Sexual Harassment Policies On Campus

Recently, I was involved in an effort to revise my college’s sexual harassment, rape, and abuse policies, which means that I spent like eighty hours sitting in various rooms having meetings with people. (And also the policy is 100% gender-neutral and includes envelopment as rape. Say thank you.) In the process of doing this, I discovered that some of the common Internet ideas about sexual harassment law aren’t actually true.

Note: throughout this article, I will specifically be discussing sexual harassment policies at schools. While sexual harassment policies in the workplace are probably substantially similar, I didn’t actually spend a month studying them and therefore do not feel qualified to comment.

Sexual harassment law does not criminalize flirting. Actually, let me bold this for the Redditors in the back complaining about how they can’t hit on women at work anymore: sexual harassment law does not criminalize flirting. 

For instance, let’s say you wanted to ask someone out on a date! According to the Office of Civil Rights’s guidance on sexual harassment policies, it does not count as sexual harassment unless it’s threatening or intimidating or, in some circumstances, repeated. So, uh, don’t intimidate people, and don’t ask people out fifteen times on the off chance that they will change their minds.

Or let’s say that you wanted to comment that someone had a nice ass. That, too, would not be sexual harassment, unless it got to the point that it would interfere with a reasonable student’s education. Random comments about the niceness of someone’s ass, okay; multiple people commenting every day, throughout the school, for months, about the niceness of someone’s ass, not okay.

Or let’s say you wanted to send someone flowers and they didn’t want them! This is specifically mentioned as not being sexual harassment. Now, this is weird to me, because I’m having a hard time figuring out in what circumstance you’d send someone a bouquet of a dozen roses if you weren’t aware of whether they would want the flowers, and if someone randomly sent me flowers I’d probably think they were kind of creepy. But nevertheless you can do that and it is not against any rules.

Or let’s say you’re a teacher and the kid skinned his knee and you hugged him! That is not sexual harassment, because it is legitimate nonsexual contact. Now, if you were repeatedly hugging your students on the slightest pretense in a really creepified manner, that would actually be sexual harassment.

Also, in order for something to qualify as sexual harassment, it has to be unwelcome. This is usually the point at which people say “See! Sexual harassment law is biased against unattractive men! Attractive men get away with everything and we unattractive men get scraps!” and then wander off muttering about alpha males. But sexual harassment has to create an unwelcome environment to count as sexual harassment. Most of the time, that means that the behavior has to be repeated. If you comment on someone’s shirt, and they say that they wish you wouldn’t, and then you stop, that’s not harassment. If you comment on someone’s shirt, and they say that they wish you wouldn’t, and you keep commenting on their shirt, that is harassment, and at that point the person’s right to a safe learning environment trumps your right to be Lord and/or Lady Douchington.

Now, there are circumstances in which a single act counts as sexual harassment. For instance, if you grab someone’s ass, tits, or genitals and it’s unwelcome! However, I do not think it is too much to expect that people make sure that their ass-grabbing is wanted before they go about grabbing other people’s asses willy-nilly. That is not too high an expectation.

Also, you know what’s cool? Sexual harassment does not just refer to flirting with people in ways they find uncomfortable, inappropriately sexualized classes when the sex does not relate to the subject of the class, and making people have sex with you for A’s. There’s also “gender-based harassment,” which refers to things like sabotaging all the women’s experiments or teasing a dude for not fitting your ideas of what men ought to be like.

Finally, I would like to point out that school-level sexual harassment policy guidance is remarkably gender-neutral. Most of the areas where it’s not gender-neutral reflect sexism in our society (which, for instance, views women’s breasts as more private than men’s chests) and not in the guidance itself. In fact, without sexual harassment law, there would be thousands of men who would be sexually harassed by women and who would have no recourse whatsoever. So. There’s that.

About ozyfrantz

Ozy Frantz is a student at a well-respected Hippie College in the United States. Zie bases most of zir life decisions on Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and identifies more closely with Pinkie Pie than is probably necessary. Ozy can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter as @ozyfrantz. Writing is presently Ozy's primary means of support, so to tip the blogger, click here.

Comments

  1. Much of the complaing about sexual harrassment rules comes from the perception that “If the person thinks it’s sexual harrassment, then it’s sexual harrassment” which is an exact quote I got during a sexual harrassment lecture. Such a standard is not contradicted by your statement “does not count as sexual harassment unless it’s threatening or intimidating”

    What is threatening or intimidating? Whatever the person finds threatening or intimidating? Lecturing on sexual issues? http://thefire.org/article/13922.html

    Now obviously the reasonable person test helps to weed out abuses, but, hey, thats one’s just hit the dirt for “actions which cause fear” for establishing DV in divorse cases here in Oz (apparently “reasonable” fear set an unfair standard). I wouldn’t hold your breath for its retention in the environment which produced the “Dear Collegue” letter.

  2. Good for your university on taking this seriously. The company I work for also takes sexual harassment very seriously, and had everyone take a mandated interactive webinar on what constitutes sexual harassment and what does not. To my happiness, they included men being harassed by women, people of the same sex harassing others of the same sex, making inappropriate comments, and differentiating flirting from harassing.

    Anyway, this sounds like it was an interesting (if a bit mentally exhausting) experience.

  3. And also the policy is 100% gender-neutral and includes envelopment as rape. Say thank you.

    That’s excellent news. (Thanks, ozy! 😉 )

    In light of Hugh Ristik’s recent post, could you talk a little about what level of burden of proof an accuser must meet at your school, and what kinds of due process protections are afforded to the accused?

  4. “Or let’s say that you wanted to comment that someone had a nice ass. That, too, would not be sexual harassment, unless it got to the point that it would interfere with a reasonable student’s education. Random comments about the niceness of someone’s ass, okay; multiple people commenting every day, throughout the school, for months, about the niceness of someone’s ass, not okay.”

    I have trouble seeing how saying someone has a ‘nice ass’ one time is not sexual harassment. If a person is going on about their life, trying to go to class or work, and don’t want to hear about what a ‘nice ass’ you think they have, (what about tits and packages? Is that explicit enough to be sexual harassment?) then one time is too many. Why should they have to put up with it even once from one random person?

  5. Reading that over again sounds like it’s someone saying it to a third party rather than the person………………

  6. My post was all negative, so I’d just like to second ballgame in saying that this “And also the policy is 100% gender-neutral and includes envelopment as rape. Say thank you.” Is great :)

    And southcarolinaboy, here I was going just about my life, surfing the web, reading up ’bout gender and… I don’t want to hear your offensivly controlling views of what constitutes sexual harrassment. You could not have known in advance that I would feel this way, nor that I would feel so strongly, nonetheless it was your choice to *expose* them for all to see. One time is too many.

    If the above seems stupid, purile or overly precious to you, then, well, that is why saying ‘nice ass’ one time is not sexual harassment. :)

  7. Yeah, about the “nice ass” issue. That is a tricky thing – I know that, on the admittedly rare occasions when people have stopped me in my city to say “HOLY CRAP, You’re tall!” it felt quite assaultive, even when, the first time, I just kept walking (though the guy, behind me, kept talking at me and said “I hate women who are taller than me!”), and the second, the guy wanted to compare my height to his daughter and then brag about his really tall daughter for a while. Comments out of the blue, when you are just walking and would like to be left alone = very irritating and sometimes scary/can leave one feeling attacked. However, if you see someone with a nice (body part) and make eye contact and they acknowledge your existence and maybe say hi? Well, then you could take the chance of being Uncomfortable Person and saying it…at least then you wouldn’t be verbally startling someone who wasn’t expecting you to speak to them.

    Also, Douchington! LOL. Douches for all inhabitants twice daily!

  8. One of my prior workplaces specifically stated that a “nice arse” comment would be considered harassment if it was unwelcome. And since there’s no way to know if it’s unwelcome without giving it… best not to.

    Well, I guess you could say “Excuse me, would you mind if I complimented your arse?” but that’s just as potentially unwelcome.

  9. dungone says:

    Well, first of all good job and it’s good to know that good ideas on an internet blog can pervade back into real life policies.

    However, policies are only half the picture. The other half are the people making the complaints. You might say that part of the problem are women themselves. The policies are meant to create a friendly working environment for everyone, so it’s important that women share that goal as well.

  10. @dungone, thanks ever so much for that exhaustive list of specific examples of times when women have brought unfair sexual harassment complaints! Wow, I had no idea that we were part of the problem so often, and that women regularly don’t share the goal of creating a friendly working environment for everyone. Truly, my eyes have been opened by your post, which included absolutely no misogynistic generalizations and plenty of evidence to back up each of its assertions about women.

  11. Ahhh yea, I don’t really think being OK with guys telling them they have nice arses is part of women’s responsibility to “create a friendly working environment for everyone”.

  12. …. You think it would be hard for dungone to come up with examples? Given the enormous quantity of examples of everything on the internet, what would they even prove?

    As for his “misgynistic accussations about women”, personally I’d say that if there are problems at work disrupting the “friendly working evironment” you’ll find a woman at the heart of it, oooh roughly 50% of the time…

  13. I have to leave my computer and will be unable to reply to anything for a while, so I’ll make explicit what I was trying to get at:

    Statemnt 1: Some men sexually harrass!
    Reply 1: Well duh

    Statement 2: Some women abuse sexual harassment laws!
    Reply2: Misogyny!

