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How Common is Sexual Harassment of Men?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

Determining the commonality of sexual harassment of men can be difficult due to the fact that men are fairly unlikely to report sexual harassment. Research has shown that women are more likely to report sexual harassment than men are, though in general it does seem that women are also the targets of sexual harassment more often than men as well. Sexual harassment of men does occur with some regularity, perpetrated both by other men and by women. Reported cases of such harassment have increased dramatically over time, however, and the amount of harassment incidents reported by men increased greatly between 1992 and 2009.

Sexual harassment of men refers to acts of harassment in which men are the target. This can occur in a number of different environments, though sexual harassment in the workplace is one of the primary forms of sexual harassment men may endure. Both male and female employees can be responsible for sexual harassment of men, and while many depictions of harassment demonstrate managers or those in power as the perpetrators of such actions, it is just as possible for a co-worker to commit sexual harassment. Sexual harassment consists of actions, words, and images that are sexual in nature and are used by one person to make another person feel threatened or unnecessarily distressed.

Women are more commonly the target of sexual harrassment.
Women are more commonly the target of sexual harrassment.

Determining just how common sexual harassment of men is can be fairly difficult, however, since many cases of harassment are never reported. While a great deal of effort during the latter half of the 20th century was put into ensuring women would feel comfortable reporting sexual harassment, men were often unrepresented as potential victims. This has led to many men feeling ashamed or embarrassed to report sexual harassment, though far too many women still feel this way as well. Since only reported cases of sexual harassment of men can be included in any study of such cases, it can therefore be rather difficult to have accurate incident counts.

From those cases of sexual harassment of men that have been reported, however, it would seem that such harassment has either become more common or is more commonly reported. In 1992, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had just over 10,500 reported cases of sexual harassment, and men made up only 9.1% of those cases. By 2010, the EEOC had just over 11,700 reports of sexual harassment, but sexual harassment of men caused more than 16% of those reports. The reason for this increase is difficult to determine, however, since it could represent higher numbers of harassment incidents or an increased willingness to report such incidents, or a combination of both possibilities.

Discussion Comments


@clintflint - I'm not sure if that would count as harassment so much as fraud or something else. I think harassment would be if the female students (or, for that matter, the male students) were saying sexually suggestive or threatening things to the teacher to distress him, rather than framing him so he might lose his job.

I guess this is one reason I think sexual harassment is not quite as common for men (although it definitely exists), because it does require a position of power and for most women that power comes from men simply being bigger and stronger than they are. If a woman catcalls a man on the street he doesn't ordinarily have to worry that she's going to follow him into an alley and assault him. So he doesn't feel any fear unless she becomes more aggressive. The same, supposedly harmless, harassment of women does cause fear and that's what shouldn't be allowed because people have the right to live without fear.


@Mor - Harassment is often committed by people in power against those without it, but it's definitely not the only means by which people can be harassed. A hostile work environment can occur even for people in management if someone else in the workplace is determined to make them miserable.

The example that comes to my mind is one I heard of a few years ago which isn't quite a case of workplace harassment, because it occurred between high school students and a teacher. A particular teacher was not liked by the students (who happened to be female), and they placed pornography on his computer at school in order to get him into trouble. Luckily they weren't very good at covering their tracks and were found out.


The thing is, even if the chances that a man would be harassed by a woman in power over him were equal to the chances of the opposite happening (and I don't believe they are) there are still far more men in leadership positions in companies than there are women. The incidence of the sexual harassment of men is therefore going to be lower than the incidence of the sexual harassment of women, simply because there are more men in a position to harass women.

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    • Women are more commonly the target of sexual harrassment.
      By: Rob
      Women are more commonly the target of sexual harrassment.