Think Sexual Harassment Only Happens to Women? You’re Wrong

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Damian Davidson was sexually harassed by women at work, and he was too ashamed to admit how bad it made him feel. He never even told anyone why he quit that job.

I want to start by saying that I think men and women experience sexual harassment in different ways. And I will touch on that briefly further down. But my intent isn’t to provide definitions, just to relate my personal experience and how I interpreted and dealt with it.

I’ve experienced first-hand, perpetrated against me, sexual harassment in the workplace. It was emotionally and mentally traumatic at the time. But I’m over it. I don’t carry any scars from that experience, and if I do think back on it, it’s only to wonder if those women involved ever learned to treat their co-workers a little more respectfully. Yes. I was harassed by female co-workers. And a lot of people who read this might first think that I’m whining about nothing at all here. Which is sort of why I’ve written this. Men can be sexually harassed by women, and it can be harrowing for them.

I got a job, part time, at a clothiers. I got settled in pretty quickly with the other staff in my department; my floor manager, a supervisor and two other sales assistants. They all seemed friendly enough, and the work wasn’t taxing. At first, they would make jokes about finally having a man on the floor to take care of the grunt-work, and I would laugh along, giving it no real thought.

I was required to wear clothes sold by the company while on shift, to advertise the product. Pretty standard practice. Not necessarily a style I myself would choose to wear, but I was getting paid, so no big deal. I’d been there about a month before things started to get a bit dubious.

One morning while I was restocking before opening, I overheard an exchange between the floor manager and one of the sales staff. The particulars escape me now, but they were talking about how they appreciated the view of my arse when I stretched up to restock the higher rails. It made me a little uncomfortable, a bit embarrassed, but I ignored it and finished the task.

And yet that brief exchange made me suddenly a little more aware of the nature of the comments that passed between my colleagues. I was shocked when I realized they almost always revolved around the fit of my trousers, or how my shirt stretched across my shoulders; I became increasingly uncomfortable under their appraising gaze. And if they realized that I’d heard them? They laughed. Amused by my blushes and my discomfort.

I felt powerless to respond. What could I say?

Stop talking about how attractive you think my bum is. 

Oh yes, not a bit absurd, that. I was too embarrassed to mention it to anybody. I could imagine the mocking laughter of my friends if I told them a bunch of women were lusting after me.

Gosh, didn’t I have such a hard life?

And this is part of the difference for men and women. A lot of men won’t have the emotional support network that women might. Or rather, it’s there, but neither the victim nor his friends will know how to access it. My female friends in this situation will complain about the comments to people they trust. They’ll receive a sympathetic ear. And they’ll know that they will, they’ll expect it. But most guys I know are going to bottle this up for fear of ridicule. I, myself, have sat on this for years.

It made me angry. I hadn’t done anything to deserve this, I didn’t want it. I started to resent my co-workers, to withdraw.

I would dread starting a shift, keep my head down through it, and then beat a hasty retreat home at the end of the day. My customer service suffered; I was constantly uptight, angry, annoyed and ashamed all at once. Worse, I felt completely powerless.

I was miserable working there, and my emotional confusion left me feeling exhausted. What could I do, realistically? I couldn’t see a way to resolve the situation. So I quit. Five months. Five. Miserable. Months.

And even when I quit, I couldn’t give the real reason. I told the store manager I just didn’t feel that I was a good fit for the job. Sorry, thanks for the opportunity, and I’ll be off now. Which is, again, absurd.

I’ve almost never told anybody about why I didn’t keep that job. Too embarrassed. Too worried that I would be ridiculed, or shouted down for complaining about something trivial. And this is because although I was being objectified, and subjected to sexual harassment…it would never have gone past that.

I never had to acknowledge that given the right circumstances, one of those women might try to sexually assault me. It wasn’t a remote possibility; I was twice the size of any of them. Hell, I can manhandle people twice MY size.

(No exaggeration; it’s my party trick. I’ll pick up bouncers and dance them around the bar for free shots.)

But those four women still made my life torturous, sucked it free of joy or pleasure.

