What is considered sexual harassment exactly?

Many people believe that the word "harassment" or "sexual abuse" only refers to serious acts such as rape, heavy kissing,... Most of them say that verbal manipulation, or being naked in front of a woman, is just simply flirting. So what is considered sexual harassment exactly?

Sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination that encompases a wide range of inappropriate sexual actions that can be as small as an inappropriate sexual joke to rape. Source: Internet

Sexual harassment is an unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome request for sexual favours or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which makes a person feel offended, humiliated and/or intimidated, where a reasonable person would anticipate that reaction in the circumstances.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is any person's sexual behavior towards another person at work that is not expected or accepted by that person. Workplace is any place where the employee actually works according to the agreement or assignment of the employer, not only limited to the place where the work is performed such as factories, offices but also includes work-related locations such as business trips, social activities, seminars, training sessions, work-related communication activities and on virtual/online spaces.

What Kind of Behavior is Considered Sexual Harassment?

Verbal Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment is not limited to physical contact. Verbal behavior can be considered sexual harassment. For example, inappropriate sexual jokes that make a coworker uncomfortable can be considered a form of sexual harassment. Additional forms of verbal sexual harassment can include:

  • Sexual comments about an employee’s clothes, hair, complexion, or physique
  • Referring to an adult as a girl, stud, sugar, hunk, doll, babe, honey, or any other unprofessional term of endearment
  • Whistling at catcalls at someone
  • Asking about sexual fantasies, preferences, or history
  • Making sexual comments or innuendos
  • Repeatedly asking out a person who is not interested
  • Turning work discussions to sexual topics
  • Telling sexual jokes or stories
  • Telling lies or spreading rumors about a person’s personal sex life
  • Asking personal questions about social or sexual life
  • Making kissing sounds, howling, and smacking lips
  • Making sexual comments about a person’s clothing, anatomy, or looks

Sometimes the person being harassed may not know at the moment what was happening but does later. Source: Internet

Quid-Pro Quo Harassment

Quid pro quo harassment is the most commonly recognized form of sexual harassment.

Quid-pro quo sexual harassment is an inappropriate use of power and occurs when some type of employment benefit is made or perceived to be contingent on sexual favors in some capacity.

In fact, in the world in general and in Vietnam in particular, this exchange is very common, but many people are not aware of the seriousness of this action affecting work results and business performance.

"Quid pro quo" is not English but Latin, literally translates to "something for something".


Sexual Harassment Through Digital Communication

With the advent of the internet and integration of digital communication into almost every aspect of our lives, sexual harassment as spread into this form of communication as well. Many workplaces require close communication between employees via email or text which can be complicated by sexual harassment.

The professional standards for verbal communication apply to electronic communication as well. Things unique to digital communication such as the ability to send video or link to websites and various forms of media can result in sexual harassment. Links to sexually suggestive websites and videos or pictures of a sexual nature ranging from jokes to full blown pornography can be considered sexual harassment.

Social media can also be a source of sexual harassment where an employee can repeatedly ask an uninterested coworker out or spread lies relating to a coworker’s sexual life. Sometimes this can be even more problematic due to the ability to operate anonymously through certain

Non-Verbal Sexual Harassment

Sometimes non-verbal gestures and behavior can cross the line of professional conduct into sexual harassment. Generally any non verbal behavior that can be seen as being sexual in nature can result in sexual harassment to a coworker that it makes uncomfortable. Things that can be considered non-verbal sexual harassment can include:

  • Giving personal gifts
  • Looking a person up and down
  • Staring at someone
  • Blocking a person’s path
  • Making facial expressions such as winking, throwing kisses, or licking lips
  • Following the person
  • Displaying sexually suggestive visuals
  • Making sexual gestures with hands or through body movements
  • Leaving someone notes with sexual messages or pictures
  • Removal of clothing in front of someone
  • Suggestively touching oneself

Physical Sexual Harassment

Generally, any unwanted physical contact that makes a coworker uncomfortable can potentially be considered sexual harassment. It’s common knowledge that a professional setting has very few instances where physical contact with a coworker is necessary. Handshakes, high fives, first-aid, or a light tap on the shoulder are fairly innocuous and difficult to consider sexual. Massages, hugs, pinching, rubbing, violating someone’s personal space by getting too close, or any other kind of physical contact without a valid nonsexual reason can be considered sexual harassment.

Tu Anh