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Sex Roles (2008) 58:599615 DOI 10.



Sexual Harassment Mythology: Definition, Conceptualization, and Measurement

Kimberly A. Lonsway & Lilia M. Cortina & Vicki J. Magley

Published online: 8 January 2008 # Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2007

Abstract Using rape myth research as a template, we developed a conceptual definition and measurement instrument for the mythology regarding male sexual harassment of women, resulting in the 20-item Illinois Sexual Harassment Myth Acceptance (ISHMA) Scale. Surveys from 337 students in the Midwestern region of the United States revealed that this measure consists of four factors, which share predicted relationships with rape mythology, sexism, hostility toward women, traditional attitudes toward women, and ideological support for the feminist movement. We also found that women and individuals with prior training on sexual harassment reject these myths more than men and untrained individuals. It is hoped that this new definition, conceptualization, and measure will advance knowledge on

attitudes that support and perpetuate violence against women. Keywords Sexual harassment . Rape myths . Sexual assault . Gender differences . Training effects

Introduction Many theorists have argued that behaviors such as rape and sexual harassment lie on a single continuum of male sexual aggression against women (e.g., Goodman et al. 1993; Koss et al. 1994; Pryor 1987). As MacKinnon succinctly stated: economic power is to sexual harassment as physical force is to rape (MacKinnon 1979, pp. 2178). This observation forms the basis for the present study, where we use rape myth research as a template to develop a conceptual framework and measurement instrument for the acceptance of sexual harassment mythology. Based on a review of the existing literature, expert input, and survey data, we sought to: (1) define the theoretical construct and content domain of the myths regarding male sexual harassment of women; (2) develop a psychometrically strong instrument to assess that domain; and (3) demonstrate the validity of this instrument using other constructs in the nomological net. We hope that this new definition, conceptualization, and measure can help to advance the literature on attitudes that support and perpetuate male violence against women. Sexual Harassment and Rape We are not the first to note parallels between sexual harassment and rape. This observation rests on a number of similarities between the various forms of sexual violence, the most obvious of which is gender: most perpetrators are male and most victims female (Koss et al. 1994). Many have asserted that this is not just a demographic coinci-

Some of the work was conducted while the first author was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the American Bar Foundation in Chicago, Illinois. The authors gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Louise Fitzgerald, Diane Payne, and Kellyn Zimmerlan. K. A. Lonsway (*) End Violence Against Women International, 3940 Broad Street, Suite 7, Box #150, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401, USA e-mail: L. M. Cortina Departments of Psychology and Womens Studies, University of Michigan, 530 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1043, USA e-mail: V. J. Magley Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, 406 Babbidge Rd., Unit 1020, Storrs, CT 06269-1020, USA e-mail:


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dence, but rather that it reflects the underlying dynamics of gender and power in our culture (e.g., Burt 1980; Estrich 1991; Goodman et al. 1993). Thus, most of the existing literature suggests that women are more likely than men are to be sexually harassed in the workplaceand that sexual harassment is more likely to be perpetrated by men than women (Berdahl 2007; Berdahl and Moore 2006; Cortina et al. 2002; Magley et al. 1999; U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board 1981, 1988, 1994). In addition, the negative impact of sexual harassment is generally worse for women as compared to men (e.g., Barling et al. 1996; Freels et al. 2005; Harned and Fitzgerald 2002; but see Vogt et al. 2005). For this reason, the focus of this manuscript is on the mythology surrounding male sexual harassment of women. Other similarities between sexual harassment and rape include the general pattern of response and recovery seen among victims (Hamilton and Dolkart 1992; Koss et al. 1994). Most relevant to the present purposes, Leidig (1981) noted that a linkage among all of these acts of violence is the commonality of the numerous myths attached to them (p. 199). Examples include beliefs that women bring victimization upon themselves, that victims enjoy it, that it is committed only by extremely deviant men, and that women make up or exaggerate their claimsout of spite, to gain attention, or to cover up for their own misdeeds (Leidig 1981). Because the reactions of support people and others are often based on such cultural myths, this makes it more difficult for victims of rape and sexual harassment to cope with the experience. Based on their parallel nature, Fitzgerald and Shullman (1993, p. 13) concluded that research investigating cultural beliefs and attitudes regarding sexual harassment may be best conceptualized in much the same way as that on rape myths (e.g., Burt 1980). The present study heeds this advice by using rape myth research as a conceptual and empirical guide. We begin by defining the construct of sexual harassment mythology, informed by the definition of Lonsway and Fitzgerald (1994) of rape myths: attitudes and beliefs that are generally false but are widely and persistently held, and that serve to deny and justify male sexual aggression against women (p. 134). They asserted that rape myths are most appropriately conceptualized as stereotypes, because their importance is not determined by their accuracy in any particular incident of sexual assault. Rather, their cultural significance lies in their function, which is to deny and justify male sexual violence (Brownmiller 1975; Burt 1980; Schwendinger and Schwendinger 1974). We conceptualize sexual harassment mythology in a parallel fashion, offering the following definition: Sexual harassment mythology refers to attitudes and beliefs that are generally false but are widely and

persistently held, and that serve to deny and justify male sexual harassment of women. This definition served as our starting point for specifying the content domain of sexual harassment mythology and developing a measurement instrument to assess it. Content Domain of Sexual Harassment Mythology Existing Sexual Harassment Attitude Measures Using the definition proposed above, we conducted an extensive literature review to identify existing scales tapping the construct of sexual harassment mythology. These scales were usually described as measures of sexual harassment beliefs, attitudes, or tolerance, and they did not typically specify whether they pertained to male sexual harassment of women or some other gender combination. Excluded from our search were the many measures designed to assess constructs that are related to myths yet conceptually distinct, such as sexual harassment knowledge, perceptions, or ratings of hypothetical scenarios. These measures were excluded because they did not fit the definition for the theoretical construct of sexual harassment mythology, as it is specified here. This process yielded the 17 measures described in Table 1. These existing 17 instruments vary in psychometric adequacy (see Table 1 for details), but perhaps their most serious limitation relates to content validity. Specifically, no formal definition of sexual harassment mythology has appeared in the literature to date, so the content domain tapped by existing scales is unspecified, unclear, and/or inconsistent. Some content areas appear in many of these measures and fit our proposed definition. This includes beliefs that victims precipitate sexual harassment, that sexual attention at work is natural, normal, and/or inevitable, and that sexual harassment is trivial. Some of these content areas also map directly onto core rape myths, which supports their validity as aspects of sexual harassment mythology. In contrast, several concepts were tapped with only a few scales in Table 1, yet rape myth research suggests that they may be central to attitudes toward violence against women. These include notions that women exaggerate or file false charges, that women enjoy and feel flattered by sexual harassment, and that sexual harassment has a minimal impact on victims. Because these ideas correspond to key myths regarding rape, they might also be more important to the construct of sexual harassment mythology than is suggested by their coverage in existing scales. Still other ideas are prevalent among the measures in Table 1, yet they do not fit the definition of sexual harassment mythology proposed here. To illustrate, many of the scales include items assessing general knowledge

Table 1 Measures included in this review: authors, scale description, and psychometric information. Development sample Pilot: 29 women and 13 men; Validation: 162 female and 60 male college students 30 female and 23 male resident staff in university housing Available psychometric information


Scale content

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Bartling and Eisenman (1993)

Beauvais (1986)

Scale is unidimensional. Coefficient =.74 for women and .86 for men. Correlates with sex role stereotyping, adversarial sexual beliefs, sexual conservatism, interpersonal violence acceptance, rape myth acceptance, likelihood to rape, attitudes toward women, empathy, sexual activity at work, and likelihood to sexually harass. Items were designed to be independent. The only available information on reliability is that 11% of the inter-item correlations were significant, p<.01. Correlates with gender and SH training (i.e., women and trained individuals less tolerant of SH than others).

