Human Sexuality > Chapter 10

Chapter 10: Attitudes and Behavior

Human attraction is inevitable no matter where you are - at school, at the mall or even a charity event, but what happens when it occurs at work? For those working forty or more hours, employees see their co-workers more often than family. They also become a network of individuals who have the same interests, goals and ambitions; perhaps they understand you more than your own family or partner.

Sex and the Workplace

Each year, thousand of co-workers find themselves getting closer to their peers often resulting in some type of relationship whether it is a causal affair, sex or long term relationship. That is not so strange, considering where else do career driven individuals spend most of their time but work? A new study also showed that more and more women are now entering the professional workforce, where men once dominated industry after industry. In this modern era, men and women are also waiting until later in life to get married, often waiting until after college to get married.

“Old-fashioned dating” - from church, schools or other social events result in less relationships being formed, and bars or clubs are not any better of an option for finding a soul mate. Instead, the workplace is one of the best locations to find people with the same interests, and there are daily opportunities to engage in conversation and get to know one another a little better. In addition to daily interaction, co-workers live within a relatively close distance, unlike instances where people meet at a social event only to find out they live hours apart.

In past years, workplace relationships and romance have been frowned upon. Aside from work and personal conflicts, how many people have dealt with working with a co-worker that they have just ended a relationship with? What about being in a relationship with a supervisor or high-up management personnel? These types of situations happen on a daily basis, but still people are willing to take a risk to get to know someone in the office. Workplace romance is so common in fact, that many companies do not have anything written about it in the policy book, but rather suggest discretion from both workers to not partake in personal interactions while on the job.

For a company, office romance is very dangerous because of the resulting sexual harassment claims that often arise from males and females. Company management generally discourages or downright forbids it if possible. Side effects to workplace relationships have been know to increase lack of production often initiates discord when the relationship breaks up.

Sexual harassment is a huge factor in the workplace when it comes to men and women working together. Sexual harassment is defined as an event or action where one employee makes continuous, unwelcome sexual advances, requests sexual favors or uses verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature to another employee against their wishes. For many, sexual harassment also means that the individual being harassed experiences a decrease in work performance or feels intimidated when they reject advances of the harasser, causing a hostile or offensive work environment.

[QN.No.#53.When one employee makes continuous, unwelcome sexual advances, requests sexual favors or uses verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature to another employee against their wishes, this is defined as:]

Sexual harassment is also hard to define. There is no clear-cut example of this sort of harassment, unless it seems blatant. Some common examples of sexual harassment from both men and women are:

  • Offensive comments, gestures or jokes that are unwelcome by the recipient
  • Touching or any bodily contact including patting on the back, blocking a person from moving, or putting hands on the waist
  • Asking repeatedly for a date from an individual after they are turned down
  • Sharing sexual texts, emails or pictures within the office
  • Posting inappropriate pictures or objects within the office
  • Playing music, movies or games that have a sexual nature within the office

[QN.No.#54.Playing music, movies or games that have a sexual nature within the office is not considered as a sexual harassment.True/False]
In order to ensure the rights of all parties involved, once a sexual harassment claim is given to an employee supervisor, an investigation occurs immediately. Once an employee gives a claim to the supervisor, Human Resources steps in and investigates the matter. Unfortunately, some employees find themselves a target of sexual harassment claims for retaliation, so it’s always important to go forth with the investigation so individuals can be cleared, or reprimanded, or worse, if necessary.

Since sexual harassment is so subjective, there are many things to remember when it comes to who can be affected. Harassment is not just between men and women, but also often occurs between individuals of the same sex. It’s also important to remember that sexual harassment does not have to mean crude innuendo or comments told from one person to the next, but rather a person feels uncomfortable with comments or anything thing else that may occur in their presence. This can mean sexual comments around the water cooler within a group of women talking about the latest good-looking actor, or inappropriate comments about women from a male boss.

Affairs and the Workplace

Working together has its advantages and disadvantages while in a relationship. On the upside, your co-worker turned weekend date has a lot in common, lives close and shares many of the same interests and goals as yourself. You have the ability to affect work performance in a positive way due to the capability of being more effective when the home life is happier, and the company is able to benefit from it. On the downside, if and when the relationship ends, work productivity is reduced and the personal issues are now being brought into the workplace. Almost half of American workers has been in some type of office relationship, a good majority of those dating managers or supervisors.

