We often forget to talk about the sexual harassment of men when we’re discussing gender problems and other social issues. While it is imperative to make society safer for women, there is also a large percentage of men sexually harassed in today’s world.
This is part of our ongoing series which aims at seeing sexual harassment and assault from all angles, without gender stereotypes. While men continue to be portrayed as sexual predators and oppressors in a partnership, marriage or relationship, we need to open our eyes to the reality that society has changed, and the issue of harassment is not just restricted to women.
Men Being Sexually Harassed
Finding it to be too embarrassing to speak about, the men being sexually harassed today, never come out and voice their experiences and struggles. Whether it is in the workplace or even at home, men today are not as secure as we assume. They may be physically stronger, but sometimes even that’s not enough.
Sexual harassment of men at work is nothing new, but we are surprised to hear of it because of the lack of conversation around it. Whatever the reason, we can’t deny the fact anymore- a female harassing a male does happen in our world today.
Men at work
We go into the glitzy corporate boardrooms where more women are occupying leadership positions and seats of power. Can a woman in a powerful position sexually and emotionally harass a man reporting to her?
Yes, it happens frequently in the global corporate atmosphere. You may ask around and I’m sure we will discover plenty of cases where a man will complain about his female boss sexually and emotionally harassing him.
What is the difference between a man harassing a woman employee and a woman harassing a male employee
In many countries, the woman is protected by law, at least on paper, while a man may not have similar protection despite also facing emotional and sexual harassment.
Related Reading: Female Body Language At The Workplace- A Do’s And Dont’s Guide
No law against it
In India, sexual harassment laws pertain exclusively to women. There is no such law that protects men. There is no available guideline about what should be done when a woman harasses a man in office. Is there any recourse for the man other than leaving the job quietly with his head hung? None.
This is again another example where laws are skewed and specify that men, as the ‘stronger’ gender, can never fall prey to sexual harassment. The traditional gender roles have become redundant today and these need to reflect in our laws too. Let me give you three examples of sexual harassment by a female boss (all narrated by my close friends and where the bosses were women).
The names in the following cases have been changed to protect identity.
Pam used to jokingly call Adam ‘an easy score’ in front in front of her team. Example: “Where is the that easy score. Ask him to come my cabin now.” It was embarrassing for not only Adam, but everyone else in the team too.
One day, Adam could take it no more and told his boss that he didn’t like being called by that name. Within six months Adam lost his job for bad performance after his boss sent out 13 emails to HR about his insubordination and casual attitude towards work. She kept on calling him a ‘an easy score’ even in official meetings all this while.
In an office party, Nick’s boss asked him to drink and dance with her. Nick was in the IT services sector and hailed from a conservative Catholic family. He was educated in a very enclosed community, and was married with three children. Nick felt awkward being in office parties, let alone dancing.
When he refused to dance with his drunk boss, she didn’t take it too kindly, as the ‘rejection’ became some sort of a joke inside the office, as if she had been framed of dating a coworker. Nick was fired from his job for not being a team player within a month of the incident.
This wasn’t the only case of sexual harassment of men in this office. But after Nick’s unfortunate plight, no one dared to complain about the bosses in the workplace.
Sia and her husband worked in the same department. Sia and her boss didn’t share a cordial relationship and Shefali was tipped to be the next vertical manager (of a different vertical). Sia’s boss started harassing her husband to teach Shefali a lesson.
She would frequently sit close, body contacting him while casually checking out an artwork. On some days, she would casually put her arm around his shoulders or hug him for no apparent reason. Sia reported the behavior to HR and within three months of the incident, her husband was without a job.
Her husband was accused of sexually harassing his boss. Yes, when HR asked the boss, she lied about the whole incident and created a story of her own. When they tried to fight and sue the company, the research showed the the percentage of men sexually harassed on an annual basis, and they knew they lost the case without even fighting it.
Do you think the above three incidents fall into the category of a female harassing male? All the three above employees were fired from their jobs and in the third case the employee was not even given an honorable discharge.
Sexual harassment of men by female bosses in the corporate scenario is obviously a bleak reality. There are lots of senior women who harass their male subordinates, but it’s rare that the survivors come forward.
The incidents are many but there is no solution. We must acknowledge that crime cannot be gender specific – people of all genders are capable of harassment and the victim may be a man too ashamed or afraid to lose his job to speak out.
Do we need gender-neutral laws for sexual harassment? Let us know in the comments.
Researchers have found that at least 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual abuse or assault, whether in childhood or as adults. And this is probably a low estimate, since it doesn’t include noncontact experiences, which can also have lasting negative effects
More common than we think. We know of women being sexually harassed at work, but the percentage of men being sexually assaulted by female bosses is much higher than we know.
Not in the case of men. Men have barely any protection against sexual harassment, both socially and legally.