How Women Can Prevent Sexual Harassment At Work

How Women Can Prevent Sexual Harassment At Work

Doing these three things alone will knock out 90 percent of all sexual misunderstandings at work because the person in power gets knocked off his (or her) pedestal.
Suzanne Venker
By

Since the dawn of the ages, men have been trying to get it on with women. Hundreds of old movies (and new ones!) depict story after story of a woman who acts coy and flirtatious with a man, while the man is left to dissect the meaning of her behavior. Does she want it or doesn’t she? Is she interested or isn’t she?

When men and women share the same space, sex abounds—and it isn’t always easy to read the cues. Each of us takes our sexual energy with us everywhere we go. Just walking down the street, we are sexual beings. Happily married or not, we are sexual beings. The idea that this won’t, or shouldn’t, cause problems at the office is insane.

‘Harassment’ Is a Vague Term

It would be nice, and certainly convenient, if sexual “harassment” were as cut and dried as the Left maintains it is. But harassment is a vague term because it’s so subjective. The actual definition of the word harassment is “aggressive pressure or intimidation.” But what I consider aggressive or intimidating you might not, and vice versa.

The problem with sexual harassment, in the way we use the term today, is that we make no distinction between a person who has been mistreated and a person who has been sexually propositioned. And anyone, male or female, can be sexually propositioned.

It is true that whoever holds the most power has the upper hand—indeed, there are plenty of female bosses who take advantage of their position—but that makes power, not men, the real enemy.

Power is an aphrodisiac and, like alcoholics, some simply cave in its presence. The assumption that women, in particular, are innocent when it comes to their sexual exchanges at work is absurd. Women know exactly what they’re doing when they engage in banter with powerful men. In fact, the irony of the Left insisting that women are strong and empowered while at the same time crying victim at the slightest provocation is more than ironic. It’s downright manipulative.

How Strong Women Prevent Sexual Harassment

Truly strong women in the workplace know how to keep sexual propositions at bay. Here’s how they do it.

They dress appropriately. Yes, there is such a thing as dressing appropriately for the occasion. Would you wear an evening gown to a funeral? How about a church dress at a bar? What you wear speaks volumes about the message you’re trying to convey.

I used to teach high school when I was in my twenties. Because of my youthful look, I went out of my way to dress in a professional manner at all times to be taken seriously and not allow even the possibility that a student would think of me as anything other than a professional. If I had dressed as though I were going to a party, I would have been inviting trouble. The Left calls that “blaming the victim.” The rest of us call it smart.

They don’t flirt. Everyone knows what it means to flirt—at least every woman does. Once again, there’s a time and a place for that. I can be a big flirt! But I would never do it at work unless I liked a guy or was looking for a date. In fact, I did do that back in the day. Never with a superior, though. That’s just stupid.

They nip it in the bud. The very second they’re propositioned in a way that feels sexual or romantic by a superior or a man they’re not interested in, they nip it in the bud. They let the guy know very clearly that they’re not interested. If you respond positively in any way, the other person, whether male or female, will take it as a cue to continue the pursuit. That is the nature of the male-female dance.

Doing these three things alone will knock out 90 percent of all sexual misunderstandings at work because the person in power gets knocked off his (or her) pedestal. If you have done these three things and you still have a problem, then whether or not you’re being harassed will be much clearer. In that case, report it.

Feminists will insist that most women are helpless in such circumstances, but there is no shortage of help for women today. On the contrary, there are folks just waiting in the wings to pounce on those in power.

Sexual Harassment, from 1950s to Today

Back in the day, this would have been more difficult for women to do. Since there weren’t nearly as many women in the workforce, when one or two women were in the office they stood out like a sore thumb. Men who weren’t used to seeing women at work were no doubt ill-equipped to deal with that kind of sexual energy. Also, fighting back against inappropriate behavior, whether it constituted “harassment” or not, was hard.

Yet it was still possible. Let me tell you about my mother. In the 1960s she had moved back to St. Louis after graduating from Radcliffe with an M.B.A., and she worked as a stockbroker for G.H. Walker—an investment and brokerage firm founded by George Herbert Walker, the grandfather and great-grandfather of presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

My mother had moved to this company from one of its competitors because her boss at the other firm was terribly sexist. He’d find her reading The Wall Street Journal and make comments such as, “Now why are you worrying your pretty little head about what’s in there?”

One might assume my mother decried being what we now call “sexually harassed.” She didn’t—and not because she didn’t have a strong enough constitution to do so. She simply quit that job and found another. “People who succeed do not expect every company to reward fairly; they screen for companies that will recognize their contribution,” wrote Warren Farrell, PhD, in “The Myth of Male Power.”

It is not great, and it is not okay, for us to label all sexual innuendo and propositions as harassment.

As it happens, the men at G.H. Walker were thrilled to have my mother on board. My mother always sung the praises of the Bush family for that very reason—she said the men in that family had character. So, lesson learned: Some men are sexist, but most are not.

Fifty years later, women like my mother abound in offices across the land, which makes it easier for a woman to speak up if she feels she has been harassed—and that’s great. But it is not great, and it is not okay, for us to label all sexual innuendo and propositions as harassment.

When men and women spend eight or more hours a day in an office, sex is in the very air they breathe. There’s no way to extricate it from the room. There’s no way to say, “Okay, men, we women are going to join you in the workforce, but at no time are you allowed to think of us as anything other than a man. Just ignore our breasts, our behinds, our perfume and our legs. Ignore the sound of our voices and the softness of our touch.”

That’s impossible! It’s also why smart people conduct themselves in a manner that wards off potential disaster. Remember when Mike Pence got all that flack for saying he doesn’t dine alone with any woman other than his wife? After what was all over the news last week, Pence is looking pretty darn good right now.

Suzanne Venker is an author and cultural critic who writes about relationships, marriage and work-family issues. She has been married to her husband for 18 years, and they have two children. Her fifth book, "The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage: How Love Works," will be published in February 2017. Her website is www.suzannevenker.com.

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