The Problem Is NOT Sexual ‘Harassment’

Eric Zuesse

The U.S. press is now a uniform chorus shouting against America’s widespread ‘sexual harassment’ by men in power, but the press misrepresents fundamentally to call it ‘harassment’, which brings to mind (and which until recently was normally used for) ‘low-class’ or poor men whistling at physically attractive women who walk by and who might reasonably feel insulted — or even endangered — by male strangers who are unashamed to view them publicly as being primarily attractive flesh for their enjoyment on their beds or in their back-rooms. Nothing of what the press is reporting is actually that; it is fundamentally different from that; and the difference isn’t merely ‘semantical’ but is instead very substantive. This false characterization of sexual exploitation as ‘sexual harassment’ is universal in the American press.

There is an enormous difference between “harassment” and “exploitation”. However, in America’s pro-power legal system, there isn’t (the legal distinction is almost non-existent), and the U.S. ‘news’media adopt the existing power-serving system unquestioningly, so that in legal terms, they can get away with calling it merely as “harassment.” But they are not supposed to be agencies of the law; they claim instead to be ‘journalists’ (or else they are merely propagandists). And, if they are journalists, then the common-parlance definitions are the ones that should be applied by them.

So: what are the ordinary synonyms for “harass,” and then for “exploit”?

The thesaurus synonyms for “harass” are “harry, hound, badger, pester, plague”; and, at that same thesaurus site, is specified as being a part of the second of the three given definitions of “harass”: “2. To irritate or torment persistently”; and the third definition given there is: “3. To make repeated  attacks or raids on (an enemy, for example).” Both of those two definitions of “harass” exclude any merely single instance of the bad behavior as fitting to constitute “harassment,” though in many of the cases that are now prominently reported in the U.S. press, the woman escaped from the ‘harasser’ after just a single instance of the frightening behavior from the sexually exploitative man. The #1 definition provided at that site is: “1. To subject (another) to hostile or prejudicial remarks or actions; pressure or intimidate.” This definition doesn’t require any “repeated attacks.” But it ignores altogether the core of what all of these woman have been reporting, which is sexual exploitation.

The #1 definition of “exploitation” is fundamentally different: “treating someone unfairly so as to benefit from their work.” Consequently, the meaning of “sexual exploitation” fits perfectly all of the instances that the press are currently obsessing upon. But all of them nonetheless call it instead “sexual harassment.”

A legal definition of “harassment” is “the act of systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group, including threats and demands.” It excludes any mention of exploitation. But all of the many instances that the U.S. press are now obsessed with, entail exploitation as the central feature. Consequently, the honest word to apply to all of them is “exploitation.” The problem in all of them is “sexual exploitation.” The problem in all of them entails the power-relationship — which is unmentionable in the ‘free’ and ‘democratic’ and ‘equalitarian’ America of today. To call these mere ‘harassment’ is thus to lie.

There is a problem, but it is not ‘sexual harassment’. It is sexual exploitation. And it goes beyond that, to problems with the American system of ‘justice’, and with ‘journalism’ in America, which has too much of a crossover into being PR or public relations or, more boldly called, the “propaganda” professions, which make their incomes from promoting the interests of America’s most powerful.

Other examples of key facts that the U.S. press behaves more like propagandists and thus refuses to report, can be found here, and here, and here, and here. So: while there is a problem here, the core of it is power, and this problem implicates the American press so as to reward the misrepresentation of sexual exploitation as being instead mere ‘sexual harassment’. It’s much more serious than that. It is deeper-rooted. And it is more pervasive. It cannot be addressed effectively by misrepresenting what it is. The first step to effectively addressing any problem is to identify accurately what the problem is. Employing the truthful term here, “exploitation,” would be an essential part of doing that.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.