Perceiving an ambiguous situation as sexual harassment: the influence of observer and harasser gender

Priel Harush, Sarit Elikishvili, Oshrit Kaspi-Baruch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study examined the influence of observer 1 and harasser gender on perceiving an ambiguous situation as sexual harassment. A total of 417 Israelis were exposed to a screenshot of WhatsApp correspondence identical in its content but for describing a male or female harasser. Using an experimental manipulation, harasser gender was manipulated so that half of the participants were exposed to either a male or female harasser. Next, their perception of the situation as sexual harassment was measured. As hypothesized, we found that women tended to interpret the situation as harassment more often than men. Additionally, as hypothesized, the male character was interpreted more often as sexually harassing. We also found an interaction between observer gender and harasser gender, but not in the expected direction: women tended to judge both male and female harassers severely but relatively equally, whereas men tended to judge only the male harasser severely. These findings imply that men were affected by gender schemas and stereotypes more than were women, whose judgement tended to be more objective. Practically, this means that although much has changed in recent years, including in particular the #MeToo campaign, sexual harassment is still affected by gender schemas and stereotypes and still reflects an unequal gender distribution of power.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Gender Studies
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Sexual harassment
  • gender stereotypes
  • harasser gender
  • observer gender
  • perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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