Sexual Harassment Sociology Essay


Sexual Harassment Sociology Essay

1. Sexual harassment, stalking, and sexual abuse are forms of violence, assault and harassment that are committed to woman. However, that is their main point of convergence. Each affects different age ranges, and some even have a more equal occurrence to men and women. Nonetheless, most of these issues are new the research on criminality and as a result have several limitations.

Official Data

Criminal Harassment / Stalking according to official statistics as well as victimization data from the U.S. indicates that this is an over-whelming woman crime, as they are 80% of the victims (Lecture, March 16th 2006). Of those that are stalked over half are stalked by former partner, while one-quarter are stalked by causal acquaintances (Lecture, March 16, 2006). However, for male victims the opposite is likely to be an accurate representation of their victimization. They are more likely to be stalk by causal acquaintances than by any other form of relationship (Lecture, March 16, 2006). However, this data has its limitations as stalking just recently reached criminal status in 1993 and the research that is being conducted is new and limited. It is also limited because it is victimization data which relies on the testimony of the victim putting the onus on the victim rather than the stocker (Lecture, March 16, 2006). However, it also assumes that the victim is aware of the harassment that she is enduring. This is inaccurate as some stalkers can be stealth and there maybe evidence of stalking after a more severe crime has happen. Therefore, it will not appear as victimization date or official statistics, as official statistics will no report it and over-look it because of its occurrence during another crime and victims are not classified as such because they were unaware that it was happening. Also official statistics and victimization data can also be gendered due to their masculine as their ideals might prevent them from coming forth and report themselves as victims to stalking as it reduces their masculinity and ability to control woman. This form of harassment and data take on a compulsory heterosexuality as stalking is predicated on the idea of desire for that which is unreachable. Therefore, there is an underlying assumption that that desire has to be between a man and a female, therefore there is no data indicating what patterns are formed between same-sex relationships.

Consistent with the findings in stalking sexual harassment tends to be woman victimization and most are immediate relatives (Lecture, March 20th 2006). One pattern however, that is not present within stalking is the age bracket. About 60% tend to be concentrated around the younger ages, which mean that victimization happens less than 18 years of age (Lecture, March 20th 2006). However, this form of official statistics are limiting because it does not give us the context for the assaults only the relationship and demographic information. (Lecture, January 12 2006). This is important in understanding the form of victimization. For example, perhaps more adults are victimized with drugs (such as date rape drugs etc.) as opposed to force. This is important within the discussion of policy implementation as this needs to be taken into account. However, victimization data reveals that 90% of all sexual assault cases go under reported (Lecture, March 20 2006) this contradicts the idea that more severe crimes tend to be more accurate according to official data (Lecture, January 12 2006). It also shows that perhaps the patterns revealed by official data are not representative of the population and should be used with caution within research and policy construction.

However, sexual harassment according to official statistics fails to fall into the same patterns as stalking and sexual assault. This is because it is something that is more widely experienced by woman as over 40% of woman experience sexual harassment (Lecture, March 122006). Equally important to note is that it is not just a biological problem in the sense that it is not just that if you are born a woman you are harassed but it is also extended to men who exhibit feminine characteristics (Lecture, March 122006). It is also inconsistent with the demographics in terms of age. As you get older past your 20's you are more susceptible to harassment (Lecture, March 122006). As well, it is more heavily present within specific occupations especially in heavily male-oriented jobs (Lecture, March 122006). However, most of the data that is gathered on sexual harassment concentrates on victimization data as sexual harassment is under-represented because of the ambiguity of the concept (Marshall, 2003) What is important to note is that sexual harassment and data gathered on sexual harassment shows that the behavior is constituted on compulsory heterosexuality, as men who take on feminine roles are also harassed.