    Personally I consider statement 2 as self evident as statement 1, and that the attitude that it is misogynistic for a person to believe that a women is as likely to abuse sexual harrassment laws as a man is to comit sexual harassment, to be grounded in misandry.

  14. Boo hoo

  15. @all: Um, yeah, actually I think it’s an assertion of fact to say that unfair complaints of workplace sexual harassment are regularly made in such a way as to preclude a friendly working environment. So yeah. I’d appreciate it if some effort were made to prove that.

    My point isn’t “women are never involved in workplace strife”, it’s that I don’t believe sexual harassment laws are often used to create a hostile, unfriendly workplace environment.

    And I wouldn’t have gone for “misogynistic” if dungone had bothered to include the phrase “some women” anywhere in the post

  16. schrodinger's dog says:

    not to rain on your parade oz but… you DO realize most of the stigma with sexual harassment stems from not the rules about the actions themselves, but the fact that the actions themselves are only considered sexual harassment if the other party considers them “threatening or intimidating”. Because the concept of what is or is not “threatening or intimidating” is 100% relative to every single human being on earth and cant possibly totally forsen, as such, ANYTHING could be sexual harassment “depending on how you look at it”. right?

    it also happens to be ecstatically fucking impossible by the way to “uh, don’t intimidate people” when your an under 30, 6 foot 7 black guy who wears very loose clothing and listens to loud rap music in his office, and who’s hours often include 7pm to midnight or later 2 or so days during the week, and the entire rest of the office is white and asian women whom you have to call into said office on a fairly regular basis in order to discuss confidential matters (read as: close the door and shut the blinds).

  17. Yeah, that seems like almost a textbook example of how to craft a policy that is nominally gender neutral but can only be enforced in a gendered way. What behaviour is perceived as “threatening or intimidating” is pretty much inevitably going to depend on the genders of the person doing it and the person complaining, because our entire notion of what’s intimidating is gendered – particularly when it comes to such an already gender-based notion as sexual harassment.

  18. Flyingkal says:

    Thank you. It sounds like you, and others, put in a commendable effort.

  19. At each of the universities (and workplaces) I’ve been at, the person who is receiving the “unwelcome” contact is under obligation to explicitly inform the alleged harasser that his/her behaviour or actions are unwelcome. It’s usually advised that this message be delivered in a very direct and specific manner (and not hinted at) and preferably in writing or in front of witnesses (e.g.., by email or registered letter or in front of a third party) because you just can’t make sexual harassment complaints without informing the other person that he/she is harassing you: “Your repeated comments and inquiries about my body and my dating life make me uncomfortable and are unwelcome. Please stop immediately so that we can maintain a polite and professional working environment.” In other words, there should be some sort of proof that you told the other person about the unwelcome actions and stated exactly what was unwelcome. So it’s more than “s/he he makes me uncomfortable” without any details or attempts to address the problem directly or without the other person knowing that he or she has crossed a boundary.

    The policies that I’ve worked/studied under (and input to when I’ve been on committees) have been gender-neutral as well. The situations that get talked about in the person-to-person game of telephone, or related on the internet, or made into TV/movie plots bear little resemblance to the actual case histories. And “this one time where a business/employer/judge got it really wrong” does not magically erase all the rest where policies, though never perfect, do work to protect ALL students and employees. Best of all, policies and procedures can be changed…and it’s not as hard as most people think to get in on the process.

  20. ascendingPig says:

    To me, the issue with a one-off “nice ass” comment totally out of the blue is that it may be a pointless exercise in complimenting a random person to the commenter, but if I have a truly fabulous ass and people comment on it all day, even if every person only comments on it once those comments can snowball into a massively demoralizing reduction to “I am the person with the nice ass”. It’s not like the only way you can be disrupted and harassed constantly by sexual comments is if one person persistently makes those comments. The “make sure they’re okay with it” clause on sexual comments is totally reasonable.

  21. Actually, speaking from a legal point of view, the stuff about victim impact means it has to be something egregious or repeated. It’s more than just “zie creeps me out”, it’s stuff like, well, commenting on someone’s sexual parts loudly to embarrass zir, for example. Or randomly asking someone what zir bits look like. In other words, the kind of thing usually considered intrusive by reasonable people.

  22. @Ozy: I know you’ve said the policy as written is gender neutral, but I have a question for you: Do you expect the implementation of said policy will also be gender neutral? That the assorted individuals whose job it is to implement the policy, and to create the details for how those under them will enact the policy will be gender neutral in that process? The devil’s in the details, as they always say, and that’s as true of organizational policy as anything (in fact the details in which the devil typically does his work in policy and law are what Thomas James Ball called “the Second Set of Books” — the lower level policies, rules, regulations, bureaucracy, and training that go into actually *enacting* policy).

  23. Ozy, it seemed like you started with the fact that law doesn’t criminalize certain things (“Sexual harassment law does not criminalize flirting”), then concluded that policies don’t make those same things against the rules (“But nevertheless you can do that and it is not against any rules”). There was never anything in between to show that law necessarily dictates the restrictive extremes (upper bound) of sexual harassment policies. Law is only a lower bound. Just because some behavior is not illegal, does not mean I can’t be fired/expelled for it.

    I would like to point out that school-level sexual harassment policy guidance is remarkably gender-neutral.

    It sounds like your school is doing a good job of being fair and reasonable, but we can’t really extrapolate that to mean that most other schools/workplaces are even close. Did you actually do some research into other schools before making this statement? Because then I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

  24. “Boo hoo”
    Rather my point, actually.

  25. Geeze f… I go to sleep and wake up a misogynist…

    Okay look, I’m not going to get into the crazy stuff that crops up in newspapers every now and then. I’ll just mention some of the little day to day stuff that I’ve seen. Unlike the assertion that something has to happen 2-3 times and clearly constitute harassment, I’ve seen women file or threaten to file complaints in a knee-jerk fashion. Once, someone overheard my coworker talking to me about just then spilling juice and it running down his leg and she filed a complaint claiming that we were talking about women’s vaginal secretions. It was absolutely astounding.

    The real thing that I think is at issue in terms of attitude is not even when they file a complaint, but just when they talk about it. I have heard groups of women talking about being harassed, except the examples were like, well, some guy looked at their breasts, or the creepy office guy had already asked 5 different women out on a date. It’s not exactly stuff that rises to the level of harassment, at least it’s not clear cut, but the impression that a lot of men get is that they better just not screw up, not even just once. Don’t even let a woman misconstrue an innocent remark, etc.

  26. @kaija24 actually that’s good advice, but not exactly true. Bigger workplaces sometimes have an HR person who is specially trained as a counselor – you can come to them whether you think your depression is affecting your job performance or if you think you’re being harassed – their position gives them a confidentiality privilege that means that your discussions are safe from your boss or your coworkers and they can help you figure out what to do. So strictly speaking, you don’t have to confront your coworker as the very first thing you do before you file a complaint. Personally, in almost every case that I have seen someone (man or women) file a complaint about another coworker, they did not bother to go out and get some advice first. It would have behooved them to. I have seen complaints filed as a sort of digging in of heels, after a person made a public accusation to the rest of the office… this is not limited to just sexual harassment but any sort of workplace harassment. One guy filed a complaint against a coworker after a practical joke with a whoopee cushion, but he went around for a couple of months threatening the guy with filing the complaint first, which amounted to blackmail. When other coworkers got wind of it (no pun intended), the practical joke victim got put on the spot and filed the complaint just to save face. That’s the thing, in general. I’m almost (but not really) in favor of telling people that unless they go to get counseled about it immediately, their allegation will get thrown out.

  27. @f, the reason I made my first comment is because the tone of Ozy’s post felt like “”femmesplaining”” what to all of us men who don’t really know what sexual harassment policies really are that no, you boys don’t understand, you’re actually safe and sound from any and all acrimony unless you do something really wrong. And actually, yeah that’s the very attitude that makes it a problem. Back when HR was investigating the incident with the spilled juice, just the tone of the questioning was extremely threatening to us. We said, “No, it must have just been some sort of a huge misunderstanding” but the HR person came back at us with things like, “Well, yes you could have been talking about actual juice running down his leg, but why was it so funny? Why were you laughing about it? Why did she feel threatened by you?” It’s like… DUDE… we don’t know why she felt threatened! Why are you asking us? Of course, it’s our jobs that were on the line at that point. So, f, I just don’t know what to tell you. I guess you’ve never been put on the spot like that. The truth of the matter is we were having our lunch and enjoying a few laughs that had absolutely nothing to do with any women whatsoever, some juice got spilled, and a woman who just happened to be far away enough to possibly mishear and misconstrue something decided that the best thing to do is to ruin the rest of our workday by making us feel threatened.

