It’s Sexual Harassment Day!


Unfortunately, it will be a while before I get to the next ethics topic. Accompanied by the ProEthics acting troupe, The Ethical Arts Players, I’ll be running not just one but two harassment awareness and avoidance trainings today. Avoiding harassing conduct is only applied ethics after all; it should be easy, but it isn’t.

I’ll be talking about some high profile cases that have been discussed here: the Trump-Billy Bush video, naturally; Ellen Degeneris’s cute sexual harassment of Jake Gyllenhaal on television that nobody complained about because…she’s Ellen! ; and the most relevant of all for the group I’ll be talking to, made up of scientists and academics, this story.

Sexual harassers come in many varieties, and this reminds me that I need to write more about the topic. Here are 15 types that have been identified in the wild so far, but hybrids and mutants are also out there:

  1. The Power Player: A “quid pro quo” harasser: the boss.
  2. The Counselor: Exploiting mentor relationships, abusing tryst
  3. The Leader of the Pack: Leading group embarrassment or marginalization
  4. The Serial Harasser: The Intentional and shameless abuser. With all that has gone on in the law and public eye, they are still out there in force.
  5. The Groper: Hands and Eyes. Yes, that’s Joe Biden…
  6. The Opportunist: Awaiting their chances, and ready to pounce on the trusting, vulnerable and needy
  7. The Bully : Sexual harassment as punishment, manipulation or just for sadistic fun
  8. The Confidante: Building trust to abuse it, that Platonic friend who’s not really platonic.
  9. The Pest: Polite, but not taking “no” for an answer
  10. The Sympathetic Harasser – Exploiting a crisis
  11. The Gallant: Misusing compliment and manners to marginalize, the kind of harassment women often don’t notice. (Barack Obama is one.)
  12. The Nerd: Socially inept individuals who desire the attentions of their targets, and who often don’t see that they do not reciprocate these feelings.
  13. The Stalker: Watching, trailing, bothering, tracking. The most dangerous harasser.
  14. The Blunderer : An accidental or clueless harasser
  15. The Star: The open harasser who’s status prevents him from being called one, or called to account.


37 thoughts on “It’s Sexual Harassment Day!

  1. blockquote, div.yahoo_quoted { margin-left: 0 !important; border-left:1px #715FFA solid !important; padding-left:1ex !important; background-color:white !important; } I knew an Opportunistic Gropper at Auburn.  He would offer to give back rubs while we were pulling all nighters.  Ugh.  

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPad

  2. I think you just profiled all the male (and possibly some female) members of the House and Senate. We do have a Groper in Chief.

  3. So Bill Clinton would be #1, #2, #4, #5, #6, #7, #13, & #15?

    On a serious note, What do you do about “The nerd” harasser? The others, except the stalker, are intentionally bad. The stalker is usually mentally ill and just needs to be dealt with harshly for everyone’s safety.

    I’ve never given it a thought as a possible worry. (I have managed women before, but am not currently a manager.) I guess you have to be sympathetic but stern and counsel the “nerd” on acceptable behavior.

  4. One thing to keep in mind: The smart woman can deal with these types very effectively without the help of Gloria Allred and her ilk. A little assertiveness, willingness to confront the perp and a good slap in public can work wonders.

  5. I’m a bit nervous to post this but I think it must be said.

    Would it not be considered harassment for a woman to taunt a man and make him believe that she wants to have sex with him to flirt and dress in a way that entices men and uses the way she’s dressed to get attention sexually, and to lead a man on only to say no. Is that not harassment in a certain way?

    We know that men have very strong visual connections, that men are easily aroused and enticed, and knowing that as smart women is it not harassing a man to throw it in their faces and get them to think were interested only to then say no and blame them?

    I was thinking about this the other night as I heard women discuss sexual-harassment and I thought about this.

    What if a parent took a child into a toy store and let them see all the toys and lead them to believe that they would get a toy or even a hungry child wavin food in front of its face and thinking you were preparing them a meal only to tell those children “oh sorry you don’t get a meal or a toy.” And then act surprised when the child grabs a bite or tries to play with the toy? Everyone would call that cruel I think. Yet for some reason there is a pass given to women who practice this behavior knowingly, I have done it.

