A survey, conducted on behalf of Drinkaware, was published last week. It revealed that the majority of UK students want their universities to do more about sexual harassment. More than 60 per cent of students wanted their university to campaign against it, 56 per cent said they believed that there should be counselling available to the victims, and 70 per cent wanted their institutions to formally discipline perpetrators of it.
Statistics On The Number Of Male Victims Are A Reality Check
The sample was quite limited (1,853 participants aged 18 to 24), but it does give us some valuable insight. More than half of female students (54 per cent) and around one in seven male students (14 per cent) reported becoming the victim of inappropriate sexual comments or unwanted touching on nights out. So clearly sexual harassment against women is a much more prevalent issue, but it does indicate sexual harassment is also negatively affecting men. So why is this type of harassment against guys never talked about?
It’s Happening Under Our Noses And Hardly Anyone Notices
Let’s think back to last month, at Notting Hill Carnival. The tsunami of colours, dazzling array of cultures and general madness that is the carnival means it always yields myriad interesting videos and images that are subsequently shared on social media or published in the press.
I was having a browse through them when I spotted this shockingly disgusting video:
The video depicts a woman ‘dancer’ at the annual event twerking and grinding against an extremely young boy, in what can only be described as a a sexual manner. The boy, who looks to be around five-years-old to me, seems to find the situation uncomfortable, but is receiving so much affirmation from the adults around him that he carries on regardless. It appears he is simply mimicking behaviour he has witnessed.
The author of the Twitter post I found this on argued that ‘if a grown man did something similar with a little girl there would be outrage’, which is undoubtedly true.
Putting any possible child protection issues aside, is it acceptable that there are such skewed social norms and values for different genders? There seems to be an unwritten assumption that all males would welcome, or even enjoy, sexual harassment.
Perceptions That Men Welcome Harassment Are Bullshit
When The Guardian made this video showing a woman approaching men on the street and making inappropriate advances, it told a different story. One of the men asked ‘what’s wrong with you?’ while another responded ‘you can’t speak to us like that’.
Some interesting research that analysed sexual harassment complaints made in Australian offices surfaced last week. It showed that women were accused of sexually harassing men in five per cent of cases, and men accused other men in 11 per cent of cases. Less surprisingly, complaints raised by women against men made up the bulk of the grievances (78.4 per cent).
Professor Paula McDonald, who headed the research, said:
Men are overwhelmingly responsible for sexual harassment against women in the workplace, but men are also the targets of sexual harassment far more commonly than typically assumed by researchers or the community at large.
If we needed more evidence of Prof. McDonald’s findings – in July, bar staff at a popular venue in Inverness, Scotland, were forced to stop wearing their traditional tartan kilts as female patrons would not refrain from groping them. The manager of the venue, Hootananny, described the situation as ‘pure sexism’.
Pop Culture Isn’t Doing Male Victims Any Favours
Remember when Drake was the victim of an unsolicited and non-consensual kiss at Coachella this year? As he sat on a chair on stage, with his hands on his lap, Madonna planted one on his lips and started rubbing his chest as the crowd cheered in delight.
After the incident Drake addressed the audience and asked ‘what the fuck just happened?’
If a man did that to a woman it would, quite rightly, be described as wholly unacceptable and he would justifiably be called out about it. People on Twitter highlighted the obvious sexism at play in this incident. But this is unlikely to be the last instance of a guy getting harassed before our eyes and nothing be done about it.
Guys Shouldn’t Be Ridiculed If They Call Their Harassers Out
The fact that men become the victim of sexual harassment at the hands of women so infrequently doesn’t mean the results of such actions cannot have a profoundly negative effect on their wellbeing. Guys shouldn’t feel afraid to call perpetrators out for fear of being ridiculed.
Sexual harassment is an abhorrent act that should be directly challenged and fought at every opportunity. But we need to remember that, although it is nowhere near statistically likely to be that way round, women can be predatory, and that men can be the victims.