♦◊♦

Here are some generalizations about sexual harassment based on my own personal experience, and the bonds I observe amongst my friends:

I think the embarrassment factor is a large part of what stops men talking about this.

I think, too, that society conditions us to believe that this is something that only really happens to women.

I think the developmentally stunted construct we term “masculinity” prevents men from being able to believe they can speak out about this.

However, I also think it isn’t, as I already stated, quite as serious a problem for men in the sense that it doesn’t always automatically carry the potential for it to escalate to an assault on their person. I would expect very few men experiencing sexual harassment to list “fear of physical assault” among their woes. Might be wrong. Like I said, these are generalizations. I’m sure there are exceptions.

It’s an important conversation to have, this. Because nobody should have to put up with being made miserable, especially when it can lead to harmful habits in response.

But equally, it’s important not to focus only  upon men’s experiences. Because I’ve noticed that tends to happen; we start to take a problem seriously when men experience it, as though it’s less of a concern for a woman to face this. Bad society, no! Wrong.

And the last thing I want is my experience being used to undermine valid complaints about the inequalities between men and women.

This is simply my story. I experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. It made me miserable, and drove me out of work, because I bottled it all up. I didn’t deal with it, I avoided it. I think it’s a serious problem that requires discussion because most men will feel unable to speak up about it due to lacking the necessary emotional support.

We need to (again, in my opinion) reconstruct the principle of masculinity and leave out that isolating stoicism. Because if we didn’t silence ourselves so often maybe we’d be having those larger conversations that we need.

 

 

Photo: Flickr/Victor1558

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About Damian Davidson

Damian reads a lot and writes significantly less. To get a better handle on him go find him on twitter: https://twitter.com/damns_nation

Comments

  1. Great article Damian. As being a woman who has been the the object of sexual harassment on the job at a very young age. I felt powerless how to deal with it. I tried to laugh it off and take it as a compliment. But I was working in an office of primarily all men. And while some of it was only of the “accidental” brush by variety. There was one dude who was relentless. Asking me all sorts of sexual questions and even putting porn on my computer. I was laid off from that job and was actually very happy as it gave me an easy out of a situation I wasn’t mature enough to handle at the time. But looking back I wish I had done more, complained about the guy. Kept a log of each time something inappropriate happened. From that experience I would never put up with that level of harassment ever again.

    • Amy, I wish that wasn’t such a familiar story, Really I do. We all have to get into the habit of speaking out more, I think. That’s the best way to create a culture where confronting these things would be acceptable, and eventually unnecessary. Or so I like to believe.

    • Do you think that in 50:50ish gender situations, that the power of the harassment is less? Or just the same but just happens to both genders?

      • If I take your meaning correctly….The power of the harassment. I think it’s difficult to quantify it, to be honest. It isn’t a measurable thing with units and neat delineations. I think the way the harassment affects us is differently natured according to our gender; I think far fewer men will worry about it escalating. But similarly, they may suffer deeper emotional stress because they aren’t afforded the same outlets of expression as women. So, tentatively, I could say the power of harassment is felt less by men than it is by women. But also that it is felt differently. So a clear comparison is tricky. As I said in the post, and will continue to say in the comments, the issue of harassment just reflects greater issues that stand in our way. It’s a symptom, not so much a distinct ailment.

        • Well I could guess that a person may feel more scared or alone at least if there are say 19 of one gender, 1 of the other vs 10 and 10? Would more of your same gender help to encourage one to take action? In a heavily gendered environment, the minority may feel it tougher to report due to not wanting to kick up a stink and allows more bullshit to go by as a way to make strides into that workplace. I have a feeling women do this in male dominated roles, and men for the reverse where they put up with sexism and harassment and focus on the goal of getting the career.

          • Okay. I honestly couldn’t say for certain. Having more men on that shop floor wouldn’t have helped me except perhaps to detract attention. And in fact I suspect we may have felt pushed to compete for attention in that situation.
            But I also think your focus is moving away from the point of the article I wrote. Gender equality in the workplace is an important discussion, but it isn’t one I’m really qualified to hold court on. I’m sorry if you’re dissatisfied with this response.

