sexual harassment

(noun) An unwelcome act of a sexual nature.

Audio Pronunciation: (sex·ual ha·rass·ment)

Download Audio Pronunciation: sexual harassment.mp3

Usage Notes:

  • Plural: sexual harassments
  • The legal definition of sexual harassment various by jurisdiction but it is often hard to prove unless systematic and repeated.
  • Sexual harassment in the workplace was formally recognized in the United States as violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the case Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson (1986) when Teresa Harris filed suit against her former boss, Charles Hardy.

Related Quotations:

  • “Opposite-sex interaction is more sexually charged, often resulting in an element of flirtation that is missing in same-sex interaction. Most of this casually flirtatious behavior is innocent enough and falls outside the realm of sexual harassment. The line is crossed when flirtatious behavior turns to unwelcome sexual advances that interfere with a person’s ability to perform a job and enjoy its benefits. Sexual harassment may include everything from blatant demands for sex, to subtler pressures regarding sexual activity, to panoply of behaviors that create a hostile workplace environment” (McNamee and Miller 2013:199).
  • “Sexual harassment is not only an indicator of the continuing dominance of men in the workplace but a form of discrimination that jeopardizes women’s chances for occupational success and impinges upon their pursuit of the American Dream” (McNamee and Miller 2013:199).
  • “The truth is many men and some women feel confused over what is now acceptable behavior. Many men feel like they’re ‘walking on eggshells’ around women at work; they’re terrified that a simple act of courtesy or a flattering compliment will get them hauled into court” (Kaufman and Kimmel 2011:63).

Additional Information:

Related Terms: 



Kaufman, Michael, and Michael S. Kimmel. 2011. The Guy’s Guide to Feminism. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.

McNamee, Stephen J., and Robert K. Miller, Jr. 2013. The Meritocracy Myth. 3rd ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Tarrant, Shira. 2009. Men and Feminism. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.


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Hughes, Michael, and Carolyn J. Kroehler. 2011. Sociology: The Core. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Kendall, Diane. 2011. Sociology in Our Times. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Kimmel, Michael S., and Amy Aronson. 2012. Sociology Now. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Macionis, John. 2012. Sociology. 14th ed. Boston: Pearson.

Macionis, John, and Kenneth Plummer. 2012. Sociology: A Global Introduction. 4th ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

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Shepard, Jon M. 2010. Sociology. 11th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

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Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wiktionary, The Free Dictionary. Wikimedia Foundation. (

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How to Cite the Definition of Sexual Harassment

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “sexual harassment.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved June 16, 2019 (

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

sexual harassment. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “sexual harassment.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed June 16, 2019.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“sexual harassment.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 16 Jun. 2019. <>.