Cowan (2000) Dekker and Barling (1998) 278 male faculty and staff at a Canadian university

155 college women

Ellis et al. (1991)

138 Israeli working women

Coefficient =.88. Correlates with rape myth acceptance and hostility toward women. Coefficient =.87. Predicts self-reported sexualized and gendered harassment. Correlates positively with adversarial sexual beliefs and the perception that the workplace is sexualized; negatively with perspective-taking and the perception that the employer takes sexual harassment seriously. No correlation with self-esteem. Inter-items correlations range from. 30 to .63, with coefficient =80. Correlates with actual experience of workplace SH (i.e., those with personal victimization are more tolerant of SH).

Gutek (1985)

10-item Sexual Harassment Proclivity (SHP) scale reflects the EEOC definition of SH, the idea that SH results from communication problems, the perceived appropriateness of sexuality at work, and the behavioral tendencies of the respondent. 16 items assess attitudes about SH prevalence, denial, and trivialization; victimization of men; same-sex SH; victim precipitation; credibility and result of SH allegations; motivation of power versus sex among harassers. 12-item Sexual Harassment Myth Scale (SHMS) assesses tendencies to blame SH victims. 11-item Sexual Harassment Beliefs Acceptance Scale was developed on the basis of the Rape Myth Acceptance Scale of Burt (1980), to assess attitudes toward women in the workplace and beliefs that blame victims. Three items assess normative beliefs about SH, such as the ideas that SH is natural, SH is something one has to live with, and whether harassers should be punished. 12 items assess beliefs related to sexuality at work (e.g., flattering vs. upsetting, result of societal gender roles, victim precipitation). 1,232 working adults in Los Angeles County

Kenig and Ryan (1986)

Scale reliability not specified. Correlates with gender (i.e., men flattered but women irritated, angered, and insulted by heterosexual proposition at work). Both genders say recipient is responsible for managing the situation. No correlation with race or education. Scale reliability not specified. Correlates with gender (i.e., men more likely to see victim as precipitating or mishandling the incident, and women more likely to see SH as a problem). University faculty, staff, and students (number not specified) 542 female and 377 male university faculty, staff, and students 735 rural community care workers (95% female)

Lott et al. (1982); Reilly et al. (1986)

Maurizio and Rogers (1992)

13 items adapted from Verba et al. (1983), assess attitudes about SH normality/inevitability, prevalence and impact, trivialization/denial, private nature of SH, victim precipitation, use of sex for gain, fear of reprisal. 10-item Tolerance for Sexual Harassment Inventory (TSHI) addresses normality of flirtation and sexuality at work, womens responsibility for heterosexual interaction, sex as a common tool for manipulating positive outcomes at school or work, and sexual intimidation as no big deal. A revised 5-item version was used by Rosen and Martin (1998). 12 items were adapted from Beauvais (1986), to assess beliefs about seriousness of SH, organizational climate, impact of SH, reporting behavior, same-sex victimization, and victim precipitation.

PCA yielded three factors: flirtations are natural, provocative behavior, and feminist beliefs. Coefficient =.78; Guttman splithalf reliability=.83. Correlates with gender and age (i.e., men and younger respondents are more tolerant of SH). Also correlates with rape myths, adversarial sexual beliefs, and history of perpetrating sexual aggression (Murrell and Dietz-Uhler 1993; Reilly et al. 1992). Coefficient =.24. Correlates with sexual harassment training, with trained employees reporting less tolerance.



Table 1 (continued) Development sample Available psychometric information


Scale content

Maypole and Skaine (1982)

16 items assess beliefs about demographic profile of men harassing women, motivation of sex versus power, and knowledge of SH law, definitions, and policies/procedures.

Mazer and Percival (1989) McKinney (1990)

Reese & Lindenberg (1999)

Schneider (1982)

Sigler and Johnson (1986)

Tang et al. (1995)

U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (1981)

1561 male and 243 Scale reliability not specified. Certain items correlate with gender, age, female manufacturing race, and organizational status. Women more likely to believe that SH is employees typically male-on-female and preserves male dominance; men more likely to feel they have license to harass and SH has serious consequences. Supervisors less likely to see SH as problem and more likely to say bosses take action. 19-item Sexual Harassment Attitude Scale is an expansion of the TSHI, 74 male and 136 Coefficient =.84. Correlates with gender (i.e., men more tolerant of adding items (including some from Beauvais, 1986) about contemporary female college SH). Scale also correlates with gender role traditionality. definitions of SH. students 16 items assess beliefs about SH inevitability, prevalence, seriousness, 188 faculty members Scale reliability not specified. Correlates with gender (i.e., men more and impact; harasser motivation; victim precipitation; false charges; and at two universities tolerant of SH than women). consensual sex between professors and students. 4-item Traditional Gender Views Index assesses whether problem of SH 183 university Factor analysis yielded one factor for men, but two for women with the is overrated, whether women say no to sexual behavior when they employees and 183 first addressing the general problem of SH and the second pertaining to mean yes, whether SH should be handled informally, or whether city employees organizational response. Higher scores seen among men and older organizations should stay out of it entirely. employees, and they predict more restrictive definitions of SH, preference for informal solutions over formal complaint procedures, and greater dissatisfaction with current policy. Five items assess beliefs about SH prevalence and seriousness, 137 heterosexual Average inter-item correlation=.70 among heterosexuals and .65 among vulnerability of certain kinds of women, and victim responsibility. women and 226 lesbians. Correlates with sexual orientation, feminist orientation, lesbians personal experience of SH, and age (i.e., lesbians, feminists, SH victims, and younger women less tolerant of SH). 29 items assess the extent to which SH is related to equal opportunities Alabama residents PCA yielded two factors. No additional information specified for in the work place and the extent to which women are responsible for (number not development or psychometric characteristics of the measure. SH (p.232). specified) 10-item Attitudes Toward Sexual Harassment scale assesses beliefs 358 male and 491 Scale is unidimensional. Coefficient =.50. Correlates with gender, about and tolerance of SH in academia (p. 506). Content was derived female university university department, and gender role traditionality (i.e., men, graduate from focus groups with Chinese students. students in Hong students in male dominated departments, and gender-traditional students Kong more tolerant of SH). 14 items assess beliefs about consensual sexual relations at work, using 20,083 federal No information on scale development or psychometric properties sex for gain, SH seriousness, victim precipitation, normality of sexuality employees (10,644 provided. Correlates with gender (i.e., men view sexuality at work as at work, false charges, power versus sex as motivation, and exaggeration women and 9,439 more normal, natural, and potentially useful). of the SH problem. men)

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SH Sexual Harassment, PCA Principal Components Analysis.