            • It’s fine, I was asking Amy too. Wasn’t trying to lead the convo away but just ask that quick question to understand it better. I have a feeling that a heap of abuse goes on that doesn’t get spoken of because people are trying to keep their job.

            • Oh, that’s undoubtedly the case. I think that trying to build up the attitude that we should all always report any wrong-doing by co-workers/superiors will help to create a culture that doesn’t allow harassment to take place in the first place.

            • I definitely think in my situation, the fact that the company I worked for was so Male dominated definitely not only led to the sexual harassment, but also made me less inclined to speak up. In an office of 30 men and 4 women there was definitely a “boys club”
              mentality there. And toward the end of my stay at that company learned that the individual responsible for most of the harassment had a history of this behavior, but he was also the boss’s golden boy and somewhat protected. I have never experienced any type of sexual harassment of this magnitude at any other job I worked at. All my other positions also have had a much more equal male to female ratio. Or have been female dominated. So yes very much think it makes a difference.

            • I figured as much, it’s sad really. Sorry you both went through that, people need to learn respect. I haven’t been through it luckily, my only experience has been a boss that liked to slam doors n scream like a lil child that scared me a bit and I quickly quit that place.

        • John Anderson says:

          @ Damian

          “I think far fewer men will worry about it escalating.”

          I’ve heard you mention this before, but this is the boogey man under the bed. It’s a fear that doesn’t have a basis in reality because it is based on a flawed power dynamic. It’s based on the idea that a man will use physical force on a woman, which she would be unable to duplicate.

          Most work related harassment is not going to be predicated on physical force. They’ll threaten your job, your means of income. Women who make the intentional decision to use force to rape a man could simply use a weapon. You and society may expect a man to take a bullet (choose death over rape), while simultaneously absolving women of the responsibility to even take a beating to avoid a rape, but who actually faces less chance of prosecution. In the CDC 2010 NISVS, it was reported that about 50% of rapes were women raping men. How many reported cases can you cite without a google search? Now try a google search. How many come up? Women can get away with rape a lot easier than a man.

          It is the belief that a man should be able to defend himself that makes the above reality.

          • Peculiar, I can’t seem to find that figure in the CDC NISVS 2010. Care to cite the relevant section? And you appear to have missed the point quite spectacularly. While I argue that fewer men will worry that it might escalate, I do so to highlight that harassment has a different psychological impact on men compared to women. That’s a pretty accurate point. And I also harp on somewhat about how the dynamic is flawed, and not only that, damaging. So I’m glad you agree with me on that point, thank you.

            • John Anderson says:

              If I remember correctly it’s page 18 table 2.1 estimated number of women raped last 12 months 1,270,000 and page 19 table 2.2 estimated men forced to penetrate another 1,267,000 so that’s about half. Page 24 79.2% of men who reported they were forced to penetrate another reported female perpetrators. About 80% of 50% is 40%.

            • Those figures aren’t quite what you state them to be. The problem with taking a percentage is that you ignore the sample size. So, for example, Table 2.1 is recording from 53 million victims. Table 2.2 is half that. And there is no figure for rape of men for the last 12 months because not enough men come forward to report it, which is precisely the point I’m trying to address in my article; that all victims need to come forward, and that we need to change the cultural attitude to allow that to happen. So perhaps go back and review that study’s findings again, because I don’t think you’re reading it right.

            • KC Krupp says:

              Damien,

              The thing John Anderson forgot to mention is that it isn’t classified as ‘rape’ based on the report’s definition of rape. The CDC NISVS 2010 decided to classify someone forcing a man to penetrate them as a distinctly different category that is listed under “Other sexual violence.” If you equate “being forced to penetrate” to “forcibly penetrating (i.e. rape)” then you find that 40% of the perpetrators of “Forcing someone to have sex with them” were women.

            • I know, (Mr/Ms) Krupp. That would be why I recommended John go back and re-read the report. I also made a point of drawing attention to the lack of a viable sample for the last twelve months. I think we’ve covered this point, but thanks for reiterating it.

