Many people assume that sexual harassment takes place because one person is attracted to another, even if this attraction is not returned. A CEO develops a level of attraction for his secretary, and he tries to pursue a relationship with her that she’s not interested in – at least, that’s how the assumption goes.
This may happen in some cases. It’s certainly problematic to speak in absolutes and say that it never happens, but it’s also important to note that attraction is often not part of the equation. Instead, it’s all about power within the workplace structure.
Intimidation and repression
Some researchers have claimed that the goal of sexual harassment is often for the harasser to remind their victim of that person’s own vulnerability.
In the example above, the male CEO is reminding the female secretary that her job is not seen as important and that she could lose that job at any time. He is also showing her that he is the one in power, which he hopes will be intimidating to her. The goal is to repress her position within the company, which the CEO perceives is giving him more power.
As such, sexual harassment is more about intimidation than attraction. It’s about someone using their position to harass another individual and cause psychological trauma. This often keeps the victims in low-wage jobs, breaking down the intended system of corporate progression. In this way, sexual harassment is sometimes used by those who are trying to increase their own standing on that corporate ladder.
Of course, no matter why it happens, sexual harassment is illegal in California. It’s quite important for workers who have been experiencing this to know about all of the legal options they have.