When Men Face Sexual Harassment
Written by Alexis McKenna
April 26, 2018
The #MeToo movement has shined a spotlight on workplace sexual harassment involving women who have endured mistreatment at the hands of men for many years. We hear about stories of women being harassed, touched inappropriately and propositioned for sex, but few men have spoken out about the harassment they’ve experienced by female supervisors or co-workers.
While more than half of all women in the workplace report experiencing some form of sexual harassment on the job, the issue of sexual harassment of men is starting to get more media attention. A CNBC poll found that 10% of men reported being victims of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct at work. The poll showed that about 17% of complaints filed with the EEOC come from men and the rate has remained consistent. Although men experience sexual harassment, few have spoken out about their experiences of sexual harassment at work, though surveys show it’s not uncommon for them.
According to Psychology Today, both women and men have reported experiencing three forms of sexual harassment in the workplace: sexual coercion, unwanted sexual attention and gender harassment. Men belonging to sexual minorities are particularly vulnerable to this kind of treatment. Society expects men to act as masculine as possible, and when they experience sexual harassment, they are expected to “take it like a man” and deal with it. Why? Because the social norm is that men can’t possibly be harassed by women. Men who take time off to care for their children, who value women’s rights and support feminism may experience gender harassment in the workplace as a result. Women who express strong feminist beliefs about issues that challenge existing gender biases are especially vulnerable to being harassed as well.
In February, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia was accused of sexual harassment by two male staffers. One man claimed that Garcia cornered him after the annual assembly softball game in 2014 while he was cleaning up the dugout. He said Garcia, who appeared to be drunk, stroked his back, squeezed his buttocks and tried to grab his crotch before he was able to leave. Reports state that the employee was scared to tell his story because he knew the reaction he would get but was inspired by the #MeToo movement and talked to his boss about the incident. Another man came forward and stated that Garcia had sexually propositioned him and tried to grab his crotch at a political fundraising event. She has since denied the allegations and is currently on an unpaid leave of absence following the accusations.
While we know that powerful women are fully capable of harassing their subordinates, a lot of questions remain. What are the numbers on women accused of sexual harassment? What’s the reason why it appears that the majority of people accused of workplace sexual harassment are men? What’s the reason few men ever file formal complaints? Experts say that men’s pride gets in the way. Many men believe that lawyers would throw their case out because it wouldn’t be taken seriously, but there are plenty of attorneys who take on cases of female to male harassment, it’s just a matter of whether men come forward to report the abuse. Men also believe that some employers may view the harassment as horseplay or view it as a way of flirting, and that they won’t be taken seriously, but this kind of intentional discrimination can cause suffering and permanent scars for employees, not to mention it would create liability issues for employers who violate the law. But men can still be reluctant to come forward to complain due to fear of being mocked, and they also buy into the notion that female-on-male harassment isn’t even possible. As organizations develop better policies to protect employees from different forms of sexual harassment, it’s important to implement policies that help both men and women, which could provide a comfortable working environment.