            • I did the math on the female abusers, 12 months is roughly 40% of all rapists as listed by the CDC but including forced to penetrate and for lifetime its around 16% or so. Easier to just say 1 in 5 rapes is female perpetrated and roughly 1 in 4 rapes is against a male, however there is an issue I’ve heard where men are more likely to either forget their rape, or more likely to tell themselves it wasn’t rape (since society tells men that they enjoy it, etc) over time which may skew the results.

              But we probably should just say Lots of men and women are raped and it’s bad, we need to change that fullstop.

            • Yea! Thank you. I was starting to worry I’d completely obfuscated my point.

            • Yep, it’s also important to note that these aren’t hardened numbers. For instance the 79.2% of men forced to penetrate report only female perps, I’m not sure what the other 20.8% report? Could be mostly male, could be 1 male, 1 female, so the numbers do have some leeway. I don’t think we will get a very accurate lifetime idea of rape as people forget abusive events and people also rationalize them away at times. I’ve forgotten quite a few bad things in my own life, and trauma will sometimes mentally block it out.

      • John Anderson says:

        @ Archy

        “Do you think that in 50:50ish gender situations, that the power of the harassment is less? Or just the same but just happens to both genders?”

        In my experience, it doesn’t seem to matter. I was in a department that was all men except for the boss and she asked each of the guys to go dancing with her. If she asked us as a group, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but she asked us out individually for individual “dates”. I also know a male manager who only hired pretty women because if your going to look at them all day, you might as well have something nice to look at.

        I think it depends on the power dynamic and the level of tolerance for the activity within the company. I think part of it also has t do with the reasonable woman and reasonable man standard. I think because people still have this notion that women are somehow less threatening, they can not only get away with more, but they do in fact get away with more. In other words in an environment that is 50/50 equal, there will be more female on male harassment. I can’t tell you how much more, but people will only police themselves to the extent that they’re expected to.

    • I don’t think you are reading too much into it. That was very much sexual harassment. As a woman myself I can’t really fathom how a woman could be so sexually aggressive especially with a man she knew was married. But it does happen and your’s was a clear cut case of sexual harrassment.

  2. Tom Brechlin says:

    Yup, I hope more men will step up and let it be known that men are also sexually harassed.

    25+ years ago, I was a Sr. Account Exec for a major health insurance company. One of my accounts was UAW. We were going into negotiations and I and my female boss flew to Detroit for the meetings. She arrived before me. When I checked into the hotel, there was a message that I was to phone my boss as soon as I got into my room. No more then I put my luggage down, I called her. She said that she wanted to go to dinner, that she was starving. I said that I wanted to unpack and I’d call her when I unpacked and freshened up. Maybe a half hour later, I phoned her and she asked me to come to her room and we’d leave from there, that she was ready to go.

    I knocked on her door and to my surprise, she opened it wearing only her bra and panties. I was dumbfounded and didn’t know what to say. She asked me in to wait until she was dressed. I made a direct line to the phone and loudly announced that I hadn’t called my wife yet (she was pregnant with our daughter and ready to deliver any moment) My boss got dressed and we went to dinner. Uncomfortable to say the least.

    About a month later, she and I had weekend meetings scheduled in Peoria Illinois with Caterpillar (UAW) where we were introducing a newly contracted medical facility for the plant. It was company policy that especially if a business trip was an over the weekend trip, we were allowed to bring our family and pay the difference in expenses. This particular weekend, my daughter was only a month or so old and I wanted to be with her as much as I could, I brought my wife and daughter down to Peoria with me. As it turned out, my boss was staying at a different hotel. I phoned her and one of the first things out of her mouth was asking me why I didn’t book a room at the same hotel. I advised her that my wife and daughter were with me. I remember dead silence on the phone. You should also keep in mind that my boss knew my wife and we’d socialized together outside the office. After dinner, she pulled me aside and asked me who gave me permission to bring my wife and daughter. That coupled with my not getting a room at the same hotel, she was really upset with my performance.

    From that point on, I had to watch every move I made. She went so far as to go through my office. It got to the point that I licked every drawer I had. She and I worked together at another company where she was also my boss and she recruited me to this company when she made the move. Had always had a good working relationship until this happen. I left the company two months later.