  28. @”Now, there are circumstances in which a single act counts as sexual harassment. For instance, if you grab someone’s ass, tits, or genitals and it’s unwelcome! However, I do not think it is too much to expect that people make sure that their ass-grabbing is wanted before they go about grabbing other people’s asses willy-nilly. That is not too high an expectation.”
    Okay, this always bugged me as being put under the header of “sexual harassment”. This is assault. Its always annoying when I hear about “X sexually harassed Y” and I’m not sure if they meant assault or not.
    (I’ll have more later too…)

  29. I’d be very cautious about any interactions with HR outside of routine paperwork. They are there to serve the management and keep the business running smoothly first and foremost, not to help employees…unless it keeps the business running smoothly first and foremost, and many HR people are not really trained in psychology or conflict resolution; much of the time, their main mission seems to be to “make the problem go away” or “scare the troublemaker (either the harasser or the harassee or both) so we don’t have to deal with this again” or “find a way to get rid of the problem employee so we don’t get sued”.

    Also, the “confidentiality” part is very shaky; HR people do not have an actual legal “client-professional privilege” like that of doctors, lawyers, or counsellors. Only a few states in the US have laws on the books protecting confidentiality even of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) which are there to provide to employees confidential referrals for mental health and substance abuse assessment and treatment (among other things). However, employers want to and have accessed and used that information, and not in the employees’ favor.

  30. “Boo hoo”

    Shaming language from a white knight. What a big, strong man you are. How completely predictable. Go shove your chivalry up your ass, southcarolinaboy.

    That said, even one “nice ass” comment is too many. For one thing it’s vulgar and street. For another, try saying it to someone of the same sex and see how that works for you.

    “@f, the reason I made my first comment is because the tone of Ozy’s post felt like “”femmesplaining”” what to all of us men who don’t really know what sexual harassment policies really are that no, you boys don’t understand, you’re actually safe and sound from any and all acrimony unless you do something really wrong. ”

    Well it is femmesplaining, since sexual harrassment policy enforcement is almost exclusively targeted at men and that makes it a men’s issue.

  31. dungone says:

    @kaija24, that is the sort of attitude that makes good policies really difficult to carry out. People want the system to work for them, but then they don’t trust the system and take matters into their own hands. You can’t have your cake and eat it to. My office has an HR person who is qualified and certified as well as audited by an outside organization and she actually has a background in psychology. I spent 20 minutes talking to her when I got hired and she explained the checks and balances that are in place to protect employees who come to see her. For what it’s worth there are third party counselors that you can go to.

  32. dungone says:

    @kaija24, another part of the problem is women’s distrust of the system. I have seen that. A woman will make some frivolous and unprovable accusation against a coworker that will get dismissed and all of a sudden rumors start going around that the company is hostile to women and sexual harassment is rampant. A disgruntled employee will spread rumors that it was not her poor performance, but sexual harassment and discrimination that got her fired, and this does come back to the women who are still working for that company. Things like that do happen. So of course no matter how much resources a company provides to creating a positive workplace environment, some people will go around saying, “you can’t trust them!” no matter what they do. Honestly, if you can’t trust your school or employer, then do away with the HR resources and do away with the internal sexual harassment policies, because who needs those? Lawyer up and take your coworkers straight to court. This is exactly what I mean by policies are only half of the picture.

  33. Ahh, yes, the Bitchez r CRAYZAY!! LIARZ! panic. Whenever sexual harrassment is brought up then cue worst-case hypotheticals and abstract stories about somebody hearing hysterical women threatening something, usually in middle/upper-middle class settings. Ozy is obviously aware of this hence showing that zie considered those fears. I guess we just can’t do anything untill we know for sure that men are protected from teh lyin’, crayzay bitchez.

  34. “For instance, let’s say you wanted to ask someone out on a date! According to the Office of Civil Rights’s guidance on sexual harassment policies, it does not count as sexual harassment unless it’s threatening or intimidating or, in some circumstances, repeated. ”
    As has been pointed out “threatening or intimidating” is problematic as well. Yes obviously you shouldn’t make threats. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that “threatening or intimidating” shouldn’t be a prerequisite for sexual harrasement. But if a 6’6″ guy claims that the 5’0″ woman scares him people are probably going to laugh at him. Society has taught everyone that only men are dangerous, that small people are less dangerous and to take women’s complaints seriously and not men’s, so everyone will say “you can’t possibly be scared of this lady, must not be harrasement”, indeed the guy might not even be scared. Of course, the lady is still fully capable of making demeaning, offensive sexual remarks, spreading rumors, or any number of other things that should fall under sexual harassement. The flip side is that society has taught people to see threats to women from “the creepy guy in the corner”, and that those fears are totally valid and the like. So while it might technically be gender neutral, so is a defenition rape that requires penetration. (Although obviously not as skewed.)

    tl;dr: “threatening” shouldn’t be a requirement for sexual harassement. All it serves to do is shield women from complaints and implicate men.

  35. Ugh, double post becase I wrote my email wrong and wound up in moderation.

    “Ahh, yes, the Bitchez r CRAYZAY!! LIARZ! panic.”

    You know, this kind misspelling doesn’t make your point any stronger, it’s the internet equivalent of repeating what someone has just said in a dumb-dumb voice while attempting to clap the back sides of your hands together. It’s base mockery without the faintest shred of wit. A cheap rehtorical trick by those to bigoted or stupid to explain why they disagree with the position that they are attacking.

    That said, where youw write “I guess we just can’t do anything untill we know for sure that men are protected” is not an unreasonable point, I whole heartedly agree. If you set up a policy without chacks and balances against abuse, you will be behaving completley irresponsibly, and quite likely liable.

    @Ginko

    “For another, try saying it to someone of the same sex and see how that works for you.”

    Been there, had that, let him down gently. It was at the bar, on campus, during a singles event. I expect “nice ass” was the least of the comments passed around that night, and within full juristiction of the sexual harrassment policy. Should we all have been worried?

    This is why schools (which are what Ozy was specifically discussing, and me too), of all places, need a fair bit of give in their policy, being as they are the specific context where many people will expect to form romantic partnerships. It canot be assumed that the initiator is behaving out of bounds for the environment they are in.

    “For one thing it’s vulgar and street.” This is a distraction, the point is that some one is complementing another’s body flirtaciously, te compliment could be “enchanting eyes” and the principles would remain the same.

  36. “Ahh, yes, the Bitchez r CRAYZAY!! LIARZ! panic. Whenever sexual harrassment is brought up then cue worst-case hypotheticals and abstract stories about somebody hearing hysterical women threatening something,”

    Total strawman. No one else mentijned anything about “hysterics” so your dragging it in here is just a silencing tactic.

    It’s not about hysterics at all; it’s about cold, calculating use of a biased policy to one’s own personal advantage.

    But you go on femsplaining a men’s issue all you like, Collette. The hypocrisy is entertaining.

    “As has been pointed out “threatening or intimidating” is problematic as well. Yes obviously you shouldn’t make threats. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that “threatening or intimidating” shouldn’t be a prerequisite for sexual harrasement. ”

    Amen. A woman being told she has a nice ass is probably not going to feel threatened, She is probably going to feel angry at the violation of boundaries. I would. That’s what a micro-aggression is. It’s harrassment without or without any accompanying threat.

  37. jesus_marley says:

    @ Collette – “Whenever sexual harrassment is brought up then cue worst-case hypotheticals and abstract stories about somebody hearing hysterical women threatening something, usually in middle/upper-middle class settings.”

    I would bet paper money that in any co-ed work environment you can name, there has been at least one frivolous sexual harassment claim filed by a female employee against a male. I myself have had to deal with one. I worked in a mall and one day on my lunch break, I was killing some time playing pinball in the attached bowling alley. One of the girls who worked there kept walking past me and “bumping” my hand with her bum. This wasn’t just brushing past, this was a hip thrust such that it would trigger the flipper button under my hand. I personally didn’t mind the attention but I was in a relationship so I didn’t bother to pursue the matter. That afternoon I was called into the mall managers office and was told that she had filed a complaint against me for sexually harassing her. Despite my protests and explanation of the facts I was going to lose my job. Fortunately I was able to convince the manager of the bowling alley to show the security footage showing what happened. I got to keep my job. Barely. She walked away scott free. This story is not abstract, this isn’t I know a guy who knows a guy. this happened to me and as I said before, I would bet money that this happens all the time but no one bothers to speak up.

    You know, I have spoken up several times on this blog about some crazy ass shit that I have had to deal with because of my gender, my race, my size, etc. I would just like to say that my life is not actually a bag of shit, even though I have had to deal with more than a shit ton of it. The positives in my life have more than outweighed the negatives, but it doesn’t erase them, and I appreciate having a place to discuss the realities that I face daily.

  38. ^ Yes, society takes women’s complaints so seriously that every high-profile sexual harrassment allegation prompts a slew of pundits and writers that assert laws have gone “too far,” complaints about “political correctness,” and even misogynistic mocking of accusers and how this is “proof” women can’t handle the real world. This in addition to the semi-regular appearence of anti-sexual harrassment policy articles defending poor guys who just want a date. We all know boys will be boys, too, right?

  39. jesus_marley,

    I didn’t assert women never lie. I noted the knee-jerk conclusions that knit-picked sexual harrassment policies/laws (perceived as) protecting (primarily) women must be meticulously constructed or simply done away with to protect (what is perceived as primarily) men. Regardless of pervasive, knee-jerk opposition to the concept of sexual harrassment policy and the list of ways we just can’t trust women AND Ozy considering complaints, men are somehow being unfairly targeted.

