Although sexual harassment often takes place when the alleged harasser is in a position of power or influence, other types of harassment are also possible. Sexual harassment may involve the behavior of a person of either gender against a person of the opposite or same gender.
Sexual harassment is not necessarily limited to offensive physical contact or requests for sexual favors. Sexual or "off-color" remarks, name-calling, lewd gestures, obscene materials (photographs, cartoons, Internet, e-mail etc.) and touching may also constitute sexual harassment.
Common examples in a university setting:
- A graduate teaching assistant engages in a sexual relationship with one of her undergraduate students. The student ends the relationship and feels that his grade was altered as a result of the break-up. This is an example of adverse consequence.
- A male supervisor tells derogatory jokes about his wife and women in general in front of his female assistants. They are offended, feel disrespected and don't want to come to work because of his behavior. This illustrates hostile environment.
- A faculty member constantly leans close to and brushes up against his administrative assistant's body when he is assigning her work. In response, she asks him to give her more personal space. Soon after her request, she receives an unprecedented negative performance review. This is an example of adverse consequence.
- A student sends pornography and sexually oriented jokes over the Internet to other students. Some recipients are offended and ask the sender to stop, but he persists. This is an example of hostile environment.
- A female student repeatedly initiates hugs from her lab partner and tells him she thinks he has a great body. He tells her he feels uncomfortable with her attention, but she laughs it off and continues the behavior. This is an example of hostile environment.
- A professor invites a student to his home to discuss the student's research. The student goes to the professor's home and consents to sexual activity with the promise that the faculty member will give him an "A" for his research. This illustrates quid pro quo.