    I guess one could say that I’m reading to much into this but I know in my gut what it was all about. If I knew then what I know now, I would have had definitely done something about it.

    • Yep, we should never have to be in a position to discuss these problems, but that’s wishful thinking right now. Changing the definitions of what is and isn’t acceptable will hopefully, eventually, make a real change to the society that sets us up in these situations.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      UGH, Tom, what a nightmare. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

    • Damn Tom. I’m so sorry that you had to live through that. But thanks for speaking up.

    • PursuitAce says:

      Oh, LOCKED every drawer you had. It took me a moment. Cus I’m thinking if you’re licking every drawer then you may be part of your own problem. LOL.

      • Tom Brechlin says:

        PersuitAce … I laughed my ass off when I read that you noticed my typo. Couldn’t help but visualize my licking everything in my office, like I was marking my territory.

        Joanna, Danny, thank you. It was long ago but even to this day, my radar is always up and working.

  3. I never had to acknowledge that given the right circumstances, one of those women might try to sexually assault me. It wasn’t a remote possibility; I was twice the size of any of them. Hell, I can manhandle people twice MY size.
    I think this is a pretty major roadblock to men speaking up about being sexually assaulted. Before a guy can get his story out of his mouth its already been decided that its not that big of a deal because since he likely has the size and strength edge of a woman it won’t go that far therefore “its not as serious as what men do to women”.

    This is something that I believe people have a hard time coming to terms with. Being male is not protection from assault. Having the size and strength edge over your attacker is not protection against assault. Having weapons and combat training are not protection against assault.

    We have to quit trying to use those factors as a mitigating factor to decide how seriously to take the fact that someone was assaulted. Doing so only feeds the “I should have been able to stop him/her….”, “Why couldn’t I do more….”, “If only I…..”, “This doesn’t count as assault/rape/abuse….” doubt that eats away at survivors.

    But equally, it’s important not to focus only upon men’s experiences. Because I’ve noticed that tends to happen; we start to take a problem seriously when men experience it, as though it’s less of a concern for a woman to face this. Bad society, no! Wrong.
    Are we sure about that? I ask this because despite the numbers on the issues that predominately affect men those issues don’t seem to get taken seriously. In fact for a lot of folks that want men’s experiences to get focus they just want them included in the overall conversation, not to drown out women’s experiences.

    • Okay, you appear to have missed the point of that first quotation. I was talking about how I didn’t ever worry about the harassment escalating, that this is a major difference between how men and women respond to harassment. You also appear to be ignoring my quite important point about addressing these issues without shifting the focus primarily to men.
      Overall, men do experience an edge over women in our society as it stands now. I’m sorry if you disagree, but it is true. So while we do need to talk about issues that are affecting us? It shouldn’t be at the expense of things that affect women. That second quotation? I’m not talking about issues that predominantly affect men. Your point is woefully off-topic. I also very specifically say that in remoulding masculinity we need to do so in a way that mimics the undeniably accomplished manner women have; they have emotional support of a kind most men don’t, and we’d be best off learning from this. And I spoke to a real bias that emerges in reporting these problems, and addressing them to begin with, in favour of men.

      • You also appear to be ignoring my quite important point about addressing these issues without shifting the focus primarily to men.
        I said in my own comment that I (and others) don’t want to shift any primary focus. In fact I don’t think there should be any primary by gender one way or the other.

        Overall, men do experience an edge over women in our society as it stands now. I’m sorry if you disagree, but it is true.
        I didn’t say there was no edge. What I am saying is that edge ends up being used to dismiss the experiences of men. You may not agree that it happens but it does. We can’t in one breath say that we want to help men but then turn around and hold any supposed advantages they have against them when they reach for help.

        So while we do need to talk about issues that are affecting us? It shouldn’t be at the expense of things that affect women.
        Again who is saying we should ignore the things that affect women?

        That second quotation? I’m not talking about issues that predominantly affect men. Your point is woefully off-topic.
        I’m glad you clarify because originally you saying that we start to take things seriously once men experience which is why I brought things that predominately affect men.

