Role Of Personality Traits, Physical Attractiveness And Gender On Sexual Harassment

Medical and Health Science Project and Seminar Material

Role Of Personality Traits, Physical Attractiveness And Gender On Sexual Harassment


This study examined the role of personality traits, physical attractiveness and gender on sexual harassment.

A total of 300 participants comprising of 200 females and 100 males were all used for the study. The participants were students of Ebonyi state university and school of health technology Ezzamgbo.

A 28 item Eysenck personality questionnaire of yes or no options were used to measure personality of participants. While a fifteen items yes/no options questionnaire were used in measuring physical attractiveness and a 14 item five points likert type questionnaire was used to measure participants’ experience of sexual harassment.

A pilot study was conducted before the main study to establish the reliability of the items. Personality had a coefficient of .66; while physical attractiveness yielded a cronbach’s alpha reliability coefficient of .62 while sexual harassment scale had a cronbach’s alpha reliability of .79.

A cross sectional research design was conducted in which 300 copies of questionnaire were distributed and collected and were used for the study.

The statistics used for the study was multiple hierarchical regression.

The three hypotheses used for the study are:

  1. There will be no statistically significant difference between personality traits and sexual harassment.
  2. There will be no statistically significant difference between physical attractiveness and sexual harassment.
  3. There will be no statistically significant difference between gender and sexual harassment.

Hypothesis I had regression coefficient result of (r= .32, p<.05) while hypothesis II had regression coefficient result of (r= 74; p<.05) and hypothesis III had regression coefficient result of (r= .29, p<.01)

The implications, recommendation and conclusion of the study were also discussed.

Finally suggestions for further research were given and the summary and the conclusion were discussed.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

Sexual harassment includes such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour as physical contacts and advances, sexually coloured remarks showing pornography, and sexual demands- whether by words or action (Singh, 2009).

It is also an unwelcome sexual advance, request, sexual favours and other verbal or physical conducts of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive workplace

Violence against women is experienced by women of all ages and social classes, all races, religions and nationalities, all over the world. It is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men (Krug, 2002). It is the most pervasive violation of human rights in the world today. Its forms are both subtle and blatant and its impact on development is profound. But it is so deeply embedded in cultures around the world that it is almost invisible (charlotte, 1997). Violence against women is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of women’s full advancement and violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanism by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men (United nations, 1993).

The United Nations declarations on violence against women provide a basis for defining gender based violence. According to articles 1 of the declaration, violence against women is to be understood as: “Any act of gender- based violence that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty whether occurring in public or private life (United Nations, 1996).

The experience or threats of violence affects the lives of millions of women worldwide, in all socio-economic and educational classes, cutting across boundaries of wealthy race, religion and culture thus violating and impairing or nullifying the enjoyment by women, of their human right and fundamental freedom. Every form of violence are threat to women and limit their ability to make choices about their lives. At a 12- country workshop, held in china on women’s non formal education, participants were asked to name the worst aspect of being female: fear of male violence was the almost unanimous answer (Heise, 1992).

Acts or threats of violence, whether occurring within the home or in the community or perpetrated or condoned by the state, instil fear and insecurity in women’s lives and are obstacles to the achievers of equality and for development and peace.

The fear of violence, including harassment is a permanent constraint on the mobility of women and limits their access to resources and basic activities. High social, health and economic costs to the individual and society are associated with violence against women. Violence against women improvise society economically, politically and culturally, by limiting the active role that women can make in the development of their community. Violence against women is one of the crucial mechanism by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.

Sexual harassment is one of the forms of sexual exploitation of women that occurs in the workplace or in an educational setting under certain conditions. It is one person inflicts upon another. Such behaviour is illegal if it creates an environment that is hostile or intimidating, if it interferes with a person’s work or school performance, or if acceptance of harasser’s behaviour is made an achievement. Perceptions differ about what behaviours constitute sexual harassment.

However, typical examples of sexual harassment includes sexual oriented gestures, jokes or remarks that are unwelcome, repeated and unwanted sexual advances; touching or other unwelcome bodily contact and physical intimidation. Sexual harassment can occur when one person has power over another and uses it to coerce the person to accept unwanted sexual attention. It can also occur among peers for example, if a co-worker repeatedly tell sexual jokes, post phonographic photos, or make unwelcome sexual innuendos to another co-worker (Martha, 2003).

