Status Signaling and the Law, with Particular Application to Sexual Harassment
University of Chicago Law School, John M. Olin Law & Economics Working Paper No. 69
54 Pages Posted: 21 May 1999
Date Written: March 1999
Laws aimed at sexual harassment, nudity, and pornography are usually understood to be concerned primarily although not exclusively with "offensive" behavior rather than with more palpable or measurable harms. The precise nature of the offensiveness, however, is unclear. We shall argue that it is connected to status through the concept of signaling. Differences in the optimal sexual strategies of men and women translate into differences in actual or perceived status that in turn incite behaviors that create a demand for public or private regulation. Although our particular interest is status signaling, we discuss the phenomenon of status more broadly and explore a number of applications. In particular, we offer a fresh perspective on a social policy of growing importance--the provision of legal remedies against employers for sexual harassment in the workplace.
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