Sexual harassment is about power | The Guardian

Sexual harassment uses the erotic to conceal what it really is: bullying. I don’t deny that bullying may be erotic for the bully, and that sex as bullying might be even more exciting. But why should we who are trying to solve the problem concede that sexual harassment is sex?

What’s confusing about banning sex in the workplace is that erotic feelings, when experienced reciprocally, are a source of great pleasure. Thus, the idea that sex should, or could, be banned from our professional lives seems arbitrary and impossible. But we can ban bullying and sexual violence that is part of the bully’s toolbox.

Why do I think sexual harassment is bullying? Well, show me a sexual harasser and I’ll show you a bully who likes to make everybody squirm. Harvey Weinstein, the founding father of the #MeToo moment, was a well-known bully before he was accused of being a sexual harasser.

Noteworthy in his own world for widespread cruelty and violence, he was a screamer, and used his size, influence and explosive rages to intimidate both men and women. Weinstein publicly assaulted at least one person who crossed him, a man who attempted to intervene during a verbal tirade aimed at the reporter Rebecca Traister. He also bullied people with money, using his immense wealth to create a web of legal restraints designed to silence critics and potential truth-tellers inside and outside his company.

Submission to bullies, as anyone who went to high school in the United States knows, not only allows but encourages the bully to continue. Therefore, organizations must create conditions whereby not submitting to the bully is a viable option. Confidential reporting, shifting a bullied worker to another office in the company, and putting the bully on leave for retraining and therapy are all possibilities for a company that cares about its culture.

For the rest of this opinion piece, which was published in The Guardian on February 10, 2018, click here.

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