Many young people today do not realize that a great part of the activities in their social life could be defined as sexual harassment. The faculty staff at the various campuses across Canada indirectly protect the male harasser by not making a connection between certain forms of harassment, rape and sexual assault. The purpose of this paper is to explore why various forms of sexual misconduct have become so widespread or prevalent. The factors that contribute to sexual harassment on campus are our aggressive culture, the inexperience of  first year students and the power of the instructor along with the actions of the women remaining silent to avoid the negative attention of being being singled out. These are also the main reasons that sexual harassment goes undetected within our campus community.    

   This essay will also consist of a questionnaire whose findings will be compared to the findings of the government survey. The findings of our survey will determine whether ethinicity and a woman’s economical situation play a factor in the increase incidents of sexual misconduct towards various groups of women within our community. The conclusion will be based on our research: for example should the blame be placed on our judicial system, our culture or the faculty staff at the various universities? Also do we have adequate solutions to this ever growing problem of sexual harassment on the campuses of our various universities and colleges?    

   Sexual harassment is a relatively new term and concept under law; however it is not a new issue on our campuses. According to Sandler and Shoop (1998), it remained a hidden issue in part because there was no name for the behavior until the early 1970s when a few women at Cornell University came up with the term “sexual harassment”. These women had to struggle to find a term to describe their experience because the continual sexual advances had caused depression and insecurity in their social life outside of the workplace and educational enviroment. (p. 4). Most women who have experienced it have trouble understanding sexual harassment. For example many women sense that compliments such as the professor telling her with increasing frequency that “she was the prettiest student that he ever taught.” On occasions the oral choice of words was changed to “the sexiest student we ever had”. Moroever, an instructor asking a student whether he or she had a  “boyfriend”, or an invitation to dinner, “so we can get to know each other”. These are all forms of sexual harassment that women find hard to distinguish or unconfortable to discuss. This is true because our society indirectly implies that sexual harassment may not necessarily be a crime and a woman’s assailant is always a stranger. The subtle comments of an instructor in a classroom or the touching by an acquaintance in a classroom-the casual stroke of someone thighs or hands may seem innocent to some potential female victim. Too many men and women think of sexual harassment as only anal, oral or vaginal penetration. According to stats Canada (2008), four out of five female undergraduates surveyed at Canadian universities said they had been the victim of some sort of violence in a dating relationship. The form of violence either took on sexual assault, physical abuse, verbal abuse and unwelcome remarks, patting, pinching, touching or finally rape.


   The survey produced for this essay was based on the reports of female student and working members of the faculty.  However, the results were similar-eighty five percent of the women answered yes to strange males giving them unwanted hugs or may have touched them on the leg or stroked their hair. From this finding we must make aware to all students what patterns and behaviors constitute sexual deviance.


   The questionnaire distributed at York University revealed similar numbers to the graph above,  produced by statistics Canada. The questionnaire is made up of 20 questions. The most intriguing question is stated as follows, “Has anyone tried to rub up with you at a dance”? A modest 75 per cent stated that at the various dances, young men whom they did not know-did-try and dance dirty and intimate with them. For this question, fifty five percent of the young women indicate in their answer that this form of harassment was more prominent during the Frosh week social activities organized by the student associations. At these parties, the University forbids alcohol consumption.  Despite this ban, some off-campus activities typically involve the consumption of alcohol and drugs and listening to various forms of music. As the day turns to night intimate couplings with experienced university students and freshman females is eminent.  

    Another social gathering at York is the Thursday night pub night. At this pub it is common to see young women dressed very provocatively.  At the various social dances it is the young man who usually makes the first move. He will slide up behind her grinding his crotch into her behind. If she is not willing she will just move away.  Although this action could be classified as sexual harassment or interference-this behavior is rarely reported. Bohner & Parrot(1993). Many people, including those who have experienced it, have trouble identifying sexual assault. (Pg.18)

    The York University questionnaire that was distributed to 300 female students indicate that one-quarter of all college girls will be raped or be the targets of attempted rape by the end of their college years. The assailants of these women are not perverted old men lurking in dark alleys they are the student athlete or regular guy sitting next to them in class or at the library. Statistic Canada survey state that 60% of the victims know their assailants.


 When a woman knows the man who sexually assaults her it is less likely that it will be recognized as a crime by the woman.  When a male student compliments a young woman’s body or grinds up with her at a dance without her consent-this is wrong. In today’s society this form of harassment is being ignored by both the male and female genders. Our culture has deemed this natural for a young man to try and take a woman sexually as opposed to getting to know someone with a meaningful conversation. Many women consider themselves more marketable or attractive if they are looked at as a sexual object.

    We are living in an age where teen pregnancy is the norm. The sexual freedom of the nineteen sixties was based on women making their own choices and becoming more independent. Sexual freedom in today’s society depicts young women as eager college sluts. The young people of today believe that practicing safe sex means you are healthy person. Moreover, a young lady who is not sexually active, is sometimes looked at as prudish and unattarctive. Therefore the compromise of sex for a relationship is the option for young women on campuses.