        • I said we shouldn’t start to take things seriously only once they’re affecting men. You seem intent on misrepresenting quite straight-forward points. And in doing so rather neatly demonstrate the bias I’ve referred to more than once. This is hardly a useful contribution to the discussion, more’s the pity.

          • No not intentional but if you’re going to do what you accuse me of then this is going to go nowhere.

            We both want men to be taken seriously when they are sexually harassed/assaulted/etc…

            Let’s just leave it at okay?

  4. Mr Supertypo says:

    ” I didn’t say there was no edge. What I am saying is that edge ends up being used to dismiss the experiences of men. You may not agree that it happens but it does. We can’t in one breath say that we want to help men but then turn around and hold any supposed advantages they have against them when they reach for help. ”

    I agree Danny, I find discouraging talking about mens issues, when time after time, we only get the usual meme ‘ women suffer more ‘ or ‘men have xxxx privileges ‘ or (the worst part) the usual statistic ‘ men commit more rape/crime etc ‘ if we need to move into the field of masculinity and mens issues, we need to get rid of the meme’s surrounding women. First, mens issues are not secundary to women, and there fore all mention of how much women suffer are pointless. second, If we are talking about men, then we should focus on men, not women (we can mention women, but not how much they suffer more). Even if our life are connected. Then later, much later we can look at the bigger picture.

    • @Mr. Supertypo….

      I agree very much with you. However, women need to be part of this debate on the challenges and suffering on many men. They (women) cannot come with the usual meme as you stated. We need input to really push things forward.

      I find trying to talk about mens issues…..much like trying to talk about race in America. While their are some people who genuinely want to discuss the matter (in a civilized manner), the default position for many whites just to not engage. Why? Their lives are not impacted either way. So, there is not real incentive to participate.

      The same goes for mens issues. While it is necessary for women to be full partners in the discussion, I think many women just opt out. Why? Their lives are not impacted either way.

      However, the participation of women in this is necessary. We simply cannot move forward without their input. Anyone who thinks otherwise is sadly mistaken.

      Just saying.

  5. Damian, I’m sorry this happened to you and I’m glad you’ve written about it!

    Nobody, whatever their gender identity, should be made to feel objectified and unsafe, and we all need to do better about making that a thing of the past.

  6. Tailhook Vet says:

    What angers me about this article itself is not so much the harrasment (as a man I’d be stoked if women found me attractive enough to discuss the look of my ass, even if I were upset about it initially). However the simple fact is had Mr. Davidson or any of his male colleagues made comparable comments about a female worker, even once, he’d have had to endure sexual harrasment complaints and all manner of ostracism, assuming they didn’t fire him outright. Women in the workplace simply do not have to live under the grand climate of fear that men do in the workplace of saying or doing the wrong thing and getting run out on a rail. Women, while they still must endure harrasment themselves, do not have to fear the consequences should they be the ones doing the harrassing.

    • Women absolutely do live in fear of being run out on a rail in those circumstances. That’s a thing that happens. And if you welcome the attention it isn’t harassment, so congratulations on missing the point there. Further, I didn’t have male colleagues (mentioned in the article) women should not have to endure harassment, nobody should (the point of the article) and most male harassers still get away with harassing their colleagues/subordinates in this day and age.

  7. I haven’t had a problem talking sex with women at work but I am very careful about who I talk to. There is a female friend and we can talk quite openly. A lot of what I say to her would be considered sexual harassment if I said it to anyone else.

  8. John Anderson says:

    I’ve worked in a department that was all women except for me and was sexually harassed. The harassment had either the physical component of touching or was not directed “at me” like when one of the women brought in a nudie magazine and they all gathered around to view and comment on the men or when they had conversations concerning their love lives or once when one went shopping for intimates, they had a graphic conversation on their under garments. The touching always made me uncomfortable. When the conversations and the nudie mag got uncomfortable, I would just check the server room. I never confronted the women or complained either.

