By Choi Sung-jin
"My wife is a white woman. My boss at the office pried into my sex life with her. I refused to reply but he called my wife a ‘white horse,' and me a ‘man astride a white horse.' I laughed it away but felt humiliated."
That was what a man working at a manufacturing company recently confessed to Seo Yu-jeong, a researcher at Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training who was gathering the examples of men sexually harassed at the office.
In her study titled "Analysis of sexual embarrassment and assaults at the office," Seo stresses the need for making a policy approach to male victims as well.
According to the study, 22 percent of male respondents said they suffered sexual harassment while at work during the past six months, higher than even 15.9 percent women reported, in stark contrast to previous studies in which the female respondents' "yes" replies far outweighed those of males.
"It seems as if male workers didn't even recognize their experiences as sexual harassment or avoided acknowledging their victimhood," Seo said. "They either have little concept of sexual violence or avoid being regarded as socially weak."
To reduce the evasion of response, the study did not include direct wording like "sexual embarrassment" in questions, but instead explained damage with concrete examples and asked whether the men had similar experiences. For example, the survey asked whether there were "inappropriate contacts on parts of body," "sexual jokes and jeers related with personal affairs," and "forced entertaining of bosses and clients of different sexes."
In this survey conducted with 3,150 men and 2,835 women working in six areas, those working in service businesses showed the highest rate of experiencing sexual harassment with 29.1 percent, followed by those in health and social welfare (18.9 percent), finance and insurance (16.0 percent), construction (14.5 percent), public administration (14.0 percent) and manufacturing (11.2 percent).
These rankings differed by sex. Men showed a higher percentage of victimhood in services with 35.0 percent and finance-insurance (17.2 percent), while that of women was higher in health-social welfare (21.3 percent) and public administration (15.1 percent).
"I have yet to find out why the rates of victimhood differ between men and women by job categories," said Seo. "Still it has become clear that men are at least as exposed to sexual harassment as women are."