Earlier this week he admitted that he had put his hand on the knee of a female journalist, Julia Hartley-Brewer, in 2002. She has accepted his apology, and made light of the incident in recent days, posting a picture of her knees on Twitter, and writing that they were still intact.
On Wednesday night Ms. Hartley-Brewer reacted with surprise at the resignation, but added, “I doubt that my knee was the reason.”
Some British political journalists, including ITV’s political editor, Robert Peston, reported that Mr. Fallon may have quit because he feared that other, similar accusations might come to light.
Asked whether he feared more might emerge, Mr. Fallon told the BBC on Wednesday: “The culture has changed over the years. What might have been acceptable 15, 10 years ago is clearly not acceptable now. Parliament now has to look at itself.”
Mr. Fallon’s resignation is a setback to Mrs. May, who will lose from her top ministerial team one of its most reliable media performers as negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union are making little progress.
It could also force her to reshuffle her cabinet sooner than expected, a politically difficult move, although she may opt for a minimalist reorganization of her top team. No replacement for Mr. Fallon was announced on Wednesday night.
Worse for Mrs. May, this might not be the last such resignation. An investigation has been opened into the behavior of another minister, Mark Garnier, after he admitted that he had asked a female member of his staff to buy sex toys.
In the aftermath of the allegations of sexual harassment and rape against the American movie producer Harvey Weinstein, many additional complaints are coming to light and a list of more than 30 lawmakers from Mrs. May’s Conservative Party who are said to have behaved inappropriately, has been circulating online, with names redacted.
The claims vary from serious allegations of sexual harassment to indiscretions like marital infidelities.
But like the world of entertainment, politics is profession in which senior individuals, mainly men, have considerable power over those trying to establish a career. And even some less serious allegations suggest an unacceptable degree of sexism or complacency about inappropriate behavior within the British Parliament.
On Saturday Michael Gove, the environment secretary, prompted angry complaints after joking that being interviewed by the BBC presenter John Humphrys was like entering Mr. Weinstein’s bedroom and hoping “you emerge with your dignity intact.” Mr. Gove issued an unreserved apology. Meanwhile, the former work and pensions secretary, Stephen Crabb, has apologized for “sexual chatter” with a 19-year-old who applied for a job in his office.
The opposition Labour Party has been implicated too. A Labour activist, Bex Bailey, told the BBC that she suffered a serious sexual assault at a party in 2011 and that, when she later asked for advice from a senior staff member, she was advised that formally reporting what had occurred could damage her career prospects.
Last week Labour also suspended one of its lawmakers, Jared O’Mara, while it investigates allegations that he made a series of misogynistic and homophobic comments.
Some lawmakers have denied accusations made against them, including Damian Green, one of Mrs. May’s closest allies, who has described allegations of inappropriate behavior toward a female activist as completely false.
Michael Fallon, UK Defense Secretary, Quits Over Inappropriate Conduct – New York Times