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about sexual harassment (e.g., prevalence, law, gender of those involved) and opinions regarding its causes (e.g., motivation, society). Some scales also include items pertaining to the sexual harassment of men, which differs substantially from the sexual harassment of women (e.g., Berdahl et al. 1996; Gutek 1985; Waldo et al. 1998). Finally, a few scales assessed attitudes toward consensual sexual relations or the use of sexuality for professional gain. Although each of these content areas may be related to the construct of sexual harassment mythology, they fall outside the realm of the construct as we have defined it. Existing Rape Attitude Measures In addition to drawing concepts from existing measures of sexual harassment attitudes, we also turned to the parallel literature on rape mythology for a conceptual guide to the constructs underlying structure. To illustrate, Hall et al. (1986) theorized that three general types of rape myths exist: denial of rapes existence, denial of rapes seriousness, and excusal. Using an empirical strategy, Briere et al. (1985) identified four factors in the Rape Myth Acceptance Scale of Burt (1980), titled: disbelief of rape claims; victim responsible for rape; rape reports as manipulation, and ape only happens to certain kinds of women. Field (1978) also conducted factor analysis with his Attitudes Toward Rape Scale and found eight factors: womans responsibility in rape prevention; sex as motivation for rape; severe punishment for rape; victim precipitation of rape; normality of rapists; power as motivation for rape; favorable perception of a woman after rape; and resistance as womans role during rape. Common to these various measures and structure are beliefs denying the prevalence of rape, trivializing its impact, and excusing it. These common themes also emerged in the analysis conducted by Payne et al. (1999) with the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale. Factor analysis, cluster analysis, and principal components analysis suggested seven dimensions of rape mythology: she asked for it; it wasnt really rape; he didnt mean to; she really wanted it; she lied; rape is a trivial event; and rape is a deviant event. This prior work informed our ideas about the core components of sexual harassment mythology, as it is defined here. Preliminary Categorization of Sexual Harassment Myths By thematically organizing the content of items in the scales in Table 1, and drawing on concepts from the rape myth literature, we developed a preliminary categorization of topics that might be included in the content domain of sexual harassment myths. We noted many similarities in content between measures of sexual harassment myths and rape myths. For example, myths about rape and sexual

harassment both trivialize the victimization as being no big deal, attribute responsibility for the event to the victim, claim that the victim wanted or enjoyed it, and absolve the perpetrator because he didnt mean to do the victim any harm. We also identified content areas in the rape myth literature that were absent from measures of sexual harassment mythology, and we used this information to expand the domain of potential content for sexual harassment myths (e.g., the idea that sexual harassment is a very deviant event). On the other hand, not all content areas converged between sexual harassment and rape myths. Several topics tapped by measures in the sexual harassment literature had no parallel in rape myth research (e.g., trivializing sexual harassment because it wasnt rape). We also added concepts to this categorization of sexual harassment myths based on our review of the more general literature on sexual harassment. For example, some authors have theorized about societal myths regarding sexual harassment, without necessarily producing a measure. The result of this process was the preliminary categorization of sexual harassment myths that is presented in Table 2. Next, several experts on sexual harassment reviewed this categorization, to ensure comprehensive coverage of the content domain. These experts included both academic researchers as well as practitioners responsible for handling sexual harassment complaints within a university workplace. We then used this preliminary categorization to guide the process of item writing, which will be described later. Correlates of Sexual Harassment Myth Acceptance Although theoretical and psychometric shortcomings limit the potential contributions of the measures included in Table 1, research using these scales can suggest hypotheses about the correlates of sexual harassment myth acceptance. Gender One of the most robust conclusions relates to gender, with various studies reporting that men are more accepting of sexual harassment mythsand of sexual behavior at work more generallythan women are (e.g., Beauvais 1986; Kenig and Ryan 1986; Lott et al. 1982; Maypole and Skaine 1982; Mazer and Percival 1989; McKinney 1990; Reese and Lindenberg 1999; Sigler and Johnson 1986; Tang et al. 1995; U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board 1981). Table 1 provides further details about the nature of these gender differences. Other Beliefs and Attitudes Other research has investigated links between sexual harassment mythology and ideological constructs that are

604 Table 2 Preliminary categorization of sexual harassment myths. Category I. It wasnt really sexual harassment because A. She didnt protest/report/seek help. B. She didnt lose her job/grade. C. He was a co-worker/student, not a boss/professor. D. It was just verbal not physical misconduct. II. He didnt mean to do it. A. General. B. He was drinking. C. He was going through a difficult divorce. III. She wanted or enjoyed it. IV. Sexual harassment is a very deviant event. A. It only happens to women in male-dominated fields. B. It only happens to women who look and act sexy. C. Men who harass must be psychotic/perverse/ugly/sexually frustrated. V. Its no big deal. A. General. B. It doesnt happen very often. C. Women exaggerate the effects/damage. D. She didnt lose her job/grade. E. Its not like she was raped/assaulted. F. Its a private matter/none of the companys business. G. Its just a problem invented by feminists. VI. Its really about sex. A. Its just innocent flirtation/sexual attraction. B. Its natural/inevitable. C. Sexual comments/jokes make school/work more interesting. D. Women are just being hyper-sensitive to sexual matters. VII. She asked for it. A. General. B. By using crude language. C. By wearing sexy clothes. D. By teasing men at work/school. E. By working in an all-male environment. VIII. She lied about it. A. General. B. To cover up an affair. C. To get back at the man. D. To gain money/grades/special treatment. E. Because she was desperate/unstable. F. Because it was just a fantasy. G. Because she was really sleeping her way to the top. IX. Charges/awards are easily made. A. Women file charges lightly. B. Women can easily gain the advantage with a charge. X. Sexual harassment hysteria has consequences. A. Results in Political Correctness. B. Results in normal relations being difficult. XI. Women can/should stop it. A. General. B. By avoiding the person. C. By verbally protesting. D. By reporting.

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theorized to be related. For example, studies have found that acceptance of sexual harassment myths is positively related to: acceptance of interpersonal violence (Bartling and Eisenman 1993); rape myth acceptance (Bartling and Eisenman 1993; Cowan 2000; Reilly et al. 1992); hostility toward women (Cowan 2000; Rosen and Martin 1998); negative attitudes toward gender equity (Wade and BrittanPowell 2001); and traditional attitudes toward women, men, and gender roles (e.g., Bartling and Eisenman 1993; Mazer and Percival 1989; Rosen and Martin 1998; Schneider 1982; Tang et al. 1995; Wade and Brittan-Powell 2001). Taken together, this pattern of ideological relationships is similar to that found in the rape myth literature (e.g., Lonsway and Fitzgerald 1994), suggesting a general correspondence of attitudes regarding rape and sexual harassment. That is, acceptance of myths about sexual harassment and rape both appear to exist in a nomological net of interrelated attitudes toward gender, cultural roles, and violence. Training Effects Given the serious harms associated with sexual harassment, many schools and organizations now provide sexual harassment awareness training to their members. Some research suggests that such training can decrease the acceptance of certain sexual harassment myths (Beauvais 1986; Maurizio and Rogers 1992). However, other studies have not replicated this finding (Magley et al. 1997). It thus remains an open question whether levels of sexual harassment myth acceptance differ as a function of training. In other words, it is unclear whether these attitudes can be modified with educational interventions. The Present Study The primary aims of the present study were to develop a measure of sexual harassment myths, document its psychometric properties (including the underlying factor structure), and demonstrate its validity using variables that have been identified in prior research as being conceptually relevant. We expected analyses to reveal this to be a multidimensional measure, containing components that generally reflect the categories described in Table 2. We also hypothesized that components would correlate strongly with rape myths that are conceptually similar, but share weaker correlations with rape myths that are less similar. For example, Table 2 suggests that a common myth is that women lie about having been sexually harassed. Items tapping this myth should correlate highly with rape myths stating that women lie about sexual assault, but correlations should be lower with rape myths about the deviance of sexual assault.

