Sunday, December 03, 2017

Sexual harassment is purely subjective

An NPR Radio news guest explains sexual harassment:
MARSHALL: Yeah. The episode that just turned up in the last 24 hours involving Representative Kihuen really sets this out, I think, which is that - remember that sexual harassment is defined by how the recipient of it feels. If it's welcomed, it's not sexual harassment. If it isn't welcomed, it is sexual harassment. And it opens - the way the law is written and the way we look at it is someone who can change their mind about whether it was welcomed or not some time after it actually occurred. And men who - men who think that any conduct from them is welcomed often may find themselves in the situation of suddenly finding it was not. And this comes from, often, what their experience is, how attractive they are.

I have a script that I use in my training where, you know, a George Clooney level of actor and someone who looks like Steve Buscemi, for example, both hit on the same employee over and over again. That's sexual harassment, except eventually she agrees to go out with the good-looking guy. And the other guy who's just sort of inept is sent to HR with a complaint. And my audiences don't get this. They say it's unfair. And I say, well, that's sexual harassment. It depends on the victim's perception.

MARTIN: So - wait a minute. Are you really trying to tell me that somebody good looking behaving in a boorish fashion is OK as long as the target eventually thinks it's OK? I mean...

MARSHALL: I don't think it's OK. But it's not - but - I don't think it's OK. However, they will not get in trouble for sexual harassment because of the way the law is written. A hostile work environment means that the recipient of this has to feel hostility. They don't like it. So, for example, if somebody - I have a hypothetical that I'm sure has happened where someone is grabbed by Donald Trump back when he's a celebrity, and she comes home. And she's kissed, and she tells her roommate that was cool. Donald Trump kissed me. And then when everybody she knows detests Donald Trump, she suddenly says that not - you know, I was harassed.
In other words, there is no way you can know whether you are sexually harassing someone or not.

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