Should You Say It?

Bernice R. Sandler, a senior scholar at the Women's Research and Educational Institute, in Washington, D.C., says that some men (and women) have difficulty understanding what kind of behavior constitutes sexual harassment. Keep in mind that if you have to ask, says Ms. Sandler, such behavior is likely to be high risk, and it is probably better not to engage in it.

Assessing one's own behavior:

  • Would I mind if someone treated my spouse, partner, girlfriend, mother, sister, or daughter this way?
  • Would I mind if this person told my spouse, partner, girlfriend, mother, sister, or daughter what I was saying or doing?
  • Would I do this if my spouse, partner, girlfriend, mother, sister, or daughter was in the room?
  • Would I be comfortable saying the same thing or acting the same way to my mother, sister or daughter?
  • Would I do this if the parent, spouse, or boyfriend of the other person was present?
  • When a person objects to my behavior do I apologize and stop, or do I get angry instead?
  • Would I act this way if I didn't have power over this person, such as being a supervisor? Do I have other kinds of power over this person such as being bigger or having more status?
  • Is my behavior reciprocated? Are there specific indications of pleasure – not "she didn't object" but specific behaviors indicating she is pleased with my behavior?
  • Would I mind if a reporter wanted to write about what I was doing?


Suggested responses to jokes or remarks:

  • State in a straightforward manner that you find such remarks offensive.
  • Pretend you don't understand the remark or joke and ask the person to repeat it, then ask the person to explain it.
  • Pretend shocked outrage – what she calls the "Miss Manners" approach – by saying something like, "I beg your pardon!" A variation would be, "I can't believe you actually said that!"
  • Use humor, as in "Oh, is this a test to see how I would handle sexual harassing behavior?"


Fogg, Piper. "Don't Stand So Close to Me." Chronicle of Higher Education 51.34 (2005): A10. Web. 30 January 2013.

If you have to ask,
such behavior is likely high risk.

Would You Say That To Your Mother?

Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid