Female bosses not averse to sexual harassment


"Sekuhara," "pawahara" ... When it comes to ways of persecuting each other and getting on each others’ nerves, humans are endlessly inventive. English being the prime source of new names for new things, especially ugly things, the Japanized forms of “sexual harassment” and “power harassment” have lately become household words. They instantly call to mind a certain image – which may, says Shukan Post (Sept 12), be misleading.

The image is of a female company subordinate at the mercy of a male boss whose unwanted advances she can hardly resist because if she does she knows only too well how miserable he can make her working life, given their respective positions and status.

But society is evolving, women are advancing. More and more women are becoming bosses themselves, and Shukan Post, quoting a survey by a labor lawyer of 2,500 men aged 22-39, says more than a quarter of respondents – 25.5% – claim to have experienced "sekuhara" or "pawahara" at the hands of female superiors.

It’s no laughing matter, and not the least unpleasant feature of it is that it sounds like a laughing matter. A male office worker in his 20s, driven at last to complain to a male boss of a female superior’s constant efforts to force herself on him, was merely told said, “If you can’t enjoy it, put up with it.”

Is that fair, given what a big deal it would be if the harassing superior were male and the harassed subordinate female?

Men are generally held to be, and proud of being, able to take care of themselves, but what is a young man to do, for example, in a situation like this: 23-year-old “Mr A” works under a 42-year-old female boss who, no doubt merely trying to be friendly, has a way of turning every word into a sly wink. “If I get the stapler stuck, she’ll say, ‘How inconsiderate of you! You’ll never be popular with women.’ So I mutter something dumb, and she says, ‘Are you a man, or not?’ If I’m slow with an assignment, she’ll say, ‘Are you like that in bed too?’”

Granted, that’s annoying rather than harassing – but how about this? A 26-year-old man in advertising is told by his female boss in a meeting, “You’re cute – don’t hesitate to use your body to land this contract!”

A 22-year-old man goes to his office in the morning facing not only a day’s work but a day’s dealing with his 39-year-old boss, who’s “always finding a way to get close to me.” She bends over him as he labors at his computer, showing cleavage, guiding his mouse hand with hers… “I feel her breath in my ear.” She invites him for dinner, for drinks, for one-on-one career coaching. “I think to myself, ‘Is it okay to refuse?’ He has his doubts: a friend of his who gave his sexually hungry boss the cold shoulder found himself transferred – exiled, in effect – to a remote and insignificant branch office, with negative impacts not only on his career but on his love life, his girlfriend being unable to join him.

A 23-year-old temp worker won – to his dismay – the affections of a female boss 10 years older, who promised him promotions, took him to dinner, plied him with drinks, and finally took him to her place. Sobering up suddenly and not liking the look of things, he said it was time for him to be getting home, at which “she kissed me, pushed onto the bed… I couldn’t very well push her off, could I?” No, it would have been hard. “It was my first time,” he concludes ruefully, having pictured a more romantic initiation.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is eager to boost the number of women in high corporate positions – from 11% now to 30% by 2030. Fine, says Shukan Post – “but women executives must assume the same obligations and responsibilities as men, or else society will degenerate.”

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

I've been sexually harassed at work twice, but never in Japan. Fortunately for me, it wasn't my boss doing it.

Once just a simple written letter to the person made it clear her advances were unwanted and she stopped. This was after at least 10, clear, "I'm not interested" statements were made over a week period. This was before email was common.

The other time, she refused to listen and ignored both a written letter and highlighted company policy paragraphs. She showed up outside my home late one night and phoned for a booty call. I notified her boss, who reassigned her to a different floor, then at her next review she was let go. There were lots of inappropriate emails from her as proof.

Nobody needs to be subjected to unwanted sexual advances, especially at work. It is bad for the subject, bad for the company. That doesn't mean people at work can't hook up - just be clear if you are advancing to listen to the response and act accordingly.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Honestly I think the idea of "sexual harassment" needs to disappear. The term "power harassment" covers the ground included in sexual harassment as well.

Any boss/sempai/senior attempting to use their power to force you to do anything that's not in your normal working conditions is power harassment. This includes unpaid overtime, making you go out drinking with them, and a lot of other things considered "normal" in Japanese business.

... of course that's the kicker isn't it? The reason these words had to be imported was because the closest translation in Japanese would be, "A normal day at the office".

11 ( +14 / -3 )

Any boss/sempai/senior attempting to use their power to force you to do anything that's not in your normal working conditions is power harassment.

A lot of people consider being asked to do anything they don't want to do as power harassment. The term is abused, which eventually will make it toothless.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I can't believe they actually published this. Is this a joke... the percentage of female "bosses" in Japan... one's with any real sort of power... must be 20 times less than that of men.

-6 ( +5 / -11 )

I have heard many stories of young men being harassed by older females at work (not only in Japan, by the way!). They were placed in very awkward situations, and I have a lot of sympathy for them.