    Men, does any of what I said resonate with you? Or am I way off here?

    • Since the sexual attention is wanted by the men, I wouldn’t call it harassment. I would call it unethical if the woman in question leads a man to believe that there will be sexual activity, then turns him down.

      But a great many men interpret “leading on” much broader than it actually is, so I would still be careful with reading too much into how someone is dressed for the purpose of communicating intent.

      • Ok. Hate to out my fellow women sisters but we know full well what we’re doing. Proof is in every magazine in articles on how to get men to be into us.

        Just think it’s wrong and I never realized this before.

        I’d love to hear other men’s thoughts as well, again I could be off and I have been harassed by men I did not try to attract at all, but in all honesty I’m sure they saw things I did when directed at someone else.

        Thus was before I was married but I still see it.

        Thanks for your perspective, it makes sense too.

    • Tiresome sexual politics, nothing more. Yes, it’s wrong to play with someone’s feelings, flirt, or whatever just to play with them. That said, it’s a man’s responsibility to know when he’s being played, and to, if necessary, exercise a little willpower and ignore the game playing. It’s also his responsibility to know when it isn’t time to play. Sure, maybe that new instructor is cute, but she’s here to teach you the new program, not look for a date. Yes, some of the office folks look good dressed up for this otherwise deathly dull party, but that’s not a license to try to take one of them home. You know the rest. BTW, it works both ways. If a woman tries to flirt with you to gain some kind of attention or professional advantage (or just acts weird), you are within your rights to call her out on it and either exit the situation or take appropriate action.

      • A few female counterparts could be named, btw, #1 and #2 on the original list above are gender neutral (more about power):

        #1. The Flirt – the woman who uses her wiles to get what she wants and trades on her looks.

        #2. The Fromance- the woman who acts like a close friend, but dangles hope of romance just out of reach while asking for all kinds of favors.

        #3. The Bitch in Sheep’s Clothing – A variant of #1 who uses her wiles and looks to get what she wants AND hurt other women, but acts like a lamb in front of men.

        #4. The Damsel in Distress – A woman who uses her looks to avoid doing anything by pushing her problems off on others.

        #5. The Cougar – An older but still attractive woman who plays with young and/or clueless men.

        #6. The 419er – An African or Southeast Asian/Filipina woman who pretends to love a man from the West in the hopes of getting out of the Third World.

        #7. The Delilah – Similar to the Confidante, pretending to build a relationship only to abuse it.

        #8. The Queen Bee – A high-end combination of #1 and #3 who always has to be the top person in the room, male or female, and will use any and all means to be that top person.

        #9. The Amazon/Alpha Girl – Everything has to be her way or the highway.

        • You’ve listed players, not harassers. I imagine many of us have fallen victim to a player. I know I have. However, a harasser makes me feel unsafe, has me looking for every exit in the place, has me glancing in the direction of another person in the room imploring for help, has me weighing my immediate options, etc. There’s a difference.

      • Most geeks have little to no ego in the first place, believe me, I was one. 47 years single, never went on so much as a first date, I think I gave up after I was told the only woman interested in me would be a cancer patient who didn’t have much time left.

    • Women can most certainly be harassers. Jack’s list is a bit heavy on the male stereotypes, but most could easily be inverted to a female version. Jack does however draw attention frequently to the power inversion involved; the ability for a women to call harassment and be presumed truthful. Women harassers can be particularly dangerous in their ability to deflect the blame onto their target if things go awry. The number of male creeps still far outweigh the female veriety, and but it would be naive to assume women never harrass.

  6. This ‘linking up’ stuff is seriously tricky and I’m so glad not to be playing anymore. Maybe we should we be trying harder to help the next generations, arranging introductions etc.? Getting a good link up and making it work has been crucial for my happiness. Wish I could remember how I did it …. In fairness I think my wife organised most of it, leaving me with the illusion that I had some control. I certainly spent a lot of time looking at her body and even did some stalking. Maybe that was ‘unethical’ but I’m very glad for how it has all worked out over the last 40 or so years. Hope she can pass on some of her wisdom to our granddaughter.

