The common assumption is that sexual harassment in the workplace follows the paradigm of a male harasser and a female victim. Nevertheless, according to PsyPost, male victims are responsible for between 16% and 17% of all sexual harassment complaints. In other words, nearly one out of five of all self-identified sexual harassment victims are men.
A recent study sought to identify attitudes toward men who report sexual harassment and found that they were likely to garner less sympathy from others. There are a couple of theories to describe this discrepancy.
Traditional gender roles
Traditional gender roles can influence the perception of men who report sexual harassment. The expectation is that men are strong and aggressive, open to sexual encounters regardless of the circumstances and expected to actively seek them out. A man who reports sexual harassment may receive less sympathy because of a perceived deviation from these expectations.
Gender of the alleged harasser
The study showed that male victims who reported sexual harassment by another man received the most sympathy, while those who reported harassment by a woman received the least. This could represent the importance of heteronormativity to the perceptions of harassment against men, or it could represent a mistaken belief that women do not — perhaps cannot — commit sexual harassment.
Limitations of the study
The study also assumes a binary gender paradigm. It does not appear to account for people who are nonbinary or transgender. Nevertheless, gender identity has no bearing on whether an individual can be a sexual harasser or a victim.
The intention of this study was not to gauge the prevalence of sexual harassment against men but merely the general perception of them. Therefore, it remains unclear whether sexual harassment against men is less common or whether they are merely less likely to report it than women.