Male Female Differences In Perceptions Of Sexual Harassment

Male/Female Differences In Perceptions Of Sexual Harassment Essay, Research Paper

Male/Female Differences in Perceptions of Sexual Harassment

One of your male co-workers has a revealing photograph of a female on

his desk at work. You ask him to remove the picture because it makes you feel

uncomfortable. He does not remove the picture. Do you think this is a form of

sexual harassment? According to Bertha Brooks, a speaker on the subject of

sexual harassment, this scenario exhibits a form of sexual harassment. For many

people sexual harassment implies different behaviors; there are people who

believe this scenario would be far from any type of harassment.

This study investigates the different perceptions of how men and women

define sexual harassment. It may be a simple look, slight touch, or a verbal

comment. Whatever the situation, there will be a variance in the degrees, as to

what men and women constitute as being sexual harassment. “Psychological texts

on sexual harassment outline various forms of behavior ranging from quid pro quo

demands for sexual services to hostile jokes and sexual innuendo” (American

Psychological Association, 1981, 1991).

“Sexual joking, touching, and patting may be considered unwelcome sexual

attention to some, but not others” (Gutek, Morasch, and Cohen, 1983). Women

more often than men conclude that these forms of sexual harassment are serious

and offending.

Is there a difference between what men perceive as sexual harassment and

what women consider sexual harassment? The purpose of this study is to

determine if in fact there is a difference. According to earlier research, men

and women would perceive and define sexual harassment differently (Ellison v.

Brady, 1989). “The findings that women define sexual harassment more broadly

and inclusive than men is reliable” (Ellison v. Brady). “A significant

difference between the sexes shows up both in surveys of working people and in

scenario studies; fifty-nine percent of men rated sexual touching as sexual

harassment whereas eighty-four percent of women” (Dunwoody-Miller and Gutek,


This study was conducted on a small northeast public college campus by

four experimental psychology students. Before the actual research was done,

twenty males and twenty females were pre-tested to see if the questionnaire,

that was to be used for the actual research was a valid measure; one that would

prove differences in perceptions between males and females beliefs on sexual

harassment. After the data was collected, the researchers moved forward because

they found differences between men and women. A total of one hundred subjects

were then randomly chosen to participate in this study. They were given a

questionnaire where they had to rate sexual harassment on a scale when given

different scenarios.

Previous research has uncovered gender-based differences in a variety of

sexual harassment related issues. For example, “females are much more likely

than males to report that they experienced some form of unwelcome sexual

attention” (United States Merit Systems Protection Board, 1980, 1988). Moreover,

females consistently define more social-sexual behaviors as sexual harassment

than do males; Females believe that sexual harassment is a more frequent

occurrence (Ronrod & Gutek, 1986).

The terrain of events called “sexual harassment” by some women and

called “normal” or “acceptable” by men is vast. Women generally state that the

subtle forms of sexual harassment are just as serious than the more extreme and

obvious forms. Men and women often perceive sexual harassment situations

differently (Gutek, 1985). As a result of our research the hypothesis of this

study was: Men and women will not always agree on what constitutes sexual

harassment. Women will perceive milder forms of harassment more than men.


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