While some forms of sexual harassment are very obvious, others are much less so. As such, it is very important to understand what is considered sexual harassment, so that it is recognizable when it occurs. Many forms of sexual harassment go unreported and unaddressed as a result of misunderstanding and discomfort on the topic. As society becomes more aware of the issue of sexual harassment, it is important to discuss the different forms of sexual harassment, which lead to increased awareness and comprehension.
Here are ten different forms of sexual harassment in the workplace:
1. Quid pro quo
Quid pro quo means “this for that”. In other words, if someone offers something in exchange for sexual favours, or offers sexual favours in exchange for something, it is considered sexual harassment, especially if that person is a figure of authority. Quid pro quo sexual harassment can include promotions, gifts, and privileges.
This happens in many different settings and is always considered sexual harassment. It is common for people of authority to claim that nobody will listen or that nobody will believe the victim if they report the interaction, but these are untruths, and sexual harassment should always be reported, no matter who the perpetrator is.
Threats are another form of quid pro quo sexual harassment. If a person threatens another person by saying they need to provide sexual favours, it’s sexual harassment. Threats can include termination, a pay decrease, punishment, or loss of privileges, for example. Fear is not acceptable in a sexual relationship – it must be a mutual agreement between two consenting adults.
3. Physical sexual acts
If a person touches another person sexually without consent, it is sexual harassment. Physical sexual acts include kissing, touching the genitals or breasts, vaginal or anal sex, or any other unwarranted physical contact. It is very important that victims understand that if they say no, then the other person needs to stop. If they do not stop, these acts are considered as forms of sexual harassment, even if the victim originally said yes and then changed their mind.
4. Sexually explicit digital messages, photos, or videos
Pictures of genitals or naked subjects, regardless of whose body it is, are considered forms of sexual harassment if they are sent without consent. The same rule applies for sexually explicit text messages or emails – those messages which describe sexual acts in detail, or which are intended to present sexual ideas.
5. Unwarranted flashing or masturbation
It is considered sexual harassment if a person undresses or otherwise exposes themselves or masturbates in the presence of another who has not given their consent. Even though the perpetrator is not physically touching the victim, these acts can cause mental distress and severe discomfort.
6. Pressuring someone for sex
If someone is continuously asking, pressing, begging, bribing, or otherwise trying to convince someone to do sexual acts with them of any kind, it is considered sexual harassment. They may ask once, maybe even twice in a polite and respectful manner, however once their intentions are known, it is considered harassment to attempt to convince or coax someone into agreeing to have sex.
7. Sexual jokes
Verbal sexual harassment includes jokes. Many people think that if it’s a joke, the person should not be offended, and should not consider it sexual harassment. The thing about jokes, however, is that both people need to find it funny for it to be a joke. If the recipient of the joke does not find it funny, and is in any way made uncomfortable, then it is considered sexual harassment. There needs to be mutual understanding about what jokes are acceptable in a relationship between two people
8. Unwanted sexual advances
No means no, it’s as simple as that. It is considered sexual harassment if a person continues to make sexual advances, even when they’ve been told no one or more times. If the recipient is uncomfortable or refuses the advances in any way, the other should stop. Anything further is classified as sexual harassment in the workplace and must cease immediately.
9. Unwanted sexual advances from a romantic partner
If someone is in a romantic relationship with another, whether that be a dating relationship, marriage, common law, or live-in partner – neither party owes the other sexual acts ever. If one party tries to force the other to do these sexual acts, it is considered sexual harassment. It is very commonly believed that there is no such thing as sexual harassment or rape in a romantic relationship, however that is very untrue.
10. Not listening
Ignorance is not an excuse, but it does exist. If someone is doing something that is considered sexual harassment – such as telling sexually explicit jokes, sending sexually explicit messages or photos, or other such acts, it is very important to make sure they know that what they are doing is inappropriate. Hopefully they will learn that what they are doing is unacceptable, and stop doing it. However, if they refuse to stop, their act of not listening is also sexual harassment.