Theoretical Perspective

The theory that was discussed in class which was used to discuss stalking was the theory used within the study by Bonnie Fisher, Francis Cullen and Michael Turner. The theory that they discussed was Rational Choice Theory and Life Style Routine Activity Theory. Rational Choice Theory has its basis in socio-psychological as well as economic theory. It questions how people assess decisions and the risk to making those decisions. It applies to the assessment of risk by the victims in the ways that they try to be unreachable by their stalker (Lecture, March 16th 2006). Life Style Routine Activity Theory has its emphasize on individuals in a cohort or demographic that are likely to be victims (Lecture, March 16th 2006). In this case it is woman who are in University, ages 20-21, that lacks supervision (therefore, protection) and they keep a constant routine in their lives and travel within risky environments such as bars, which result in a higher propensity to stalking (Lecture, March 16th 2006). However, once again the onus is put on the victim as the source of the problem especially within Life Style Activity. However, Rational Choice theory has several problems and that is that it assumes the individuals agency (Lecture, March 16th 2006), especially the idea that people can find ways to avoid a stalker maybe especially difficult for some who are constrained by economics, ability and geography. Therefore, rational choice is limiting because the onus is put on the victim however, the victim is only considered as a rational being and therefore there is an ignorance of social elements that limit the decision that is being made by those victims. Rational Choice Theory also assumes that the victims are aware of the situation at hand and base their life choices on that situation. Therefore, if there is a lack of awareness of the stalker there is also a lack of awareness about a way to avoid them. Rational Choice Theory is limiting as it assumes that everyone who is being stocked is on a level playing field and therefore there is room for comparison about their reactions to that situation.

Social movement theory removes the onus from the individual and place more emphasis on the community. This theory has been an innovative way to understand sexual harassment. It has revealed the ways that social movements can give a name to issues that were not considered issues before and can organize discontent (Marshall, 2003:660). In unison with this perspective there must also be an application of legal conscious theory as they compliment each other. This is especially true for liberal feminist who are activist and believe that in order for there to be social reform there must be institutional reforms (Lecture, February 02, 06) which is achieved through social movements. This is particularly important because of the ambiguity of the concepts of sexual harassment therefore these movements and legal definitions provide woman with a more objective definition in order to interpret and understand whether their experience are harmful and can label sexual harassment (Marshall, 2003). Therefore, legality becomes this form of objectivity, as it is viewed within a discourse of impartial opinions therefore allowing people to create their own legal opinions (Marshall, 2003:662). Social movements attribute blame to outside forces, such as the legal or corporate realm of society because the underlying assumption is that the personal is political (Marshall, 2003: 663) Which is what makes this theory so enlightening to issues of sexual harassment, sexual assault and stalking is that it fails to “attribute responsibility to the individual for injuries to the individual” in order to avoid the demobilization and lumping together of people with the same problem(Marshall, 2003:663). However, what is limiting about this problem is that it ignores demographic information that might limit people's access to such resources. Economics and education are two key factors in understanding the law as well as having access to it through literature. Economics is also crucial for the understanding of social movements as their implication is for people who are not restrained by the need to work and is predicated on the involvement of people who have leisure time which excludes people like single mothers. Despite this social movement theory and legal conscious theory allow for more responsibility at a communal level and less at an individual level, which is necessary for social reform.

Policy Implementation and Suggestion

Data shows that victims that are stalked have two trends, the first being most of them confide in other people when they were being stalked so the friend or the family member would intervene, and the second was, that stalking stops within 1 to 2 yrs as a result of some form of adjustment by the stalker or the victim. Policy currently has only looked at what makes the victim the trigger but has ignored ways in which to avoid and empower victimization and hold the stalker responsible. One recommendation made by Bonnie Fisher, Francis Cullen and Michael Turner's research is that, policy and research need to look at innovative strategies (ex: seminars, and brochures) to deter stalking and also providing additional guardianships and protection such as (ex: blue lights and walk-home programs) residence managers who will confront the offender to tell him/ her that it is wrong including some form of authority which would intervene and this may lead to shaming or re-integrating the offender (Lecture, March 16th 2006). However, I think that policy needs to be extended beyond the victim changing her life. It needs to include a forum to hold the stalker responsible. Since, victims tend to confide in a person for help perhaps some form of snitch line needs to be implemented where there is a service to help people deal and contact and authority.

Similar to stalking sexual assault is often reported to a friend or a confident (Lecture, March 20th 2006). However, more of an effort has been made to accommodate for this form of reporting within the community. Some have attributed shelters and movements which have made support networks for woman so that they feel comfortable in talking and reporting the situation for the decline in the 1980's of sexual assault being on the decline. Perhaps this is an indication that the same forms of policy need to be implemented for victims of stalking. Regardless of this however a large amount of cases go unreported due to a sense that the police would be ineffective or the courts would let them down (Lecture, March 20th 2006). Perhaps the media should get involved. As discussed in prior research media has a coercive affect in bringing focus to criminal issues (Lecture January 12 2006) although our discussion focused on the problems of media attention. Perhaps one could use their power to create a sense of trust for victims of sexual assault by reporting ways in which the police are being affective.

