Sexual Harassment Losing Sight of Sex Discrimination

22 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2010


In this article, the author argues that the separation of sexual harassment from sex discrimination within legal and popular discourses deflects attention from systemic discrimination. The article examines a range of conduct to support the view that the closer to heterosex the harassing conduct is, the more likely it is to be accepted as sexual harassment. This corporealised focus not only individualises the conduct and detracts from the idea of women as rational knowers in authoritative positions, it also legitimises other forms of harassing conduct in the workplace. The unremitting focus on the sexual in sexual harassment therefore serves a convenient political and ideological purpose within a neo liberal climate that privileges employer prerogative over workers’ rights.

Keywords: sexual harassment, sex discrimination, workplace

JEL Classification: J71, K31

Suggested Citation

Thornton, Margaret, Sexual Harassment Losing Sight of Sex Discrimination. Melbourne University Law Review, Vol. 26, pp. 422-44, 2002, ANU College of Law Research Paper No. 10-56, Available at SSRN:

Margaret Thornton (Contact Author)

ANU College of Law ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200

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