A good friend tells the story of being pinched on her bottom while practicing in the high school band. Instinctively, she turned and struck the young boy over the head with her clarinet, hard enough that she actually broke the clarinet in half on his skull. Now, that is one certain way to leave a lasting impression! I can only imagine that to this day this man thinks long and hard before saying or doing anything remotely sexually suggestive.
Many females — whether they are in middle school, high school, college, or workplace — simply don’t know if they are being harassed. Some boys and men become experts at disguising sexual harassment with humor. If taken seriously and a girl or woman lets him know his remarks or behaviors are not appreciated, he quickly retreats behind this shield of humor. “Can’t you take a joke?” “I’m just teasing.”
Far from being a joke, sexual harassment can be explained in legal terms: “unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”
Two words from this legal definition are especially helpful to remember if you are trying at the moment to determine if, indeed, you are being harassed — unwelcomed and intimidating.
Interestingly, whether or not sexual advances on any level are welcome, often depends on the person doing the harassing. Research reveals that when a good-looking man makes suggestive statements or even unwanted advances, many females view this as innocent flirting and report such behavior as harmless or even flattering. It’s almost a compliment to be wanted by a highly attractive male. If, on the other hand, the male is unattractive, the same words or actions can result in a charge of sexual harassment. Rather than being complimented, women tend to feel both offended and insulted.
Obviously, the looks of the one harassing should never be an issue. If any individual produces a threatening environment due to unwelcomed and intimidating sexual advances, then feel the freedom to respond appropriately. This means (1) recognizing the behavior for what it is, (2) straightforwardly addressing the inappropriateness of the behavior, (3) demanding that the behaviors cease immediately, and (4), if needed, reporting the behavior.
Of course, if all else fails, you could break a clarinet over his head. It does teach a never-forgotten lesson but is a troublesome waste of a good musical instrument.