  40. schrodinger's dog says:

    @Colette Wedding

    are you so entrenched in arguing this point from one side that you can’t even ACKNOWLEDGE the point the rest of us are trying to make? Yes, sexual harassment policy exists because people (often men) sexually harass each other. It’s a bad thing, its also NOT WHAT THE HELL WE’RE TALKING ABOUT.

    The claim of the post (unless I miss understood it, feel free to correct me Oz) is “how sexual harassment policies (in schools in this case) isn’t supposed to mean that all gendered forms of affection stay at the door when you enter the office”. What some of us are doing (at least in my case) is calling bullshit on that idea because a LOT of us HAVE been victims of false claims and the rules frequently do NOT protect us.

    And on that note, I’d just like to point out that while false rape and actual sexual assault claims often get thrown around by anti – fems like they happen “oh so much” when they don’t compared to real assaults that go unpunished (even if you inflate the false rape claim numbers to where some say they should be), false sexual harassment claims (not the legal ones, but in schools and the work place) happen to men ALL THE TIME! Out of the 3 in office settings I have worked (im only in my late 20’s) ALL of them had at least 1 fake sexual harassment claim made while I worked there. 3 of which (yes 3, no I’m not inflating that number) not only did I WITNESS the “event in question” only to find out later that the woman in the altercation reported it when it seemed totally inappropriate, but the woman in each case ACTUALLY CONFIDED IN ME AFTERWARDS THAT SHE DID NOT FEEL HARASSED AT ALL.

    On one of the occasions I actually had the women involved call a meeting with me in which she closed the door on the conference room and proceeded to laugh, out loud as she commented about how she “had no intentions of going through if it got legal and was totally shocked and amused at how they fired my fiend over something he didn’t even do”.

    I don’t even think all of it’s malicious, I think women have just been conditioned for so long to think they will never be herd in the office that they throw things like this around without the understanding that they are HURTING REAL people when they do, and it needs to stop!

  41. You are awesome, Ozy 😀 Thank you so much for your work!

    And I gotta agree with the people here side eying the knee-jerk “zomg women will accuse men of sexual harassment left and right!” responses to laws like this.
    Sometimes I feel like the only guy who hears about sexual harassment laws and thinks “yay, now it will be harder for people to sexually harass others (including me)!” instead of “oh no, now all the crazy bitches will be able to accuse me as soon as I look at them in a way they don’t like”

    *sighs*

  42. Honestly, i’m indifferent about the war of words here in the comments because regardless of how broad or narrow anti-harassment regulation is, there will always be false accusations, and there will always be legitimate instances of harassment that go unpunished.

    I knew a guy who was a TA for a class who caught a lot of shit when a female student initiated flirting that he didn’t return – that led to her filing a sexual harassment complaint against him.

    I’ve known women who’ve gotten demeaning comments from men about their appearance who didn’t want to file a complaint because they didn’t want to rock the boat.

    I think that the important part of any anti-harassment regulation is to make it gender-neutral, to have it cover the bases of what is truly harassing or discriminatory behavior.

    and beyond all of that, it’s important to see it applied evenly and intelligently at the institutions where its put in place. Part of that requires, in my opinion, a respect for the seriousness of the charge – both in the consequences for people who engage in that kind of behavior, but also in requiring a serious body of evidence before people are punished.

  43. Darque: Excellent comment. In that vein, I hope ozy responds to my query about burden of proof and procedural protections for the accused.

  44. AnonymousDog says:

    Regardless of burden of proof requirements and procedural protections, if you are accused of sexual harassment there is still the nuisance of defending yourself, and the lingering stigma of having been accused at all.

  45. schrodinger's dog says:

    that’s why it’s important to take both sides of a case as seriously so that like @Darque said, wrong doers, weather they be harassers or false accusers don’t go un – punished.

  46. “Sometimes I feel like the only guy who hears about sexual harassment laws and thinks…”

    Yes Messerschmitt, you are That One Feminist Man (TM) and I’m sure you will be served thousands of cookies, as is your due, by grateful feminists any moment now.

  47. schrodinger’s dog,

    Fortunately, I don’t have to reply to Ozy’s post on your terms. So let’s get that out of the way, shall we? If you want to talk about action taken under false pretenses, and not being protected by policies, alright.

    A regular at a bar job offered me money to show my breasts. My boss who was seated at the same table just smiled and encouraged it. At another bar, my boss made efforts to sleep with me going so far as sending an employee over to ask if I’d participate in a threesome. I can’t “prove” anything but my hours slowly being cut coincided as did his hiring a shotgirl that would later become his wife (then his ex). At the same bar, the bouncer grabbed and pulled the front of my top down and away, his hand touching my cleavage. I quit my next shotgirl/waitress job after the boss slapped my ass, poured water down the front of the bartender’s shirt (she also quit), and asked if I wanted to “play around” when he’d brought a prostitute to the bar. Mind you he’d been on the news over sexual harassment claims.

    Oh, and a lightshow guy kept throwing bottle caps at my cleavage and shining a laser into it. I told him to stop and he laughed silently and continued (I ended up in trouble for not being on the floor enough and would have been fired were it not for me quitting first). This was after a male DJ pinned me against a table, knocking me off balance to could grab my wrist and rip a phone from my hand. I reacted by slapping him so he twisted my arms and shoved me against the table and wall. I was in limbo for “hitting” him since his red mark immediately whereas my bruises (including a huge one that resembled a tattoo on my left thigh) didn’t turn up for a couple days. Witnesses sided with him since he’s beloved but conceded my story was accurate, especially since cameras don’t lie. (This was the same bar Eminem pulled a gun on a bouncer some years ago)

    Darque ,

    “because regardless of how broad or narrow anti-harassment regulation is, there will always be false accusations, and there will always be legitimate instances of harassment that go unpunished.”

    Spot on! That is true about any policy or law; one takes steps to remain unbiased and neutral in the creation and implementation. That goes both ways, however. It includes posters arguing the construction or destruction of sexual harassment policy based on upper/middle class male experiences and hypothetical scenarios when working class women don’t have these options to begin with. In addition to how bemusing it is to read about how the policies will unfairly target men (which is wrong) since society doesn’t consider women dangerous (which is also wrong and sexist against men) amidst post after post about how women can’t be trusted with these laws (which is taken for granted to be okay since bitchez r CRAYZAY LIARZ), the most I got from being assaulted by a muscular male DJ was, “okay, we won’t fire you.” So, yeah, piss up a rope on that one.

  48. Chris U. says:

    ugh this is why this sort of thing gets so ugly.

  49. And this is why this argument ALWAYS FREAKING HAPPENS over and over again. That was completely impermissible and should have been harshly punished. And yet, you don’t get to sweep away your opponents THAT easily. Not to mention that there are probably more options than “Harsher harassment laws” and “Less harsh harassment laws”.

    I do think that many of the common fears about harassment laws are completely overblown. Feminist Critics went overboard on this one, strange for a site that is usually quite reasonable, though the low standard of proof does worry me a little.

    @Hugh: Really? Do you think he said that for THAT reason? Rather than, perhaps, out of frustration?

  50. schrodinger's dog says:

    @Colette Wedding I have no idea why you just detailed a bunch of ways in which you were sexually harassed at work, why you think I’m denying your or anybody else’s experiences of harassment, or what it had to do with what I said, but for the sake of clarity I will restate my point.

    oz said…
    – “Internet ideas about sexual harassment law aren’t actually true”
    – “Sexual harassment law does not criminalize flirting”, etc…

    I say…
    Do not trust the law (or the political judgement of the powers that be) to enforce these ideas. If you are a man, acting in a non plutonic fashion to co workers, fellow students, etc, is dangerous and you may fall victim to severe consequences for doing so, DON’T DO IT!

  51. jesus_marley says:

    @Collette – The issue is not about the “Crayzay Bitchez” as you so eloquently put it, or about any person who would abuse the system although these people exist and will routinely do so if it is to their advantage. The issue here is that many of us feel that it doesn’t matter how gender neutral or egalitarian you make a policy on paper. It is the real world interpretations and implementations of that policy wherein lies the problem. So long as men are seen as the aggressors, the intimidators, and the creeps, men as a group will be held at a distinct disadvantage with regard to sexual harassment policy.
    I applaud Ozy’s efforts on the project. It is a step in the right direction. But unless those policies are implemented with the same eye toward equality as they were written, it will all be for naught.

  52. @Colette Wedding, I also don’t understand why you believe that your personal experiences erase the experiences of others. But let me ask you a question: do you think you would make as much money being a shot girl if you were male? Why don’t men jump at the opportunity to do these sort of waitressing jobs? It’s because the whole entire thing is inherently sexist. You are attracted to those jobs in the first place because you make more money there than you would if you had to work some other job on equal terms with men. If you weren’t pretty, if you weren’t a woman, then you’d probably be working in the stock room at some grocery store.

    I worked as a bartender for a couple of months in college and quit in disgust when I realized how sleazy everyone in the service industry is. People backstabbing each other, manager stealing money from cash registers and blaming it on employees, people coming to work drunk/high, owner breaking various liquor laws, etc. The average hole in the wall seems to be owned by some sort of scumbag who hires all of his scumbag friends and they do scumbag things. And you work at these places and expect to be treated with dignity? These places don’t have HR, they don’t have a “real” sexual misconduct policies, they’ve got absolutely nothing to do with the regular sorts of jobs where men and women come in to work with each other on equal terms and expect to have a gender-neutral environment.

