The outpouring of sexual-misconduct allegations over the last few months has made a couple of things clear: Many men are deeply confused about where and when to expose their genitals, and people have extremely different definitions of what exactly constitutes sexual harassment. As a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday shows, Americans view sexual harassment very differently depending on their age, race, and gender.
For the poll, over 3,000 American adults were presented with eight different scenarios, and asked whether they would consider them to be sexual harassment. While the majority of people surveyed agreed that nonconsensual groping or kissing constituted sexual harassment, less than half of adults consider unwanted hugging, dirty jokes, and “unwanted compliments about your appearance” to be sexual harassment (44 percent, 41 percent, and 38 percent, respectively).
According to the poll, women, and specifically women of color (populations more likely to experience workplace harassment), tend to define sexual harassment more broadly than men. For example, only 11 percent of women say touching someone without their consent is not considered sexual harassment, compared to 19 percent of men, and 52 percent of adults from racial minorities say unwanted hugging is sexual harassment, as opposed to 39 percent of white adults.
Millennials, meanwhile, are 7 percent more chill about sending their co-workers pornographic pictures than their older colleagues (83 percent of millennials consider it sexual harassment, compared to 90 percent of Gen-Xers).
Suzanne Goldberg, director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School, says employers need to be better about setting clear standards of conduct in the workplace.
“The onus is on employers to set the tone, even if the co-workers don’t object or go to management to complain,” she said.
Hopefully, more standardized guidelines will clear things up for the poor guys struggling to understand whether or not they can hug their female colleagues anymore (life hack: don’t).
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