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We further predicted that correlations would be high between sexual harassment myth acceptance and sexism, hostility toward women, and traditional attitudes toward women. By contrast, we expected negative correlations with support for the feminist movement. More specifically, we predicted that each sexual harassment myth dimension would account for unique variance in at least one of these validity measuresi.e., each dimension would have unique value. Finally, we hypothesized that acceptance of sexual harassment myths would be lower among women and those individuals who had received education about sexual harassment.

Method Item Generation To develop our measure, we began by writing statements to tap the entire content domain of sexual harassment mythology, as it is defined here. Items were thus written to reflect each concept in the preliminary categorization of sexual harassment myths that is provided in Table 2. Members of the research team then worked to edit and refine these statements, reducing the initial pool to a set of 54 items that were clear, concise, and unambiguous representations of the categories outlined in Table 2. All items were in the positive direction, with higher scores indicating greater endorsement of cultural mythology. In addition, 13 negatively worded filler items were developed to help minimize response bias when administering the myth items. Participants and Procedure To test the psychometric properties of the 54 myth items, survey participants were drawn from three sources. Sample One contained 112 students (66 female and 46 male) enrolled in an introductory psychology course at a large Midwestern university. A majority identified as EuropeanAmerican/White (64%), with the rest being Asian-American (21%), Latino/Latina (8%), African-American/Black (2%), and other (5%). They averaged between 18 and 19 years old. Sample Two included 118 students enrolled in an introductory law enforcement course at a police academy affiliated with the same large Midwestern university. This sample was primarily male (97 men, six women, 15 unknown), and their average age was 26.8. The majority self-identified as European American/White (89%), 5% as African American/ Black, and 6% as other. Sample Three contained 107 students (39 men, 63 women, five unknown) enrolled in an introductory social problems class at a second large Midwestern university. Because this university is located in

a major urban center, this sample contributed greater ethnic diversity to this study: 34% identified as European American/ White, 26% as Latino/Latina, 17% as African American/ Black, 13% as Asian American, and the remainder (9%) indicated some other racial or ethnic identification. The average age of Sample Three was 20.52. The total sample thus consisted of 337 students, was relatively balanced by gender (57% male, 43% female), and reflected some degree of ethnic diversity (63% EuropeanAmerican/White, 12% Latino/Latina, 12% Asian-American, 8% African American/Black, and 5% other ethnicity). Their average age was 21.83. All participants received a written and oral debriefing following completion of their survey, along with contact resources regarding interpersonal victimization. Participation was both anonymous and voluntary. Measure Participants from all three samples completed a survey containing the sexual harassment myth items (plus fillers), additional measures for validity purposes, and demographic questions. Responses to all myth and validity items fell along a 7-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree, and they were coded such that higher scores reflected greater levels of the underlying construct. The validity measures differed somewhat in surveys administered to Sample One versus Sample Two and Sample Three. Table 3 presents numbers of items, coefficient alphas, and descriptive statistics (separately by gender) for these validity measures; results for the measure of sexual harassment myth acceptance will appear later. Sexual Harassment Myth Acceptance All respondents received the 54 statements in the original item pool, interspersed with 13 negatively worded filler items. In Sample One, these items appeared in one of two randomized orders, yet no systematic group differences resulted from item order. We therefore did not randomize the order of sexual harassment myth items for Sample Two and Sample Three. Additional information on the psychometric properties of this measure will appear in the Results section and corresponding tables. Rape Myth AcceptanceLong Form The Sample Two and Sample Three surveys included the 45-item version of the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale developed by Payne et al. (1999) to assess the full spectrum of rape mythology. As noted earlier, prior research suggests that this scale taps seven related domains, defined as: (1) She asked for it; (2) It wasnt really rape; (3) He didnt mean to; (4) She wanted it; (5) She lied; (6) Rape is no big

606 Table 3 Validity variables. Construct No. items Scale Women M Sexism Hostility Toward Women Traditional Attitudes Toward Women Feminism Rape Myth Acceptance (short form) IRMA-SA (She asked for it) IRMA-NR (It wasnt really rape) IRMA-MT (He didnt mean to) IRMA-WI (She wanted it) IRMA-LI (She lied) IRMA-TE (Rape is a trivial event) IRMA-DE (Rape is a deviant event) 20 10 9 1 17 8 5 5 5 5 5 7 .92 .82 .73 N/A .90 .86 .88 .82 .90 .87 .80 .86 2.02 2.85 2.71 5.29 1.89 2.48 1.53 2.84 1.78 2.79 1.46 1.59 SD .84 .93 .96 1.37 .77 1.20 .88 1.41 1.00 1.16 .77 .75

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Men M 3.01 3.02 3.50 4.76 2.30 2.65 1.71 3.13 2.09 2.95 1.69 1.89 SD 1.04 1.00 1.00 1.13 .98 1.13 1.05 1.49 1.10 1.21 .87 1.03

Responses to all measures fell along a 7-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). All means are reported on the same 1-to-7 metric. IRMA Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance.

deal; and (7) Rape is a deviant event (Payne et al. 1999). In the scale-development sample of 604 undergraduates, coefficient alphas for the subscales ranged from .74 to .84. Rape Myth AcceptanceShort Form The Sample One survey included only the short form of the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale. Sample items from this scale include: If a woman is raped while she is drunk, she is at least somewhat responsible for letting things get out of control and If a woman doesnt physically fight back, you cant really say that it was rape. Coefficient alpha for this 20-item scale was .87 in a development sample of 604 university students (it includes three, negatively worded filler items that are excluded from scoring procedures). Because Sample Two and Sample Three participants received all 45 items on the long form of the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale, it was possible to compute a score for the short form as well. Sexism Scale In addition, Sample One participants responded to the Sexism Scale of Rombough and Ventimighlia (1981). The 20-item scale assesses gender role attitudes in three domains: (1) internal familial division of labor (eight items); (2) external (economic) division of labor (six items); and (3) perceived sex differences (six items) (Rombough and Ventimighlia 1981, p.747). Typical items for each of the three domains include: (1) Its all right for the woman to have a career and the man to stay home with children; (2) The job of plumber is equally suitable for men and women; and (3) Women are more envious than men. With the original scale development sample of college

students, working adults, and members of social and church clubs, coefficient alpha ranged from .73 to .88 for the subscales; it was .94 for the full scale. Hostility Toward Women Sample One participants also completed the 10-item Revised Hostility Toward Women Scale (Lonsway and Fitzgerald 1995; revised from Check et al. 1985). Items reflect a general attitude of irritation or hostility toward women, with slightly different wording provided for male and female respondents. Typical items include, I am easily angered by (other) women, or Sometimes (other) women bother me just by being around. In the original scale development sample of 200 undergraduates, coefficient alpha was .83. Traditional Attitudes Toward Women Respondents in Sample One also received the Sex Role Stereotyping Scale of Burt (1980). This 9-item scale pertains primarily to behavior prescribed by the female gender role but also assesses more general attitudes toward women. Typical items include, It is acceptable for the woman to pay for the date, and It is acceptable for a woman to have a career, but marriage and family should come first. This scale was developed with a sample of 598 adults, with coefficient alpha = .78. Feminism As a brief measure of feminist orientation, participants in Sample Two and Sample Three indicated their agreement with the statement I consider myself supportive of the womens movement.

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Sexual Harassment Training Experience The Sample One survey concluded by asking respondents whether they had participated in an educational workshop concerning issues of sexual harassment (yes/no).

