Sexual harassment proclivity : dimensionality and individual differences




Sedlacek, Anna Gabrielle Borgida

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Sexual harassment proclivity is an important but understudied domain of human conduct. The most widely used measure solely assesses the use of professional power to obtain sexual favors from subordinates. This single dimension does not reflect the full scope of behaviors that are subsumed under the label of sexual harassment. Moreover, it is not clear that different types of harassing behaviors can be predicted equally well by different individual difference variables. In Study 1 (N = 298), the Likelihood to Sexually Harass scale was expanded to include a broader set of sexual harassment scenarios, which were then subjected to exploratory factor analysis. Two latent forms of sexual harassment were uncovered: coerciveness and persistence. In Study 2 (N = 310), the two-factor solution fit well in a confirmatory factor analysis and performed better than a single factor. In Study 3 (N = 403), these two factors were regressed onto a range of personality traits and beliefs—including empathy, sadism, psychopathy, and several scales related to adversarial beliefs about the opposite sex. This design enabled assessment of (a) whether the factors could be predicted by the same individual differences, and (b) which individual differences may account for unique variance in predicting harassment proclivity. Finally, to examine the persistent aspect of sexual harassment more closely, a simulated choose-your-own-adventure game was generated in Study 4 (N = 1046), in which participants were given multiple opportunities to act platonically or romantically towards an attractive member of the opposite sex in a workplace. While there may be subtle distinctions between different types of harassment, a variety of behaviors under the umbrella of sexual harassment proclivity are so strongly correlated and predicted by the same individual differences that they may be indistinguishable in practice. Both forms of harassment proclivity were consistently predicted by a suite of “dark” or predatory personality traits—particularly adversarial sexual beliefs, sadism, likelihood to rape, and sexual dominance—and Christianity. These results provide new insights and open up new research avenues into the profile of individuals who use exploitative methods to obtain sex.



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