Thinking about Sexual Harassment: A Guide for the Perplexed

By Margaret A. Crouch | Go to book overview

6
LEGAL ISSUES

In this chapter, I shall address several issues in sexual harassment law that are controversial and that help to explain some of the controversy surrounding sexual harassment in general. The issues, to be addressed consecutively, are (1) whether sexual harassment should be considered sex discrimination under Title VII, (2) whether the so-called reasonable woman standard should be adopted (3) whether same-sex harassment is sex discrimination, and (4) whether other forms of harassment should be conceptualized in the same way as sexual harassment.


Sexual Harassment and the Law

As I have emphasized throughout this work, the concept of sexual harassment has been developed on the assumption that it should be illegal. This is why, from the start, sexual harassment was conceived as a legal wrong--either extortion, or sex discrimination, or an invasion of the right to privacy It is important to recognize, however, that a definition of sexual harassment need not entail its illegality. Even if one agrees that some or all of the behaviors that have been designated sexual harassment are morally wrong or cause inequality, it does not follow that they should be considered legally wrong. One might hold that some of the behaviors should be illegal, but not all. If what is desired is the cessation of such behaviors, then we must consider whether the instrument of the law is the best means to this end.

Ours is a liberal society, in the sense that our governmental institutions are based on liberal political theory. Liberal theory values liberty, or freedom, first. In our society, this is often seen in terms of a right to do what we desire unless what we are doing harms others. The idea that our behavior can justifiably be proscribed if it harms others has been called "the harm principle."

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Thinking about Sexual Harassment: A Guide for the Perplexed
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • 1 - Introduction 3
  • Part I - The History of Sexual Harassment 23
  • 2 - The Conception of Sexual Harassment 25
  • 3 - The Legal Conception of Sexual Harassment 37
  • 4 - Sexual Harassment and Empirical Research 101
  • Part II - Theoretical Issues 139
  • 5 - Philosophical Conceptions of Sexual Harassment 173
  • 6 - Legal Issues 175
  • 7 - Conclusion 221
  • Notes 233
  • Bibliography 295
  • Index 309
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