Sex harassment - now the men are victims

By Rebecca Urban
September 30, 2004

Forget the desk calendar featuring buxom beauties or the ogling boss who struggles to keep his hands off his young secretary, a new survey has found that men - rather than women - are more likely to attract unwanted sexual attention at work.

A survey carried out by researchers from the University of New England in NSW has debunked the view that women are more frequently the victims of sexual harassment at work.

It revealed that men were more likely to experience low-level sexual harassment, with many respondents reporting that they had been the butt of sexist jokes and inappropriate comments about their appearances during the past 12 months. It also found that men who experienced harassment were more likely than women to suffer psychological damage, neglect their duties or consider quitting.

"For the past several decades there's been a growing level of awareness that it's not appropriate to treat women in a particular way in the workforce," said the survey's author, Don Hine. "Our research highlights that sexual harassment is not something that just happens to women. Men can be victims too."

The survey, to be unveiled at the 39th Australian Psychological Society Conference in Sydney on Saturday, involved 324 adults across a range of workplaces.

The participants were asked to respond to questions about whether they had experienced certain behaviours from a work colleague over the past 12 months, such as gender-specific jokes, continual requests for a romantic relationship or the promise of workplace rewards for sexual behaviours.

The survey found 83 per cent of respondents, male and female, said they had experienced low-level sexual harassment such as gender-specific jokes, 58 per cent had experienced mid-level harassment such as unwanted sexual attention, while 3 per cent had suffered severe harassment.