Results Data Reduction Analyses began with inspection of the general psychometric characteristics of the 54 sexual harassment myth items (excluding fillers). We sought to winnow down the scale, to retain only the best-functioning items, cover the specified content domain without excessive redundancy, and eventually produce a scale that is short enough for use in organizations and other real-world research settings. We began by screening items for severe deviations from normality, defined by Fabrigar, Wegener, MacCallum and Strahan (1999) as skewness values exceeding |2| or kurtosis values exceeding |7|. No items were eliminated based on these criteria. Next, we followed the recommendations of Hinkin (1998) and inspected inter-item correlations; two items were then eliminated that failed to correlate .30 or above with more than three other items. Fifty-two items remained for further analysis. We then submitted these 52 items to a series of principal components analyses (PCA) with promax rotation. The sample size for these analyses was 303, following listwise deletion. This choice of PCA with an oblique rotation (permitting correlations among factors), for data-reduction purposes, follows the recommendations of Fabrigar et al. (1999). Based on an initial PCA, we identified and removed four items with low communalities (i.e., items for which common factors explain little variance, which can distort results; Fabrigar et al. 1999; Hinkin 1998; MacCallum et al. 1999). We then reran the PCA on the remaining 48 items, using the scree test of Cattell (1966) as well as the rule of Kaiser (1960) (eigenvalues > 1) to determine the number of factors to retain. Kaisers rule consistently suggested more factors than Cattells scree test, so we compared all possible solutions (from three to nine factors) and assessed each for interpretability. With parsimony and simple structure as our goals (e.g., Fabrigar et al. 1999), we sought to retain only those items that load strongly and cleanly onto one theoretically meaningful factor. Heuristics are often used to determine what constitutes a strong/clean/meaningful loading vary, and one common criterion is an appropriate loading of greater than .40 and/or a loading twice as strong on the appropriate factor as on other factors (Hinkin 1998, p. 112). We eliminated 25 items that failed to meet this standard. In addition, one factor contained only two items

with meaningful loadings, and because methodologists recommend three items as the bare minimum for assessing a construct (e.g., Fabrigar et al. 1999; Guadagnoli and Velicer 1988), we eliminated an additional two items. A final item was eliminated because its wording was largely redundant with another one. This winnowing process yielded 20 best-functioning items (see Table 4). We then reran the PCA once more, on the remaining 20 items; item loadings appear in Table 4. Cattells scree test and Kaisers rule both suggested that four factors be retained, and we found the 4-factor solution to be highly interpretable. These four factors explained 60% of the variance in the data. As seen in Table 4, all items had loadings of .55 and higher on their respective factors, with less than half of that loading on other factors. The only exception was the final item, which loaded .59 on the appropriate factor and .35 on another factor. Because the content of that item conceptually cohered with the other two items in the former factor, and because elimination of that item would have resulted in a factor with fewer than the recommended 3-item minimum, we opted to retain it in the scale. Each dimension in the final 4-factor solution made sense theoretically. The first reflected ideas from Categories I, V, and VII from Table 2, suggesting that women fabricate, exaggerate, and/or invite sexual harassment; we labeled this factor Fabrication/Exaggeration (FE). Items in the second factor largely paralleled Categories VIII and IX, suggesting that women have ulterior motives for filing sexual harassment claims; we applied the label Ulterior Motives (UM). The third factor contained beliefs that sexual harassment simply constitutes romantic behavior that is natural for men and enjoyable for womena combination of Categories III and VI in Table 2; we labeled this factor Natural Heterosexuality (NH). Myths in the fourth factor reflected Category XI beliefs, suggesting that the responsibility for controlling sexual harassment lies with the targeted woman (and thus, female victims are culpable for sexual harassment, owing to their failure to discourage mens advances). This factor was labeled Womans Responsibility (WR). The final measure thus contained 20 myth items, tapping into beliefs about Fabrication/Exaggeration (eight items), Ulterior Motives (five items), Natural Heterosexuality (four items), and Womans Responsibility (three items). We also selected four negatively worded filler items to reduce response bias. We named this instrument the Illinois Sexual Harassment Myth Acceptance (ISHMA) Scale, recognizing the institution (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) with which the authors were affiliated when conceptualization of this research began. This also follows the name of the parallel measure used in rape myth research, the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance (IRMA) scale. Table 4 presents the complete ISHMA Scale (along with recommended filler items in the table note).


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Table 4 Item factor loadings (i.e., correlation of each item with the extracted components in the principal components analysis) and item-level descriptive statistics. FE 1. As long as a woman doesnt lose her job, her claim of sexual harassment shouldnt be taken too seriously 2. Women who claim that they have been sexually harassed are usually exaggerating. 3. If a woman is sexually harassed, she must have done something to invite it. 4. Women often file frivolous charges of sexual harassment. 5. If a woman doesnt make a complaint, it probably wasnt serious enough to be sexual harassment. 6. It is difficult to believe sexual harassment charges that were not reported at the time. 7. Women who wait weeks or months to report sexual harassment are probably just making it up. 8. Women who claim sexual harassment have usually done something to cause it. 1. Sometimes women make up allegations of sexual harassment to extort money from their employer. 2. Women who are caught having an affair with their supervisor sometimes claim that it was sexual harassment. 3. Women sometimes file charges of sexual harassment for no apparent reason. 4. A woman can easily ruin her supervisors career by claiming that he came on to her. 5. Sometimes a woman has a fantasy relationship with her boss and then claims that he sexually harassed her. 1. 2. 3. 4. Most women are flattered when they get sexual attention from men with whom they work. Most women secretly enjoy it when men come on to them at work. Its inevitable that men will hit on women at work. Women shouldnt be so quick to take offense when a man at work expresses sexual interest. .80 .77 .75 .73 .64 .59 .56 .55 UM NH WR M SD 1.32 1.69 1.45 1.61 1.48 1.86 1.42 1.42

.17 .05 .13 2.11 .06 .16 .17 .03 .17 .19 .15 .02 .26 .14 .06 .20 .07 .26 .03 .20 .03 .13 .21 .18 .08 3.13 2.42 3.66 2.52 3.70 2.43 2.51

.15 .81 .14 .79 .10 .78 .12 .69 .10 .63

.03 .03 3.25 1.63 .19 .12 3.56 1.67 .07 .10 3.02 1.64 .02 .18 4.36 1.86 .12 .03 2.90 1.57

.03 .12 .02 .13

.02 .03 .03 .15

.79 .75 .74 .70

.12 .03 .02 .06 .86 .81 .59

3.62 3.25 3.89 3.46

1.61 1.60 1.82 1.81

1. Women can usually stop unwanted sexual attention by simply telling the man that his behavior is not .11 .15 .03 appreciated. 2. Women can usually stop unwanted sexual attention from a co-worker by telling their supervisor about it. .29 .16 .07 3. Nearly all instances of sexual harassment would end if the woman simply told the man to stop. .35 .18 .08

4.44 1.72 4.26 1.70 3.85 1.76

Analysis n=303. In their survey questionnaire, participants were asked to: Please read each statement carefully and provide the response that best reflects your personal opinion on a scale from 1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree. When administering the ISHMA, these 20 items should be scrambled and interspersed with the following four filler items: Women should not have to tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace, Sexual harassment complaints must be taken seriously, Sexual harassment is degrading to women, and Perpetrators of sexual harassment must be held responsible for their behavior. FE Fabrication/Exaggeration, UM Ulterior Motives, NR Natural Heterosexuality, WR Womans Responsibility.

