NCBI Bookshelf. This chapter reviews the information gathered through decades of sexual harassment research. It provides definitions of key terms that will be used throughout the report, establishing a common framework from the research literature and the law for discussing these issues. In reviewing what sexual harassment research has learned over time, the chapter also examines the research methods for studying sexual harassment and the appropriate methods for conducting this research in a reliable way. The chapter provides information on the prevalence of sexual harassment and common characteristics of how sexual harassment is perpetrated and experienced across lines of industry, occupation, and social class. It concludes with common characteristics of environments where sexual harassment is more likely to occur.
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Sexual harassment is a type of harassment involving the use of explicit or implicit sexual overtones, including the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors. Harassers or victims may be of any gender. In most modern legal contexts, sexual harassment is illegal. Laws surrounding sexual harassment generally do not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or minor isolated incidents—that is due to the fact that they do not impose a "general civility code.
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Women and men from all walks of life experience sexual harassment at work. In particular, too little research has focused on gender differences in sexual harassment charges, and how gender may play a role in where claims arise and who is targeted. A deeper understanding of the different experiences of women and men and the role of gender in the occurrence of sexual harassment may help pinpoint specific problems and areas where targeted interventions are most needed. The public discourse often discusses sexual harassment as a problem that primarily confronts women.
Causes of Sexual Harassment. In order to understand why women endure the vast majority of sexual harassment, it is important to look at some of the underlying causes of this phenomenon. Violence and Male Self-Perception. The relationship between the sexes in many countries around the world includes a considerable amount of violence against women. Data about the United States, for example, indicate that one out of every ten women are raped or sexually assaulted during their lives, while more than half of all women living with men have experienced a battering or similar incident of domestic violence.