Sexual Harassment Knows No Gender, Industry, Sexual Orientation

Posted in Sexual Harassment on December 5, 2017

By John Winer

December 5, 2017

What do Mariah Carey and Louis C.K. have in common? Both are well-known celebrities facing serious sexual harassment claims. While a significantly large portion of the people coming forward of late are women accusing men of some form of sexual misconduct, there are also many accounts of women sexually harassing men and men harassing men. Kevin Spacey is accused of unwanted sexual contact with several men, some of whom were minors, over the course of decades. Jeffrey Tambor was the star of Amazon’s groundbreaking show Transparent, when Trace Lysette, a trans woman, accused the actor of sexual harassment.

In our time representing thousands of women and men who have been the victims of sexual harassment, we were already aware that this happens in Hollywood, Congress, the media, Silicon Valley and just about every other industry in our country. The nation is now beginning to understand just how pervasive it is, as well as the many forms it can take.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 offers protections to employees from unwelcome sexual advances, gender discrimination, unwanted touching, as well as verbal and physical harassment that can create a hostile work environment. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website, “Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.” In the minds of many, these sort of sexual misconduct cases take place when a man in a position of power takes advantage of a woman. However, as we have seen these last few months it can take all forms, and anyone who feels they have been wronged has the right to obtain justice.

For Mariah Carey, it was her bodyguard claiming harassment. Most likely this man is physically larger and stronger than Ms. Carey, but her position of power over him and her alleged behavior in the workplace would certainly fall into the guidelines of what makes up harassing behavior if this proves true. In the case of Kevin Spacey, his behavior was directed towards men–and worse, at least one underage–not women, as Mr. Spacey recently came out as homosexual. However, his behavior while serving as both the lead actor in many films and Executive Producer of the show House of Cards certainly constitutes an abuse of power.

What is also important in these cases is how the victim is made to feel; often times, someone who has suffered an unwanted sexual advance or unwanted touching is made to feel small, shameful or somehow responsible for their actions. For any man who has been put in this situation, he can feel like less of a man due to cultural or societal norms. However, any man who has been a victim has rights under the law. It is important that we all keep a broad definition of what makes up this type of harassment as the law is in place to protect the entire country, not just one gender or the other.