  53. Excellent clarifications of extent and limits of sexual harrassment laws on campuses!

  54. dungone: And you work at these places and expect to be treated with dignity?

    Everyone has the right to expect to be treated with dignity. Why is one worker regarded as somehow “less worthy of respect” than any other?

    You go to work in a bar so you consent to having your tit grabbed? That is how your statement sounds, and I hope you didn’t mean it that way.

    These places don’t have HR, they don’t have a “real” sexual misconduct policies, they’ve got absolutely nothing to do with the regular sorts of jobs

    If you work your ass off at it, its got everything to do with “regular sorts of jobs”–this is a classist statement. One worker is not automatically superior to another and more worthy of rights, because you think their job is not important or respectable.

    Colette works as hard as you do, or anyone else here. Rather than judge her as “not having a real job” –maybe we should work to make sure everyone with a job, any job, is treated well.

    (((sings first verse of Internationale)))

  55. Jesus_marley,

    “Collette – The issue is not about the “Crayzay Bitchez” as you so eloquently put it, or about any person who would abuse the system although these people exist and will routinely do so if it is to their advantage.”

    Have you been reading this thread? I even agree with your point re: how things actually work out in real life hence my response to Lamech’s claiming people always believe women and assume the man is dangerous. People saw the DJ assault me. The owner of the bar further north was on the NEWS ! Somehow it doesn’t work out in real life and you know what? There are a lot of bars.

    Dungone,

    “Colette Wedding, I also don’t understand why you believe that your personal experiences erase the experiences of others.”
    I don’t.

    “But let me ask you a question: do you think you would make as much money being a shot girl if you were male? Why don’t men jump at the opportunity to do these sort of waitressing jobs?”
    What does this have to do with sexual harassment? Although shotboys do exist, are you serious?

    “ It’s because the whole entire thing is inherently sexist. You are attracted to those jobs in the first place because you make more money there than you would if you had to work some other job on equal terms with men.”

    LOL, I happened to come across the bar while job-hunting and they happened to hire me. It isn’t glamorous and the money isn’t great. Even when it’s good it levels off. Especially during the recession.

    “ If you weren’t pretty, if you weren’t a woman, then you’d probably be working in the stock room at some grocery store.”

    Well I’m flattered, but I have been a busgirl, I’ve stocked shelves, and I’ve cleaned houses on Eight Mile for $3 an hour. What else do you want to tell me about me?

    “I worked as a bartender for a couple of months in college and quit in disgust when I realized how sleazy everyone in the service industry is. People backstabbing each other, manager stealing money from cash registers and blaming it on employees, people coming to work drunk/high, owner breaking various liquor laws, etc. The average hole in the wall seems to be owned by some sort of scumbag who hires all of his scumbag friends and they do scumbag things. And you work at these places and expect to be treated with dignity?”

    Right, so working class women with few options should expect to be treated like crap because the men in that industry are special cases. Whereas the women you work with are women in general.

    “These places don’t have HR, they don’t have a “real” sexual misconduct policies, they’ve got absolutely nothing to do with the regular sorts of jobs where men and women come in to work with each other on equal terms and expect to have a gender-neutral environment.”

    That is awfully convenient for your argument, isn’t it? That working-class people can be completely erased so that guys like you can draw conclusions of what must be done based on your experiences whereas none of us even have a voice.

  56. dungone says:

    @Collette Wedding, at least to me, it is obvious that you work in an industry that has shitty conditions and almost no protections for their workers whatsoever but that you are commenting on industries that do offer protections and telling us that it does not matter one lick to you if some of those protections don’t work as well as they could. Your argument with us here boils down to one of those “but there are starving babies in Africa” arguments when we are pointing out that our own daily experiences could be better than they are. I don’t think anyone in this thread said anything about getting rid of sexual harassment policies altogether and I don’t think that anyone has said that it would suck if waitresses had, oh, I don’t know, minimum wage and health insurance along with regular hours and full time work – and solid sexual harassment protections. You know what would be cool? If waitresses unionized. But that’s not the point because you’re basically saying that we can go fuck ourselves so long as someone like you feels that she has it a little bit worse. Well, I will continue to advocate for a better work environment that is friendlier to both men and women in the meantime. In fact I’m hoping to start my own company that is worker-owned where the profits are shared equally among everyone and sexual harassment is not tolerated, but neither are the bad apples who would abuse the system.

  57. jesus_marley says:

    @Collette – “That is awfully convenient for your argument, isn’t it? That working-class people can be completely erased so that guys like you can draw conclusions of what must be done based on your experiences whereas none of us even have a voice.”

    With regard to what happened to you in the bar situation… Not Cool. It wasn’t right that you had to endure that kind of harassment. I think what Dungone was trying to get at (and this is pure conjecture on my part) is that had this behaviour occurred in a workplace that had an established Sexual Harassment policy, you would very likely not had to endure the situation as you did. You would have had a supportive HR department that would have seen to your welfare.
    Basically what I am trying to get at is the lack of SHP in your workplace worked to the advantage of those who would abuse that fact whereas for the majority of men who work in places that have a SHP it ends up working to the advantage of people who choose to abuse it either directly or through threat. As with my case above, even though I was able to prove I was innocent, all I got was “Okay, we won’t fire you.” Do you think I would have kept my job had I not had the footage? Even afterwards it affected how I interacted with women at work. I would never allow myself to be in a position where I was alone with a female. Even today I try to avoid it whenever possible. Having that kind of oppressive umbrella over your head constantly is no way to live or work.

  58. dungone says:

    Everyone has the right to expect to be treated with dignity. Why is one worker regarded as somehow “less worthy of respect” than any other?

    The entire waitressing profession is fucked up to me, Daisy. There is inherent discrimination against men and jobs are given to women because of their youthfulness and sexuality. Of course it’s going to come with unbridled sexual harassment, because that’s why they got hired over men in the first place. You can’t argue that certain workers deserve to be treated with dignity but in the meantime other people who are perfectly capable of carrying out the tasks of that job need not apply to begin with because of their sex. You can only make a case that sexism has to leave that industry altogether. An integrated workforce provides one of the strongest checks and balances against sexual discrimination and favoritism. If there were more male waiters, then owners who gave better hours to the girl who was fucking him on the side would really not be tolerated. Hiring people strictly for their looks and sex appeal would not be tolerated.

    The fact of the matter is that these hole in the wall bar owners do end up playing as much favoritism as they do harass, and the kind of things such as a waitress becoming the owner’s girlfriend is exactly the reason why I walked right out the door as soon as I saw what was going on inside. Maybe a woman only frowns at that kind of behavior and continues working there because, I don’t know, that’s just the way another woman got ahead. But for a guy to do that? As a bartender, the only favoritism I got is being the favorite to go mop up the vomit in the bathrooms while the owner flirted with the females. So yeah, you know what, back in college I used to scrounge for change between the couch cushions so I could buy a cup of Ramen before class and all I can say is that while one person may complain about the harassment on the job, another person doesn’t even have a future there to speak of. It took me months to find a bar tending job and I was extremely disappointed by how awful it was, the shitty hours I got while some strippers with fake breasts got the busy nights, and a drug-abusing manager pinned money he took from a register on me.

  59. Dungone, I do agree that sexual integration of the job is crucial, and I think in the “better” restaurants, they mostly are already… or at least that is what I hear from people who work in these types of establishments.

    Back when I was a waitress, we were all young women, true. I remember I was the youngest, the oldest was 31 (and we thought she was old!). The job was officially “waitress” and nobody that didn’t fit that description (pardon double negative) had the job. We wore the dumbest yellow peasant dresses (uniform) you ever saw, with stupid little aprons. So yeah, we were all young and cute and dressed like we were getting ready to climb the alps with the Von Trapps or something. It was AWFUL and we were all embarrassed and made constant peasant jokes about the dumb dresses.

    We got it ALL the time, and I couldn’t quite blame them since a lot of it was HOW DUMB WE LOOKED in the stupid uniforms/dresses. It was almost like the dresses “commanded comment”–everybody, male and female, made sure to say SOMETHING…

    Dungone, your fault I now have Maria Von Trapp flashbacks.

    But of course, if men had been employed there as servers, we might have been spared the dumb outfits, and that would have been fine with us. But yeah, I see now that we were “a draw” of the place; as silly as we looked, somebody must have liked it or thought we were cute. ugh.

  60. @dungone:

    So for you, if a woman is a waitress or barmaid or if she has any job were looks is important (model, stripper), she doesn’t have the same rights than other women and she should accept sexual harassment ? That’s sexist. Do you understands that these jobs where “eye candy” is important cannot be done by men ? ( Try to imagine a guy in a Hooter restaurant outfit )They can only be done by women and these women don’t want to be sexually harassed.

  61. “@dungone:

    So for you, if a woman is a waitress or barmaid or if she has any job were looks is important (model, stripper), she doesn’t have the same rights than other women and she should accept sexual harassment ? That’s sexist. Do you understands that these jobs where “eye candy” is important cannot be done by men ? ( Try to imagine a guy in a Hooter restaurant outfit )They can only be done by women and these women don’t want to be sexually harassed.”