Women were sexually harassed long before there was a term for it under slavery. African- American women were sexually used by white masters been targets of sexual abuse since industrialization, women working in factions and offices have to endure sexual comments and demands by bosses and co-workers as the price for economic survival. As been sexually prey to teachers for as long as they have been allowed to be educated. On the streets and in the homes, sexual pressures that women are not in a position to refuse have been invisible but pervasive. The exchange of sex for survival conditions of Coercion that defines prostitution has also marked women and men’s unequal relations throughout and forms that violence (Martha, 2003).

Of all forms of violence that women can assume, sexual harassment is the most ubiquitous and insidious, all the more so because it is deemed “normal” behaviour and not an assault on the female entity. It affects women in all settings whether public or private and has psychological, medical, social, political, legal and economic implications. Instances of sexual harassment should be contused as a gendered aggression against the rights and dignity of women. The fact that its promiscuous effects are visible globally, discounts any effort to view it with less gravity that it deserves (Srinivasan, 1998).

Power and status differences are almost at the heart of sexual harassment. Harassment has a desire to exert control, humiliate, achieve and maintain dominance. A belief that women are inferior and should be kept in a submissive role is often part of a harassers’ mentality. The variable that gives rise to sexual violence are undoubtedly numerous and complex. Gender based socialization and social control at the family and societal level is at the root of sexual violence against women. The discrepancy between the norms, values, expectations and sanctions imposed on girls and those on boys because of the socially structured gender inequality is a critical factor. Men are given unlimited freedom right from childhood. Sanctions are imposed only on the girls and almost none on boys. Therefore, sexual harassment can be perceived as an outgrowth of gender biased socialization process and a mechanism by which men assert power and dominance over women.

Media plays a significant role in shaping notions about gender roles and gender identities. The portrayal of violence against women such as sexual harassment in any of the media advertising, films and newspapers as something normal has aided sexual harassment. Reporting of sexual offences is one of the most effective way of showing where power lies in our society. It lays in the hand of the image makers men. To accept the media makers excuses that we are not creating reality, we are only reflecting it, is to accept that sexual violence against women such as sexual harassment is a fundamental part of the relationship between the sexes (thus deserving accurate reflections) rather than a symptom of the way men and women are taught to view each other. (Davis et al, (ed) 1987).

Personality has to do with individual differences among people in behaviour patterns, cognition and emotion.

Personality describes within individual cross-situation consistency in broad classes of behaviour. Personality characteristics as assessed by self report are temporarily stable correlated with objective measure of behaviour (Mathews, Deary & Whiteman, 2003) and predict important life outcomes such as health, (Neelman, System, & Wadsworth, 2001) sexual behaviour (Eysenck 1970), social networks (Swickert, Rosentreter, Hilttner, & Mushrush, 2002), and marital adjustment (Kelly & Conley, 1987).

Some research has lent support to the idea that risky sexual behaviour such as sexual harassment is associated with a number of personality traits. For example, cooper (2000) suggested that risky sexual behaviour like sexual harassment is driven by neuroticism (with the motive to regulate negative effect) and that extraversion drives the use of risky behaviour which sexual harassment is an example in order to enhance positive affective experiences (Cooper, 2000).

Schmitt, Levin and Bryan (2009) found that low self esteem was significantly associated with sexual harassment. Other personality traits such as impulsivity and low self efficacy have been found to be associated with risky sexual behaviour like sexual harassment (Noar et al, 2006; Robbins and Bryan, 2004).

But for the purpose of this research, we are going to focus on the personality traits of extroversion and introversion as they relate to sexual harassment.

Extroversion is the act, state or habit of being predominantly concerned with obtaining gratification from what is outside the self. Extrovert tends to enjoy human interactions and is enthusiastic, talkative, assertive and gregarious.

Extraverts are energized thrive off of being around other people. They take pleasure in activities that involve large social gathering such as demonstration and business or political groups. They also tend to work well in groups. They are also more interest in sexual activities.

Introversion is the state of or tendency towards being wholly or predominantly concern with and interested in one’s own mental life. Introverts are typically perceived as more reserved or reflective. Introverts often take pleasure in societal activities, such as reading, writing, using computers, fishing etc. They prefer society activities.

Eyesenck ( 1976) was among the first to investigate the relationship between personality traits and sexual activities. He found that extraverts tended to endorse more favourable attitude than did introverts towards sexual activities like sexual harassment and the like ( Eysenck 1976). Similar associations between extraverts and more promiscuous sexual desires have been found by others (Barnes, Malamuth, & cheek, 1984, 1992, snyder, simpson, & Gangestad, 1986). Extraversion also has been linked to promiscuous sexual behaviour (Pinkerton & Abrahamson, 1995; Schenk & Pfrang, 1986, Schmitt & Buss, 2000, Wright, 1999).

