Sexual Harassment in the Work Place

Joel Acie
Dr. Ann Jabro
Communications Skills III
Robert Morris College
October 14, 1999

Sexual harassment is described as the most recently defined form of victimization of women, following rape and wife abuse (Henry & Meltzoff, 1998; from Rigor 1991). The phrase sexual harassment signifies forms of behaviors and discrimination that have occurred between the sexes throughout history. It was not given social, moral, or legal significance until the late 70’s (Henry & Meltzoff, 1998). The question that I pose is why do males and females tend to be ignorant about what is sexual harassment and what is not sexual harassment and to explain what studies have been conducted to answer this question and how can it be prevented at work?
The U.S. government and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC), define sexual harassment as unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when; submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment; (2) submission to rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; (3) when such conduct has the purpose or effect of interpreting with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment for that individual (Fredrick & Atkinson, 1997). The term, “quid pro quo” which basically means “some-thing for something” is a form of sexual harassment which involves threats, bribery, promotion or conditions of employment for sexual favors (Richman et al.).
Now that the EEOC and the United States government have defined the definition of sexual harassment, I am able to go into detail about who is involved. Harassment in other gender combinations does occur, the vast majority of incidents involve a man harassing a woman (Baugh, 1997). Women tend to be more sensitive to sexual harassment concerns because women are the primary targets of harassment and men are usually the perpetrators (Baugh, 1997). The most powerful and consistent variable that has been found to influence perceptions of sexual harassment is sex of the person who makes the judgement (Henry & Meltzoff, 1998). Women are more likely to interpret less severe behaviors as constituting sexual harassment (Henry & Meltzoff, 1998). The difference in perceptual sets or behavioral labels is key because men tend to misperceive sexual harassment behaviors or friendly behavior on the part of the woman (Baugh, 1997). Meaning that men view friendliness on the part of women as an expression of sexual interest, or even when that was not what the woman herself indicated her intentions to be (Baugh, 1997). A lack of awareness of the differences in the definitions or perceived seriousness of sexual behaviors at work has the potential for causing very serious misunderstandings between opposite-sex coworkers (Baugh, 1997). Reason, because women see sexual harassment more seriously than men do. Men are more likely than women to ascribe responsibility for the harassment to the victim (Henry & Meltzoff, 1998). Mental health consequences include anger, depression, anxiety, and substance use and abuse (Richman et al.). Most studies have addresses situations involving a female target and thus neglected victimization of men but, a study, that was made, suggested that men’s experiences with sexual harassment were less distressful in nature because men have greater power in society (Richman et al.). So it is very unlikely that men will be targets of sexual harassment, but there have been select few times where it has happened in the workplace by other male co-workers at the same job.
Besides knowing that women are the usual targets of sexual harassment, there is a question. The question is what studies have been done to explain sexual harassment in the work place? There have been some studies that were conducted in the past to explain the interpretations of males and females with sexual harassment. The first study was a set of videotape scenarios and questionnaires trying to understand the factors of flirting and sexual harassment (Keyton& Rhodes, 1999). The participants were 110 females and 87 male undergraduate students at a mid-south university, and undergraduate students at another university. The assumption is that male-female interaction in the workplace is unavoidable. Confusion between flirting and sexually harassing behaviors can occur because many of the