After allegations of sexual harassment and assault were made against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, accusations of misconduct have flooded into public awareness. Scores of others have been accused of varying forms of misconduct, with new revelations appearing almost daily. But, a startling study shows that, in the minds of some Americans, even a simple compliment could be considered sexual harassment.
As reported by The Economist, the onslaught of allegations and campaigns like #MeToo have increased awareness regarding sexual harassment, with 49 percent of male respondents to an NBC News and Wall Street Journal poll last month saying the news has made them reevaluate their own actions around women.
However, a YouGov poll conducted during the past month also shows that not everyone sees eye to eye when it comes to defining which actions constitute sexual harassment.
Survey participants were asked, “Would you consider it sexual harassment if a man, who was not a romantic partner, did the following to a woman?” They were then given a list of potential actions, ranging from “requesting a sexual favor” to “asking to go for a drink.”
Both men and women participated in the poll, and five countries were represented in the analysis. The charts represent those who responded to the question with an answer of “always” or “usually.”
Overall, a generational gap is apparent, with younger respondents being more inclined to label almost all of the covered behaviors as sexual harassment when compared to older participants.
However, the most interesting points were that nearly a third of US-based survey participants aged 18 to 30, both males and female, considered “commenting on attractiveness” as always or usually a form of sexual harassment.
About 12.5 percent of young women considered being asked, “to go for a drink” as always or usually a form of sexual harassment, while about a quarter of male respondents felt that way. In comparison, participants in the same age group from Britain, Germany, and Sweden had results around 0 percent for this particular question, though French survey takers were actually more likely to consider it sexual harassment than their American counterparts.
The survey results could be viewed as a distinct demonstration of how varied a person’s definition of sexual harassment can be from others, clearly showing a potential gray zone that could potentially lead to further conflict on the topic as a whole.