The reason why extroverts engage in sexual harassment may include that they have a higher Libido than introverts.

In this research, it is expected that high levels of extroversion will be associated with high levels of sexual promiscuity and high engagement in sexual harassment.

We will discuss more on the relationship between personality traits and sexual harassment in the literature review.

Beauty and physical attractiveness are highly complex concepts which have been the subject of much research and debate within the field of psychology (Eagly, Anshmore, Makhijiani & Longo, 1991). Although several past investigation such as studies by Beck, ward-Hull and Miller (1976) and Ford and Beach (1951) revealed that there are substantial individual differences in preferences for beauty standards, more contemporary studies have revealed that people share common views of physical attractiveness regardless of race, age or nationality (Fink & Neare, 2005).

There is also a well known and almost universally agreed hypothesis among social psychologists that a person’s looks affects a variety of dimension (Marcus & Miller, 2003). Individuals that are considered physically attractive and beautiful are perceived more positively than those considered physically unattractive (Collins & Zebrowitskz, 1995). For example, “ what is beautiful is Good” halo effects (dion, Berschied, & walster, (1977) can be demonstrated whereby individuals who are judged to be physically attractive are perceived to have better personalities, be more sociable, dominant, competent, confident, popular and be considered to be better employees than those who are less attractive (Eagly, 1991) .

Furthermore, they are also considered to be warmer, stronger, more posed, flexible in their thoughts, mentally healthy, intelligent, and socially skilled and more successful in their careers than those considered physically unattractive (Feingold 1992, Hosoda, stone- Romero & Coats, 2003, Miller, 1970).

Previous research has show that physical attractiveness influences judgement in sexual harassment cases ( Popovich, Gehlant, Jolton, Everton, Godinho, Mastrangelo 1996).

For example, Golden Johnson and Lopez (2001) found that physically attractiveness victims (all of whom where women were more likely to be labelled as harassed than the unattractive victims. This is to show that physically attractive people are mostly victims of sexual harassment.

This is because most men that harass the ladies always go for the beautiful one or ladies that are physically attractive.

The prototypical sexual harassment victim is a woman and the typical perpetrator is a man- a pattern shown in a preponderance of cases reported in the media and of laboratory Scenarios used in empirical research. hand and Sanchez (2000) found that women were more likely than men to perceive, experience and suffer negative outcomes from sexual harassment.

Furthermore, individuals tend to judge the consequences of sexual harassment directed by men towards women as more serious and harmful than the same act directed by women towards men ( Wayne, Riordan & Thomas, 2001).

Similar, research has also demonstrated that male harassers are perceived more negatively than female harassers (Baird, Bensko, bell, viney & Woody, 1995).

Consistent with these findings, we propose that there is generally shared act of sexual harassment in which men are perpetrators and women are victims.

Yet men may also be targets of sexual harassment. Infact, in 2001, men filed about 15% (1, 1970) of the complaints reported to the equal employment opportunity commission (EEOC, 2003). Male sexual harassment complaints however violate the typical sexual harassment schema and gender stereotype- based expectations.

Burgess & borgida (1997) noted that victims of sexual coercion are seen as powerless and vulnerable adjectives that are contrary to the masculine gender stereotype. People who violate such stereotype-based expectations are likely to be negative, evaluated (Jussim, coleman, & Lerch, 1987, Marin & Guadargo, 1999).

Hence, male complaints are likely to be rated less favourable than female complaints. And this shows that males are more likely to engage in sexual harassment than females.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Sexual harassment is a problem faced mostly by workers in the workplace and by students in the educational institutions.

However, sexual harassment usually involves a male harasser and a females victims ( Terpstra & Cook, 1985).

The possible causes of this problem are the type of personality traits that some people have and also the rate at which the female’s victims are physically attractive.

This problem has negatively impacted on the social emotional and psychological wellbeing of the female victims. If workers were sexual harassed, then their morale, productivity and quality of work may be undermined (Fitzgerald, Drasgow & Clipatrick, 1997).

Till date, there has been little evaluation of the role of personality trait, physical attractiveness and gender on sexual harassment.

In order to understand the motivation for this, it is important that this research is conducted to determine the role of these variables in sexual harassment. The researcher intends to answer the following questions.

  1. Will there be difference between personality traits and sexual harassment?
  2. Will there be difference between physical unattractiveness and sexual harassment?
  3. Will there be difference between gender and sexual harassment?

