Sexual harassment refers to deliberate or repeated comments, gestures, or acts of a sexual nature that are unwanted by the recipient and create an intimidating or hostile work environment. At its worst, an employer demands sex as a condition of getting or keeping a job.
Most often, harassment consists of repeated requests for dates or sexual favors, explicit sexual language, or fondling. Patting a woman on the behind, telling her she arouses you sexually, and leaving a used condom in her desk drawer are some of the many forms harassment can take.
Why People do Sexual Harassment
Harassment appears to be common when women first enter traditionally all male environments, such as medicine, engineering, or the military.The point of harassment is usually not to begin a sexual relationship but rather to intimidate women, make them feel unwelcome, and undermine their job competence by treating them as sex objects. Psychologist John Gottman explains, “Sexual harassment is a subtle rape, and rape is more about fear than sex. Harassment is a way for a man to make a woman feel vulnerable.
Although sexual harassment and rape are different forms of sexual coercion, they have much in common. Both are now crimes punishable by law. Most often, both acts are committed by men who use their physical strength or social power to intimidate women. Sexual coercion often leaves women feeling vulnerable and powerless. Because rape and sexual harassment arouse feelings Of guilt and embarrassment, both tend to go unreported to authorities. Psycho- logical health is often enhanced when women discuss their experiences of rape or sexual harassment with others. Speaking out and bringing charges against the perpetrator can help women regain a sense of confidence and personal control. Just as important, public attention to rape and sexual harassment may help us all to understand the devastating effects of sexual coercion and to find solutions to these pervasive social problems.