Most people still think of sexual harassment as a predominately female problem. Intellectually, the majority of people probably realize that men can also be sexually harassed — but that’s not the typical scenario that pops into most people’s minds when they think about the issue.
For the most part, that’s still a fairly accurate mental image. One out of every three women (or maybe as many as half, depending on which study you believe the most) will be sexually harassed at work at least once in her life. However, sexual harassment against men is on the rise.
In 2011, 16.1 percent of the sexual harassment cases filed through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) were by men. In 2013, that figure from the EEOC rose to 17.6 percent. That’s a slow but steady rise in the statistics that indicate the problem is becoming less gender-specific.
Why is this happening? The explanation, many experts believe, is simple enough: Sexual harassment is rarely about lust or desire. Instead, it’s all about power and control. For some people in positions of authority, sexually harassing their underlings is almost a job perk — they can get away with it because they know that many employees need their jobs too badly to quit and are too intimidated to bring charges they may have a hard time proving.
For other abusers, it’s a way of reminding those beneath them what their proper “place” or “role” in the workforce actually is. Historically, that’s put men in control of women, and some men in authority may have sexually harassed female underlings as a way of proving their dominance in the corporate world and sending the subtle message to women that “you don’t belong here except in the role I choose to allow.”
As more women rise to positions of power within established companies or start businesses of their own, the same ugly tendencies come creeping out — just with the stereotypical gender roles switched around.
It’s also important to remember that, because sexual harassment is about power and dominance, the gender of the abuser and the victim can also be the same.
If you’ve been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace from a supervisor or boss of either gender, contact an attorney for advice.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Sexual Harassment Isn’t About Sex, It’s About Power,” Zeba Blay, March 23, 2017