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Difference Between Sexual Harassment and Flirting

Both sexual harassment and flirting are in some ways treated as sexual harassment. The ideas and motivation behind each are disregarded and concluded to be one, which is an intention to force sexual gratification from an unwilling individual.

However, these are two different terms with a very thin line existing between them. However, the extent to which flirting happens could result in a court of law ruling it off as sexual harassment.

The thing line between sexual harassment and flirting is usually blurred. As such, it is taken to mean that violent or inappropriate conduct is often dismissed or minimized. It is usually dismissing as an unintended contact regardless of the intention of the person to whom the touch came from.

To get the difference between the two behaviors, a clear distinction needs to be drawn. In regard to that, this post seeks to dissect the two and hope that a reader will learn more about each and take the necessary step when either happens.

This post should never be used as an alternative to what the law says and if at any time you are faced with any of the cases herein, seeking legal guidance and representation will be advisable.


Meaning of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment qualifies to be so if an individual makes unwanted sexual advances to another. Apart from sexual advances, other signs may include making obscene remarks, unnecessary touching of a person’s private areas, or naked body parts, including hands.

In a job place, sexual harassment is taken as any unwelcome sexual advances, verbal or physical conduct of sexual nature, or requests for sexual favors. If a senior staff lures a junior to engage in any sexual activity for job place favors like promotion, it is taken as sexual harassment in most jurisdictions.


Meaning of Flirting

Flirting is taken as any behavior that suggests one is sexually attracted to another but in a playful way rather than with a serious intention. In this case, the person flirting is called a flirt and is one who behaves in an overly friendly way in a manner that the friendliness can be interpreted to mean seduction.

Examples of flirting advances included blowing kisses, giving away phone numbers, free lap dances, and caressing. Blinking of the eye or showing of the tongue are also interpreted as flirting. If you constantly keep talking about a person’s body, touching them, or you keep complimenting them to the point that you make them uncomfortable, it can also be interpreted to be flirting.


Differences Between Sexual Harassment and Flirting

The major differences between flirting and sexual harassment are laid down as follows:

  1. Meaning of Sexual Harassment verses Flirting

Sexual harassment means making any unwanted sexual advances or signs to another person like making obscene remarks, sending sexually suggestive messages, and unnecessary touching of one’s bare body parts. Flirting, on the other hand, means any behavior that suggests one is attracted to another in a sexual way, in a rather playful than serious way.

  1. Form

More often, flirting is welcome attention and goes both ways. It is okay if it happens between two people who are okay with each other doing it and not okay with, for example, an adult to a child. Sexual harassment, on the other hand, is unwanted and involves actions that make one party feel bad and uncomfortable.

  1. Nature of Sexual Harassment verses Flirting

Sexual harassment is one-sided while flirting can be a reciprocal. Flirting may also include positive touching while sexual harassment includes negative and unwanted touching.

While flirting could make one feel happy, sexual harassment in most cases makes the affected individual feel sad, disrespected, and angry.

Sexual harassment is also demeaning, unwanted, and invading. Flirting, on its side, maybe wanted, open, and flattering.

Flirting usually improves the self-esteem of the person enjoying the flirting while sexual harassment produces negativity and affects the self-esteem of the victim in a degrading way.

  1. Results

Flirting, in most cases, makes one feel wanted and attractive if it is done moderately and with good intentions. However, sexual harassment makes one feel unattractive and forces them to feel or think like they are only good to be laid.

Sexual Harassment Vs. Flirting: Comparison Table


Summary of Sexual Harassment Vs. Flirting

The line between flirting and sexual harassment needs to be drawn. If you can understand the two, you might find yourself lucky and protect yourself from being exploited. Nevertheless, we live in a world where any form of flirting is mistaken for harassment. It is, therefore, crucial that you understand the boundaries within which you and your colleagues or friends work in. This will help avoid so many unnecessary cases that would otherwise be misunderstood and end up the wrong way.


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References :

[0]"Flirting Vs Sexual Harassment | Sexual Definition For Teens". Pamf.Org, 2018, http://www.pamf.org/teen/abc/sex/flirting.html. Accessed 20 Nov 2018.

[1]"Sexual Harassment Vs. Flirting". Burro.Cwru.Edu, 2018, http://burro.cwru.edu/women/harassment/flirting.html. Accessed 20 Nov 2018.

[2]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eugen_de_Blaas_The_Flirtation.jpg

[3]Image credit: http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/handwriting/images/sexual-harassment.jpg

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