Another major issue with sex and the workplace are affairs. Many married couples that divorce do so because of ‘office’ affairs. As with single people who find relationships in the office, spending many hours away from a spouse has the potential to pose the same risk. Marriages where the couples have different lines of work, different hours and a different understanding of what the other does can run the risk of causing conflict within the home unless open communication and trust are achieved in the home.

At work, a spouse interacts with co-workers daily, many of which share the same life goals, ambitions or interests as those who are single. Spouses who are in a relationship with a person that does not fully support them or seem interested in what they do find that with co-workers, they also are able to connect on a level some married couples cannot. Many of these affairs take place at the office itself, interfering with work and using company time to partaking in personal and extramarital affairs.

Romance in the Workplace

It’s not easy dealing with romance in the workplace. In fact, it might seem harder given all of the rules and policies regarding it. However, in the event that you have hit it off with a co-worker and they feel the same way, there are a few ways you can deal with it:

  • Be sure to know the ins and outs of the companies policy on office relationships, as well as any unwritten understandings regarding dating or sexual relationships
  • Behave professionally. Keep any displays of affection out of the office and done on personal time
  • Keep the relationship under wraps until you both are ready and willing to deal with the office and management knowing about it.
  • Some companies might move co-workers to different shifts, departments or even locations when they find out co-workers are dating.
  • If you do not wish to be separated, keep the relationship private.
  • If you want to share the news, tell only those who can keep the information confidential for you

With thousands of men and women entering into the workforce each year, more cases of office romance will occur, and many individuals will strike up relationships and even end up getting married. It’s important for any individual going to work to remember that finding themselves in an office romance is not very unusual. Just remember that when it is good, it’s great, but when things go bad, they can be awkward, not to mention grounds for sexual harassment claims if the attention is unwanted from another.

Sex and the Media

Another forum where sex and behavior is rampant is the media. Sex is everywhere. It’s used to sell products, get attention and even to be provocative. Movies and TV shows use sex to get attention from certain demographics, and even video games incorporate sexual themes into scenarios and game play. Why? The media uses women and men as objects to show others what they should look like, or what they should be. Throughout past decades, women and men have been seen in the media wearing less and less clothing, and most media outlets are being used to show the average person that they just aren’t pretty, handsome or sexy enough.

Since the beginning of television, the media has used images to send messages to viewers. Within the last few decades, women in particular have been shown naked or mostly naked when to commercials or print advertisements for items such as perfume, alcohol and even fashion ads. In particular, the female body is made into a sexual object for the sole purpose of getting attention from viewers, especially men. In a majority of print advertisement even today, women are portrayed from the neck down, showing the middle, legs and thighs so that they become objects selling the goods. Often, they don’t have an identity.

Within the last few years, sex and the media has become a much more open subject. Women and their sexuality are talked about openly. However the media still uses women as role models for keeping a man happy. In countless women’s magazines on shelves right this minute, check to see how many headlines sound like this: “How to please your man,” “How to keep your man,” “What you should do to get your boyfriend to listen,” “How to attract men,” and “How to keep your man interested”.

Even in the 21st century, women are still being marketed as sexual objects bent on pleasing and keeping a man. Teenagers and young adults are no longer asking parents about sex or practicing safe sex, but rather get most or all of their information from what they read in magazines or see on TV. With shows such as The OC, Beverly Hills 90210 and Gossip Girl, teenagers are seeing fictional lives and scenarios and trying to imitate them in real life. Young men and women read magazines such as Cosmopolitan or GQ to get tips on how to attract other and satisfy them.

The media even goes so far as to correlate sex and weight loss, supposedly since the better looking and fit a woman is, the better looking or successful man she is able to get. These messages lead to other issues such as peer pressure, body images and even eating disorders as teens or young adults try to be like people they see in the media. The media is also trying to get the attention of younger teenagers, especially girls. What they see at a young age has been shown to have lasting effects on not only how they view themselves physically, but also emotionally.

