The simple definition of sexual harassment is “unwanted sexual attention.” Any type of conduct that emphasizes the sexuality, gender or sexual orientation of an individual and creates for them an offensive, intimidating or hostile learning, working or living environment is sexual harassment. The harassment is more serious if submission to or acceptance of such behaviours is made either an implicit or explicit condition of an individual’s employment or academic status.
Sexual harassment may take various forms. It includes but is not limited to the following: verbal abuse or threats of a sexual nature; unwelcome remarks, jokes, innuendos or taunting about a person’s sex (often linked with references to the body, attire, age or marital status of the individual); the display of pornographic, sexually offensive or derogatory pictures; unnecessary and unwelcome physical conduct such as touching, patting, pinching; unwelcome sexual invitations or requests, usually of a persistent nature; sexual assault. Gender harassment or sexism may also be one form of sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment has both males and females as its victims and perpetrators. It can occur between members of the opposite sex or of the same sex. Although sexual harassment often occurs where there is a real or perceived power imbalance, it can also occur amongst peers.