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Study suggests sexual harassment motivated by power not sex

With most forms of sex-related offenses, the motives are usually something other than pure physical attraction. Sexual harassment in Florida and across the country, a new study confirms, is no different. According to research conducted by scholars at the University of Maine and the University of Minnesota, sexual discrimination in the workplace is motivated not by sexual desire but by a desire for power.

Researchers concluded this based on the study which analyzed the experiences of 1,010 individuals. The subjects discussed their experiences as high school freshmen and their experiences as adults, around the age of 30. The interesting find was that it was not the feminine, vulnerable, youthful employee who was harassed the most. Rather, it was most often the less feminine woman in a supervisory role.

According to the study, female supervisors experienced workplace discrimination 73 percent more often than non-supervisors. The study also found that women in male-dominated occupations, such as the police, experienced higher rates of sexual misconduct. The reason that such behavior is more common in male-dominated professions, the scholars suggest, is that women are less likely to report it.

The authors of the study believe that these results indicate that sexual harassment in the workplace is a way for men to keep women “in their place.” Not long ago, women seldom achieved powerful positions in the workforce. Now that female executives are more common, some men are finding ways to make their stay at the top uncomfortable.

Stories shared by some of the study’s participants include a woman who was doused with water by her male colleagues whenever she would wear a white shirt, and a woman who was groped under the table by a powerful client at a business dinner.

These tactics, according to the study, are employed by men as a way to assert their dominance in the workplace. Sex often has little to do with it.

Source: Human Resources Journal, “Study Says The Lust That Drives Sexual Harassment At The Workplace Is Power Not Sex,” Aug. 30, 2012