How Different Studies Define Sexual Harassment

How Different Studies Define Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a vice that has become very prevalent in society in the recent past. Sexual harassment occurs in a myriad of ways depending on the context and nature of the recipient of the activity, however; different researchers have defined sexual harassment differently depending on the context of their study and the impression they aim to create. The different definitions presented by different scholars have some insufficiencies and limitations that undermine their use and understanding the issue of sexual harassment. This paper augments the different definitions of sexual harassment and how they impact on the general understanding of the issue in the society.

Most of the scholars define sexual harassment as a form of gender discrimination in the workplace (McLaughlin, Uggen, and Blackstone 626). In the article Chung, L., et al., Research Study on Workplace Sexual Harassment (2008) Chung et al. (4), assert that sexual harassment is a gendered discrimination and a form of gender-based violence against women in the workplace. Despite sexual harassment being a phenomenon that mostly targets the women, men have also been suffering significantly in the recent regarding sexual harassment. The article draws the conclusion that sexual discrimination is a gender-based discrimination against women mostly based on anecdotal evidence. The article acknowledges that there is a lack of sufficient data to arrive at a plausible research conclusion regarding the matter. The research relies on public opinion surveys, company practice and rules and legal positions to collect data.

Sexual harassment is not just a gender discrimination on women since men also suffer significantly regarding sexual harassment. Despite men suffering from sexual harassment, the common understanding of sexual harassment as a form of violence targeting women limit men from reporting incidents sexual harassment. The traditional perspective on sexual harassment significantly affected the effectiveness of the study. The study did not consider other pertinent factors that play a salient role in propagating sexual harassment in the workplace such as sexism, racism, age, and sexual orientation. All of the respondents used in the pilot run survey were women making it hard to capture other important elements that instigate sexual harassments rather than factors which are gender based. According to McLaughlin et al. (8), minority groups such as blacks, single parents, and non-natives are less probable to report incidents of sexual pestering due to the feeling of inferiority in the workplace. The minority groups are also sexually harassed, and they remain silent hence sexual harassment is not solely a gender-based discrimination against women.

In another article New Jurisprudence of Sexual Harassment by Abrams (1170), sexual harassment is defined as a means of perpetuating power and the masculine norm in the workplace. In this context, sexual harassment is viewed as a factor that is propagated by gender inequality and patriarchal norms in the society and workplace. The high percentages of women are exposed to sexual harassment in the workplace as compared to men. Consequently, some scholars believe that the hegemony of masculinity and subordination of women in the workplace is at the center of sexual harassment advanced to women. According to Abrams, men in the workplace try to impose their control over women by utilizing their masculinity in a bid to confine women in roles that conform to their traditional roles at home. According to the article, the onslaught of women in the job industry has prompted men to embark on antics that preserve male control in the workplace and sexual harassment is one of them. Job positions that were previously a preserve for the men are now being occupied by women prompting men to result in both physical and verbal sexual aggression against women in the workplace. In the article, women supervisors are more expected to experience sexual nuisance than other women working in low-status positions are (Uggen and Blackstone 69). When a woman is appointed as a supervisor, she acts as a threat to the control of men in the workplace. Therefore, a women supervisor become an easy target of sexual harassment due to the disgruntled nature of men for being deprived a leading role. The study relies on empirical analysis of data in a bid to substantiate the theme of the study.

Masculinity hegemony and desire by men to control power over women is not a sufficient explanation behind sexual harassment in the workplace. Different factors make both men and women view sexual harassment differently. According to Uggen and Blackstone (68), women may perceive sexual harassment as a threatening thing because they were taught to so from an early. In most cases, girls are taught to protect their sexuality from an early age, and they develop to maturity with a sense of protection on their bodies. On the other hand, boys are less taught about protecting their sexuality since they are not easy targets. Women in the workplace will interpret the subtle masculine-sexual jokes such as visual and verbal sexual seduction differently since women were trained from an early age to defend their sexuality (Uggen and Blackstone 68-69). The article also failed to capture the issue of age which is pertinent in the workplace. According to Mortimer (155), young adults in the workplace are open to sexual behaviors such as flirting and bantering, which older adults might interpret differently. Additionally, financially vulnerable men are also prone to sexual harassment by their female counterparts. Women are more concerned about invasion of personal space making them feel threatened by men.

The other article that defines sexual harassment differently is Cudd, Ann E., and Margaret A. Crouch. Thinking about Sexual Harassment: A Guide for the Perplexed. According to Crouch (121), sexual harassment is the creation of an environment where that propagates and imposes sexual shame through the proliferation of stereotypes and fantasies that undermine self-respect of another person. In this context, the work environment plays the most pertinent role in the proliferation of sexual harassment. Creating a fair working environment that foster equality and freedom for all is vital in the elimination of sexual harassment. The government has a central role to play in formulating laws and regulations that protect individuals from one another. The article collects data through empirical studies to augment claims made in the study.

However, the claims of the article are based on a liberal perspective failing to capture other factors that impact sexual harassment. Individual characteristics as age, skin color and social class limit the ability of some groups to access equal rights and freedom. Working characteristics also vary from one organization to another making it difficult to implement equality effectively for all (McLaughlin et al. 8).  

Sexual harassment is an unescapable issue in the workplace despite the myriad of efforts made to tame the menace. Despite women being the main victims, sexual harassment is instigated by other factors such as racism, sexism, age, social class, and sexual orientation. The myriad of factors dispels the notion that women are the only victims of sexual harassment.

Works Cited

Abrams, Kathryn. “New jurisprudence of sexual harassment.” Cornell L. Rev. vol. 83, 1997, 1169-1230.

Cudd, Ann E., and Margaret A. Crouch. “Thinking about Sexual Harassment: A Guide for the Perplexed.” The Philosophical Review, vol. 112, no. 1, 2003, 121-123.

Chung, L., et al. “Research Study on Workplace Sexual Harassment 2008.” AWARE Sub-Committee on Workplace Sexual Harassment, 2008, Accessed 14 May 2017.

McLaughlin, Heather, Christopher Uggen, and Amy Blackstone. “Sexual harassment, workplace authority, and the paradox of power.” American Sociological Review, vol. 77, no. 4, 2012, 625-647.

Mortimer, Jeylan. Working and Growing Up in America. Cambridge: Harvard. University Press, 2003.

Uggen, Christopher, and Amy Blackstone. “Sexual harassment as a gendered expression of power.” American Sociological Review, vol. 69, no. 1, 2004, 64-92.

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