DESPITE efforts to define sexual harassment legally, it still means different things to different people.

Some conduct now seen as sexual harassment was once accepted, at best, or considered boorish, at worst. Plenty of men over a certain age were guilty of it years ago.

Unwelcome advances . . . talking trash . . . questionable banter. This was routine.

Some women believed that they had no choice - accepting it as a nuisance that they had to tolerate. Many (perhaps most) swallowed their indignation for fear of being considered a "poor sport."

Now that women are more of a force in the workplace, they have acquired the confidence to demand an end to such cloddishness.

And rightfully so.

But the rules of social behavior are in a state of flux. What is inappropriate in some contexts may not be in others. What's appropriate in some settings, among some people, may not be in others, among others. And it is not always clear what the limits are, socially - or legally.

Public apologies often include the words, "If I have offended anyone . . . ," which can imply that the apologizer is appeasing the oversensitive, and really sees nothing wrong with what he did or said.

Behavior that fits today's definitions of harassment, however, requires not only an acknowledgment that those offended deserve an apology, but an admission that the behavior was unacceptable.

Just apologizing is not enough. The offender must acknowledge that the issue is not a woman's sensitivity, and never was, but the harasser's insensitivity.