Research focuses on sex and power

Research shows workplace harassment is common.
Research shows workplace harassment is common.
Controversies focusing on sex, harassment and power play out daily in newspapers, television and online.

    Most recently, powerful men in politics, business and media have come under fire after charges from women contending that they had been harassed or assaulted. The deluge of reports and revelations has been shocking. 
    But for many years researchers have been working to understand these issues. Here are some examples of research aimed at broadening our understanding, along with links for further study.

Sex and power: A study done in the Netherlands in 2011 found that the more powerful someone is the more likely that person is to be unfaithful. In a survey of 1,561 professionals, researchers found “elevated power is positively associated with infidelity because power increases confidence in the ability to attract partners. … The relationship between power and infidelity was the same for women as for men, and for the same reason.”
    The study: "Power Increases Infidelity Among Men and Women" by Joris Lammers, et al, was published in the journal Psychological Science, July 19, 2011.

Confusion about sexual consent: Sexual violence is more common than other crimes among college students, and research finds some men confused sexual interest with consent.
     Researchers at Binghamton University in New York and Rush University in Illinois sought to identify factors that predict college men's likelihood to engage in sexual misconduct. The study included 145 heterosexual male students attending a university in the Southeastern U.S. Using hypothetical dating scenarios depicting a sexual interaction, the researchers found that men sometimes:

  • Conflated sexual desire with consent.
  • Had different appraisals of consent depending on whether and how the woman communicated consent or refusal.
  • Perceived consent if there previously had been sexual intercourse.  
  • “Endorsed higher levels of perceived desire and consent across situations if they more strongly held rape-supportive attitudes.”

    The research: "Situational and Dispositional Determinants of College Men’s Perception of Women’s Sexual Desire and Consent to Sex: A Factorial Vignette Analysis," is published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Nov. 2, 2017, by Ashton M. Lofgreen, et al.  

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission -- Select Taskforce on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace: This report, published in 2016, gives insight into the extent of workplace harassment. "Almost fully one third of the approximately 90,000 charges received by EEOC in fiscal year 2015 included an allegation of workplace harassment. This includes, among other things, charges of unlawful harassment on the basis of sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity and pregnancy), race, disability, age, ethnicity/national origin, color, and religion." 
    Most harassment goes unreported: "Roughly three out of four individuals who experienced harassment never even talked to a supervisor, manager or union representative about the harassing conduct. Employees who experience harassment fail to report the harassing behavior or to file a complaint because they fear disbelief of their claim, inaction on their claim, blame, or social or professional retaliation."
    The report of the Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace was published June 2016 on the EEOC website.


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