Women hold different views of harassment, says global study
Staff Writer |
Australian women were less likely to consider wolf-whistling in the street, being asked for sex at a social event and a man overstaying his welcome in their home as unacceptable behaviour than women in other countries, research by Curtin University and Edith Cowan University has found.
Article continues below
The survey of 1,734 female undergraduate students in 12 countries showed women had different perceptions of inappropriate behaviour by men across 47 different categories, ranging from forced sexual contact, physical harm and death threats to being asked out as friends, receiving gifts and a stranger striking up a conversation.
Lead author Dr. Lorraine Sheridan, from the School of Psychology at Curtin University, said the research found most female undergraduates agreed on the most overt inappropriate behaviours, but there was little consensus about less explicit actions.
"There was no unanimous agreement among the surveyed women from around the world on any of the different behaviours surveyed, even for those relating to forced sexual violence," Dr. Sheridan said.
"However, women from Western countries, like Australia, generally had a lower acceptance of behaviour associated with attempts to monitor them, while women from non-Western countries were less tolerant of discussions and behaviour relating to sexual activity and dating."
The research found just 26 percent of Australian women believed a man asking for sex at a social event was inappropriate, in comparison to 100 percent of Egyptian women, 99 percent in Indonesian, 97 percent in Japan and 88 percent in Portugal.
Co-author Dr. Adrian Scott, from Edith Cowan University, said 64 percent of Australian women surveyed believed a man 'visiting places because he knows you may be there' was inappropriate, compared to seven percent of Italian women and six percent of Egyptian women.
"These results suggest that culture may take precedence over personal interpretations of the unacceptability of intrusive behaviour that is not obviously harmful or benign in nature," Dr. Scott said.
The study surveyed female psychology undergraduate students from Armenia, Australia, England, Egypt, Finland, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Scotland and Trinidad.
The common Western custom of a man offering to buy a woman a drink in a bar was considered inappropriate by just 12 percent of Australian women, compared to 71 percent of Indonesian women.
Only 25 percent of Australian women thought wolf-whistling was inappropriate, in comparison to 98 percent of Egyptian women, and 74 percent of Australian women felt a man 'giving or sending you strange parcels' was not appropriate, but just 23 percent of Italian women said that was unacceptable.
Overall, the activities most often perceived to be unacceptable by women from all 12 countries were 'forced sexual contact' (97 percent), 'physically hurting someone you care about' (96 percent) and 'making death threats' (95 percent).
The behaviours that were least often considered unacceptable included 'asking you out just as friends' (14 percent), 'talking about you to mutual friends after meeting you just once' (15 percent) and 'telephoning you after one initial meeting' (16 percent).
The research also involved Goldsmiths, University of London, University of Central Lancashire and the University of Western Sydney.
The full paper, "Female undergraduate's perceptions of intrusive behaviour in 12 countries," is published in the journal Aggressive Behaviour. ■