    Young people are also taught that keeping our sex partners to a mere two or three per year follows the best advice that modern psychology can offer. They are enjoying their sexual freedom, experimenting, discovering themselves. The author (Crittende 2006) states that “sexually active teenage girls were more than three times as likely to be depressed, and nearly three times as likely to have had a suicide attempt, than girls who were not sexually active.” (pg 17) This depression is a result of our neo Canadian culture-a culture that tells teenaged girls the best sex is safe sex. The idea of suicide is conceivable because many of these young women have now realized that they have given away something precious because of a night of drunkenness. Young women who encounter this problem feel intimidated, fearful, dirty and worthless. A woman in this state of mind will find it hard to conceive the criminal elements of sexual harassment.

     First year university students will be seventeen and eighteen years old. This group is at the bottom of the social scale because they cannot legally drink. They are in a position to interact with students that will be 3 to 15 years older than them. The older experienced male is at an advantage because he equates sex as lustful meaningless pleasure whereas the female gives herself for companionship. As a result of struggle of the sexes she may find it difficult to talk about one night stands with either her parents or the various departments of the faculty.  

 (Wilson 1997) This writer believes that less deadly, perhaps, but still very serious is the tendency of institutions to confuse/conflate acts of sexual discrimination with harassment. She further argues that women are losing these…struggles for justice. Ed. Note…full text of Ms. Wilson’s message can be found on the message log for January 1997. These struggles for justice are lost within our curriculum because the university realizes the danger in placing harassment within the context of a criminal offence such as rape. The only intention of a university such as “York” is to maintain the good name of the institute. The various universities across Canada will profit more by proving they have established a safe environment for our young women to study.

     The fears of sexual harassment and rape were originally from the rising numbers in the United States. According to a National Institute of Justice report from December 2005, on a campus of 10,000 students, as many as 350 women may be victims of sexual assault each year. More than 80% of these women were under the age twenty.  According to Currie and MacLean 2007 “they believe that 20-25% of women in campuses across Canada have experienced some form of abuse in a dating situation”. The abuse is anything from sexual assault to rape. Most researchers acknowledge the embarrassment of the institute in dealing with rape. If the various institute across Canada then decide to raise awareness to sexual harassment and the various forms of harassment, our numbers would rate in compare to those of the United States.     stat_02_03_2

    Sexual harassment is also about power and less to do with sex than is generally understood.  According to (Sandler & Shoop 1997) sexual harassment occurs in the context of a power imbalance where one person has the power to intimidate. (pg7). A prime example of this scenario is the professor or instructor who invites the student to his office for a chat and closes the door. The harassment between instructor and student can be even more restrained than that. It could be an instructor complimenting a student about her hair, eyes or certain clothing. The harassment can lead to malicious gossip where students believe the pretty girl with the nice body who always seems to get good grades is sleeping with the professor. This assumption, made on mere speculation, as become a natural part of our culture.

   The York University survey that was recorded for this research paper indicates that 50% of female students believed that although this behavior is wrong the instructor has done nothing wrong unless he as physically touched the student or asked for sex. Moreover, they indicated that society would be more upset at same sex relationships and interracial love. They believe that a professor sleeping with his female student would be far less destructive than a same sex relationship or interracial relationship. What is the outcome of a relationship between the instructor and female student?  More often this relationship is a one-night stand, hot young sex or a romantic affair (which might end with bad feelings between the couple). The exact numbers for York University are unknown but in one university study, 26 percent of male faculty members reported they had had sexual encounters or sexual relationships with women students (Fitzgerald, Weitzman 1988). These women in return choose not to seek any help because they feel that they would be much to blame. Sexual harassment of students by adults is less common than harassment among students (AAUW, 2001) but is extremely serious, involving a gross abuse of power and trust. Occasionally, students sexually harass adults (AAUW), often targeting support staff members-such as teacher assistant, cafeteria workers, and janitors-who are perceived as less powerful. In all cases, school leaders must ensure that staff members and students understand appropriate boundaries, what their rights are, and that violations will be dealt with immediately and seriously.perptovic05

    A growing area of concern for educators and the people of our community is the diverse ethnic cultures within our university community.  York University is home to men and women of every ethno-cultural, religious and sexual background.  Because of this diversity we as a school could have higher incidents of sexual stereotyping. According to Shoop & Edwards (1994), ‘there are four preconditions that enhance the presence of stereotyping. These categories are rarity, priming, environment structure and ambience of the environment.’ (pg49). Being the only female in the class would be a good definition of rarity. To continue priming is a class or area on campus where you may see nude pictures, an area known for sexual slurs or even nude posing in the arts. Areas considered prime locations at York University are the athletic center, the first and second floor of the library and the various bars. What then will happen is that many people who converge to this area then become more aggressive and abusive towards women.

