Asking for It?

2 minute read

New view of sexual harassment

As long as males have employed females, sexual harassment—whether a sniggering grab or outright sex-for-salary extortion—has been a fact of countless women’s working lives. Yet as the proportion of women in the work force increased sharply in the past decade, so did the reports of on-the-job intimidation. According to the Center for Women Policy Studies, a Washington-based research group, as many as 18 million American females were harassed sexually while at work during 1979 and 1980. But according to antifeminist Crusader Phyllis Schlafly, most of those 18 million were asking for it.

Schlafly testified last week before a Senate committee reviewing new federal guidelines aimed at curbing such behavior. Said she: “Sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for virtuous women, except in the rarest of cases. Men hardly ever ask sexual favors of women from whom the certain answer is no. Virtuous women are seldom accosted.”

Supporters of the Schlafly view will have to ignore J. Clay Smith Jr., acting director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who testified that sexual Schlafly harassment “is a real problem.” Also the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board study of a group of government-employed women, of which 42% reported such intimidation. And the harassment charges cropping up continually on college campuses, in the armed forces and at businesses of every kind. Plus last year’s survey of state workers in Illinois—Schlafly’s home state—which found that a majority of working women were leered at, pawed or propositioned. Instead, said Schlafly, they should keep in mind that “some women have abandoned the commandments against adultery and fornication,” and these temptresses pay the price. Since the federal rules went into effect in November, 130 alleged victims have filed harassment complaints with the EEOC.

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