The Sexual Harassment Coercive Offer



There is disagreement in the coercion literature over whether an offer, which necessarily lacks a threat, could be coercive, which tends to imply at least some affinity with coercion, which, in paradigm cases, includes a threat. In one difficult sexual harassment case, someone is offered a promotion in exchange for sex, but there is, due to the arrangement of the case, no implied threat or repercussion for refusal. I argue this case counts as coercive since the offer-making attempts to recast the agent's self-image simply by making the offer: the harasser attempts to define his employee as a sexualized object in the workplace to whom it is acceptable to make this kind of offer. Yet, such an offer can only be acceptably made to a woman who would accept sexual intrusions in her career, and it can never be right to assume others are willing to have their business lives sexualized. Thus, the offer is coercive in its disrespect for the employee's autonomy, although it involves no threat.