Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




While there are legal definitions of what actions and circumstances constitute gender based prejudiced, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape, less is known about lay people's norms and perceptions of what behaviors and situations qualify as each of these categories, especially involving the role of context in which ambiguous social-sexual behaviors occur. Additionally, sexual harassment paradigms have not explored the unique power relationships of politicians and those working under them in political office, an especially topical locale of workplace SH in a post #MeToo America. 277 participants completed a survey with a 2 (setting: workplace, office party at the bar) x 2 (presence of others: alone, in a group of coworkers) x 2 (extremity of harassing behavior: mild, blatant) between-subjects x 9 (behavior type: control, dirty joke, sexual comment, term of endearment, shoulder touch, displaying pornography, ogling, kiss, grope) within-subjects design that measured a politician's varying degrees of guilt on a variety of misconduct measures and consequences ratings. More extreme versions of behaviors are significantly more likely to be perceived as constituting general sexual harassment, and workplace settings increase perceptions of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment, while being in a group increased perceptions of misconduct occurring. Behaviors did not form a linear hierarchy of severity, with verbal behaviors being perceived as equally inappropriate/harassing as physical ones. the results confirm that susceptibility to context occurs for more ambiguous behaviors, while more explicit behaviors are consistently rated higher on all misconduct measures, regardless of the situation they occur in.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.