Gender Communication and Sexual Harassment Topic of Faculty Lecture

By Jesse Medina

Dr. Brent King gave a faculty lecture to a large crowd at Porter Hall on Wednesday, November 11th.  The topic of the lecture was social psychology, more specifically gender communication and sexual harassment.

The lecture began with Dr. King giving the disclaimer: “Much of what we talk of are trends.  Not all of you will or do act a certain way.” He then continued by giving some basic definitions that would help in the understanding of the discussion.  Some of the definitions given were for gender, gender roles, and sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment was the next topic to be discussed in some detail.  Dr. King discussed sexual harassment in the workplace.  He gave some numbers to illustrate how commonplace sexual harassment in the workplace is.  One in 20 women are sexually harassed at the workplace but interestingly enough there is little data on harassment occurring to men, of which Dr. King said “there is no corresponding estimate for men.”

The college campus (not ours necessarily but college campuses generally) and the sexual harassment that takes place there was discussed next.  Research on the education climate found that about one out of every ten women on a college campus experiences some form of sexual harassment from either other students or faculty.   Dr. King explained that it was difficult to get numbers on harassment because “colleges don’t like to put that information out there” so it makes it difficult to track and gain solid statistics.

A study was conducted by Dr. King and some of his colleagues to determine how often individual students were exposed to sexually harassing behavior.  A survey was given to students asking them to answer questions as to what degree they experienced certain behaviors.  Some of the behaviors included sexual stories or jokes, unwanted sexual remarks, sexual phone calls, and pressure to act less than intelligent.  The statistics from this study seemed to suggest that women found suggestive verbal communication to be harassment whereas male students usually considered physical touch to be more harassing than verbal abuse.  The numbers also suggest that women experience harassment more often than did male students.

Dr. King went on to discuss the differences in how men and women communicate.  The differences were summed up by Dr. King with this quote from Deborah Tannen, “Women communicate for rapport and men communicate to report.”  Essentially this means women tend to communicate by creating a bond with the person they are having the conversation with.  Men on the other hand tend to express mostly information and are less personal.  This information ties in with sexual harassment by means of illustrating the differences and often misinterpretations that occur when women and men are communicating with one another.

Dr. King concluded his lecture by pointing out that we need to be aware of these situations and try to do our best to understand one another.  “We need to realize the fault for some situations lies with each party (not just the man or the woman).  Understanding one another is the key to avoiding sexual harassment and being able to communicate with each other better and more clearly. is powered by WordPress µ | Spam prevention powered by Akismet