    Do you think receptionist or waiting staff calls for eye candy, or for someone who gets you the right order, on time, at the right temperature, and can juggle with many commands at once? I’d say the latter, and that the “eye candy business” should become a niche.

    “Sexy waitress” places do exist as niches, but it should be just that. Hiring only female waiting staff is bound to cause issues already, since like dungone said, they’re no doubt hired for the eye candy, not their proficiency at the job.

    It’s like being hired as an accountant because you can fraud the government of its taxes better, it begs for mistreatment for businesses to act this way. So businesses should be rewarded for not acting this way. Or punished for acting this way.

    “The owner gets to decide because they bear financial risk” is such a cop out. It’s what lets Wal-Mart get away with literally closing shop the moment there is a threat of a union forming, to then open elsewhere close enough. They shouldn’t be able to do shit like that. And businesses that don’t do modeling or pole-dancing for a specific demographics, like say, a family restaurant like any other, shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate based on a non-important thing for the job: looks. They shouldn’t decide to not hire people of certain ethnicities, heights, skin colors, genital configurations (and more), unless it has to do with the job itself.

  62. I gotta point out that working class does not mean that you are not covered by sexual harrassment policies. Anyone working at lower rungs of a bigger organisation (Walmart, governemnt) is going to be working class, and is going to be covered by a sexual harrassment policy. While say an accountant (I’m guessing that by the way it is being used in this conversation, working class excludes white collar?) who gets a job doing the taxes in one of the dumps Collete has been working at would be no more covered by a sexual harassment policy than she.

    The real difference here seems to be small business vs big business, less so than working vs middle.

    Of course, more and more countries have Equal Opportunity comissions, or organisations to that effect, where people can take such greivances if internal mechanism are inadaquate.

  63. @Schala:
    Do you think receptionist or waiting staff calls for eye candy, or for someone who gets you the right order, on time, at the right temperature, and can juggle with many commands at once? I’d say the latter, and that the “eye candy business” should become a niche.
    Usually an employer ask people who work with the public to be attractive and good at doing their jobs. If they are not good at doing their jobs, they can be fired, even if they are attractive.

    “Sexy waitress” places do exist as niches, but it should be just that. Hiring only female waiting staff is bound to cause issues already, since like dungone said, they’re no doubt hired for the eye candy, not their proficiency at the job.
    I was talking about sexual harassment for waitresses and barmaids and saying it’s unacceptable even if they are hired for eye candy.

  64. @Colette: “Have you been reading this thread? I even agree with your point re: how things actually work out in real life hence my response to Lamech’s claiming people always believe women and assume the man is dangerous. People saw the DJ assault me. The owner of the bar further north was on the NEWS ! Somehow it doesn’t work out in real life and you know what? There are a lot of bars.”
    First those guys were breaking the law. You should have called the cops. Now, are you telling me that people don’t see woman as less dangerous and men as more dangerous? Okay then, people should have a fairly even response when they see someone being attacked and not have it be based on gender right?
    A handful of people who were probably friends with the guy. But how about a bunch of people who happen to be walking through a park:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlFAd4YdQks
    Oh look nearly none of them help. Gosh that isn’t even remotely surprising.
    Or the massive sentencing bias in the courts against men? What do you think that is a result of? People automatically think crimes are more serious when a guy does it.
    Or that damned “never hit a girl” meme. Even if you are a guy being attacked.
    Ooohh! Or Schrodinger’s Rapist: A guy is soooo scary he should go out of his way to not walk near women. Because a guy doing nothing, but walking around minding his own business is scary to women.

    There is zero reason to to add something like “threatened”. You don’t need to be threatening to sexually harass someone. The only thing it serves to accomplish is discriminate against men. You cannot seriously tell me that society views woman as scary and as threatening as it views men.

  65. BlackHumor says:

    Tangent: The sentencing disparity between men and women isn’t “massive”. It’s about 5.5 months on an average 46 month sentence, or about 12 percent. It’s large but it’s comparable to the sentencing disparity between black men and white men.

  66. BlackHumor says:

    OH BUT, I forgot to mention in my last post that the sentencing disparity is significantly greater for violent crimes, and dwindles almost to nothing for particularly non-violent crimes.

    But even then, if you’re caught committing a bank robbery you want to make more than $50,000 a year more than you want to be a woman; it’ll shave over a year off your sentence.

  67. From Feck-blog has an log post looking at data on male-female setencing disparity http://feck-blog.blogspot.com.au/2009/09/judical-bias-better-be-woman.html

    Check it out if you want, from memory it takes a somewhat contrary view to the one that you are arguing, but I’m not posting it as a rebutal. In in he calculates “the percentages less (or more) that women are sentenced for the exact same crime as men” which is an interesting list especially when, after a long list of crimes for which men recieve harsher scentences, it gets to Food and Drug offences, where women get 253% the sentence that men get. Being as the general rule is, ‘Men get more’ it makes me wonder what on earth is going on their!

  68. “The real difference here seems to be small business vs big business, less so than working vs middle.”

    The big issue is that working class people have (almost always) less resources in order to combat abuses of this sort, and (often) less knowledge about how to do that. Sure, the accountant deals with the same lack of a sexual harassment policy the waitstaff does. But the accountant is more likely to have a brother-in-law who was college roommates with a lawyer. And the accountant is highly unlikely to be the sort of person who might get deported if they draw official attention. Middle class people are much more likely to be able to avail themselves of the remedies provided by law; that’s as true of sexual harassment as any other abuse (eg, tip “sharing” by management).

    The problem is not gender (per se), it’s power. The power difference between a business owner and the average waitress is quite different than between a business owner and an average accountant (or even more so, between two students, to bring it back to the original post), so it’s not exactly surprising that their experiences are going to differ. And, presumably, the right remedies for the problems present in each situation are going to be different.

  69. “The big issue is that working class people have (almost always) less resources in order to combat abuses of this sort, and (often) less knowledge about how to do that.”

    “And, presumably, the right remedies for the problems present in each situation are going to be different.”

    Too right.

  70. Jared: Great link.

    BlackHumor, your link doesn’t allow verifying your 12% figure. Presumably it’s there behind the firewall, but I wanted to check it. Feck’s figures suggest men get something like a 40% longer sentence than women (based on scanning the list of sentence disparity by crime type). Your source (the part that outsiders can read) notes that 70% of the disparity between the sentences for men and women was accounted for by “departures” from the sentencing guidelines.

    If the 12% figure was somehow referencing the ‘guideline-mandated’ sentences, and Feck’s figures were looking at the actual sentences, the math would actually work out (i.e the actual sentence disparities would be about three times larger than the ‘guideline-mandated’ sentences, producing 12% x 3 = 36%). This is purely speculative on my part; there could be a number of reasons why the two figures don’t jive.

    Could you post the whole paragraph from your link that states the sentence disparity is 12% to give us a better idea what might be going on?

  71. I agree with Fnord: the problem is power.

    My brother is in a salaried position with a small business. On paper, he’s only required to work forty hours a week. Off paper? He routinely pulls eighty hour weeks. He’s not allowed to take comp time or overtime pay, and if he complains about it, the response? “If you don’t like your job, there are a dozen people who want it.”

    Basically: if you’re working-class, you have few options.

    How does this translate into sexual harassment?

    Like Fnord said: there are no resources to help you, no support structure, and if you complain about it, you often have to find another job.

    The only real effective way to deal with it is off the books, but that can backfire in all kinds of ugly ways. Note that someone who DOESN’T try to take care of it off the books is not in any way responsible for their harassment; that would be victim blaming.

  72. “If you complain about it, you often have to find another job.”
    And god help you if word gets around that you’re a “troublemaker” or a “complainer”.

  73. @ballgame:

    The difference between in sentencing of men and women is probably caused by the The battered woman defense

  74. pocketjacks says:

    @no more mr nice guy,

    You realize that if it’s justifiable to discriminate in favor of women against men for jobs where you “work with the public” (because that’s what the customer wants! Eye candy!), then it’s justifiable to discriminate in favor of young, perky, conventionally attractive women against other types of women? That’s for hiring receptionists.

  75. pocketjacks says:

    The difference between in sentencing of men and women is probably caused by the The battered woman defense

    No. From a study that was quoted earlier in the thread:

    “The female-male difference is statistically significant for all six categories, the largest of which is for bank robbery, where females receive 21.6 months less than males. The per- centage difference between males and females is also the largest for bank robbery (20.1 percent), but it exceeds 10 percent for drug trafficking, larceny, and immigration.”

    It’s not just in cases of domestic violence, or even violent crimes in general where the Battered Women defense could apply.

  76. @no more mr nice guy: If its okay to discriminate in favor of “eye candy” because the employer thinks that the looks will help them can they apply that to other sorts of looks? How about only hiring people who look “tough”. Or are tall? Everyone knows that tall people are looked upon better. Or people that look male? (Although really one should be capable of coming up with criteria that favor male looks without too much trouble and not ever explicitly state “male”.) There is anti-female discrimination that causes people perceived as female to be taken less seriously right? In fact can how about just favoring of male “eye candy” because discriminating in favor of eye candy won’t create a gender difference unless “eye candy” is gender specific.

    Or is this sort of discrimination only allowed if it favors females?

