Sex Roles

, Volume 44, Issue 7–8, pp 401–417 | Cite as

Blaming the Target of Sexual Harassment: Impact of Gender Role, Sexist Attitudes, and Work Role



This study was conducted to examine factors associated with blaming the target of sexual harassment. Participants' experiences of sexual harassment, sexist attitudes, gender, gender role identity, age, worker or student status, and belief in a just world were included as independent variables. Level of blame was evaluated using a series of 12 vignettes that manipulated the gender of the target and harasser as well as the seriousness of the harassing behavior. The sample comprised 30 female and 32 male workers from two workplaces, whose ages ranged from 18 to 65 (M = 35) years, and 102 female and 18 male university students whose ages ranged from 17 to 40 (M = 21) years. Approximately 70% of the sample were from Anglo Australian background, and 30% from European, Middle Eastern or Asian background. Females experienced more sexual harassment than males did, although the male rate was higher than expected. Although the majority of subjects attributed little blame to the target, males blamed the target of sexual harassment more than females did, and workers blamed the target of harassment more than university students did. Worker status, sexist attitudes, and gender significantly predicted blame for the total sample. Gender-typing increased the blame of the target by males but not by females. Attribution of blame was significantly influenced by worker versus student status, which supports the social psychological perspective that gender-related behavior is context dependent. The findings from this study suggest that organisational culture and environment influence respondents' attitudes to sexually harassing behavior.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia

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