UC Santa Cruz Title IX/Sexual Harassment Office


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How to Tell When Conduct is Unwelcome

Sexual harassment may consist of any uninvited and unsolicited conduct directed at a person because of their sex. This means that the conduct is gender-based, that it is being directed at a person because they are female or because they are male. If this conduct is unwanted and unwelcome, then it certainly may be sexual harassment.

One of the central aspects of unwelcomeness is that the person doing the behavior is the one who almost always initiates contact with the person who is target of the conduct. A mutual and wanted interaction involves the participation of both parties. If a person is "trapped" at their workdesk, in a classroom, on a sports team, or at their locker then it may be difficult to determine unwelcomeness because the person is required to respond to comments or requests from employees, students, or the public, and is probably required to respond maturely and courteously.

The option of the person being able to say "leave me alone" or "don't say those things to me" or " I'm not interested in having a personal conversation with you" are removed because of these requirements. One way for a person to perform a self-check on their own conduct is to ask themselves if they would be behaving in the same manner if the person who is the target of their conduct were of the opposite sex.

Misunderstandings about sexual harassment and the difficulty in defining it have to do with the context of certain behaviors, not necessarily the behaviors themselves. Interactions that are deemed appropriate in some social situations are often deemed inappropriate in the school or workplace. Another difficulty in defining sexual harassment has to do with differing cultural assumptions and expectations about what is acceptable male and female behavior.

A major source of confusion over the definition of sexual harassment is that males and females typically have different experiences in our society. Surveys indicate that they disagree about what constitutes sexual harassment and about its effects on a person's self esteem and productivity. Females often view certain sexual behavior as intimidating, hostile, offensive, demeaning, or inappropriate. Males may view the same behavior as flattering, friendly, or funny.

If you can tell that someone is uncomfortable with your conduct, please stop the behavior. We all have a right to go to school or work in an environment unencumbered by uninvited conduct based on our sex.

 

Contact Rita Walker , Title IX Officer: 105 Kerr Hall . email: rew@ucsc.edu . phone 831.459.2462 * 831.459.4825