Millennial Males Are More Sensitive to ‘Subjective’ Sexual Harassment Than Females

Jan. 4, 2018 – A study by The Agency at the University of Florida reveals millennial males are more likely to report “subjective” sexual harassment actions than millennial females. While men and women were both highly sensitive to premeditated or deliberate acts of harassment (unwanted touch, exposure, or having their picture taken without consent), males were more sensitive than females to sexual jokes, cat calls and staring.

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“Males are more likely to report subjective sexual harassment actions than females,” said Bob Norberg, director of strategy and research at The Agency. “These results suggest society’s efforts to sensitize millennial males to the complexities and nuances of sexual harassment are beginning to produce the desired attitudinal changes.”

The study was conducted Nov. 27-28, 2017 by The Agency at the University of Florida, utilizing MAVY®, a community of 18-35 year-olds, to examine millennial sensitivities to actions and behaviors that fall broadly under the label of “sexual harassment.”

The MAVY study findings also indicate millennial sensitivities are nuanced, with strong sensitivity for some actions and less for others. Sensitivity was measured by the extent to which a person would report a specific incidence with the intent that the harasser would be punished in some fashion.

“It is clear millennials distinguish between the severity of premeditated or deliberate actions and those that allow for more subjective interpretation,” said Norberg. “For example, while over two-thirds of this group are likely to report premeditated and deliberate actions, over 40 percent say they are unlikely to claim sexual harassment for a cat call, a sexual joke or staring.”

The survey of 188 millennials contained three questions about subjective behaviors and six questions about premeditated and deliberate behaviors. On average, for the three subjective behaviors, 41 percent of the males indicated they would report the incident versus 27 percent for females. The average likelihood to report premeditated and deliberate behaviors was 68 percent for females and 62 percent for males.

Some actions clearly provoke reporting, while others do not have as strong of a reaction,” said Norberg. “For instance, over 65 percent of those questioned would report actions that involved inappropriate or unapproved touching, whereas only 27 percent would report a person who told a joke or story with sexual connotations.”

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