Document Type


Publication Date

January 2021


In Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc., the U.S. SupremeCourt recognized same-sex sexual harassment as a cognizable claim of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. At the time, many scholars found this recognition to be significant andimportant, but some also argued that the Court provided an incomplete analysis regarding the meaning of discrimination “because of sex.” Specifically, some scholars argue that the Court’s opinion reinforces the sexual desire paradigm in the analysis of sexual harassment cases. Building upon this critique, this Article focuses specifically on the harassment of men who generally are perceived as gender-conforming. In doing so, it uses masculinities theorization to argue that some workplace harassment against these men, which courts have been inclined to treat as mere “horseplay,” is actually discrimination based on sex. Examining same-sex harassment cases through this masculinities modified lens, this Article concludes that this broader understanding of sexual harassment is important because men who are perceived as gender-conforming are entitled to more legal protection than they are currently experiencing. Furthermore, it raises the question of whether the masculinity competition that leads to harassment among gender conforming men is actually the epicenter of all sexual harassment. If this is the case, it seems that an important step toward stopping the harassment of women (and men who are perceived as gender-nonconforming) is to stop gender-conforming men from harassing gender-conforming men.