This age group, or “tweens” as it is now referred to, is being inundated with movies, music, video games and even advertisements that show people in their same age group partaking in activities that advertisements featuring older men and women also do. Even toys such as dolls are much more sexual than they use to be, with clothing choices being mini skirts or clothing that shows more skin and makeup, being much too grown up for young children’s toys.

Tweens are especially vulnerable to feeling inadequate compared to what they see in the world, and from a young age they being to feel as though these images are what they need to be in order to be accepted or liked. Eating disorders, depression, and a lack of self-esteem are all caused by young boys and girls feeling the need to compete with others they see in more provocative settings. Even TV shows are no longer being markets to the older teenagers.

Music videos on channels such as MTV or VH1 constantly show the glamorous life of a rock or rap star, in a fancy house with men and women dancing around them half naked. Young teenagers stay up late to watch shows meant for older teenagers or adults. As mentioned before, shows like Gossip Girl or Beverly Hills 90210 are very popular within the teenage demographics, and they feature adult themes in various episodes.

What about reports of sex in the media leading to more cases of teen sex? According to studies, teens exposed to seeing sexual content are twice more likely to participate in sexual activity than those who are not. Aren’t the parents to blame? They could be in a way because they are the judge of what is appropriate or not in a young teenagers life, but sexual content is everywhere. It’s in the music, the movies, TV shows that aren’t even sexual in nature, it’s in magazines and books!

It would be impossible for parents to keep their children away from the messages the media gives out on a daily basis. They are responsible however, for giving their children the proper information when it comes to discerning fact from fiction. They need to explain to their children that what you see on TV or the movies does not happen in real life, and that pregnancy is a very real issue when one partakes in those activities. Open communication between parents and their children are vital, especially since the media is using sex to sell more now that ever before.

The media also sets out roles for men and women in life, such as the man hard at work in the office with an endless line of women attracted to him, while the women are seen as gossiping, catty or as single women unable to find a man and keep him.

Often, sex in the media is not all romance when it comes to gender roles. Women are seen as vulnerable and usually in distress, waiting for a man to come and save them. That same vulnerability and innocence makes women a target for violence, especially in movies and TV shows. In these same media outlets, women are also not taken seriously. Women who say “no” to something end up relenting, giving the message that no does not mean no, it just means try harder. This message has become a perfect excuse for men to get their way, since they are under the impression that all women are just playing hard to get.

Advertising is also used for women to get attention from men. For example in perfume advertisements, women attract men with their perfume scent, implying that all you have to do is dab a little here and there and they come running. On the flip side, advertisements for men show using hair or body products cause women to lose their cool, with some recent commercials showing hordes of women running after a single man because of how good he smelled.

With thousands of billboards, magazine covers, movies and TV shows portraying celebrities and models as the epitome of what every person should look and act like, it might be hard to get the younger generation to not pay so much attention to it. Why do the media use sex to sell and advertise goods? Why is so much money spent on advertising?

Basically, advertising is getting someone to buy something they might not normally buy. How often have we bought something based on how it made someone else look? Cosmetic ads are perfect for making the average woman feel not as attractive and perfect as the models with the makeup. The message behind these ads is, “If we only had that mascara or lip gloss, we could look like her”. Advertising uses the inadequacy consumers feel to make them buy what they are selling. In men’s magazines such as GQ or Esquire, advertisements for expensive cigars, watches and cars line the magazine. Men readers see it and feel that if they had a nice watch, they too could be taken seriously. Advertising executive spend millions of dollars each year to make society look at what is essentially for sale. Add in attractive and scantily clad men and women, and now you have an audience. Advertisements such as these must work, since they continue to put them out and make money on society purchasing the goods.

It is estimated that each person is exposed to over 2,000 advertisements per day. A majority of those contain sexual themes or suggestions, despite who they are being marketed to. Why do the media use sex to sell products? Sex sells more than the product; it sells an idea. Attractive models pose in a provocative manner, clothes are never worn as they should be, or men and women in advertisements have some sort of sexual attraction or tension. Where can one find advertisements that use sex to sell them? T name a few:
  • Clothing and shoes
  • Cars
  • Perfume and Cologne

[QN.No.#55.Sex is used to sell which of the following products?]

