One of the most pervasive myths about sexual harassment is that it requires some form of sexual attraction. However, the truth is that people who harass others based on their sexuality or gender don’t necessarily have to have an attraction toward the individual they abuse or even toward the gender of that person.
Confusion about what really constitutes sexual harassment stops many victims from speaking up. Especially in cases where the perpetrator is the same gender as the victim, it may be hard for someone to speak up.
Concerns about their own personal life might keep some people quiet. Speaking up is the only way to protect yourself and other people from enduring the same mistreatment.
Same-sex sexual harassment often doesn’t involve attraction
There are certainly same-sex sexual harassment cases that involve unrequited or even mutual attraction, but there is no requirement for anyone to experience attraction for harassment to occur.
A straight woman can sexually harass another woman, just like a male boss could sexually harass a female subordinate in whom he has no true romantic interest.
There are many ways in which one person might harass another who belongs to the same gender. They might make jokes about that person’s appearance or sexual preferences. They can potentially humiliate that person for failing to live up to certain gender stereotypes.
Harassment might involve spreading rumors about a person’s private life in a manner intended to cause hardship for the victim. It might even make single-gender spaces like bathrooms feel dangerous for the worker targeted by a member of the same sex.
Harassment is largely about the experience of the victim
When you endure abuse in the workplace based on your gender or sexuality, it is you and not the perpetrator who defines what is inappropriate. If something has affected your self-esteem, your work relationships or your job performance, you may need to consider reporting it to management. You have a right to ask that others treat you with dignity and respect at work.
If the company won’t take action, you may need to further stand up for your rights. After all, same-sex sexual harassment that affects your job performance or professional reputation could have a chilling effect on your career progression if left unchecked.