  77. @pocketjacks :

    The Feck-blog link was talking explicitly about domestic violence and in the case of other crimes, the difference is probably because the percentage of women involved in violent crimes is lower than men or they are simply accomplice. I’m sure there are far less female bank robbers than male bank robbers. In furthermore since criminals tend to think “bros before hos”, women have a lower status in criminal gangs and therefore are more likely to be accomplice than to be leader.

  78. @lamech:

    This discrimination already exist : A guy cannot become a furniture mover if he’s not strong enough. He cannot become a basketball player if he’s too small. He cannot become a football player if he’s not big enough. He cannot become a porn actor or a male stripper if he’s not “built” enough. And he cannot become a male model if he’s not attractive enough. As Clint Eastwood said “A man’s got to know his limitations”. And same for women.

  79. Amnesia says:

    Judging by the way some people are talking here, you’d think there were guys that dreamed of becoming waiters all their lives only to be prevented by biased hiring policies in favor of women. Rather than the reality that waitressing or waitering is generally unfulfilling unrewarding work where the quantity of your wages depends more on the generosity of the people you serve than the actual work you do, and most people wouldn’t want to make a career out of it.

  80. debaser71 says:

    I’d take being a waiter over, for example, working outside along the highway at 4am in the morning while it’s 42 degrees and raining.

  81. “Rather than the reality that waitressing or waitering is generally unfulfilling unrewarding work where the quantity of your wages depends more on the generosity of the people you serve than the actual work you do, and most people wouldn’t want to make a career out of it.”

    While I’m generally unsuited with work with the public, or apparently, most work at all, I still would have preferred a job in retail to warehouse jobs. But they hired for eye candy. No way were they going to hire a skinny teenage male who was looking for a job and had no experience. Warehouse jobs were happy to hire me, then later fire me for underperformance (purely due to physics, I’ve never been strong). Go me. Because penis power got them to think I was suited for that kind of job (even though I wasn’t). Being on unemployment is so much fun (sarcastic) I decided I don’t care anymore. Playing yo-yo with employment, I prefer not being employed at all.

  82. I’d take being a waiter over, for example, working outside along the highway at 4am in the morning while it’s 42 degrees and raining.

    Guys who do that are very well paid – much more than a waitress.

  83. @no more mr nice guy says:

    The Feck-blog link was talking explicitly about domestic violence and in the case of other crimes, the difference is probably because the percentage of women involved in violent crimes is lower than men or they are simply accomplice. I’m sure there are far less female bank robbers than male bank robbers. In furthermore since criminals tend to think “bros before hos”, women have a lower status in criminal gangs and therefore are more likely to be accomplice than to be leader.

    It’s not part of any statistic, but I read an article in a men’s magazine about female serial killers, making a big deal out of how women could be just as brutal as men, and how the readers wouldn’t want to be anywhere near these women. And yet, not only did almost all the women in the examples go after female victims (which is to be expected, but doesn’t exactly make sense to warn male readers about), but the majority of them worked together with their (usually older and more dominant) boyfriends.

    Not saying it’s the norm, but it’s striking that a magazine which has no reason to portray women in a friendly light (and practically never did) still can’t come up with more scary women than some who acted on their boyfriend’s initiative.

    Anyway, statistics like those are hard to get accurate. A lot of things need to be taken into consideration, such as how serious the crime is, how deliberate, who took the initiative and who was merely an accomplice, whether the defendant agreed to a plea bargain and otherwise cooperated with the police, etc..

  84. pocketjacks says:

    @no more mr nice guy,

    “the difference is probably because the percentage of women involved in violent crimes is lower than men”

    “I’m sure there are far less female bank robbers than male bank robbers”

    The sheer illogic of these statements makes it hard to refute it concisely and coherently, for the same reason that sometimes the simplest concepts are the hardest to teach or explain. But here goes anyway, for the rest of you.

    The percentage of murderers from California is going to be higher than the percentage from Wyoming, but that doesn’t mean a murderer from Wyoming should automatically get a shorter sentence, nor that a random Wyoming defendant is more likely to be innocent than a Californian.

    Or to use a more topical analogy, the percentage of white people involved in violent crimes is lower than for black people, but that doesn’t mean a given white defendant is any less or any more likely to be guilty or dangerous than a black one. We’ve already gotten way past the stage of broad population trends once we’re at the level of individual sentencing of a single alleged perp.

    “or they are simply accomplice”

    No.

    (1) The gender disparity is evident in all crimes, including drug crimes (Rodriguez, Curry, & Lee 2006: “Gender Differences in Criminal Sentencing: Do Effects Vary Across Violent, Property, and Drug Offenses?”) which are highly likely to be committed alone. Other studies such as Daly (1989; “Neither Conflict Nor Labeling Nor Paternalism Will Suffice: Intersections of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Family in Criminal Court Decisions”) were specifically done on non-accomplice defendants. Not to mention that the “leadership” distinction that you just pulled out of your ass isn’t meaningful in the vast majority of crimes committed in the US which are done either alone or in a small ad hoc group without a permanent structure.

    (2) As far as Mustard (2001) goes, the vast majority of the gender disparity it studied occurred when judges apply personal discretion outside of mandated sentencing guidelines. Severity and nature of crime are covered under those guidelines.

    (2 and a half) I should probably have stated this earlier on, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t note out loud that your post was pure, unsupported ad hoc conjecture.

    (3) No researcher in this area has ever claimed that a likely cause of the gender disparity is because the women are fundamentally committing less serious crimes or because of underrepresentation in criminal leadership. Many studies, varying from Mustard (2001) to Schanzenbach (2004; “Racial and Gender Disparities in Prison Sentences: The Effect of District-Level Judicial Demographics”) cite judicial “paternalism” toward female defendants toward the primary culprit.

    This shares with your position the incorrect frame that whenever a man is treated objectively and undeniably worse than a woman, the real culprit must be some form of sexism against women. (I don’t deny that paternalism in the CJS exists, just that being invisibly condescended to by a judge is nowhere close as an injustice to an act of discrimination landing you in prison, which in America is becoming an increasingly unaccountable, privatized, rapey, fascist hellhole. Positioning the invisible condescension part as the center of the issue seems perverse, like wealthy townspeople opposing a genocide because the sound of nearby firing squads is disturbing their sleep schedule.) At the very least, though, they don’t seem preoccupied with a piece of rhyming slang as the culprit.

    ******************

    The gender disparity in criminal sentencing is due to people finding men to be more threatening, more villainous, and easier to act mercilessly toward. Conversely, women make more sympathetic victims and people tend to go softer on them.

    This is supported by the fact that the gender bias in sentencing shows up at the other end, too, the side of the victim of the crime, and is in fact if anything stronger here. Glaeser & Sacerdote (2003; “Sentencing in Homicide Cases and the Role of Vengeance”) found that sentences given to vehicular homicide were about 60% tougher if the victim of the crime were female. (This is exactly mirrored by the sentence being 60% more lenient if the victim were black.)

  85. RocketFrog says:

    AB:

    I wonder what can be done about the damage men are doing to society – as you point out, even female serial killers are acting on men’s initiative. Inhuman acts are almost always either perpetrated by males, or occasionally by women who have been tricked, pressured or manipulated into such things by males.

    Did you read about the Swedish party FI’s suggestion some years back, about introducing a “man tax”, which all males should pay to make reparations for men’s crimes against humanity and men’s cost to society? I sometimes think that such a policy would be the best way to at least make reparations.

    On the longer term, I do not think there is much to be done about things like rape, serial killers, abuse of institutional power etc. unless some means is discovered to fundamentally alter the behaviour of males.

  86. pocketjacks says:

    “Anyway, statistics like those are hard to get accurate. A lot of things need to be taken into consideration, such as how serious the crime is, how deliberate, who took the initiative and who was merely an accomplice, whether the defendant agreed to a plea bargain and otherwise cooperated with the police, etc..”

    Sounds like an excuse being readied to dismiss a body of published work that you already suspect has discovered facts that you won’t like. Statistics in this area are no more hard to get accurate than in any other social science, which is always plagued by confounding variables. That doesn’t mean we can’t make conclusions at some level of broadness. For every extraneous factor you could conjure up to try and attack the idea of the sentencing disparity, I could easily go tit-for-tat on something like the wage gap.

    If women were more likely to take a plea bargain and this were a significant driver, we should find that female defendants get better sentences but are more likely to be jailed. We don’t find that. Male defendants are more likely to have to serve a term, and on top of that, tend to get longer sentences when they do.

  87. RocketFrog says:

    Male defendants are more likely to serve terms and get longer sentences because they generally commit more heinous crimes. I do not see what the problem with that is?

    Even when perpetrators are female, you can usually trace things back and find a man involved somewhere in the process. Nearly all injustices and inhumanities are, if you just trace the chain of people involved far enough, either perpetrated by men or on the behalf of men.

  88. @pocketjacks :
    The percentage of murderers from California is going to be higher than the percentage from Wyoming, but that doesn’t mean a murderer from Wyoming should automatically get a shorter sentence, nor that a random Wyoming defendant is more likely to be innocent than a Californian.
    If you take a group of 10 female bank robbers and 100 male bank robbers, it’s possible the sentences will be different because the number of female bank robbers is much lower than the number of male bank robbers. And as you said, women are considered as less threatening than men.

