Sexual Harassment has become the prime topic. Since the Bill O’Reilly and Harvey Weinstein allegations broke, we have been constantly bombarded with new facts, victims, offenders, and allegations. What we are missing though is a cohesive picture of what Sexual Harassment is and that it isn’t a problem solely defined by gender.
Apart from the usual definition of Sexual Harassment, it is first and foremost a nasty display of dominance. The source of which can be varied. It can be physical strength, it can be direct supervision, it can be superiority in pretty much anything, which is then used as leverage and means of dominating an inferior. Why is this definition so important? Because it inherently defines that Sexual Harassment is not necessarily tied to a specific gender.
Even though most offenders are men and most victims are women, that doesn’t mean that these are the only constellations available. We tend to forget that Sexual Harassment is a pure display and act of dominance over another person. Neglecting that by focusing only on a specific group of victims and perpetrators, however large, is the wrong way to tackle this troubling subject.
Sexual Harassment: Men Can be Victims
People love stereotyping. That’s why white males are currently the prime example for offenders of Sexual Harassment while casting women generally as victims. And while there are enough statistics to back up that this is indeed the most common setup, stereotyping is not a very effective way to work on solutions.
Between 2010 and 2016, on average, roughly 17% of all filed Sexual Harassment incidents in the US were reported by men. That is more than 1 in 6 cases.
Another study in the US Military showed that 50% of women and 20% of men were subjected to Sexual Harassment at least once in the previous year.
What does this tell us? Yes, women are more likely to be sexually harassed. But then again, the number of victimized men is hardly neglectable, but that’s what we usually do. We don’t talk about the issue itself, the rotten core of it, we try to label everything, put it into convenient boxes and then rip them apart.
This is not meant to discredit any allegations or anything that has happened up to this point, this is meant as a reminder that nothing ever is black or white, even if that takes the convenience out of it. Offenders can be Male, Female, Transgender, literally anyone. The same goes for victims of Sexual Harassment.
The recent Kevin Spacey allegations prove that the gender or sexual orientation is completely irrelevant – we are talking about physical and psychological harassment of a sexual nature between two human beings without consent. This should not be a discussion of creating a safe space for women, this has to be a discussion to create a safe space for anyone at all times.
Sexual Harassment: A Display of Power
As pointed out before, men are most likely to be in an offending role. But why? If it’s not tied to a specific gender, why are the statistics so one-sided? In a game of dominance, unfortunately, men are usually in a better position. Regardless of the efforts of Gender Equality, Women’s Empowerment or Feminism, Women are still less likely to hold higher-ranking positions in companies. And even if we separate the issue of Sexual Harassment from work, men are often just able to be physically intimidating and therefore create a power gap that ultimately enables them to take advantage of the other party.
The other issue to note is, that men getting harassed by women is something that is easily overlooked, sometimes even by the victims. People think all men would welcome sexual advances from females, friendly or not, up to a point to face ridicule. It is not necessarily the manliest thing on earth to tell people you have been sexually harassed. There is a strong stigma present here. But there are plenty of them, as statistics show. If you look close enough there are more than enough testimonies to be found on the internet as well. But while female victims are often pushed into the spotlight, male victims are never really addressed in a proper way.
Sexual Harassment is a Matter of Respect
In the end, it’s not only a matter of dominance, it is a matter of respect – a lack of respect to be more precise. And that is the main issue. Sexual Harassment is always a lack of respect, a display of power and a disgusting way to enforce the own dominance. That is what has to change, and that is what we all have to look after. It’s not just men that should have to take a vow to protect women against Sexual Harassment, it’s all of us making sure we all are safe, respectful and in control. Stereotyping has never solved any issues, facing the actual issue instead, however, would be a start.
So who is the real victim? Men or Women? All of us! Sexual Harassment doesn’t know gender or sexual orientation. It is a deliberate act taken by someone overstepping clear boundaries of human interaction. Oversimplifying that will not resolve the issue at hand, it never has, and it’s about time we all realize that and act accordingly.
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