    Women did feel entitled to violate my person though and this held true when I was working in a department that was mostly men and a company / industry where most customers, staff, and management were women. The women felt entitled to brush off my shirt with their hands. I’ve had female co-workers rest their hands on my thigh while we were talking. One grabbed my thigh when she got excited about something. I’ve had female bosses and co-workers rub or rest their hands on my shoulders or back. One was poking me in the stomach and another one patted me there. I believe it was to humiliate the fat guy. The touching / harassment wasn’t always because they appreciated my look. I think those times were to embarrass the fat guy.

    They were both surprised as well as me that I still had significant impact resistance from my kick boxing days. One asked me why was it hard and the other commented that it was like I had a new stomach. One problem that occurred from it was that they told some of the other women that John may not look it, but he’s solid. I had this one older woman keep inviting me to her ranch in Puerto Rico.

    Now it’s been mostly the light touch on the arm when their talking to me and expectation of hugs. I’ve never known what to do when a woman opens her arms and expects a hug. I’ve always just given it. I don’t see the same behavior among men with women. I know Amy has had some bad experiences and I don’t doubt them, but I think that for the most part male harassers at least when physically touching are less blatant about it. I think that speaks to the erroneous assumption made by many including the OP that women are somehow less threatening than a man.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your experience. And obviously, I sympathize. But I also wouldn’t use that experience to generalize about this issue to the same extent as you do.

  9. John Anderson says:

    Damian, for me I didn’t just stay silent because I was embarrassed or didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t just a lack of a support system or a fear of not being believed or being questioned as to why you would find attention from women objectionable. It was all of those, but it was also to some extent fear of retaliation. You still needed to work with these women and this may seem kind of weird, but the harassment wasn’t ongoing. I could go weeks without an incident and during these times friendships / camaraderie was formed. I think part of the reason I didn’t speak up was the belief that these weren’t bad people.

    It would be one thing if the harassment just stopped, but what if I hurt someone’s feelings or what if someone got fired. It might have something to do with the fact that in society men are expected to do the pursuing and I know how it feels to be rejected.

    • Well for you that may have been the case, but your final point about what society expects? The purpose of my writing this article is to call for us to start re-evaluating those expectations and to start trying to change them. Masculinity, as society overall defines it, is really harmful to us as men. But further to this comment, if you or anybody genuinely feels they have been subjected to real harassment rather than clumsy flirting that stumbled over the line of decency and then back? They should speak out. Our culture requires massive shifts in attitude. Those massive shifts will only come about if we start making, each of us, small changes. It’s cumulative.

  10. Sri Aiyer Raju Sreenivasan says:

    Well Damian, in your case things did not go beyond those women admiring the shape of your butt. In your position, perhaps, I may have taken it as a compliment and got on with the job.

    But in my case the Sexual Harassment laws led to my compulsory retirement when I had five more years of service left. In brief it is as follows: Unable to put up with the inquisitive questioning by Prof. Dr. Miss Shankari Sundararaman in a private matter spread over 18 months, I told her to shut up and mind her own business on 10 April 2008! Taken aback by this tongue-lash, before turning around, she promised to teach me the lesson of my life. Nearly six months down the line on 29 Sep 2008 she lodged a complaint with the Gender Sensitization Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) Cell of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, India, that I sexually harassed her through explicit emails sent on 11 and 12 April 2008 written in transliterated Tamil (Tamil is our mother tongue) from my Yahoo ID to her Hotmail ID beseeching her to give me Axl Rose (anagram for a basic instinct). I denied the same and demanded to have a hard copy of the same in print form. The Chairman of the Complaints Screening Committee, Prof. Dr. Miss Sangeeta Dasgupta, the Chairman of the Enquiry Committee headed by Prof. Dr. Miss KD Usha and the Chairman of the Appeals Committee headed by Prof. Dr. Miss Vidhu Verma declared that the complainant has deleted it by mistake both from her inbox and the trashcan, and therefore it cannot be provided!

