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The Myth of the Plague of Sexual Harassment Essay

One of the most talked-about issues of the past few years has been the issue of
sexual harassment, and it supposed prevalence in all workplaces. Pushed to the national
spotlight by the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings, in which Ms. Hill accused her boss
Justice Thomas of sexual harassment, it has become popular belief that sexual harassment
occurs in all workplaces, and that the vast majority of female office -workers have been
sexually harassed. Feminist groups have taken in upon themselves to interject in many
offices, leading sensitivity training sessions on sexual harassment, and promoting the
cause of those who charge others with sexual harassment. Despite the claims of feminist
groups about merely educating and “sensitizing” people on sexual harassment, the new
state guidelines have only succeeded in trivializing the issue, and are actually very
detrimental to powerful women.
According to a pamphlet by the California Department of Fair Employment and
Housing, one of the legally defined situations of sexual harassment involves such verbal
conduct as “making or using derogatory comments, epithets, slurs, and jokes.” While such
examples of speech may be considered offensive or crude behavior, it is not the role of
the federal, state, or county government to legislate what people can say, and where they
can say these things. By adopting verbal comments as part of the state guidelines on
sexual harassment, the state of California is actually encouraging stifling free speech,
which should be considered unconstitutional. If a woman walks in on a conversation
between co-workers in an office, in which sexual jokes and lewd comments are featured,
this does not constitute sexual harassment. Katie Roiphe, author of The Morning After:
Sex, Fear, and Feminism, states it best when she proclaims that “feminists…seem to have
forgotten childhood’s words of wisdom: sticks and stones may break my bones, but names
will never harm me” (101). If a woman or man finds particular speech, jokes, or
comments offensive, they should speak up, and voice their opposition, instead of crying
harassment and calling their lawyer. As renegade feminist professor and society critic
Camille Paglia proclaimed, in her book Vamps and Tramps, “If someone offends you by
speech you must learn to defend yourself by speech…and not beg for outside help to
curtail your opponent’s free movement” (51).
“Sexual Harassment is Forbidden by Law” continues its definition of sexual
harassment, by proclaiming that “verbal sexual advances or propositions” are considered
sexual harassment in California. While many people may consider this sexual harassment,
this should be looked at as more about every day, normal behavior being considered
criminal. If one finds another person attractive, regardless of position of power or status, a
proposition is generally issued for a date, dinner, or cocktails. Asking your secretary out
on a date is not sexual harassment, just as it would not be sexual harassment if the
secretary asked the boss or co-worker out on a date. It should not be considered sexual
harassment unless work-related advancement is denied to whomever refused the date
offer. Author Katie Roiphe contends that a proposition for a date is normal, healthy
behavior between a man and a woman. “To find wanted sexual attention, you have to give
and receive a certain amount of unwanted sexual attention. Clearly, the truth is that if no
one was ever allowed to risk offering unsolicited sexual attention, we would all be
solitary creatures” (Roiphe 87). None of us would exist if no one ever risked unwanted
sexual advances. The criminalization of innocent date propositions is another example of
the trivialization of sexual harassment. By focusing on this type of proposition as typical
of sexual harassment, feminists are demonstrating that their objective is not stamping out
sexual harassment, but stamping out innocent heterosexual behavior.

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One final example of the extreme nature of the sexual harassment guidelines is its
characterization of such visual conduct as “leering, making sexual gestures, displaying of
sexually suggestive objects or pictures, cartoons or posters” as sexual harassment. It
astounds me that anyone could support such a Stalinesque proposal. The banning of
sexually suggestive objects or posters is a clear violation of our constitutional rights of
freedom of speech and expression. As Camille Paglia once wrote, “we can never fully
legislate the human psyche” (Vamps and Tramps, 47). Who is to determine what
constitutes leering? This is, as Katie Roiphe wrote, “an ominous, not to mention difficult,
prospect” (91). Our courts will be even more inundated with frivolous claims of sexual
harassment, charging some man walking down the hall with harassment because “he
stared at her, or “undressed her with his eyes.” Imagine what such threats will do the
supposed team office environment. Instead of concentrating on producing the best
product possible, or in the best customer service, our offices will be focusing on
monitoring who watches what or whom, when, and how. If leering were a crime, then all
of us would probably be in jail, charged with sexual harassment. As to the banning of
sexually suggestive posters or objects in the office, it astounds me that anyone would feel
harassed by some little sexual toy on someone’s desk, or a pin-up photo on the locker
room door. The last time I checked, the women who are complaining about such pin-up
photos or sexual toys cannot legally be prevented from putting up their own pin-ups or
sexual toys. Apart from that, this part of the sexual harassment guidelines will lead to
much absurdity and trouble, such as female students “feeling sexually harassed by…a
photo of…a graduate student bikini-clad wife” (Paglia 50). While women who are really
being harassed see no action on their case, the women who are supposedly harassed by a
sexually explicit picture of a wife or girlfriend see immediate action. This is another
example of the absurdity and ill feelings that such guidelines will bring to the office
Many other issues related to sexual harassment demonstrate the extremes and
absurdities that advocates of the new sexual harassment guidelines are willing to advance,
such as the wide use of sensitivity training in many offices, coporations, and agencies.

