Sexual Harassment-and Worse: Sexual harassment —unwelcome sexual attention at work or at school, which may affect a person’s job or school performance or create a hostile environment—was not recognized as a problem until the 1970s. Before this, women considered unwanted sexual comments, touches, looks, and pressure to have sex to be a personal matter. With the 6
prodding of feminists, women began to perceive unwanted sexual advances at work and school as part of a structural problem. That is, they began to realize that the issue was more than a man here or there doing obnoxious things because he was attracted to a woman; rather, men were using their positions of authority to pressure women to have sex. As symbolic interactionists stress, labels affect our perception. Because we have the term sexual harassment , we perceive actions in a different light than did our predecessors. The meaning of sexual harassment is vague and shifting, however, and a court case constantly changes what this term does and does not include (Anderson 2006). Originally, sexual desire was an element of sexual harassment, but no longer. This changed when the U.S. Supreme Court considered the lawsuit of a homosexual who had been tormented by his supervisors and fellow workers. The Court ruled that sexual desire is not necessary— that sexual harassment laws also apply to homosexuals who are harassed by heterosexuals while on the job (Felsenthal 1998). By extension, the law applies to heterosexuals who are sexually harassed by homosexuals. Violence against Women: Around the world, one of the consistent characteristics of violence is its gender inequality. That is, females are more likely to be the victims of males, not the other way around. Forcible Rape o Being raped is a common fear of U.S. women, a fear that is far from groundless. The U.S. rape rate is 0.59 per 1,000 females ( Statistical Abstract . If we exclude those who are the least likely to be rape victims, the very young and women over 50, the rate comes to about 1 per 1,000. This means that 1 of every 1,000 U.S. girls and women between the ages of 12 and 50 are raped each year . Despite this high number, women are safer now than they were ten and twenty years ago, as the rape rate has declined. o Women’s most common fear seems to be that of strangers—who, appearing as though from nowhere, abducts and beat and rape them. Contrary to the stereotypes that underlie these fears, most victims know their attacker. About one of three rapes is committed by strangers. o Males are also victims of rape, which is every bit as devastating for them as it is for female victims (Abdullah-Khan 2008). The rape of males in prison is a special problem, sometimes tolerated by prison guards, at times even encouraged as punishment for prisoners who have given them problems (Donaldson 1993; Lewin 2001b).
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