Sexual harassment is a major topic of discussion these days. The news seems to have new allegations of misconduct by a different media or political figure each day.
There’s no doubt that what Harvey Weinstein is accused of doing is criminal, and the same is true of almost every other person under the microscope at the moment.
However, as the rest of us try to navigate the waters, exactly what constitutes the lesser charge of “harassment” is more difficult to define. Of course masturbating in front of a woman against her will is wrong, but other behaviors may be judgment calls.
The Economist reports on a poll where people were asked if certain behaviors are sexual harassment or not:
During the past month YouGov, a pollster, surveyed people in five Western countries about whether a series of behaviours by men towards women constitute sexual harassment. The questions ranged from actions that are often innocuous, such as asking to go for a drink, to overt demands for sex.
There was a wide disparity of opinions. Nearly everyone agreed that asking for a sexual favor was out of line, but beyond that things got a little more interesting.
Alarmingly, well above 25 percent of people aged 18-30 thought that simply complimenting someone on their appearance is sexual harassment.
That’s a sign that things are getting out of hand.
While there’s a reasonable argument to be made that “lookin’ good, hot stuff!” is out of line, there’s no excuse for “you look nice” to be thought unacceptable.
The survey even found that almost a quarter of 18-30 males think that asking a woman out for a drink is sexual harassment. Literally just asking someone out for a date.
I think we can all agree that sexual harassment is a problem, but when even the most innocuous behavior is considered a potential crime, it cheapens the term. It belittles real victims of assault or rape.
People who hear the phrase “sexual harassment” and picture a polite request rather than Louis CK are going to have a tough go of it out in society.