as more sexually oriented than women do. Because men tend to interpret friendly behavior of women as reflecting sexual interest and women tend to interpret sexually interested behavior of men as mere friendliness, there is much room for misunderstanding. The risk of misunderstanding is exacerbated by the perception of many men that women often are just ‘playing hard to get’ and often mean ‘yes’ even if they say ‘no’. Although this notion is often referred to as a ‘myth’, there is substantial evidence that some women do employ this tactic. Females are selected to be coy means that sometimes ‘no’ really does mean ‘try a little harder’. Of course, women sometimes do mean no when they say no, but this isn’t always the case. An inevitable consequence of this dynamic is that men sometimes make advances to women who do not welcome them. Given these manifest sex differences in attitudes toward sex and sexuality, and the conflict that inevitably flows therefrom, it is predictable that as more women entered the work force much of this conflict would be played out in the workplace. A good deal of what passes under the name of ‘sexual harassment’ is, in fact, the playing out of these evolved sex differences.

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  1. Evolutionary psychology predicts that women will be more sensitive to, and more offended by, sexual pressure than men. Gutek (1985) asked male and female participants how they would feel if a fellow worker of the opposite sex asked them to have sex. Of the male respondents, 67.2% reported that they would be flattered while only 15% said that they would be insulted. This reversed for females, with 16.8% reporting they would be flattered while 62.8% said they would be insulted. In a similar study, Clark and Hatfield (1982) found that 75% of college aged men accepted a direct proposal from a member of the opposite sex whom they did not know to go to bed, while 0% of women accepted this offer. In another study, men on average desire nearly twenty sex partners in their lifetimes; women desire less than five. Men on average seriously consider having sex with someone after only one week of acquaintance; women’s average is six months. Many other studies have found similar results. Studies unequivocally demonstrate that men are far more interested in short-term casual sex than women.

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  1. The behaviour of attractive males is perceived as less harassing than the same behaviour performed by unattractive males. Flight attendants perceived the behaviour of lower status plane cleaners as more harassing than the behaviour of higher status pilots. Therefore attractiveness and higher status of men may moderate perceptions of sexual harassment although few studies did show that higher status of harasser may heighten perception of sexual harassment.

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  1. The sexual harassment of same-sex peers in workplace or school is about intra-sexual competitiveness where the point is to make oneself more attractive, at the expense of same-gender competitors. By denigrating someone of the same sex, you can show that you rank above the others in this hierarchy. With sexual harassment, the goal, consciously or unconsciously, is to increase your probability of having sex by reducing the other person’s probability.

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  1. Sexual coercion (quid pro quo sexual harassment) is straightforward case of sexual advance. Study found that purely sexual motives predicted unwanted sexual attention but belligerent motives anticipated both unwanted sexual attention and gender harassment. Thus sexual harassment is motivated not only by a “short term mating orientation,” basically an academic euphemism for sex without love—but also driven by something called hostile sexism, and therefore served less as a way to just get sex and more as a way to intimidate and coerce women. The ultimate cause of all types of sexual harassment is sex differences in evolved psychological mechanisms and mating strategies, thereby seeking roots in biology rather than ideology. The major social effect of testosterone is to orient us toward issues of sex and power. Sexual coercion is not a cultural invention of humans born of an ideology of patriarchy, but rather is a widespread pattern throughout the animal kingdom. Sexual harassment is manifestation of men’s greater desire for short-term casual sex with women, and their willingness to use any available means to achieve their goal with or without hostile sexism. Those men who are more interested in casual, short-term sexual encounters are more likely to sexually harass women.

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  1. Throughout human history, men have used power as a way of obtaining sex, whether coercively or through making themselves more attractive as mates. Men with the most power in history routinely surrounded themselves with nubile women whose favors they could command at their pleasure. Male ‘despots’ in the workplace sometimes adopt a similar strategy, and there is little reason to think that their motives are any less sexual than those of an emperor. Thus, even the sexual harassment cases that most conspicuously involve power are about both power and sex: a supervisor is using his workplace power to extort sexual compliance. While feminists often claim that sexual harassment is not about sex but about power but it is about both; it is about men using power to get sex. To say that it is only about power makes no more sense than saying that bank robbery is only about guns and not about money. An approach that focuses solely on power without resort to sex differences in sexual psychology cannot explain why women almost never coerce sex from their subordinates.

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  1. Chimpanzees live in patriarchal societies, where males dominate and control females. We the humans have a common ancestor with chimpanzees. Our biological roots support highly male driven, possessive, and sexually aggressive behavior. Certainly, our cultural practices have contributed to this behavior by promoting status and strength as an attractive feature for males, and soft, nurturing coyness as preferential in females. Our biology may be to blame when it comes to the establishment of our patriarchal culture, and our willingness or complacency to accept monstrous acts that often accompany any culture in which one gender is dominant, but this can no longer be an excuse for acting like animals. Recognition of the fact that sexual harassment is a manifestation of our evolved psychology, by way of short term mating strategy, does not mean that sexual harassment is either good or inevitable. It is true that men are more likely to engage in sexual harassment than women —similar to non-human primates and other distantly related animals, for which it is often the case that males are the harassers and perpetrators of violence against females. One of many contributing factors is that natural selection commonly leads to traits that embolden primate males, such as larger body sizes compared to females. This is often associated with males exerting power over females, including harassment. But while humans share many traits with these species, we are not just another primate. Evolution has also endowed us with the abilities to think critically, to reflect and to manage our actions. Our frontal lobes are highly developed with incredible capacity to reason, empathize, and behave “morally” thereby supressing our subconscious, animalistic brain. The issue is whether men are willing to leverage the morally desirable traits that natural selection has provided to all humans — care, empathy, social responsibility and accountability — and whether we all can better nurture their expression.

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  1. Basic premise is that a problem cannot be solved within the same mind-set in which it was created. Thoughts about sex are constantly swirling in the minds of most men. Even seers are not exempt from it. Sexual harassment is about mind-set of men and we need to change that mind-set. Better upbringing, better education, better neighbourhood, better peers and better society can change that mind-set. We ought to teach and train neo-cortex of our teens to control sub-cortical biological sex drive as they reach puberty, and to respect women. We have to promote new attitudes among teenagers as they grow and discover their own identity. We need to call out our children when they make sexist jokes or “locker room banter” and we need to teach our children about consent. We cannot afford to be complicit. Addressing sexual harassment starts at home. Sex education alone cannot combat the litany of bad sexual information our children are exposed to on a daily basis. Parents need to do more to present children with a balance and nuanced picture of what is required for a healthy and respectful sex life.

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Dr Rajiv Desai. MD.

October 14, 2018

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Postscript:

About 50 to 75% of lady doctors experienced some sexual harassment by male patients at some time during their careers. I dedicate this article to lady doctors who are sexually harassed by male patients.

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