    Observations just in passing: there’s a lot of loneliness ‘out there’. And there is some truth in ‘faint heart never won fair lady’.

  7. Interesting how people identify the 15 harrassers as being exclusively male. I guess maybe we are conditioned to believe that sexual harrassment is somehow more gentle and demure when it comes from a woman. Especially when the stereotype of ‘all men expect sex and welcome the attention’ is applied.

    Speaking as a male, that notion that men are always up for it is patently untrue. Just because the person in giving the attention is a woman, doesn’t mean her attention is welcome. Like women, we men can ‘fake’ our way through sex with people we don’t find attractive.

    Anyway, back to the 15 types of harrassers, a few spring immediately to mind that women are slowly gaining more media exposure for their part –

    Hybrid – Femen. May be others can find a single catagory for them, but I do think their topless and nude protests are a form of sexual harrassment. Particularly when they accuse men of being patriarchal oppressors and pigs for looking at them.

    1. The power player – Yes, women can be ‘the boss’ in this day and age. Admittedly it probably is rather exaggerated, but the movie ‘Horrible Bosses’ casts its humour around this very theme.

    2. The Counselor: Years ago any teenage boy who was seduced by his teacher would have been called a sissy (or similar) if he didn’t act macho and manly and pushed any feelings of betrayal and loss of innocence aside. Now days we see women teachers have the law applied to them in a similar manner to their male counterparts.

    15. The Star – The author mentions Ellen. She actually gets a double pass for being a celebrity and a self-identified lesbian. That notion that it’s not sexual harrassment if it’s against somebody outside your sexual orientation is an old one. I think it’s sort of been half settled with grudging acceptance that it’s not ok for a gay man to grope a straight woman’s breasts.

    However, the celebrity I think of, especially when it comes to sheer, bald-faced hypocrisy is Maddona.

    If you recall March last year, she caused a bit of controversy during one of her Australian shows when she exposed a 17 year old girls breasts. I have to wonder if someone like Trump had been caught on camera objectifying a young girl with the remark, “She’s the kind of girl you just want to slap on the ass…”, and then yanked her top down for all to see, what kind of storm would have ensued. And then to fly the girl and her mother for an all-expenses paid trip to join her in another city… Well, if that isn’t consistant with the behaviour of a sexual harrasser attempting to avoid getting into trouble…

    Again, it seems that the notion held by society is that it’s somehow different if a woman is the abuser. Ethically, there is no grey area. Where there is no explicit, clearly understood mutual consent, then the conduct is unethical. Men should not have to fear ridicule, or even being cast as the harrasser. In the case of professionals (quasi- or full), both sexes should be satisified that the letter of the law will be applied equally to them if they breach trust.

    • Excellent point. Female on male (and female on female) sexual harassment is all too common, but as with female domestic abuse, often enabled by inherent skepticism.

      See Michael Crighton’s novel “Disclosure” and the movie version starring Demi Moore.

  8. For Clarification, here are how the categories apply to female harassers:

    1. The Power Player: A “quid pro quo” harasser No gender difference.
    2. The Counselor: Exploiting mentor relationships No gender difference.
    3. The Gang Leader: Leading group embarrassment or marginalization Mean girls!
    4. The Serial Harasser: The Intentional and shameless abuser No gender difference.
    5. The Groper: Hands and Eyes No gender difference.
    6. The Opportunist: Awaiting their chance! No gender difference.
    7. The Bully : Sexual harassment as punishment or manipulation Probably a mostly male type.
    8. The Confidante: Building trust to abuse it No gender difference.
    9. The Pest: Not taking “no” for an answer No gender difference.
    10. The Sympathetic Harasser – Misbehaving out of crisis No gender difference.
    11. The Gallant: Misusing the compliment Certainly more common with males, but not exclusively their domain,
    12. The Nerd: Socially inept individuals who desire the attentions of their targets, who do not reciprocate these feelings. A male stereotype, to be sure, but there are distaff members of the breed.
    13. The Stalker: Watching, trailing, bothering, tracking. Glenn Close!ARRGH!
    14. The Blunderer : An accidental harasser No gender difference.
    15. The Star: The open harasser who’s status prevents him from being called one, or called to account. Should have been “him or her.”

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