Sexual Harassment and the Subordination of Women
last updated April 30, 2007


One common misconception about sexual harassment is that the behavior is motivated by sexual desire and, therefore, is deemed "natural" or is not deemed a social problem. Studies have shown that this misconception is accepted by many employers and employees in the CEE/FSU region and serves to inhibit the reporting and correction of sexually harassing behavior. Adapted from International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Women 2000: An Investigation into the Status of Women's Rights in Central and South-Eastern Europe and the Newly Independent States (2000); The Advocates for Human Rights & Georgetown Law Center, Employment Discrimination and Sexual Harassment in Poland 22-32 (July 2002)(PDF, 63 pages); The Advocates for Human Rights, Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment in the Workplace in Bulgaria (March 1999) (PDF, 36 pages).


Feminist scholars maintain that sexual harassment is not an expression of sexual desire but rather is a means by which men assert power over women through the threat of or acts of violence, the perpetuation of gender stereotypes and economic control.

Theories relating to the subordination of women contribute a great deal to the understanding of sexual harassment directed at women by men. This form of sexual harassment represents the majority of sexually harassing conduct. Subordination theories, however, are not relevant to the sexual harassment of men by women but may be relevant to same sex sexual harassment to the extent the sexually harassing behavior is motivated by the desire to enforce and perpetuate masculine and feminine stereotypes.