There are certainly cases in which sexual harassment does have to do with an attraction between the two parties – or at least a one-way attraction. For example, a CEO may be attracted to his secretary and make inappropriate comments based on that.
But, in a lot of cases, attraction has almost nothing to do with it. People will sometimes claim that they weren’t harassing an employee because they don’t feel any physical attraction toward them, but this is not an excuse. Harassment certainly happens anyway. But why does it happen?
It is often about power
In many situations, the issue is really about power. The individual who is being harassed is usually in a lower position of power, while the person who is harassing them holds some sort of influence over them.
In the example above, the CEO may still harass the secretary even if they don’t actually want any sort of relationship with them. The CEO may just see this as a way to demonstrate their position of power at the company. This may make them feel like they are in charge and that they can treat people any way that they want.
Naturally, this is also the reason for a lot of other types of harassment. It may not even be sexual nature. Many people face workplace bullying, for instance, because of power dynamics. Others find themselves discriminated against or harassed because of their religion or their race. But, at the heart of all these instances, you will often find that there is a major difference in the perceived level of power or influence that the individuals have.
Of course, none of this makes it right, so make sure that you know exactly what options you have if you’re facing harassment or discrimination at work.