To assess the global construct of sexual harassment myth acceptance, a total score can be computed by averaging responses to the 20 myth items on the ISHMA (excluding responses to the fillers). In the current study, Cronbachs alpha for the 20-item scale was .91. For a finergrained analysis of the various facets of the construct, subscale scores can also be computed by averaging responses to the myth items within each of the four factors. Alphas for each subscale were .86 (FE), .83 (UM), .81 (NH), and .71 (WR). Validity Analysis To establish the convergent validity of the ISHMA and its four subscales, we examined their correlations with the following variables: (1) sexism; (2) hostility towards women; (3) attitudes toward women; (4) global rape myth acceptance; and (5) support for the feminist movement. Sample sizes ranged from 45 to 171 for men and from 56 to 134 for women, depending on which sample(s) completed

each validity measure. As Table 5 demonstrates, virtually all of these correlations were statistically significant, with their absolute sizes ranging from .10 to .64 (averaging |.40|). This pattern of correlations supports our hypotheses that these constructs are related in expected ways, but they were not so large as to suggest redundancy with the validity variables. Specifically, greater acceptance of sexual harassment myths was positively correlated with acceptance of other sexist beliefs, including traditional and hostile attitudes toward women, as well as rape myths. Sexual harassment myth acceptance was also negatively correlated with ideological support for the feminist movement, as predicted. Generally speaking, these correlations were approximately equivalent for men and women, with the greatest exceptions seen in the findings that: (1) mens acceptance of womens responsibility for sexual harassment (ISHMA-WR) was uncorrelated with their traditional attitudes toward women, and (2) mens feminist beliefs were either less correlated or completely uncorrelated with all ISHMA subscales.

Sex Roles (2008) 58:599615 Table 5 Intercorrelations among ISHMA scales and validity measures for women (lower half) and men (upper half). Variable 1. ISHMA-FE 2. ISHMA-UM 3. ISHMA-NH 4. ISHMA-WR 5. ISHMA (total score) 6. Sexism 7. Hostility Toward Women 8. Traditional Attitudes Toward Women 9. Rape Myth Acceptance (short form) 10. Feminism 1 2 .43** .67** .64** .43** .91** .49** .54** .55** .63** .53** .53** .18* .79** .29* .52** .40** .40** .42** 3 .43** .70** .44** .82** .36** .39** .34** .40** .46** 4 .45** .54** .52** .59** .21 .24 .30* .39** .24 5 .79** .83** .81** .72** .46** .57** .54** .60** .53** 6 .63** .28 .26 .13 .49** .44** .80** .63** N/A 7 .60** .38** .46** .23 .59** .56** .49** .47** N/A 8 .50** .31* .28 .07 .43** .84** .62** .57** N/A 9 .60** .51** .46** .34** .64** .58** .57** .57** .38** 10


.29** .10 .11 .13 .22* N/A N/A N/A .21*

*p<.05 **p<.01. Correlations for men are in the upper half of the matrix and correlations for women are in the lower half of the matrix. Responses to all measures fell along a 7-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Sample sizes ranged from 45 to 171 for men and from 56 to 134 for women, depending on which sample(s) completed each validity measure. For some validity measures not administered to all participants, intercorrelations are not available; these are denoted with N/A. ISHMA Illinois Sexual Harassment Myth Acceptance, FE Fabrication/ Exaggeration; UM Ulterior Motives, NH Natural Heterosexuality, WR Womans Responsibility.

We also examined relationships between the four subscales of the ISHMA and the seven subscales of the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance (IRMA) scale, available via the long form of the IRMA. Only Samples 2 and 3 completed the IRMA long form, so the sample sizes for these correlations ranged from 116 to 126 for men and from 58 to 64 for women (following pairwise deletion). As displayed in Table 6, virtually all of these correlations were significant, ranging from .15 to .73 (averaging .38). The specific pattern of findings offers further support for the validity of the ISHMA scales. For example, the two largest similarly paired correlations for both men and women emerged between the subscales with the closest conceptual similaritythose that explicitly discount the veracity of womens claims (She lied on the IRMA and both Fabrication/Exaggeration and Ulterior Motives on the ISHMA). On the other hand, the lowest similarly paired correlations for both men and women were between the

ISHMA subscale of Womens Responsibility and the IRMA subscale of Rape is a trivial event. Again, this helps validate the ISHMA subscalesthis time with discriminant rather than convergent validityby highlighting the relative independence of components that should be less closely related. To establish whether each of the four ISHMA subscales account for unique variance in these validity variables, we also conducted a series of regression analyses. Dependent variables for these equations were sexism, hostility toward women, attitudes toward women, support for feminism, the IRMA global score, and the IRMA subscales. The sample sizes for these analyses ranged from 111 to 283, depending on which sample(s) completed each dependent variable measure. Independent variables were the four ISHMA subscales, entered simultaneously into the same model. Before proceeding with these regressions, we tested for potential multicollinearity among the four ISHMA scales by inspecting

Table 6 Intercorrelations among ISHMA and IRMA (Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance) subscales for women and men. Variable IRMA-SA: She asked for it IRMA-NR: It wasnt really rape Women .45** .30* .15 .26* Men .46** .31** .35** .21* IRMA-MT: He didnt mean to IRMA-WI: She wanted it IRMA-LI: She lied IRMA-TE: Rape IRMA-DE: is a trivial event Rape is a deviant event Women .51** .35** .26* .21 Men .44** .31** .34** .21* Women .60** .38** .30* .41** Men .46** .34** .35** .26**

Women ISHMA-FE ISHMA-UM ISHMA-NH ISHMA-WR .45** .26* .44** .16

Men .60** .54** .44** .40**

Women .39** .22 .33** .35**

Men .56** .38** .33** .40**

Women .44** .25 .27* .32**

Men .44** .34** .36** .21*

Women .57** .56** .43** .38**

Men .73** .56** .47** .50**

*p<.05 **p<.01. Responses to all measures fell along a 7-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Only Samples 2 and 3 completed the long form of the IRMA, so the sample sizes for these correlations ranged from 116 to 126 for men and from 58 to 64 for women (using pairwise deletion). ISHMA Illinois Sexual Harassment Myth Acceptance, FE Fabrication/Exaggeration, UM Ulterior Motives, NH Natural Heterosexuality, WR Womans Responsibility; IRMA Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance.


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variance inflation factor (VIF) and tolerance (1/VIF) statistics. As a rule of thumb, a variable whose VIF value is greater than 10 or tolerance value is less than .1 may be problematic. With the highest VIF being 2.1 and the lowest tolerance being .48, we found no problems with multicollinearity. According to regression results, ISHMA-FE was a significant predictor of every validity variable (s ranged from |.36| to |.51|, ts ranged from |3.77| to |9.19|, all ps < .001). This is to be expected, given that ISHMA-FE was the most reliable subscale, containing the highest-loading items on the first principal component. Above and beyond the effect of ISHMA-FE, however, we also found that ISHMAUM was a significant predictor of both the IRMA global score ( = .15, t = 2.58, p < .05) and the IRMA subscale labeled She lied ( = .26, t = 3.49, p < .001); ISHMA-NH predicted the IRMA subscale labeled She asked for it ( = .18, t = 2.07, p < .05); and ISHMA-WR predicted the IRMA subscale labeled He didnt mean to ( = .21, t = 2.55, p < .05). In sum, each ISHMA subscale accounted for unique variance in at least one validity variable, with the FE scale emerging as the strongest and most robust predictor. To conclude our validity analyses, we conducted two sets of t-tests with the ISHMA Scale and its subscales. The first set of t-tests constituted a known groups comparison by gender, because men have consistently been found to report higher level of acceptance of sexual harassment myths as compared to women. (The ns for these gender analyses ranged from 297 to 312, after deletion of cases with missing data). The second set of t-tests explored predictive validity by determining whether the measures could differentiate between those respondents who had