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Sensitivity training, which emerged as a widely used technique out of the Clarence
Thomas-Anita Hill case, supposedly sensitizes men to the plight women face by sexual
harassment. Yet, instead of legitimate education, sensitivity training “becomes a way of
seeing the world, rather than a way of targeting specific contemptible behaviors” (Roiphe
100). Sensitivity training often includes role-playing exercises, such as that in the FAA
exercise, in which men were “pressured to walk through a line of female controllers who
fondled their private parts and rated their sexual attributes” (“Men Sue FAA…,” A12).

Christina Hoff -Sommers, author of the best-selling book, Who Stole Feminism, was
quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying that “most men and women in a workplace
environment can usually agree on core behavior they view as unacceptable…but some
(sensitivity) trainers ‘take the most thin-skinned, chronically offended person in a group
as the norm'” (Olson A13). How does this type of indoctrination help to sensitize men or
condemn sexually harassing behavior? By choosing “a thin-skinned person” or the
“average man” as a typical harasser, the feminists running these sensitivity training
programs are merely relaying stereotypes and propaganda to their predominantly male
audiences, not realistic examples or helpful information. Instead of having a healthy
dialogue on what constitutes sexual harassment, or each person’s perception of
harassment, these sensitivity training programs often result in an “intolerance of diversity
of points of view,” leaving the audience not really “want(ing) to object” (Olson A13). In
not allowing an open debate on sexual harassment, feminists are merely just relaying their
view own, broadly defined of sexual harassment, regardless of reality. An open debate on
sexual harassment in these sessions would be healthy, since all points of view would be
welcome, and all would get a better understanding of the issues and feelings. Thus, open
debate would actually sensitize people to the plight of victims of sexual harassment. All
of us would agree that harassment is horrid and must be condemned and halted. Giving a
feminist a bully pulpit to sprout stereotypes about harassers, subjecting their students to
offensive language, situations and examples, does not do anything to educate about
harassment, and actually introduces more tension, and lack of cohesion in the office
Another issue related to sexual harassment is the view that women are so
powerless that they cannot withstand the advances of even subordinates without legal
action. Anita Hill, the darling of the feminist-sexual harassment movement of the early
1990’s, proclaimed in a speech that “women who report harassment often blame
themselves, a factor she attribute(s) to ‘powerlessness'” (Decker B6). This statement
seems extremely degrading to women to assume that they are so weak and powerless that
they cannot even reject innocent advances from their students, co-workers, or bosses.

Camille Paglia put it best, when she stated that “women are being returned to their old
status of delicate flowers who must be protected from assault by male lechers…(and, thus)
it is anti-feminist to ask for special treatment for women” (Sex, Art…, 47). Women have
made historical advances over the past twenty-five years, requiring them to have strong
character, will power, and great courage. For the feminist movement, which has been the
supposed champion of the advancement of all women, to proclaim that women are so
delicate and weak that they need special protection to repel these innocent advances
seems to go against everything the feminist movement has stood for. Great faith must be
placed in working women that they are strong and tough enough to repel date or sexual
propositions from their co-workers or students. Aside from that, women do have a
“responsibility to define what (they) will and will not tolerate” (Sex, Art…, 47). If the
person who proposes is not given a clear signal that this behavior is unacceptable,
unwanted, or undesirable, how is that person to know to halt the behavior?
Sexual harassment is widely viewed by many feminists as a national crisis, in
which a majority of women have been supposedly been sexually harassed. Yet, the
feminist statisticians on sexual harassment report widely conflicting views of the
prevalence of sexual harassment. The New York Times reported that “40 to 70 percent of
working women have experienced some form of sexual harassment,…but only 50 suits
were filed in fiscal year 1996″ (Lewin, A18). Katie Roiphe writes of “88 percent of
Princeton’s female students experiencing some form of sexual harassment…(yet)
Catherine MacKinnon (states) that ‘only 7.8% of women in the United States are not
sexually assaulted or harassed in their lifetimes” (99-100). The wide variety in statistics
proves that feminists view what most consider innocent, everyday behavior as sexual
harassment, even when consent is involved. If you consider leering, or lewd verbal
comments as elements of sexual harassment, then most of us have probably been sexually
harassed at one point in our lifetime. Catherine MacKinnon has stated that “feminism
stresses the indistinguishability of prostitution, marriage, and sexual harassment” (Brock
385). Considering this statement, it’s easy to see how many leading feminists can come up
with the view that over eighty percent of women in this nation have been sexually
harassed. Women leading normal lives, who tolerate or participate in telling lewd jokes or
sexual conversations are considered to be sexually harassed, according to people like Ms.

