Perceptions of sexual harassment: The effects of gender, legal standard, and ambivalent sexism

Richard L. Wiener, Linda Hurt, Brenda Russell, Kelley Mannen, Charles Gasper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


This research tests the possibility that the reasonable woman as compared to the reasonable person test of hostile work environment sexual harassment interacts with hostile and benevolent sexist beliefs and under some conditions triggers protectionist attitudes toward women who complain of sexual harassment. We administered to a sample of undergraduates the ambivalent sexism inventory along with the fact patterns in two harassment cases and asked them to make legally relevant decisions under either the reasonable woman or person standard. We found that those high in hostile sexism, and women, found more evidence of harassment. However, those high in benevolent sexism did not exhibit the hostile sexism effects. Although men were less sensitive to the reasonable woman standard than women, under some conditions the reasonable woman standard enabled both genders to find greater evidence of harassment. The results are discussed from the perspectives of law and psychology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-93
Number of pages23
JournalLaw and human behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law

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