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How Common Is Sexual Harassment of Men?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2014
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Determining the commonality of sexual harassment of men can be difficult due to the fact that men are fairly unlikely to report sexual harassment. Research has shown that women are more likely to report sexual harassment than men are, though in general it does seem that women are also the targets of sexual harassment more often than men as well. Sexual harassment of men does occur with some regularity, perpetrated both by other men and by women. Reported cases of such harassment have increased dramatically over time, however, and the amount of harassment incidents reported by men increased greatly between 1992 and 2009.

Sexual harassment of men refers to acts of harassment in which men are the target. This can occur in a number of different environments, though sexual harassment in the workplace is one of the primary forms of sexual harassment men may endure. Both male and female employees can be responsible for sexual harassment of men, and while many depictions of harassment demonstrate managers or those in power as the perpetrators of such actions, it is just as possible for a co-worker to commit sexual harassment. Sexual harassment consists of actions, words, and images that are sexual in nature and are used by one person to make another person feel threatened or unnecessarily distressed.

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Determining just how common sexual harassment of men is can be fairly difficult, however, since many cases of harassment are never reported. While a great deal of effort during the latter half of the 20th century was put into ensuring women would feel comfortable reporting sexual harassment, men were often unrepresented as potential victims. This has led to many men feeling ashamed or embarrassed to report sexual harassment, though far too many women still feel this way as well. Since only reported cases of sexual harassment of men can be included in any study of such cases, it can therefore be rather difficult to have accurate incident counts.

From those cases of sexual harassment of men that have been reported, however, it would seem that such harassment has either become more common or is more commonly reported. In 1992, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had just over 10,500 reported cases of sexual harassment, and men made up only 9.1% of those cases. By 2010, the EEOC had just over 11,700 reports of sexual harassment, but sexual harassment of men caused more than 16% of those reports. The reason for this increase is difficult to determine, however, since it could represent higher numbers of harassment incidents or an increased willingness to report such incidents, or a combination of both possibilities.

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