participated in a an educational workshop on sexual harassment and those who had not. (The n for these training analyses was 111; recall that only Sample 1 received the training question). For comparisons across the five scale and subscale scores, a Bonferroni correction was used to protect against the risk of accumulated error rate (alpha = .05/5 = .01); this strategy is generally recommended by Huberty and Morris (1989). Test results appear in Table 7, along with corresponding scale means, standard deviations, and relevant test statistics (including Cohens d as a measure of practical significance; see Cohen 1988). Using the .01 cutoff for statistical significance, we found gender differences for the ISHMA and two of its four subscales (Fabrication/Exaggeration and Womans Responsibility). For each significant gender difference, the effect was due to higher levels of myth endorsement among men compared to women. Cohens effect sizes ranged from moderate (.38) to large (.73). To test the possibility that Sample 2 (police academy students, who were predominantly male) might be inflating these gender differences, we also reran these analyses without Sample 2. After excluding these participants, however, the gender effects became more rather than less pronounced (all comparisons significant, p<01). This argues against the possibility that gender differences might be due to the presence of police-academy students in the data. Hence, it appears that men are more accepting of the myths that women fabricate, exaggerate, and are responsible for occurrences of sexual harassment than are women. In addition, we found that the total ISHMA Scale score discriminated between participants who had or had not

Table 7 ISHMA scale scoresoverall, gender differences, and training comparisons. Scale ISHMA-FE ISHMA-UM 312) 3.42 (1.29) 3.41 (1.39) 3.42 (1.15) t (297.87)=.04, p>.10a .00 3.42 (1.29) 3.68 (.95) 4.02 (1.07) t (109)=1.73, p<.10 .33 ISHMA-NH ISHMA-WR ISHMA (total score)

Gender comparisons (n for each analysis ranged from 297 to Overall Mean (SD) 2.81 (1.10) Mean for Men (SD) 3.13 (1.06) Mean for Women (SD) 2.39 (.98) T-test by gender t (296)=6.19, p<.001 Effect size (d) of gender comparison .73 Training comparisons (n for each analysis was 111) Overall Mean (SD) 2.81 (1.10) Mean for Trained (SD) 2.43 (.85) Mean for Untrained (SD) 2.83 (1.03) T-test by training participation t (109)=2.26, p<.05 Effect size (d) of training comparison .43

3.56 (1.36) 3.58 (1.41) 3.54 (1.32) t (301)=.26, p>.10 .03 3.56 (1.36) 3.44 (1.19) 4.06 (1.31) t (109)=2.62, p<.01 .54

4.22 (1.36) 4.40 (1.32) 3.89 (1.36) t (310)=3.32, p<.001 .38 4.22 (1.36) 3.49 (1.19) 3.95 (1.19) t (109)=2.03, p<.05 .39

3.32 (.98) 3.47 (.99) 3.10 (.93) t (295=3.26, p<.001 .38 3.32 (.98) 3.11 (.77) 3.54 (.92) t (109)=2.73, p<.01 .52

Equal variances not assumed, due to a significant result of Levenes test for equality of variances. All other t-test results in this table are based on the assumption of equal variances. Responses to all measures fell along a 7-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). ISHMA Illinois Sexual Harassment Myth Acceptance, FE Fabrication/Exaggeration, UM Ulterior Motives, NH Natural Heterosexuality, WR Womans Responsibility.

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participated in sexual harassment training; untrained participants endorsed these myths to a greater extent than trained participants did (Cohens d=.52). A significant training effect also emerged for one ISHMA subscale (Natural Heterosexuality; d=.54). However, training comparisons on the other subscales of the ISHMA did not achieve statistical significance using the relatively stringent cutoff specified here. All but one of the comparisons would be considered statistically significant using a more standard cutoff of .05, with effect sizes for the comparisons ranging from .33 to .43.

We therefore believe that the creation of the ISHMA Scale offers significant potential to advance our knowledge in this area, including an exploration of its functioning as compared with these other existing measures. It is possible, for example, that the ISHMA predicts a different or wider set of criteria than other measures door has different antecedents or causal roots as compared with these other measures of sexual harassment attitudes. Construct Validity We also tested the construct validity of our newly developed measure by examining its relationship with variables that are theorized to be related. As expected, we found that the ISHMA scales correlated significantly with measures of sexism, hostility toward women, traditional attitudes toward women, and ideological support for the feminist movement. In other words, the more participants accepted sexual harassment myths, the more they adhered to sexist, hostile, and traditional attitudes toward women, and the less supportive they felt toward the goals of the womens movement. Gender differences in these correlations were minimal. Interestingly, the present study revealed both parallels and distinctions between the cultural mythologies surrounding sexual harassment and rape. For example, the four sexual harassment myth domains (fabrication/exaggeration, ulterior motives, natural heterosexuality, and womens responsibility) illustrate the core functions of the myths, which are to deny and justify male sexual harassment of women in the workplace. Similar functions underlie rape myth acceptance (see Payne et al. 1999). Thus, justification and denial are at the heart of attitudes toward both harassment and rape, revealing a common thread among beliefs about sexual violence against women (c.f., Koss et al. 1994). Sexual harassment and rape myths seem to diverge, however, in beliefs surrounding the deviancy of the behaviors (Category IV in Table 2). Although specific harassment myth items were developed to tap into this category (as with all categories in Table 2), the items did not function well enough to be included in the final measure. This could reflect an understanding by participants that sexual harassment is far from a deviant event, being quite pervasive in educational and occupational settings (a recent meta-analysis estimated that 58% of women experience potentially sexually harassing behaviors at some point in their lives; Ilies et al. 2003). The only other preliminary category of sexual harassment myth not represented within the final scale relates to political correctness resulting from hysteria about sexual harassment (Category X in Table 2). In hindsight, we realize that such beliefs do not conceptually fit with others that justify

Discussion The current project was designed to explicate the cultural mythology surrounding male sexual harassment of women. Using the more established research literature on rape myths as a template, we set out to develop a definition, conceptual framework, and measurement instrument for this emerging construct. This process yielded a new measure, which we named the Illinois Sexual Harassment Myth Acceptance (ISHMA) Scale. Based on this work, we now suggest a number of recommendations for future research. Conceptual Definition and Content Specification First, this project was undertaken with the guiding principle that common standards and terminology should be used when investigating cultural beliefs and attitudes towards male violence against women. We therefore developed a new definition of sexual harassment mythology to parallel that of rape myths: attitudes and beliefs that are generally false but are widely and persistently held, and that serve to deny and justify male sexual harassment of women. Using this definition as a starting point, we ultimately identified four subdomains of sexual harassment mythology: fabrication/exaggeration; ulterior motives; natural heterosexuality; and womans responsibility. It is hoped that such a clearly articulated definition and content specification can facilitate subsequent research, to further elucidate the structure, function, and nomological net surrounding sexual harassment mythology. As previously noted, the ISHMA scale is not the first measure developed to tap sexual harassment beliefs and attitudes. A number of such measures already exist in the literature, and their content overlaps to some degree with the content domain that we have specified here. However, none of these measures comprehensively assesses this entire content domain, and some include beliefs that have little to do with the construct as it is presently defined. Moreover, most of the existing instruments are unidimensional, precluding any analysis of conceptual subdomains.