    If the faculty tends to ignore sexual harassment then the students will act by their views or actions thus forming a preconditioned law.  And finally stereotyping is the university’s promotion of women as sex objects. A prime example of this form of stereotyping was when a female law student filed charges against the faculty. It seemed that some male students had choreographed a play describing her as a slut who gives “head” to her professor for good grades. Nothing is being done because the actions of one potential assailant could destroy the integrity of the university. Moreover, female students still attend university at a greater number than male students. If figures show that we have a problem with crimes of harassment, abuse and assault, the university will mostly likely lose a large amount of money in the long term because female students will start to choose safer and more integrated programs. 

   According to Paludi (1996), ‘it is considered “bad” design if the people of color are not compared to white participants. The same demand is not required in studies with white samples. Thus, the experience of the white sample is considered the norm. (pg49) The same theory is used in analyzing our hypothesis. The case study was based on the answers of 20 white females, 20 black female, 20 East Indians, 20 East Africans, 20 Asian women, 20 women of Latin descent and 20 women of Middle-Eastern heritage. What is interesting about the questionnaire is that all the women believed that men harass, sexual abuse and assault women equally on campus. However, seventy five per cent of the white females believed that the Jewish males are the major assailant because they use economic position and subtle manipulative methods to abuse. More than 70 per cent of the women stated that race does play a role in the men they date.  Many of these women preferred to date white men and they also indicated that they would date any man if he had a lot of money.  The ladies also indicated that a woman’s economical situation and religious denomination was a strong factor in abuse. According to our questionnaire 60 percent believed that a woman who economically had less money than her partner stood a greater chance for abuse in a relationship or subtle forms of harassment. stat_02_03_1

   The answer to this question could be the female is more docile because women in general are taught to follow a man. Moreover, what is commonly understood is the male aggressor who is economical, sufficient, will seek out women he believes are inferior to him because of their economical status. This person may only be with this woman for her sexual practices and submissiveness. Her economic situation is one way of satisfying his power for control of another person. In the seventies when women started writing books on equality it was always the rich woman who captured the attention of the media. This early movement dealt with the dilemma of the rich educated white woman and her effortsts to be accepted within the corporate world. This movement did not focus on the physical and sexual abuse faced by lower and middle class women. In Canada women living in aboriginal communities and Muslim women still faces the horrors of violence and various forms of sexual abuse-these women have no support groups. Therefore, money certain ethnicity is an important factor in studying how young men and women communicate as equals.

    Our misconception may hold some truth in determining social factors to sexual misconducts such as rape and assault. About 60 per cent of the female population indicated that they would fear a black man late at night over any other male. Moreover, metropolitan police state that black people commit more crimes against other males. The black man was charged with assault with a weapon or robbery 71 per cent of the times. At the York university campus less than 5% of the sexual harassment, assault and rape cases were black. The top four offenders are Caucasian, Pakistani, Arabic and Asian. This is a society where sex is on display. The pornographic industry is a billion dollar industry. Furthermore, prostitution has been legalized in many gaming and casino areas in America. In today’s society we have male and female strip bars. Many occasions young women go to strip bars with men. Up until the early seventies a young woman would never enter a bar after 5 o’clock without a male chaperone. Our society is mired in the politics of sex. We have nude beaches, porn theatre and many of the adolescent and children’s television show are geared towards gender bias. Our children indirectly learn from what they view on televison and the internet. The entertainment industry is based on overt sexuality, violence and at times degradation of the female gender.      

    No one group is at fault for sexual harassment. However, the government does need to push for the educators to provide brochures and later on a half credit on sexual harassment and its criminal elements. This credit could be taken in a student final year of high school. It will then provide young women and men with a clearer understanding of what is wrong and right.  Furthermore, security should be hired on campus and they should be properly trained. According to metropolitan police, inexperienced security have often destroyed a crime scene or taken too long in calling the police. Most campus security has done the investigation by themselves and on occasion they have pressured the victim to drop the charges. The university owes it to all levels of our female faculty to put together a clearer meaning of sexual harassment.  So many people, myself included, taught that sexual harassment was rape or sexual assault. What I have learned is that this form of harassment is deeper than gender discrimination. Somehow we must make everyone aware of the consequences of harassment. More important all students should be ware that harassment is prominent in the transgender, gay, lesbian, male and female straight community.    sexual-harassment-statistic





Breakdown of cases according to the gender of the persons subjected to the harassment and the persons accused of harassment.


    In conclusion this project has made me become more aware of my personal actions. Upon completing this assignment I realize that there is little effort by the Canadian government to control this problem. However, the Ontario government recognizes the first week of June as Sexual Harassment Awareness Week to increase awareness of sexual harassment, how to prevent it and to honour the memories of all women who have been victimized. Sexual harassment in workplaces and other settings is a serious form of violence against women in Ontario, and crosses every social boundary. I can only compare the spread of  harassment like the common cold because we have no cure but more important no deaths. Sexual harassment is a major problem at York University and the various campuses across Canada. This research as proven that sexual harassment should be defined as a serious offence-an-offence punishable by dismissal to the offender if proven guilty.        


 Courtney Duncan