Sexual Harassment without the Sexual Attraction?

February 1, 2013 6:00 pm

Imagine you are in this situation.

You work for a man. This man rings you constantly and often talks to you about things not related to your job – he carries on the conversation for a long time and you find it hard to end the phone-call. The man makes many comments about your breasts in front of people. The man makes many comments about the clothes you wear in front of people. The man makes it known that he discusses the clothes you wear and your breasts with other members of staff when you are not around.sexual harassment

Surely by anybody’s standards – this is sexual harassment?

Now imagine you are in the same situation. But the man is gay. He likes men and even has a boyfriend. Can his behaviour still be sexual harassment?

This is brief insight into how the law seeks to protect us from sexual harassment. But could a man who has no sexual desire towards you, really be prosecuted for sexual harassment?

 

The Law – The Equality Law Act 2010.

This act introduces two types of sexual harassment.  Firstly, unwanted sexual conduct on the grounds of your sex – i.e you are being treated in this way because you are a woman or man. In this instance the conduct does not have to be sexual at all – it will still be harassment.

So let’s review the above scenario.

Would the gay man comment on a man’s breasts? Would the gay man comment on a man’s revealing dresses or tight jeans?

Possible…but very unlikely.

The second type is unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature. In this instance you do not have to compare yourself to how somebody else would be treated.

If you are subject to comments about the way you look which you find demeaning then this is sexual harassment. You do not have to prove that the comment would hurt other people’s feeling if it was said to them – it is subjective. If you found it demeaning – it is demeaning.  If you are questioned about your sex life or subject to any sexual demands – you have a case for sexual harassment. The purpose of these acts, however, must have the purpose of violating your dignity or causing some kind of humiliation. In most cases the humiliation will be very apparent.

Again, reviewing the above scenario – would a gay man be guilty of sexual harassment towards to female? Yes. Making unwanted comments about the way you look – the breasts and the clothes you wear – making you feel embarrassed.

So ladies and gentleman, with the law on your side – I suppose you would want to know if the courts offer assistance in cases where the  sexual orientation of the perpetrator would suggest there is not a cause for concern.

Yes. In a recent case, Tribunal chairman Jonathan Whittaker declared that

‘The fact that the [defendant] is a homosexual should not make the allegations of sexual harassment less likely to be true.’

Rightly so!

Gok Wan

The stereotypical gay man loves women. Not that one should ever agree with stereotypes, but generally gay men love women’s bodies and relate to women. Some women would be fine with a gay man touching their bodies and making ‘humorous’ comments about their bodies – but if you are not one of them then you should not put up with it. The same principle applies to men; the ever-expanding rights-based society we live in, rightly gives men – as well as women,  the standing to tackle unwanted harassment  from both sexes.

It is wrong to suggest that sexual harassment is not inappropriate, simply because somebody does not have sexual feelings for you.

If anybody subjects you to unwanted sexual harassment, whether it be a boss, a colleague or a cat (difficult to sue – but you see the point!) – You should never be afraid to invoke your rights, especially in the workplace.

 

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  • Good article, however, all that’s been targeted are men, be them gay or straight. Gay and straight men do also get ‘harassment’ from women too, so as long as it’s clear that the victims are not just women, the article is spot on! 🙂

    • Laura Buckley

      I completely agree with you! I was speaking from my own experience, which involved a man so the article may have appeared one-sided.The point of the article is definitely that gender and sexual orientation is irrelevant when it comes to attention that makes you feel uncomfortable. I think many people trivialise what happens to them. Some fail to realise it is actually against the law and that gender/sexuality of the perpetrator will not make them any less liable.

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