Boundaries and Borders: How Do Recipients Interpret Social-Sexual Behaviour at Work?

Arosha S. Adikaram


This article aims to provide a conceptual framework for elucidating how and under what circumstances women interpret social-sexual behaviours they experience at work as sexual harassment, by reviewing journal articles related to the interpretation of sexual conduct and harassment published between 1990 and 2016. By appraising, expanding, synthesising and collating extant literature in the area, it is proposed that social-sexual behaviour experienced by women at the workplace will be interpreted as harassing or not depending on: a) how they perceive the appropriateness of the intentions of the harasser, b) their sensitivity to the issue of sexual harassment, c) how personally vulnerable they are, d) the context within which the behaviour occurred and c) the behaviour itself. The proposed framework adds to existing knowledge by building on and expanding the prior understanding of how social-sexual behaviour at work is interpreted, going beyond the constricted attention paid to one or few factors affecting interpretation in a piecemeal fashion.

Keywords:   Sexual harassment at workplace, Social-sexual behaviour, Working women