Vanderbilt Law Review


Marie T. Reilly

First Page



The emerging law of sexual harassment has focused discussion on the political, sociological, and legal issues surrounding sexual conduct. Some commentators have argued that the developing law insufficiently addresses an underlying political imbalance between men and women. Although these commentators eschew sexual harassment law as a plausible means of achieving an egalitarian, sex-blind society, they offer few concrete suggestions for reaching their goal. A few scholars have taken a position at the other extreme, that sexual harassment is more or less a chimera, and that the injury women claim to experience is simply part of the vicissitudes of life, or, in the case of workplace harassment, of their employment bargain.

Sexual harassment, however defined, is an unusual social problem in that one group of people engage in the challenged conduct and another group bears the loss, with virtually no overlap. The groups are easily identified as men and women. Commentators have explained the phenomenon as evidence of the subordination of women by men.' The insular quality of the groups and the political imbalance between them has prompted some commentators to draw the conclusion that sexual harassment should be addressed as part of global social policy, not as an issue of allocation of loss among individuals.