UPDATE: See Natalia Antonova’s post for several important clarifications and corrections. As I suspected, some of the claims are exaggerated, but the general gist of the story is correct. (Thanks Lisa.)

HuffPo informs us that a Russian judge has ruled that sexual harassment is a-okay because it ensures the survival of the human race. You see, apparently without sexual harassment, there would be no sex. What is this “consent” of which you speak?

The unnamed executive, a 22-year-old from St Petersburg, had been hoping to become only the third woman in Russia’s history to bring a successful sexual harassment action against a male employer.

She alleged she had been locked out of her office after she refused to have intimate relations with her 47-year-old boss.

“He always demanded that female workers signalled to him with their eyes that they desperately wanted to be laid on the boardroom table as soon as he gave the word,” she earlier told the court. “I didn’t realise at first that he wasn’t speaking metaphorically.”

The judge said he threw out the case not through lack of evidence but because the employer had acted gallantly rather than criminally.

“If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children,” the judge ruled.

Clearly, this story is really fucked up and disturbing on its own. And I hope that all remotely intelligent people can see why — flirting is not the same as harassment, harassment is not the same as consent, and some sexual relationships are appropriate to pursue while others are not.  Sexual harassment does not ensure the survival of the human race, heterosexuality and human instinct found in people of all sexualities do that.  Sexual harassment is not a human instinct, and is not an innate part of heterosexuality.

But the rest of the article, describing the climate in which this kind of ruling could exist, threw me for an even bigger loop.

Since Soviet times, sexual harassment in Russia has become an accepted part of life in the office, work place and university lecture room.

According to a recent survey, 100 per cent of female professionals said they had been subjected to sexual harassment by their bosses, 32 per cent said they had had intercourse with them at least once and another seven per cent claimed to have been raped.

Eighty per cent of those who participated in the survey said they did not believe it possible to win promotion without engaging in sexual relations with their male superiors.

Women also report that it is common to be browbeaten into sex during job interviews, while female students regularly complain that university professors trade high marks for sexual favours.

All of that is jaw-dropping. All of it. 100% of female professionals in Russia have been subjected to sexual harassment by their bosses? 100%???

But the part that really sent shivers down my spine and forced me to walk away from the computer for the rest of the evening was the bit about how it’s common for women to be raped during job interviews. Do you see that? Raped. During job interviews. Common. (For those slow on the uptake: “browbeating” someone is not obtaining their consent, it’s coercing, intimidating and threatening them into sex — which is rape.)  I don’t know what to say.

Honestly, I was hoping that this might be the exaggeration on the part of a West European newspaper having some cultural superiority moment. Wouldn’t it be great, finding out that this wasn’t true?  After all, a lot of blog headlines I’ve seen, declaring things like “Sexual harassment necessary/acceptable/a patriotic duty in Russia” as though we’re so incredibly advanced and over the whole sexual harassment thing elsewhere, have indicated cultural superiority precisely and gotten on my last nerve. You know, because in places like the U.S., sexual harassment apparently rarely happens and is always swiftly punished, and I’m sure that if this ruling and these statistics came out of our own country, people would be equally up in arms rather than skeptical and apologetic.  It wouldn’t only be the feminists raising a stink at all!  Right.

But writings by Natalia Antanova (h/t) among others suggest that, terrifyingly, what is reported in this article is not so far fetched.  The fact that only two sexual harassment cases have been won in the history of the country indicates similarly.  In other words, despite the ugly, sneering tone of much of the criticism, it’s most likely so much for wishful thinking.

Thanks to Pizza Diavola for sending the link.


1 SunlessNick August 7, 2008 at 2:01 pm

Holy crap is about all I can say to that.

2 Jen August 7, 2008 at 5:47 pm

Gee, because women are too stupid to want to have children and sex all by themselves. Furthermore, men are just such abhorrent pigs that the only way the species would continue is if they chase us around with pitchforks and their genitalia flapping out of their loincloths threateningly.

3 Lemur August 8, 2008 at 3:06 am

Wow. Well, hell, I know the only way I wanna have teh secks with a dude is if he nags, chases, stalks, coerces, assaults or in any other way rapes me. Cause it’s HAWT. Oh yeah, that’s the dude I wanna have baybeez with!

4 CassieC August 8, 2008 at 6:20 am

Not surprised, sadly. My American eldest brother said that “what is currently called workplace sexual harassment used to just be normal, and criminalizing it will reduce relationships and marriages” in the 1990s. He’s a lawyer. He also believes “no does not mean no” so it’s all consistent.

My Russian physicist friend bragged about he and his friends harassing the 2 female students so badly they quit “because they should be married and having families, not doing physics”.

The rest of my family and friends are not so bad, in case you’re worried.

5 Lisa Harney August 8, 2008 at 7:08 am

Natalia Antonova posted more information here.

As it turns out, there’s been some news shenanigans from England aimed at Russia, so she looked deeper – the story looks mostly legitimate, but the numbers are presented badly, or in misleading ways and the judge is a woman.

However, in the current climate, the quote itself is fairly plausible.

6 Cara August 8, 2008 at 10:12 am

Thanks Lisa, I’ve updated the post.

7 Pizza Diavola August 8, 2008 at 6:54 pm

Thanks for blogging this, Cara. It’s such a horrifying story.

8 Natasha September 9, 2008 at 9:17 am

those are sad statistics and not very far from the truth. however I would like to add, that in Russia there is no tradition, generally speaking, to sue as frequently as it is done e.g. in the US. Trying to sue influential people in Russia, will get you into more trouble. there is no trust in the legal system, because everyone one knows that the one who has the money is right. sad, but true.

9 Hairstyle September 12, 2008 at 9:50 am

This is a horrifying story, I feel terrible.

10 gemma October 23, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Holy shit.

100%!?!?!? This is incredibly horrible.


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