    Not to mention that the “leadership” distinction that you just pulled out of your ass isn’t meaningful in the vast majority of crimes committed in the US which are done either alone or in a small ad hoc group without a permanent structure.
    Most murders in urban areas of the US are gang-related and gangs are not like Pandagon.

  89. pocketjacks says:

    Every study done on this topic and that has been cited so far has controlled for severity of the crime. Men are more likely to get convicted, and then get worse sentences, for committing the same crime as women.

    I’m not going to comment on your second paragraph, other than to save it for the next time someone tries to tell me people of your gender ideology don’t say or believe what you just said.

  90. pocketjacks says:

    If you take a group of 10 female bank robbers and 100 male bank robbers, it’s possible the sentences will be different because the number of female bank robbers is much lower than the number of male bank robbers.

    How so? The raw total, yes, but how is the average, which is what every study has been measuring, going to be affected? Unless your argument is that with a small sample size comes higher variance, but this variance won’t be directionally oriented.

    And as you said, women are considered as less threatening than men.

    White people are considered less threatening than black people.

    Most murders in urban areas of the US are gang-related and gangs are not like Pandagon.

    By far the majority of crimes committed in the US aren’t murders. The gender disparity holds for nearly every crime studied.

  91. @AB: You are correct that the gap in sentencing is only a correlation and therefore can have many problems with it. To actually see what was up we would need to ask a bunch of judges the sentences they would give in hypothetical cases and flip genders. However, I note this also applies to pretty much every area of social sciences. Wage Gap? Just a correlation. Poor people getting longer sentences? Correlation. Blacks getting longer sentences? Correlation. Ad nauseum.
    Of course, I still think its pretty good evidence that discrimination is going on even if its not full-fledged proof. Of course, if you disagree, then I’ll just bring this up again when ever you refrence any correlations in the future.

  92. @NMMNG:
    “And as you said, women are considered as less threatening than men.”
    Soo… you are agreeing? I can’t really see this as anything other than agreement with my point that “woman are considered as less threatening than man”, which started this whole tangent… So are you agreeing with not placing threatening as a prerequisite of sexual harassement then too?

  93. @Lamech :
    I was talking about sentences when women commit crimes.

  94. I’m not going to say anything more about my school’s policies, because that’s information that might be used to figure out which school I go to, and my school ain’t big. :)

    I am sure everyone here does NOT mean to erase the reality that men get sexually harassed in their gendering of sexual harassment to “male-harasses-female” and “female-accuses-male-of-harassment.” After all, we have had this discussion a LOT about male survivors of abuse and rape and language that erases them; I am sure we do not need to have this conversation about male survivors of harassment too.

    Druk: When I described it as “school-level policy” I didn’t mean my school; I meant the legal policy that applies to schools.

  95. @RocketFrog:

    I wonder what can be done about the damage men are doing to society – as you point out, even female serial killers are acting on men’s initiative. Inhuman acts are almost always either perpetrated by males, or occasionally by women who have been tricked, pressured or manipulated into such things by males.

    Please stop.

    @pocketjacks:

    Sounds like an excuse being readied to dismiss a body of published work that you already suspect has discovered facts that you won’t like. Statistics in this area are no more hard to get accurate than in any other social science, which is always plagued by confounding variables.

    It was actually an example from this site which got me thinking about how subjective it is. There was a case where the involved male parties had been punished harder/stood to receive a harder punishment than the female accomplice.

    The article about the case mentioned that the female had been the only one to accept a plea bargain, and had furthermore testified against her accomplices, while all the males had resisted, and yet the conclusion from posters here was immediately that she must have gotten off easier because she was female. If that’s the way people think, I’m not surprised they find it so easy to find examples of women suffering fewer consequences just for being women.

  96. While I can certainly appreciate your concern about unwittingly revealing your school, ozy, I would have hoped that you would have been able to sufficiently ‘generalize’ your school’s approach towards burden of proof and the existence (or absence) of procedures to protect the defendant’s presumption of innocence to respond to the question. At the very least, it would have been nice to see some response to the very real issues created when schools move to the ‘preponderance of evidence’ burden of proof level which Hugh Ristik described in his excellent review of the issue, and an acknowledgment that fair and gender neutral policies (which are unmistakably a laudable step forward) can still be enforced in a sexist and unfair way.

    I am sure everyone here does NOT mean to erase the reality that men get sexually harassed in their gendering of sexual harassment to “male-harasses-female” and “female-accuses-male-of-harassment.”

    I don’t recall anyone having done this, but I haven’t read the earlier comments in a couple of days so maybe I’m forgetting something. However, I will point out that the offense of harassment is something which is almost invariably committed by the initiating party, and therefore the risk of being accused of that crime is disproportionately borne by men (just as the burden of being victimized by it is disproportionately borne by women). So, unfairly-applied or excessively punitive approaches to sexual harassment (even when such policies are strictly gender neutral) will disproportionately affect men (just as lax or non-existent enforcement of fair harassment policies will disproportionately affect women). Moreover, it would have been nice to see some acknowledgment of the likelihood that a woman’s harassment accusation against a man is probably much more likely to be believed that the reverse.

  97. Great comments, pocketjacks.

  98. What I like best about sexual harassment policies is that it has made sexual harassment taboo. My MIL was regularly groped by her boss and nobody (not even her husband) thought it was a big deal. Now it is a big deal, if not morally then at least because you can get sued for it. Sexual harassers are now a liability to themselves and to their employers and nobody wants that. I think sexual harassment policies will further help men in that they will bring to light the fact that men can ALSO be sexually harassed and this is EQUALLY wrong.

  99. Flyingkal says:

    @RocketFrog:

    Did you read about the Swedish party FI’s suggestion some years back, about introducing a “man tax”, which all males should pay to make reparations for men’s crimes against humanity and men’s cost to society? I sometimes think that such a policy would be the best way to at least make reparations.

    What both FI and you, together with most part of the swedish feminist movement, convenientally neglected to include in the equation, is the simpe fact that whichever way you prefer to count it, men are already paying more in taxes than women does.

    Apart from the problem that a suggestion like this would do less than nothing to solve the gender-binary, what do you deem would be an appropriate level of this “man tax?”, and what purpose would it serve?

  100. I think sexual harassment policies will further help men in that they will bring to light the fact that men can ALSO be sexually harassed and this is EQUALLY wrong.

    Er… but what about exposing the way women use male shaming at work? Which seems to be what men are, you know, speaking up about…

    What I like best about sexual harassment policies is that it has made sexual harassment taboo.

    That I do like. Let’s make male shaming taboo as well :)

  101. RocketFrog says:

    Flyingkal:

    I am neither Swedish nor a feminist.

    The stated purpose of FI’s proposed man tax was to force men to pay for the societal cost of men’s violence against women, rather than having everyone (including the victims themselves) pay.

    I am not sure about what would be an appropriate level. A flat tax would hit working-class and unemployed men disproportionately hard. Whether that would be fair, I suppose, then comes down to whether or not lower-class men are disproportionately more likely to commit violence against women. When the debate was still raging, FI argued for a progressive model, with a percentage that increased with income. Just like a normal income tax in Nordic countries, except paid only by men.

  102. “I am not sure about what would be an appropriate level. A flat tax would hit working-class and unemployed men disproportionately hard. Whether that would be fair, I suppose, then comes down to whether or not lower-class men are disproportionately more likely to commit violence against women. When the debate was still raging, FI argued for a progressive model, with a percentage that increased with income. Just like a normal income tax in Nordic countries, except paid only by men.”

    Was it to encourage unemployment, fiscal evasion or stay-at-home dads? Because no income = no tax, you see. Or maybe it was to encourage violence of men because they are mistreated by the system that people say can’t possibly mistreat them?

  103. dungone says:

    @Schala, or maybe it was to encourage more women to get into relationships with violent men – since the societal cost of their choices would be bore by men alone. Or maybe it was to reward women women who are violent towards men, since the vast majority of male DV is reciprocal.

  104. AB: did the male defendants get offered a similar plea bargain at all? As I recall, there’s something of a history of women defendants being offered plea bargains for crimes where a male defendant wouldn’t simply because they’re assumed to be less culpable and more sympathetic for gender-related reasons…

  105. jesus_marley says:

    @AB – “The article about the case mentioned that the female had been the only one to accept a plea bargain, and had furthermore testified against her accomplices, while all the males had resisted, and yet the conclusion from posters here was immediately that she must have gotten off easier because she was female.”

    My question here is this. Were the men offered the same plea deal as the female? If they were all offered the same bargain and the female took the deal, then there may be a valid argument here. but if the female was offered a better deal than the men, then the female did get off easier.

  106. @makomk:

    AB: did the male defendants get offered a similar plea bargain at all? As I recall, there’s something of a history of women defendants being offered plea bargains for crimes where a male defendant wouldn’t simply because they’re assumed to be less culpable and more sympathetic for gender-related reasons…

    I believe in the concrete case, the man/men pleaded not guilty. Considering how easy how often it seems people, including men, are offered plea bargains, I doubt they weren’t offered anything for cooperating, but since I’m not sure I can find the case (it seems almost impossible to search comments here), you’re welcome to speculate.

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