    As “proof” of my guilt they held on to the Delhi Police Cyber Cell Report (DPCCR) and the Yahoo Report (YR) which stated that my ID was registered from my residential telephone on 14 February 2008! That was enough for them to bludgeon me with a “wham bham thank you Man” to hold me guilty and have me compulsorily retired from service on 29 July 2010. The nincompoops did not realize that the same DPCCR & YR held my iron-clad innocence as well which they overlooked in their zeal to see me out of the JNU Campus. The DPCCR & YR says: My ID was registered on 14 February 2008 from my residential telephone which I subsequently accessed on 30 April 2008, 14 & 18 May 2008 IMPLICITLY PROVING that I did not even log into my email account on those two culpable days of 11 & 12 April 2008! When I pointed this out to those dumb Screening Committee, Enquiry Committee and Appeals Committee members, the Vice-Chancellor, the Registrar, Members of the Executive Council, they simply waved it off. Vidhu Verma called it “technical mumbo-jumbo” and the Registrar Comrade Sandeep Chatterjee called it “hyper-technical”.

    I have filed a Writ before the Honourable Delhi High Court. I lost my case in the first round presided over by a single judge who somehow missed the deeper content of the DPCCR and YR. After changing my Advocate I have gone on an appeal to a higher Bench presided over by the Honourable Chief Justice himself. The case can be taken up for hearing any time soon. I haven’t lost hope. I strongly believe things may get delayed in the Temple of Justice, but it is never totally dark there.

    Before I took the matter to the Court, I laughed at them all. I told them: (1) I did not send any email either obscene or divine to the complainant at any time in my life. (2) That being the truth, it is preposterous on her part to claim that she “deleted it by mistake” the emails that were never sent. (3) None of you – starting from the Vice-Chancellor, Registrar, Dy. Registrar (Administration), Members of GSCASH Complainants Screening Committee, Members of GSCASH Enquiry Committee, Members of Appeals Committee, Members of Executive Council – none of you jokers have seen it because it was never sent! Not even the God Almighty has seen these emails because they were never sent. (4) None of you know the Tamil language and what to talk of being able to read its transliterated version!

    But the rules are too very one-sided in favour of the complaining woman and any man who manages to stay afloat – it is purely by Divine Grace alone. The last word on my case has not been heard yet although I am without a job for three years now surviving purely on the Maintenance Grant provided by my children! Readers can Google for “Sri Aiyer Raju Sreenivasan SEX JNU GSCASH” and go through the resulting web links to learn the finer details pertaining to this case. Before I was compulsorily retired, I was a Personal Assistant (Stenographer – Office Secretary), and on the day I was “punished” I was due for a promotion to the officer-cadre!

  11. Okay, that is an appalling miscarriage of justice, I agree. And I do hope you are able to get justice served.

    Thank you, as well, for belittling my experience and reinforcing the point I was making about the poisonous model of masculinity which shackles us and prevents us from reaching out to our fellows for emotional support. I really appreciate it. You have provided an invaluable piece of evidence that supports my point in no uncertain terms. Bravo.

    • Sri Aiyer Raju Sreenivasan says:

      I am sorry if I give the impression that I belittled your experience. Oh No. I never meant that. The age difference between the two of us may be the possible reason for looking at things differently. You appear to be a youngster (perhaps in your early 20s) whereas I am 58 now. In my time I may have seen far worse experiences than receiving appreciative comments about my butt or my calf which, to me, may sound like no harassment at all. Yeah. Now I understand your point. If, taking a cue from those appreciative observations, you had turned around and commented about their vital statistics, you may certainly have been staring at allegations of sexual harassment. Hey, that’s a tough situation to be in. One wonders if one can respond to those girls to “shut up and mind their own business” (which is what I did and ended up loosing my job!). Thanks buddy, for your good wishes! I wish you too all the very best in life. I hope in your new work environment you don’t come across such vicarious minded ladies.

  12. I’m in my thirties now, apparently I’m just well-preserved ;-)
    But I strongly believe any kind of unwanted attention of that sort is harassment. Just as an appreciative observation addressed to a stranger in the street is harassment (although that is a separate topic). I won’t pretend it was the most egregious form of harassment I might have experienced, but the idea is that one should not be placed in such a situation. I thank you for your clarification.

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