Who Says It's Sexual Harassment? The Effects of Gender and Likelihood to Sexually Harass on Legal Judgments of Sexual Harassment1


  • Linda M. Isbell,

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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  • Kristin Swedish,

    1. Amherst College
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  • Daniel B. Gazan

    1. Jeffery L. Goldberg, P.C. Attorneys at Law
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    • 3

      Daniel B. Gazan, Esq. passed away November 7, 2001. Dan was a vivacious young attorney who dedicated his short life to prosecuting sexual harassment cases. Dan inspired this research and played a pivotal role in developing the ideas contained in this article. We dedicate this article to his memory and are thankful for his inspiration, enthusiasm, and devotion to his work.

  • 1

    This research and the preparation of this article were partially supported by a Faculty Research Grant FRG-03426 from the University of Massachusetts. The authors thank Robert S. Wyer, Ronnie Janoff-Bulman, Paula Pietromonaco, and Richard Wiener for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Linda M. Isbell, Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 630 Tobin Hall, Amherst, MA 01003. E-mail: lisbell@psych.umass.edu


The effects of participants’ gender and propensity to sexually harass were examined in a sexual harassment case in which the gender of the harassers and victim were manipulated systematically. Male and female participants scoring either high or low on the Likelihood to Sexually Harass (LSH) scale (Pryor, 1987) reviewed an ostensibly real hostile work environment case and made judgments about the case. When participants were the same gender as the victim, individual differences in LSH failed to influence their judgments. When the participants’ gender was the opposite of the victim's, those low in LSH perceived the behaviors as more likely to be sexual harassment than those high in LSH. These results are discussed and their implications considered.