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The Sexual Harassment Industry

Who really benefits from expanding what qualifies as harassment?

by
Helen Smith

Bio

June 6, 2013 - 9:00 am

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Over at Minding the Campus, Peter Wood writes an important article called “Sexual Harassment–The Feds Go Way Too Far”:

The DOJ/OCR Montana letter is a grab for power. To that extent, it is self-explaining. Opposing sexual harassment is a profession and, to some extent, an industry. The self-interest of the people who make their living opposing sexual harassment lies on the side of lower standards of evidence, broader definitions, and minimization of obstacles to new regulations. Regulatory self-aggrandizement is not a mystery, though it is usually mysterious to the regulators themselves who have a level of difficulty in apprehending their own motives akin to that of anorexics attempting to form an accurate picture of their bodies.

But empire building is only part of the story. The Montana letter is a step in the long progression of feminism towards a surveillance society. Fifteen years ago Daphne Patai in her book Heterophobia: Sexual Harassment and the Future of Feminism diagnosed feminism’s effort to write “a new chapter in the dystopian tradition of surveillance and unfreedom.” Patai saw the coming emphasis on “transparency, whereby one’s every gesture, every thought, is exposed to the judgment of one’s fellow citizens.” OCR is of course far from this level of intrusiveness, but not in spirit.

*****

Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

Image courtesy shutterstock / Camilo Torres

Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee, and blogs at Dr. Helen.

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Top Rated Comments   
If she is uninterested in him, it is. If she thinks he's cute, it isn't. Unless later on (days, weeks), she discovers he's a jerk, then it is. Unless her friends still thinks he's a hunk and she's lucky he's interested, then it isn't.
1 year ago
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Wait - a guy named "Peter Wood" is writing about sexual harassment?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Lawyers. You don't even have to read the article to know that.
1 year ago
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In other words, sexual harassment is completely subjective and based only on the whims and caprice of the accuser. There is no objective component at all. Craziness. I'm glad I don't have a son heading off to university.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In twenty-odd years of employee relations I found the difference between an office romance and sexual harassment was usually whether or not she got the perk or promotion. I've seen true quid pro quo harassment, but in that span I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times. Disparate treatment/disparate impact is usually a sham but whether or not it is successful depends on who has the best lawyers. Medium size businesses are meat for the plaintiffs' bar; they have enough money to be worth a lawsuit but don't have the HR/LR and legal resources of a large business or government. A big problem with the larger entities is their settleing to avoid bad publicity or facing a jury. I know that if I could settle in the six figure range, I usually would to avoid facing 12 morons with drivers' licenses.
1 year ago
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