Editor's Note: Blogger Karen Burns posted a followup to this post. You can read it here.
It's a fact of life. Sexual harassment is never going to go away. You will always need to know how to deal with it.
First and foremost, don't allow it freak you out. Remaining calm is the best way to hang on to your power, and sexual harassment is all about power.
You have a choice of responses when a person of the opposite (or not) sex makes untoward advances. You can give him/her the evil eye and say: "I'm sorry? I didn't hear you." Or even: "Do you mind repeating that?" You can threaten to report the incident to the powers that be. You can ignore the advances, although this seldom works. You can just simply say, "Cut it out."
Or you can employ Working Girl's very favorite, and supereffective, way to stop sexual harassment in its tracks: You can laugh.
Laughter as a weapon comes in five flavors:
1. Scornful laughter. As in: "Right. In your dreams."
2. Incredulous laughter. As in: "Ha. You can't be serious."
3. Bemused laughter. As in: "I can't believe you just said that, and, as a favor to you, I'm going to pretend it didn't happen."
4. Faux-sympathetic laughter. As in: "Poor you. You really need to get a life, don't you?"
5. Diabolical laughter. As in: "Great! I've been waiting for you to make a stupid mistake like this."
Laughter confuses the harasser, reversing the whole dynamic in your favor. Try it. You'll see.
Karen Burns, Working Girl, is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, to be released by Running Press in April 2009. She blogs at karenburnsworkinggirl.com.