Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Sexual Harassment and Demographic Diversity: Implications for Organizational Punishment

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Sexual Harassment and Demographic Diversity: Implications for Organizational Punishment

Article excerpt

Sexual harassment has come to the forefront in the past two decades as an issue that warrants greater attention both in terms of social policy reform and academic research. Although sexual harassment has been found to negatively impact job satisfaction, somatic complaints, and supervisor satisfaction, little is known about the specific way in which changing demography in managerial ranks impacts the way in which harassment is perceived. As women continue to advance into managerial ranks, a closer examination of both supervisor and subordinate gender with regard to harassment consequences is warranted. In this research, we examine with a sample of 130 municipal court clerks whether gender impacts harasser punishment, the degree to which harassers are considered responsible for harassment, and the degree to which the harassment is perceived as serious. The design is a 2x2x2 factorial, with independent variables of harasser (male/female), harassee (male/female), and harassment type (quid pro quo, hostile environment). Contrary to what was hypothesized, men who harassed women were viewed more responsible for the harassment than men who harassed men, while a corresponding difference did not occur for women. Similarly, sexual harassment was viewed most seriously when men harassed women. When it came to administering punishment, however, women who harassed men were given more stringent punishment, providing support for views held by society regarding the appropriateness of men's and women's sexual behavior. Results are discussed with regard to status incongruency theory, societal views, and media attention.

"Sugar and spice and everything nice" is a well-worn verse from a familiar nursery rhyme. Like so many fables, fairy tales, and children's stories, it is representative of basic beliefs and values held by members of the respective belief system. Similarly, traditional concepts of men and masculinity (many of which date back centuries) are rooted deep in the history of the United States. (1) To the ancient Greeks, pursuit of sexual gratification was considered natural, virtuous, and important for the establishment of manhood: Zeus, the chief deity, was known for his love of rape and adultery. (2) The double standard regarding sexual behavior present in mythology and in many patriarchal cultures persists today in Western societies. (3) Indeed, there appears to be a cultural contradiction, "... which originates in the desire of men to ensure promiscuity for themselves and chastity for women." (4) The traditional concept of masculinity states that men are strong, powerful, and aggressive, while women by contrast are weak and submissive. Additionally, the dominant Judo-Christian culture subtly if not openly suggests that women should remain chaste until marriage. Many of these notions about sexuality are now formalized into beliefs and standards, some of which have spilled over into the workplace.

It is the purpose of this research to describe existing stereotypes of men and women with regard to sexual behavior, and to explore how these stereotypes impact punishment for sexual harassment at work. In the following section, we further expand on explanations of current stereotypes regarding appropriateness of men's and women's sexuality and implications for organizational punishment.

Literature Review

Victorian sexologists have described women as "sexless," (5) a description reinforced by the Scottish reformatory movement (1832-1874) that emphasized the "maidenly reserve and modesty" required of women)"For girls and women, sexual practices were the key markers of their status, in the same way that criminal activity marked boys ... Although precocious or excessive heterosexual activity was not condoned for boys, it was never condemned in the way that it was for girls." (7) Sexually transgressive women in Ireland are demonized and labeled as "exotic," part of a strategy to demean and demoralize sexually liberated women who do not conform to the stereotype of virgins or chaste mothers. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.