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Women sexually harassing men

Sexual prowess

Complaints about women bosses preying on men have doubled since 1990. What's going on out there?

 

The harassment of men at the hands of women is clearly having a moment. While the total number of sexual-harassment claims brought to the EEOC has been declining steadily over the past eight years, the percentage of allegations filed by men has doubled between 1990 and 2007, to 16 percent of all claims. Given that it's estimated only 5 to 15 percent of incidents are even reported, and those that are remain confidential unless a lawsuit is filed — which rarely happens in cases where men are the victims, says EEOC spokesman David Grinberg — who knows how many Louis Obleas are out there, staring in horror at nude pictures of their female superiors? "Most complaints are mediated and resolved, and you'll never hear about them," says celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred. "You won't even see a piece of paper."

 

While it's true that the boldest headlines still involve old-school offenders like Knicks coach Isiah Thomas — who was found guilty of harassing a female former Knicks executive (she claimed that Thomas told her he loved her, and also called her a bitch and a ho) — the more recent phenomenon of women taking lascivious liberties with men has slipped quietly into the zeitgeist. Note Lipstick Jungle's stiletto-wearing magazine editor, Nico Reilly, getting slapped with a complaint after dumping her young lover, Kirby, a photography assistant who works with the magazine. The plotline is plausible because women finally have the power to be predators. We've come a long way since 1994's Disclosure, about a female boss who tries to coerce a male employee to have sex with her, the very premise of which was considered silly at the time — the stuff of, well, Michael Douglas movies. According to New York City lawyer Ronald Green — who represented Bill O'Reilly after O'Reilly's female producer accused him of, among many things, fantasizing over the phone about lathering her up with a loofah mitt — his big clients are now coming to him for help in defending their female executives against sexual-harassment claims. "Women are just behaving like those who came before them," he says.

 

The relative newness of women in the corner office has lent an undeniable frisson to the corporate environment. Given how accustomed women are to drive-by comments and propositions, it can be thrilling when the tables turn and they're the ones controlling the dynamic. Says a 35-year-old executive at a Massachusetts financial company, who has 37 men reporting directly to her: "There are days when I just think, You know, I could have any single one of these guys. Of course, in reality, I wouldn't step over that line, but I know I could. And to be frank, that thought makes work far more interesting." She admits to dressing for her male colleagues. And when hiring an assistant, damned if she didn't choose the "totally hot" 25-year-old former professional hockey player. "If I have to look at this guy every day, why not have it be someone who makes me remember what a schoolgirl crush is?"

 

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