Is sexually harassing subordinates a sign of fear?

Is sexually harassing subordinates a sign of fear?

However, not all men at the top are harassers. In this study, Halper and Rios set out to understand whether there are specific aspects of a man’s disposition that make him more prone to misusing his power to sexually harass others, which can include attempts to gain sexual favours.

The researchers conducted three different studies using a combination of adults and college students, some of which included only men and some of which included both men and women. In one study, 273 men had to imagine themselves in the powerful position of a male employer who was in a position of power over a female employee or interviewee. These men were asked to indicate whether they would ask for sexual favours in return for securing her a job, a promotion, or some other job-related benefit. Participants also had to answer questions that measured their self-esteem and how narcissistic they were, as well as how important they perceived others’ opinion and criticism of them.

The outcomes of the study support the idea that powerful men are especially inclined to sexually harass others when they worry that they will be perceived as incompetent. Having such a fear was consistently found to predict sexual harassment among men in powerful positions. The same did not hold true for women. These findings corroborate the theory that sexual harassment is in part a byproduct of a person feeling threatened and wanting to maintain his social status.

Source: Men who sexually harass subordinates fear being judged as incompetent


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