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Putting Sexual Autonomy First: A Model Statute?

Sexual harassment is a relatively new name for an age-old practice: unwanted sexual advances by men to women in public places. One hundred years ago, women workers’ vulnerability to male sexual advances was seen as the result of generalized male sexual aggression that might lead to seduction, rape, or procurement for prostitution. Then, such actions might be subject to criminal prosecution. Or, if a man’s public attention to a woman damaged her reputation for chastity, she might bring a civil suit for damages. This was at a time when a woman’s virtue was central to her value. For the most part, however, such sexual advances were considered not a matter for government interest, but rather a matter of private sexual choice.