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MacKinnon. It would be interesting to see what Ms. MacKinnon would do when
someone actually is assaulted, raped, or denied advancement as a result of sexual matters.

That person would probably be ignored.

Those in favor of the new sexual harassment guidelines, are creating an office
environment that is much more hostile to men than women, and may actually be
encouraging “reverse sexual harassment.” Feminists always consider men potential
oppressors, and that given a chance, men will always sexually harass a woman, according
to feminist definitions of sexual harassment. As a result, men are afraid to speak up in the
office, or disagree with any woman, for fear of being labeled a sexual harasser. National
Review best described the current situation the new sexual harassment guidelines have
imposed on many offices.

“Men are doubly penalized by the current alarm about sexual harassment. On the
one hand, they are weakened to any office encounter with a woman because she
always holds the harassment trump card. On the other hand, the current
interpretation of harassment law gives women license to say and do things in the
workplace to which men cannot respond in kind. There is an open hostility toward
men in many workplaces, and no one is rushing to document or change it (59).”
It sounds as if these new sexual harassment guidelines are encouraging reverse
harassment on the part of women against men. Where is the call for sensitivity training of
women? Where are the calls for legislation outlawing looking at men, or saying anything
provocative or unsolicited to them? This is clearly an example of a movement that has
gotten out of hand into an anti-male frenzy, ignoring any evidence contrary to their
position. The movement for new guidelines on sexual harassment is detrimental to office
cohesion, degrades the advancement of women, assuming their lack of power. Leaders of
this movement assume that all males are potential harassers, and that they will harass
innocent females given a chance, according to their definitions. Instead of legislating
unconstitutional measures that stifles free speech and free expression, feminist leaders
should encourage an open forum on sexual harassment in many offices, which is the only
true way for all to gain and understanding of the issue at hand, and truly become

Works Cited
1. Brock, David. The Real Anita Hill. New York: The Free Press, 1993.

2. California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. “Sexual Harassment is
Forbidden By Law.” Pamphlet, Dec. 1998.

3. Decker, Cathleen. “‘We Believe You,’ 900 Women Tell Anita Hill at Convention.” Los
Angeles Times 16 Nov. 1991: B6.

4. Lewin, Tamar. “A Case Study of Sexual Harassment.” New York Times 11 Nov. 1997:

5. Luthar, Harsh and Anthony Townsend. “Man Handling.” National Review 6 Feb. 1997:

6. “Men Sue FAA, Say They Were Groped.” Los Angeles Times 8 Sep. 1994: A12.

7. Olson, Walter. “When Sensitivity Training Is the Law.” Wall Street Journal 20 Jan.

1993: A13.

8. Paglia, Camille. Sex, Art, and American Culture. New York: Vintage Press, 1992.

9. Paglia, Camille. Vamps and Tramps. New York: Vintage Press, 1994.

10. Roiphe, Katie. The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism. Boston: Little, Brown &
Company, 1993.

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The Myth of the Plague of Sexual Harassment Essay
One of the most talked-about issues of the past few years has been the issue of
sexual harassment, and it supposed prevalence in all workplaces. Pushed to the national
spotlight by the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings, in which Ms. Hill accused her boss
Justice Thomas of sexual harassment, it has become popular belief that sexual harassment
occurs in all workplaces, and that the vast majority of female office -workers have been
sexually harassed. Feminist groups have taken i
2018-12-27 03:48:53
The Myth of the Plague of Sexual Harassment Essay
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