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WITH MORE women receiving university degrees and rising to positions of power, the scenario of male workers being sexually harassed by female supervisors is becoming more plausible.


In Jamaica, women hold 15 per cent of all managerial and supervisory positions and most are inclined to play the power game.

In most harassment cases, whether the assailant is male or female, the main motive is not romance but power. Sexual harassment is an exercise in power politics. Experts in gender studies note, however, that most people do not realise the nuances involved.

The scenario has even given rise to a Hollywood movie, Disclosure, starring Demi Moore and Michael Douglas, which examined sexual harassment from a male point of view.

While the ultra-macho culture cultivated by Jamaican maledom may find it hard to fathom a female boss' come-on as an affront, when it happens it is nevertheless harassment.

"It happens. I've heard stories but I have never really encountered a situation like that in my professional experiences," says Laura Butler, a Kingston-based human resource consultant.

"It is usually the other way around where men put women in a position where they seek to manipulate and control them, and hope to in time, wear down their defences," adds Ms. Butler. "If there are cases of sexual harassment against men, it is just as deplorable as with women because no one should be made to feel uncomfortable, or no one should use their power as a tool to make you do things you would not ordinarily do."

According to one US agency, in that country men represent one out of 10 of all sexual harassment cases, and the numbers are steadily rising.

"In this society, a man would not complain. It would be more of a privilege," says Lancelot O'Connor, a 26-year-old teacher who was recently featured in Flair's Men at Work series. "I have never been sexually harassed but on odd occasions, at school and at university, some women have come on to me
very aggressively so I know what it is like for a woman to shower unwanted attention, but I don't think a Jamaican man would even complain if it happened to him."

According to studies, when a man falls victim to harassment by a female, more than 50 per cent of the cases allege a demand for sex -- Quid Pro Quo -- in order to retain a job or receive a promotion. In contrast, quid pro quo is only evident in 15 per cent of female victims' cases.

"In this region, the main dilemma a man faces when he is harassed by a woman is that it would be almost an embarrassment for him to complain," says Ainsley Deer a management consultant in Kingston.

"One, the police would laugh, and two, he would be ridiculed by his peers in the workplace...a Jamaican man would be reluctant to speak out for fear that he would be humiliated and ostracised by his co-workers. In the Caribbean, it is thought that a man cannot be sexually harassed by a woman."

Psychologists maintain that the concept of male sexual harassment victim cases, can sometimes present problems due to society's stereotypes of women and men.

"Our minds maintain the assumption that males find sexual advances from women non-threatening and even enjoyable, but this is not necessarily true. Procedures for dealing with harassment cases should be consistent, regardless of gender or status. They should treat every complaint confidentially, investigate each thoroughly and take appropriate and immediate disciplinary action," suggests one human resource manager.

Deer has an 'interesting' take on a male-on-male sexual harassment scenario. "If it were a man harassing another man in the workplace, now that's a completely different matter. Most heterosexual men cannot even conceive being approached by another man, and that would be a cause for some amount of discomfort, I can imagine," he said.

Dr. Leachim Semaj, psychologist and president of the JobBank in Kingston, says he has seen "a case where a young man went to work for a prominent man in society who immediately told him that the last fellow who started with him as an attendant ended up leaving as an accountant, and suggested the same might happen to him if the young man was good to him.

"At first, the young man didn't understand but when the man locked the door and began to make advances, he was so shocked, he didn't even get angry, he was too terrified, he ran out of the office, and all the way to Portmore (St. Catherine)."

"He refused to play along with the advances but apparently, there were a lot of young men who were willing to 'work with the programme'," adds Dr. Semaj.

Laura Butler remains adamant that Jamaican workplaces need to become more "businesslike and professional in their approach to employee relations".

"We need to implement and enforce laws to govern our society. There are too many important things out there to discover, and to channel our collective energies to achieve, and grow as a nation. We need to reinstil values in our way of life."


Read 5317 times Last modified on Wednesday, 02 June 2010 01:06