Harassment or flirting: how’s a guy to know?

Eric Benitez, Staff Writer

A man approaches a woman at a bar and offers to buy her a drink. The man compliments the woman’s good looks and the woman reciprocates the flirting. They proceed to carry on the conversation, with the man clearly showing his interest in the woman. Before the evening ends, she slips him her phone number.

A man approaches a woman at a bar and offers to buy her a drink. The man compliments the woman’s good looks and the woman hesitantly thanks the man. As the night drags on, the man grows more comfortable with his flirting but the woman becomes nervous; eventually, the woman can’t handle the man’s presence and leaves the bar frightened.

In the second scenario, the man is left confused by the woman’s reaction. He assumed they were both having a good time. The man decides not to let the encounter ruin his evening.

When it comes to flirting, both parties respect one another’s boundaries and feel comfortable with one another. Sexual harassment, on the other hand, is unwanted and places the victim in an uncomfortable or even terrifying environment.

Not all guys go out with the intent of harassing innocent women. Some probably don’t even realize that their affections aren’t welcome or reciprocated. In these cases, the difference between a nice evening and a terrifying experience comes down to communication errors.

Flirting requires being capable of reading body language, tone and facial expressions. When a guy can’t read the situation clearly or make his intentions clear, the result is a situation that leaves females confused, angry and often frightened.

Sexual harassment occurs when a male continually pursues a woman with unwanted sexual advances. When a man has no regard for how the woman feels and only wishes to satisfy his own desires, innocent flirting can quickly turn into harassment.
The terms “sexual harassment” and “sexual abuse” are often used interchangeably, according to the Women’s Resource Center. Though the two concepts are similar, they are still different.

Sexual harassment never goes further than physical or verbal conduct, such as catcalling or touching someone inappropriately. Sexual abuse is typically defined as forcing someone into sexual acts or any situation where a sexual act has been committed without receiving consent.

The key difference between the two is that sexual abuse is a criminal assault against another person, while sexual harassment is coercion of a sexual nature.

In the workplace, employers are held liable for sexual harassment chargers, not the individuals responsible for the harassment. In most cases, it is difficult to prove someone of being responsible of harassment. Generally, punishment for sexual harassment varies but most include jail time.

Women often keep their abuse to themselves in fear of the repercussions a confession can bring. CSU Long Beach Psychology Professor Courtney Ahrens, in an article published by the “The American Journal of Community Psychology,” discusses the negative social reactions women receive for speaking out against their abusers.

“Women who initially break the silence and speak out against the assault may quickly reconsider this decision and opt to not speak at all,” Ahrens said.

“Negative reactions such as being blamed, being denied help, or being told not to talk about the rape at all may effectively quash rape survivors’ voices, rendering them silent and powerless,” Ahrens said.

Additionally, another issue exists that doesn’t receive much attention in the media: men can also be victims of sexual harassment.

“When a man is harassed or raped, other men often view it as a sign of weakness,” male rape victim Sam Thompson said in an interview with the “New York Post.” This toxic view of masculinity forces male victims to keep their victimization to themselves.

“Victims have the right to talk about this kind of stuff,” junior Alexis Morales said. “Sexual harassment shouldn’t matter whether you have male or female genitalia, it’s uncomfortable for everyone to go through.”