The media also uses sex to sell itself to the consumer, and it seems to be an effective way of selling goods because if not, they would try something else. Here is why sex sells products:

  • It shows us what we could only have if we bought the product
  • It uses emotions to get our attention by feeling envious or inadequate
  • It makes us want what we see, being the lifestyle, attractiveness or desire we see in the advertisement aside from the actual product
  • It gets attention

Women are not the only ones in the media with an inaccurate role. Some feel that homosexuals have a certain role in the media, and that is to be flamboyant or entertaining to those around them. After finally breaking into mainstream media, homosexuals were immediately typecast in certain roles, which some feel are nothing at all close to how they really feel, behave or function.

The media has a hard time treating minorities, women, and homosexuals as they really are, but instead has fit them in a box of how they should be represented. Often times, they are trying to stay away from “reality”, because they do not want to lose viewers, advertisers, or investors if they did not make their material edgy or entertaining enough. Of course, stereotyping is hard not to do, especially where there are millions of people advertisers must reach each day. Stereotypes cause issues such as:

  • Turning differences between people into a category
  • Making assumptions and proving them right for the sake of entertainment
  • Prolonging prejudice in society
  • Justify people in their life roles

As we have gone over in this lesson, sex in both the workplace and media are a part of everyday existence. Attraction plays a big part in co-workers establishing a relationship, and the media tries to attract everyone in the same sort of fashion. By inundating the media with advertisements featuring sexual themes or content, consumers begin to compare themselves to those they see in the print ads or on the big screen. With advertising, generally one tries every possible way they can in order to sell a product for businesses to stay afloat.

If portraying sex is doing that, why should they stop? We all can’t blame the media for exposing us to these ads that make us feel less attractive, because those feelings we get are what drives us out to by the product. Looking at magazine advertisements of clothing, we imagine ourselves buying those clothes and looking as good. You buy the car on the billboard hoping it gets you as much attention as that young guy. Advertisements sell billions of dollars of products each year because we allow them to. Yes, there are boundaries that should not be crossed like young teenagers watching TV shows that glamorize sex and material things, however they are still watching them.

Staying educated and aware of differentiating fact from fiction is one of the best tools to use against the media. Not allowing yourself to get depressed because you don’t look like an airbrushed model is a great example of taking the advertisements as what they are and not setting yourself up for failure.

Sex in the workplace is also inevitable. Hundreds of people go to work each day and come into contact with people that are very similar- ambitious, goal orientated and even have the same interest. For those that spend countless hours at work, meeting someone there seems like the ideal thing to do. Chances are they live close by and meeting on the weekends is easy and convenient. Before getting involved in any office relations, remember these following tips:

  • Act professional
  • Keep personal time out of the office
  • Check with the company guidelines on office relationships

In the event that one is married, seek counseling before starting an office affair. These usually never end well, with one person always afraid their secret affair will be exposed when the relationship ends. Try working things out with a spouse if there is a rift in understanding, or question why it is much more appealing to have an affair than work things out at home. Avoid getting into relationships with those higher up, if possible. Many individuals who have been in relationships with their bosses or superiors only find their work environment gets very unpleasant if and when the relationship ends.

Avoid anything that could be construed as sexual harassment. In the event that you are the target of inappropriate comments or touching, report it to the supervisor immediate so they can contact Human Resources in order to file a report and investigate it. If there is ever a case of sexual harassment that is not directed to you, but exists nonetheless still report it to the supervisor so it can be taken care of.


As you have read throughout this course on Human Sexuality, there many different aspects and dimensions to sexual behavior and development in all cultures around the world. It’s up to each one of us to strive to understand others, as well as the behaviors of others when it comes to our interactions with them, both at school, at work and in our neighborhoods.

Sexuality is not something that many people feel comfortable discussing, but is an important topic for all of us to remember when we’re dating and looking for a marriage partner or a groups of friends to hang around with in our downtime.

Different attitudes regarding sexual gender roles and expectations can affect the degree to which we become involved with others and how we perceive them in our family, our neighborhoods and in society. Human sexuality is not a black or white issue, but is filled with tones of gray that offer limitless potential for study.

Human Sexuality > Chapter 10
Page Last Modified On: February 16, 2015, 07:47 PM