Sexual Harassment - frequencies by gender

In response to the query

I'd add that the while the "claim that men rarely report trivial harassment is supported by the low reporting of harassment", we'd need to see actual figures of how many people are harassed and what sex they are before we can move on the implied statement that men are less likely to report harassment than women. Otherwise, it is a possibility that men are harassed less than women.

We have a response.

From: (Shawn Larsen)
Date: 12 Sep 1995 20:10:15 GMT

Here's what I have in front of me ...

[...] by far the majority of sexual harassment is done by men towards women (50-67%) ... sexual harassment does happen to working men (15-30%) and that laws and guidelines are often written and languaged as if sexual harassment is only a male to female thing. [Gordon Clay, The National Men's Resource Calendar, Vol 9, No 1, 1993.]

More than 200 men file sexual harassment charges each year with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission -- that's about one-tenth of the number of cases file by women. But more men will experience sexual harassment over the coming years as women assume more positions of power in corporate America, says lawyer Ron Green, who defends companies in sexual harassment cases.
And a 1987 survey of federal workers by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board found that 42% of the women and 14% of the men had reported such harassment. [Men as Sexual Harassment Victims, San Francisco Examiner/Chronicle (10/20/91); Wall Street Journal (10/18/91).]

85% of the girls and 76% of the boys reported some experience of sexual harassment in school. [Sexual Harassment at High Schools by Nanette Asimov, published in San Francisco Chronicle (6/2/1993); Report by American Association of University Women. Note that various categories of harassment are given, in most cases girls are only slightly higher than boys.]

A survey was conducted at my former college. Some of the issues dealt with sexual harassment. One-third of the students who said they were sexually harassed were men. What makes this number more surprising, is that women made up only 1/5 of the student population. That is, 1/5 of the students were causing 1/3 of the problem (ignoring homosexual harassment). Yet the men were ignored; a campaign was initiated on how to stop the harassment of women.

And in another post, K. Stuart Birks writes ... the New Zealand component of the 1994 International Social Survey Programme survey found, with a sample of over 1000, that about 40% of women and 25% of men who had worked said they had experienced what would currently be considered to be sexual harrassment.

Some other things to keep in mind

  1. It seems that when men are privately surveyed whether or not they've experienced unwanted sexual attention, a relatively high percentage of them say yes (approaching the percentage of women). However, the percentage is a lot lower (but still significant) when only the number of formal complaints are considered.
  2. It's important to keep in mind that the expected gender distribution of harassment is highly dependent on the local demographics. To a first approximation, when N is the ratio of men/women at an organization then the number of male-on-female harassment incidents should be N times larger than female-on-male, and the percentage of women harassed should be N**2 times the percentage of men. For example, suppose a company employs 800 men and 200 women. Suppose an equal percentage of men and women are prone to harass the opposite sex. Lets say this percentage is 10%. That means there are 80 men harassers and 20 female harassers working at this hypothetical company. If each harasser acts on one (independent) person, then 80 women and 20 men will be harassed. The percentage of women harassed is 40% and the percentage of men harassed is 2.5%.

There are many other variables that need to be considered, of course, but this simple example demonstrates that even if men and women are equally prone to inflict harassment, the percentages can be vastly different depending on the gender demographics. Since the work force is predominately male (especially when one considers harassment involving supervisors), it only stands to reason that the results will be significantly skewed.

Male on Male Sexual Harassment

Note from the editor: I think it is a mistake to "ignore homosexual harassment". Indeed, a large amount of the total sexual harassment is done by men to men. But it is not necessarily homosexual, per se.

That is to say, effeminate men or guys who are 'different' in some other way are often exposed to harassment and teasing much more vicious than anything I've ever heard done to a woman. In a addition to outrageous verbal abuse and pranks ("faggot" scrawled on their lockers, mayonaise smeared on their seats, butt-fucking motions made everytime they walk by) these guys often face assault, sabotage, and extraordinary levels of isolation.

If the man complains, he will be sent for counseling. Much of my knowledge of this situation is from a friend, a psychologist in private practice, who sees a steady stream of such men sent from the oil refineries and other factories at the SE end of Houston. Most of these men are not gay, but they are still fair game.

So, in short, I expect if we took apart the numbers in this survey, we might find more male-on-male harassment than you expect.

'Reverse' Sexual Harassment

I spoke a few years a go with a woman lawyer who handled sexual harassment cases for several governmental agencies in the Austin Tx area. She said that, contrary to popular perception, a large number of sexual harassment cases are filed in the wake of breakups of mutually consensual affairs. The jilted party then begins a campaign of harassment against the one that left, and the one who left eventually files a complaint.

She said that about 20% of her caseload involved female on male harassment complaints, and almost all of them were cases of jilted women trying to make the man's life difficult.

-David R. Throop