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or deny male sexual harassment of women, and it is therefore not surprising that they also lack empirical fit. Directions for Future Research Examinations of the nature and correlates of sexual harassment myths should continue with future studies. This work could be extended by exploring not only whether the ISHMA Scale predicts the acceptance of other cultural beliefs and attitudes, but also differentiating between alternative measures of these other theoretical constructs. To illustrate, we used the Sexism Scale developed by Rombough and Ventimiglia (1981) in our validity analysis as a measure of a construct that is theoretically expected to share a relationship with sexual harassment mythology. It would be interesting to explore whether the pattern of findings is different with other measures of sexist beliefs and attitudes (e.g., the Modern Sexism Scale developed by Swim et al. 1995; or the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory developed by Glick and Fiske 1996). It may be, for example, that the acceptance of sexual harassment myths is more closely related to the Sexism Scale, because it is a rather blatant measure of the construct, as compared with the other scales that are more subtle and nuanced. Alternatively, future work may indicate that acceptance of certain sexual harassment myths (as measured with ISHMA sub-scales) may be more closely related to certain aspects of the sexism construct (e.g., hostile rather than benevolent sexism, as measured with the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory). As another future direction, the ISHMA could be used to continue the exploration of documented links between attitudes toward sexual harassment and actual sexual aggression by men and women (e.g., Bartling and Eisenman 1993; Pryor 1987; Reilly et al. 1992). Indeed, Reilly et al. (1992) reported that a score on one measure of sexual harassment mythology (the Tolerance for Sexual Harassment Inventory) was the single best predictor of likelihood to rape among male respondents. Dekker and Barling (1998) also found that mens acceptance of sexual harassment myths outperformed general adversarial sexual beliefs in predicting self-reported acts of harassment in the workplace; this relationship held even after controlling for age, education, self-deception, and impression management. Based on this line of research, several authors have suggested that men who sexually aggress hold a complex, closely related set of beliefs, attitudes, intentions, and behaviors (Dekker and Barling 1998; Reilly et al. 1992; Stockdale 1993). The ISHMA offers new opportunities to test and develop this theory in future research. Effects of Gender and Training We also found some evidence that men accept these myths more than women, particularly myths about women

fabricating and exaggerating sexual harassment. Gender differences did not emerge, however, for two of the myth domains (stating that women have ulterior motives for claiming sexual harassment, and that sexual harassment is simply a part of natural heterosexuality). The reasons for this should be investigated in future research, which could identify individual and social circumstances that attenuate (or exacerbate) the acceptance of sexual harassment myths. Another important finding was that individuals who had received education about sexual harassment (which likely included accurate information about the reality of sexual harassment) endorsed certain sexual harassment myths less than others. Using our conservative criterion for statistical significance (p<.01), the training effect was significant only for the global ISHMA scale and for the Natural Heterosexuality subscale. However, consistently across all comparisons, mean endorsement of the myths was lower among trained individuals compared to untrained individuals, with effect sizes ranging from .33 to .58. Taken together, these findings further support the validity of the ISHMA. This is particularly noteworthy given the relatively weak assessment of training experience that was used in the present study. Specifically, respondents were simply asked a single question about whether they had participated in an educational workshop concerning issues of sexual harassment. Such blunt measurement of training participation obviously provides no information about the length, content, quality, or recency of the training in which respondents had participated. Yet the ISHMA scale still distinguished between those participants who responded with a yes versus a no. This suggests that the ISHMA may have considerable predictive power in future research with real world outcomes, if it can detect an effect of training participation under such weak conditions. Findings of training effects also offer a practical contribution to the field, suggesting that educational workshops have the potential to reduce the endorsement of harmful attitudes toward sexual harassment. Positive effects have been seen in some past studies of sexual harassment training (Beauvais 1986; Maurizio and Rogers 1992), yet not in others (Magley et al. 1997). The magnitude and permanency of our training effects therefore warrant further study. This is especially true given findings in the literature on rape prevention education, where immediate training effects diminish (Frazier et al. 1994; Heppner et al. 1995b) or even reverse (Heppner et al. 1995a) after a period of weeks. Note, however, that all three of the prior studies of harassment training effects cited above (Beauvais 1986; Magley et al. 1997; Maurizio and Rogers 1992) tested the effect of training only on attitudes toward the seriousness of sexual harassment as a social problem. Our broader conceptualization of sexual harassment mythology encompasses other critical beliefs and attitudes that are relevant to

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the training goals for both general employees (e.g., understanding the extent to which individuals believe that targets are responsible) as well as supervisors and Human Resource personnel (e.g., understanding the extent to which individuals believe that complainants have ulterior motives). The ISHMA should therefore be a useful tool in future evaluations of sexual harassment training programs. Limitations As with any research, this study has its limitations. One of these is the reliance on student samples, although beyond this homogenous dimension our samples did exhibit more than usual diversity with respect to age, racial/ethnic identification and residence (rural versus urban). This was because two samples of university students were usedone located in a rural area and one in a major urban center. A third sample of students was then drawn from a police training academy, which was located on the campus of the rural university but involved recruits from law enforcement agencies throughout the state. Nonetheless, it remains for future work to test the reliability and validity of the ISHMA with older, working populations. With respect to age, prior research has explored the possibility of a correlation with attitudes toward sexual harassment. However, the findings have been mixed; this is likely due to measurement and sampling differences across studies (Cowan 2000; Foulis and McCabe 1997; Lott et al. 1982; Reese and Lindenberg 1999; Reilly et al. 1986; Rosen and Martin 1998; Schneider 1982; Wade and BrittanPowell 2001). Interestingly, Ford and Donis (1996) described an interaction between gender and age, such that womens tolerance of sexually harassing behavior generally increased with age, whereas mens decreased. It therefore remains for future work to extend this research using the new and psychometrically strong ISHMA. A related limitation stems from the fact that the factor structure of the ISHMA has not yet been replicated in additional samples, using exploratory factor analytic procedures. Multivariate analyses are notoriously difficult to replicate, and this is particularly true for exploratory factor analyses of multidimensional measures such as the ISHMA. Replication of the ISHMA factor structure is therefore needed using additional, more diverse samples of working adults. Such replication would go a long way toward bolstering confidence in the empirically-based claims made here regarding the structure of the sexual harassment myth construct. Another limitation is due to the fact that our theoretical construct and operational definition for sexual harassment mythology focuses only on sexual harassment that is perpetrated by men against women. Although this gender combination reflects the majority of sexual harassment

incidents that take place within the workplaceand the type of sexual harassment with the most demonstrably negative impact on victimsit clearly remains for other researchers to explore the construct of myths regarding sexual harassment with female perpetrators and/or male victims. (For an exploration of the theoretical issues surrounding the sexual harassment of male victims, please see Berdahl et al. 1996). A final limitation stems from the fact that the coefficient alpha for the WR subscale (.71) is lower than that of the other four subscales, although it still falls within the range that Nunnally and Bernstein (1994) consider to be acceptable for newly developed scales. This finding may be partially attributable to the fact that this particular subscale only has three items, and it may be partly due to the lower item-total correlations (averaging .53) that are seen with this subscale as compared to others. The development of additional items for this subscale would certainly be expected to help strengthen it. Conclusion We have sought in the present study to develop a definition and conceptual framework for the emerging construct of sexual harassment mythology. This research culminated in the development of a psychometrically strong measure of sexual harassment myth acceptance. This instrument not only draws from existing research on sexual harassment attitudes, it also ties into the larger literature on cultural ideologies surrounding violence against women. Being able to assess cultural mythology in this domain with empirical rigor is clearly an important first step toward understanding the etiology and impact of such beliefs. With this work, we have laid a foundation upon which future research can build, yielding important advances on the topic of sexual harassment.

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