Like, assault and stalking a good support network needs to be created in order to eliminate sexual harassment. Sexual harassment policies has heavily concentrated on issues of disclosure creating an environment that is more comfortable for woman to be able to communicate sexual harassment (Lecture, March 122006). However, what has been negated by policy is education on where friendly banter begins and where sexual harassment starts. Also education an options beyond going to Human Resources especially since there are serious repercussions for, placing those allegations, on your professional career. This is also important for adolescents who are often employed and supervised by franchise owners who may be the people doing the harassing and there is no alternative but to quite or be harassed. I think that it is also important and often ignore within the literature to look at exterior pressures, such as family pressure by teenagers and economic pressure like paying the bills that maintain people within a silent situation and therefore do not report the harassment.

As is visible within this discussion there are several themes that make research and policy limiting. As a result of these issues being recent to criminal studies many have not fully developed beyond victimization and official statistics, and allowed for a more in-depth analysis of the context from which they are committed. Secondly these forms of abuse on woman automatically are conceptualized within the hetero-sexist norm. Thirdly, most of them assume that a victim is knowledgeable about the issue. That is victims may not be able to label the act that has taken place =because of a lack of education, or the private realm and the invisibility of the outside world limits the victims acknowledgement of the situation.

2. Domestic violence has been heavily problematized within the media as an issue that should be dealt with by feminist organizations. This is because they assume that it is women who are being abuse. However, statistics have demonstrated that the amount, length and intensity of abuse may not be as clearly gendered as one would think. This paper attempts to outline the data that is consistent with this claim, however, with the acknowledgement of the contributions that have been made by feminist, not only within the theoretical realm, but also within the material society.


Most data collected about domestic violence differs in their definition which alters their findings on domestic violence. One thing that is certain is that police data under-estimates domestic violence (Lecture, March 09 2006). This has partly to do with the fact that their definition is broader then most, as it includes harassment and threat of death (Lecture, March 09 2006). However, it tends to be the trend that the most serious offences are used or present within these data sets (Lecture, March 09 2006). There is also an under-representation of harassment as a result (Lecture, March 09 2006). It seems that 69% and 80% of charges are laid when men are the victims versus woman (Lecture, March 09 2006). There is also an under-representation of domestic violence because it is under reported crime, often times it is due to the over-whelming amounts of shame and guilt that the victims feel as a result of the assault (Lecture, March 09 2006). This type of data however would be useful in representing the gender division within more serious crimes, in order to understand if there is a correlation between intensity of the crime and gender. Police data is also important when it is used in unison with victimization data as it also allows us to understand if certain genders are under-reporting and perhaps why this may be the case. One aspect that this data is not inclusive of however, is that it has no context for the incident therefore it is limiting in understanding the role that gender plays within the evolution of the incident, such as who hit first, was their an instigator etc. Most importantly by ignoring the context of the situation it ignores issues of substance abuse which have often been correlated with domestic violence, and the relationship that this form of behavior has on gender as well as the family dynamic.

However, this definition is completely different then the way that social workers' define violence as they rely on the measurement of injury rather than the act itself (Lecture, March 09 2006). Therefore, their definition would not include issues like harassment and death threats which are included within the police data. This results in an under-estimation of domestic violence as only 3% of children and 5% of woman are very seriously injured for it to be visible or warrant medical attention (Lecture, March 09 2006). Although there is an under-representation within these forms of reports there tends to be a focus on context and information that may not be available in police reports. It allows research to see beyond statistics but it also allow for information of gender relations within the home. However, this perspective is limited as intention and acts that do not constituted physical harm are not included. For example, forms of harm, like psychological harm are not included as pre-requisites of abuse, or constitute abuse itself.

Another source of data that differs in the ways that domestic violence has been conceptualized is the “Conflict Tactic Scale” (McMillian and Gartner, 1999). As domestic problem is seen as a method that is employed by others to resolve their problems where there are different “opinions, expectations and desires” (McMillian and Gartner, 1999). Violence becomes seen as being inevitable as long as their in conflict within the relationship as this is a form of conflict resolution. This form of scale is problematic because condones such behavior. However, it has the possibility to reveal some interesting data which goes beyond a relationship as one gender imposing control over another. It also can show the ways in which one gender is better able to perhaps resolve conflicts, which have serious consequences for policy researchers, especially if conflict resolution classes can improve rates of domestic violence.

