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What is considered inappropriate sexual behavior?

A man making inappropriate advances to a woman in a workplace.

Considering the sentencing of comedian Bill Cosby, the investigations into the past of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and the Me Too movement denouncing sexual harassment and advocating for protection of victims, it is worth emphasizing what is considered sexual misconduct, whether at work or at school.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has defined sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

The EEOC has an expanded definition of inappropriate behavior, of course depending on the circumstances. It states that sexual harassment includes many things such as unwanted deliberate touching, leaning over, cornering, or pinching; unwanted sexual looks or gestures; and unwanted letters, telephone calls, or materials of a sexual nature. The critical word regarding this topic is unwelcome. If an action (whether it is implicit or explicit) makes a person feel uncomfortable, it enters into the realm of the inappropriate.

The EEOC also lists the following behaviors that may be considered inappropriate:

  • Unwanted teasing, jokes, innuendos, remarks, or personal questions about social or sexual life.
  • Sexual comments about a person’s clothing, anatomy, or looks.
  • Telling lies or spreading rumors about a person’s sex life.
  • Giving unwanted massages; touching a person’s clothing, hair, or body; unwanted kissing, patting, or stroking.
  • Sexually suggestive signals such as looking a person up and down, throwing kisses, or licking lips; making sexual gestures with your hands or through body movements.

Unfortunately, in many parts of the world, we still live in the midst of a highly sexist society. Women, even adolescents, are seen as sexual objects. Moreover, in the media and on social networks, the idea spreads that a girl can get more attention, can be more famous, or can get more followers, if she adds risqué or scantily clad photos of herself on her social media accounts.

In the cultural sphere, popular musical genres such as hip-hop, reggaeton, and bachata promote a culture that hypersexualizes young girls, exposing them to the problem of harassment.

It is very difficult to expect to lock our adolescents in a bubble. We are in the middle of a world that can be hostile. Faced with this, parents have two powerful weapons: instilling solid values in their children ​​and establishing open communication with them.

As for values, children will follow our example more than our words. Therefore, we must be very careful about the kind of things we tell them, the kind of movies and shows that we watch with them, the kind of music we enjoy, and even the kind of jokes we tell. Absolutely everything that we do and that we allow will influence our children. They will learn from us about sexism or equality, and they will see if we treat people as objects or if we respect them.

Regarding communication, it is very important to learn to listen. From the time they are young, teach them to respect their bodies and teach them that other people should not touch them improperly. If your children tell you that this or that person made them feel bad, believe them. If you develop a high degree of trust with your children, you can know the truth behind their problems and behavior.

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Con más de 25 años de carrera profesional, Diego Barahona, es un destacado periodista quien ha incursionado en múltiples campos de la comunicación tanto en su natal Ecuador, como en Estados Unidos. Actualmente es el editor de La Noticia. Ha recibido múltiples galardones a lo largo de su trayectoria, entre ellos, el año 2016 y 2017 fue nombrado como el periodista de un medio impreso en español más premiado en Estados Unidos, al recibir una docena de Premios José Martí. Es autor del best seller en “¿Cómo leer a las personas?”

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