1.3 Purposes of the Study

The general objective of the study is to examine the role of personality traits, physical attractiveness and gender on sexual harassment.

Specifically, the essences of the study are:

  1. To determine whether there will be difference between personality traits and sexual harassment.
  2. To determine whether there will be difference between physical attractiveness and sexual harassment.
  3. To determine whether there will be difference between gender and sexual harassment.

1.4 Research Hypotheses

Hypotheses One
  • Ho: There is no relationship between physical attraction and sexual harassment.
  • Hi: There is a relationship between physical attraction and sexual harassment.
Hypotheses Two
  • Ho: There is no relationship between gender and sexual harassment
  • Hi: There is a relationship between gender and sexual harassment

1.5 Significance of the Study

This study will add to the body of knowledge on the role of personality traits, physical attractiveness and gender on sexual harassment. It will help employers, lecturers, students and persons concerned have better awareness on sexual harassment, causes and prevention.

1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study

This study is primary concerned with the role of personality traits, physical attractiveness and gender on sexual harassment. This study/project work covers Ebonyi state university. The researcher encountered some constraints, which limited the scope of the study. These constraints include but are not limited to the following

a) Availability of Research Material:

The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study

b) Time:

The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.

1.7 Definition of Terms

Personality Trait:

Personality is defined as the characteristic set of behaviors, cognitions, and emotional patterns

Physical Attractiveness:

Physical attractiveness is the degree to which a person’s physical features are considered aesthetically pleasing or beautiful. The term often implies sexual attractiveness or desirability, but can also be distinct from either.


Either of the two sexes (male and female), especially when considered with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones

Sexual Harassment:

unwanted or offensive sexual attention, suggestions, or talk, especially from an employer or other person in a position of power

1.8 Organization of the Study

This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows

  • Chapter one is concerned with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), historical background, statement of problem, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope and limitation of the study, definition of terms and historical background of the study.
  • Chapter two highlights the theoretical framework on which the study is based, thus the review of related literature.
  • Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study.
  • Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding.
  • Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to ascertain a critical analysis of role of personality traits, physical attractiveness and gender on sexual harassment.

In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations are made, which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefit in addressing the challenges of sexual harassment.

5.2 Summary

This study aimed at having a critical analysis of role of personality traits, physical attractiveness and gender on sexual harassment. Three objectives were raised. These objectives include:

To determine whether there will be difference between personality traits and sexual harassment, to determine whether there will be difference between physical attractiveness and sexual harassment, to determine whether there will be difference between gender and sexual harassment.

5.3 Conclusion

Based on the above findings pertaining to the objectives of the study the following conclusions are drawn.
Offensive behaviors become normalized in the school environment, and too difficult to comprehend and address in a situation where little support is provided by schools themselves.Sexual harassment is an indication of unequal power between male and female workers, implying women’s subordinate status in the organization and society in general.

5.4 Recommendation

A proper system for dealing with sexual harassment cases should be installed at the workplace and in the general society. The formation of comprehensively structured in-house mechanisms by individual organizations, together with action committees representing a wide spectrum of workers in terms of levels, occupations and sex is imperative if employers are serious in their intention of circumventing the problem of sexual harassment of their. In addition, procedure of investigation of the victim and the harasser should be made clear, the consequent disciplinary action that could be taken, as well as any remedial action for the victim such as counseling for either or both the individuals involved. The details of such a system should be disseminated clearly to everyone, in order to deter other intended offenders.

In the long-term, prevention remains an effective way to deal with sexual harassment, such as changing the sexist attitudes and belief system of society in general. This could be achieved through education to enhance public awareness of sexual harassment among the youths in schools and higher education institutes, as well as the working adults in both public and private organizations. The government, as the largest employer in the country with nearly one million workers, could take a major lead by enforcing clear policies and procedures on sexual harassment.

In addition, it should quickly legislate the Code of Practice which was launched more than five years ago, but hitherto remains non-compulsory so that minimum standard practices could be adopted for dealing with the various aspects of sexual harassment, besides providing legal protection for women workers. Trade unions and employee group could form action committees that are gender balanced. Besides working with employers to minimize unwanted behaviors at the workplace, they could take on functions such as receiving complaints and ensuring that these complaints are investigated and addressed. In addition, the role of society at large cannot be overlooked in terms of moral support, as it is vital for those who have been sexually harassed to remove any associated stigma and rebuild their self-esteem.

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