The last source of data that has a unique definition of family violence which explains the involvement of man and woman in different ways is feminist theory. Feminists' define violence according to domestic violence within heterosexual couples, and it occurring because of a power asymmetry within the relationship as well as the idea of entitlement (McMillian and Gartner, 1999). This is predicated on the idea of patriarchy and the institution of marriage having particular expectations that need to be met according to your gender role. When that gender role is not fulfilled due to not acting appropriately you are reprimanded through the use of violence (McMillian and Gartner, 1999). What is more interesting is that feminist tradition tends to use the methodology of in-depth interviews (Lecture, February 02/07 2006). This methodology is unique to the rest as it allows for more of a subjective experience which can result in empowerment of both the victim and law reform (Lecture, February 02/07 2006). This is particularly important more because it includes the victims' perspective beyond a defined category of, what it means to be a victim of domestic violence, but also the impact and the resolutions that are put forward by the victims.


Feminism claims that gender is the center organization factor of all social life (Lecture, February 02/07 2006). For feminist gender is socially constructed which means that it is constantly being negotiated and designed to fulfill the roles of male and female, and that these gender roles are not the result of just biology but this is also inclusive of the way that people are conditioned to fulfill those roles (Lecture, February 02/07 2006)It also focuses on ideas about inequality within other realms of life and the impact that that has on the perpetuation of gender roles (Lecture, February 02/07 2006), for example how socio-economic status perpetuates certain gender roles which may lead to domestic violence. More importantly in terms of activism feminist theory has concentrated on the ways that the criminal justice system and the legal system have devalued woman (Lecture, February 02/07 2006). It is significant to note that this theory does not blame men, on the contrary it looks to seek ways that men are confined which result in the perpetuation and inequality of woman as a gender category (Lecture, February 02/07 2006).

However, feminism is more like a paradigm that researchers work under. There are different strands of feminism that consider different issues that concern woman. Radical feminism is more concentrated on the ideas of laws and institutions and how they privilege one gender over-another. In turn this form of domination and patriarchy informs the structure of family and its relationships (Lecture, February 02/07 2006). One can see this theory at work within McMillian and Gartner's article where they discuss how employment is a symbolic institution and the symbolic relationships where its forms are the predictors of domestic abuse(1999).As a result they reject Marxist feminists and Socialist feminists' claims that economic class are the predictors for domestic violence (Lecture, February 02/07 2006). More importantly McMillian and Gartner's research is enlightening because it looks at economic factors beyond mere institutions and the strain they create, but also look at how the values of the institution are internalized and form relationships within the home. What is not considered by this perspective however is, what is the explanation for domestic violence within the homosexual community? There internalization of employment gender relations would be similar considering that the gender dynamics and relationships are in essence (and according to this theory) experience by the same gender in similar ways. How would one constitute who is the dominant partner in the relationship without instilling the compulsory heterosexuality categories of butch and femme which are suppressive. Also included is that it assumes that marriage is present in order for this form of categorization of domestic violence. As a result of, this perspective focusing on how spousal violence begins with the view that marriage is an exchange relationship defined by cultural principles of equity and status expectations (McMillian and Gartner, 1999:948). Although feminism contributes a great deal the study of domestic violence as its purpose is to critique institutions, it still maintains certain institutions as taken for granted that need to be explored further in order to allow for a full extension of their theory within domestic violence.

Feminism and its affect of Law and Policy

As a collective movement feminism has been the source for multiple law reforms. It has had several impacts on law reforms beyond domestic violence that have had an impact on the way policy and laws have been created in regards to this issue. Most importantly feminism gave woman the right to be considered people under the law. Without a basis that is this strong law reform in other areas would not have happened and woman would not have any rights beyond the ones that are allotted to them by the men in their lives. In the 18th century feminism also challenged labor and inheritance laws (Lecture, February 02/07 2006). This is crucial within the study of research and the implementation of policy as is present within McMillian and Gartner's article (1999). Without this form of reform not only would woman not be able to escape domestic violence as they would be dependents, but relationships within the labor force would be more geared toward masculinity and it might be an upsurge of domestic violence and death of woman as a result if labor law reform had not happened. However, this is not to blame law reform on the findings of McMillian and Gartner as it is not the law that creates the abuse but the relations of power within those institutions (1999). Perhaps showing how entrance into the labor force is not the problem as prior conceptualized but rather the problem and its resolutions are that more legal and policy reforms need to be implemented for a more equitable and less masculine work environment.

As one can see domestic violence occurs more frequently than once conceptualized although the causes and the trends of domestic violence are predicated on the way the person defines that domestic violence one can only conclude one thing and that is that woman still remain the main demographic of domestic violence. This is important to acknowledge as it gives a purpose and reason for feminist movement within an institutional level as they have provided woman a great ground to formulate new forms of coming together. Therefore, one can see the impact that the creation of those movements has had on the way law and policy are implemented on domestic violence.