Am I Guilty of Sexual Harassment and How Do I Know?
Are You Confused About the Definition of Sexual Harassment?
Does it seem to you like the definition of sexual harassment changes every day? Does it seem like one second, women are letting you hug them and the next day, you might be in court facing the next few years in jail? Suddenly, a behavior you regularly did twenty years ago isn't acceptable?
It's all very confusing, isn't it? Is it okay to ask a co-worker out on a date? Is it okay to hover over their desk and ask them whether they had sex last night? Is it okay to comment on somebody else's clothing? Is it okay to say whether or not you find somebody attractive?
There's no doubt that the definition of sexual harassment has changed and is changing, so it's necessary to understand what is and isn't acceptable in the workplace and beyond.
This article will allow you to fully understand what defines sexual harassment and avoid those behaviors so that you're not accused of sexual harassment.
Old, White Men Beware!
The people most likely to be the subject of sexual harassment claims are old, white men who are used to doing things a certain way. So, in many ways, this article will be directed toward you. That said, it's often men in general who don't quite understand what it means to sexually harass somebody else, so you may perceive a slight bias in this article against the concerns of men.
Still, it's important that most sexual harassment occurs between men and women, with the man being the harasser and the woman being the victim. Understanding this dynamic is an important element in understanding what is and isn't acceptable behavior.
The first thing to understand about sexual harassment is power dynamics. If you are in a position of power over somebody else, consider if you treat them differently on a personal level than you do with your superiors.
If you have a woman who reports to you and a female boss and you feel comfortable asking your female report questions that you do not feel comfortable asking your female boss, then you are probably harassing her. If you feel it's your right to hug your female report but not your female boss, then you're probably harassing her.
Basically, anything you do or say to somebody with whom you have a superior/inferior relationship that you wouldn't do if the situations were reversed is likely suspect. On a personal/private level, everyone should be treated the same, though if you treat everyone badly, then you're probably just a bad person.
So, Is It Okay if I Harass Everyone?
Do you feel as though you treat everyone badly, therefore you treat everyone equally, and are therefore not sexually harassing them?
Nope. That's not even close to being right. If you sexually harass everyone equally, then you're probably sick. And you're still a massive problem and a sexual harasser.
Some General Examples of Sexual Harassment
To help you understand sexual harassment, here are a few examples of sexual harassment:
- I snap my female co-workers bra when she's not looking.
- I make sure every woman who works for me gets a hug to start her day.
- I make polite conversation with the women in my office by asking them how often they have sex.
- I ask women in my office what sexual positions they like.
- I organize get-togethers at bars and other places with my subordinates and sometimes get drunk and take off my pants.
- I ask my female subordinates about their bra size.
- If I meet a woman at work that I like, I send her a dick pic.
Further Explanations of These Situations
Still confused? Let's take these situations one-by-one.
- I snap my female co-workers bra when she's not looking - you do this because you think she likes it, right? Well, she doesn't. In fact, she fantasizes about taking a giant rubber band and snapping your head off in her sleep.
- I give everyone a hug to start their day - just don't touch anyone, okay? Nobody likes your hugs or your stinky, sweaty body or the erection you're sporting when you do these things.
- I ask my co-workers how often they have sex - do you actually do any work at work? Stop talking and get back to it. And btw, only discuss professional things at work. Nobody should be talking about their sex life at work because, you know, it's WORK.
- I ask women in my office what sexual positions they like - do you really need a conversation starter? Well, that's the wrong one. Try the weather. Or sports. Or movies.
- I organize get-togethers at bars and other places with my subordinates and sometimes get drunk and take off my pants - let's just clear something up here: if you take your pants off at work for anything other than going to the bathroom, then you've got a problem. And when I say take your pants off to go to the bathroom, I'm meaning that you're in the bathroom when you do it.
- I ask my female subordinates about their bra size - ooh, they love that, right? Asking any co-worker anything about their body is harassment, unless they're bleeding on the floor and you say something like "did you cut your arm?"
- If I meet a woman at work, I send her a dick pic - have you tried the fine art of not being a total douche bag?
Some Examples that ARE NOT Sexual Harassment
Here are a few examples of behaviors that are NOT sexual harassment:
- I DO NOT touch any of my co-workers inappropriately or feel that it is my right, as their supervisor, to give them a hug every morning so I can press my body against theirs.
- I DO NOT put my hands on my co-workers, give them back rubs, or generally touch them.
- I DO NOT consider women to be inferior and consider menstruation as a factor on their performance plans.
- I DO NOT ask my female co-workers about their sexual lives.
- I DO NOT ask my co-workers if they think I have large genitalia and if that turns them on.
- I DO NOT send my female co-workers naked pictures of myself.
- When I get drunk, or otherwise, I DO NOT force my co-workers to have sex with me in exchange for preferential treatment at work.
Further Help with NOT Being a Sexual Harasser
Actually, you shouldn't need that much help NOT harassing people. It's called "being a decent human being". All you do is you treat people the way you would want to be treated if you were a human being and they were a hungry bear.
You see, if you're alone in the forest and you come upon a hungry bear, you just want that bear to leave you alone. You say nice things to the bear. You treat that bear with more respect and decency than you have ever treated anything in your life because, if you don't, that bear is going to tear you limb from limb and snack on your bleeding, meaty carcass.
Now, on the surface, the above paragraph would seem to suggest that men are meek creatures and women are hungry bears, but that's not it at all. This is about behavior. The analogy could be about a mouse. The thing is, it's just not that hard to understand that people want to be treated with respect and decency and treating them any other way is bad.
If you're still confused. If you're still questioning how you should act, then odds are pretty good you're a harasser. Go get help.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.