Gender Based Power
Power can be integral to a social role or position that is largely independent of the personal identities of the interacting individuals. Yet in our society power is also generally differentially accorded to the man. Occasionally, designations along these two dimensions may be contradictory, offering the possibility of contrapower harassment. Contrapower harassment (Benson, 1984) occurs when individuals without institutional authority select opportunities to exert illegitimate power over their superordinates (McKinney, 1990). Examples of contrapower harassment include students making anonymous harassing phone calls to faculty members, or students writing lewd or inappropriate comments on faculty members’ evaluations, as well as more direct behaviors, such as explicit sexual propositions (Grauerholz, 1989). The similarity of these examples with those more traditional harassing interactions is the existence of a power differential (although only situational in some cases) in which one party attempts to force a sexual definition of a situation through enactment of aspects of a sexual script.