I would never dream of harassing a younger male junior at work, there's no fun in that. I'm sorry to say that I have been the harasser of much older male co-workers. One of them - a happily married grandfather - refused to be alone in a room with me. The other tolerated my abuse for years without complaint, but eventually quit with a stomach ulcer. True story.

-8 ( +4 / -12 )

There are A LOT of female in the mid management. My first boss(Bucho class) was a female and also was when I was in my mid 30's.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

@Tessa While some may find your story funny, consider if you were a male reporting he had harassed female co-workers. Few would have anything good to say about it. Justice is supposed to be blind, though...

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Are you like that in bed too?

The badass answer in that situation would be: "I can show you if you want!"

5 ( +7 / -2 )

@CGB -might have landed him in her trap though!

Some people in 'superior' positions (women and men) need to get a cold shower sometimes. It is either they're too frustrated or idk. Maybe they like the power trip and the troubled looks of their employees. Thankfully, superiors have always been very good to me, but colleagues (considering I was a newbie, they'd be my senpais) not. I've been told I look too 'cute and innocent" countless times, and warned by both men and women that I'm considered "easy prey". Indeed, both men and women can and will do passes, and sexual harassment is very uncomfortable. Sometimes it can be ignored, other times not so, especially if it goes from "passes" to "too obvious". If push comes to shove, I either report that person or will somehow try make him/her understand that my life is complete without their nagging and their harassment is unwanted and making them look idiotic. .... tbh, I wish I had the guts to just slap some of them..but work ethics prohibit that I guess!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Well, from what I've seen Japan still needs to get its interpretation of sexual harassment under control and treat it more seriously and stop tossing the term around for almost any reason. Same goes with power harassment. The idea behind this is to create a safe and non-intimidating work environment for your employees, which in turn encourages better productivity because they can feel comfortable doing their job.

Japan really needs to improve laws for employers to have better guidelines for running a business and protecting employee rights.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yeah, 'it' would have been hard alright. Xaviera Hollader must be writing there things.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The manager has the power. If you can't prove anything via email trail or whatever, best start looking for transfer or new company to work for, because no matter how much of a jerk he makes himself after that, chances are he knows how to work the system and you're on the way out, whether the other employees around you and him think he's a jerk or not. Because he will make it look good to corporate HR and his superiors, and they are going to tend to believe him over you. You've got a chance if he does something really stupid, and traceable.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

oh for the love of god- a man can do nothing if he is not excited- trust me - it won't work if you are not interested or scared.

so the story here is just not jiving with reality

sounds like a few guys just did not go as far or as high as they expected when they readily hopped into bed

sour grapes- and i have to say it- real men tell no tales

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Sexual and power harassment remain huge problems still in Japan. But you gotta take this article with a grain of salt. If it's from the Shukan Post, then about 80% of the "case examples" where the names have been changed to "Mr. A" etc only ever actually existed in the imagination of the article author trying to meet the deadline.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I've seen a bunch of movies on this topic. very sad.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


oh for the love of god- a man can do nothing if he is not excited- trust me - it won't work if you are not interested or scared

.Do you mean to tell me that all the "rape-murder" stories we read about are false ?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There's no such thing as pawahara or sekuhara in Japan, it's called sempai kouhai relationship, you just don't understand Japanese culture.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Just relax & go for it. How bad can it be? If she's ugly, close your eyes. If she's a smoker, turn her over. Just another notch on the bedpost.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Only people who have not encountered those situations would behave and talk lightheartedly about it. Replace female boss and the male subordinate with the opposite sex and ask yourself whether would you give a female friend of yours the same advice? It is all about power and being dominant over others, some people need the kick coming from humiliating physically and sexually their peers. Record everything, take notes, if gropped and they are visible signs - try to take pictures or certified. But be very firm and determined about your refusal. If it reaches the courts, try to stick and get the company sued and do not settle outside the court. A friend of mine works for a company who failed to stop harrasment over one of their female employees, she had proofs, sued, went along and held over for a court decision. She left the company but when you google its name in Japanese one of the first things coming up is that court decision. In the wake of that, the internal regulations were changed and according to my friend currently it is unthinkable something similar to happen again. So, what I am driving at is if everyone who has suffered sued and did not settle for the money we might have a better working environment in Japan. But sadly greed rules over everything here.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If I get the stapler stuck, she’ll say, ‘How inconsiderate of you! You’ll never be popular with women.’ So I mutter something dumb, and she says, ‘Are you a man, or not?’ If I’m slow with an assignment, she’ll say, ‘Are you like that in bed too?’

Granted, that’s annoying rather than harassing –

The write of this article should do a little better research and understand that this IS harassment too. Change positions and if it was a guy saying that to a female subordinate they would have the right to make a claim against him for sexual harassment.

The writer promulgates the problem by making light of a serious problem. This is going to worse as well as more women are promoted to positions of power.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites