A depressing new study found that sexual harassment is so pervasive that women have developed coping mechanisms to deal with certain forms of harassment. While men experience harassment too, it's less common, so they haven't developed this skill of sorts.
Michigan State University researchers surveyed 6,000 men and women serving in the U.S. military. EurekAlert reports that more than 50% of women and 20% of men had been sexually harassed at least once in the past year. The questionnaire covered 16 different types of verbal and physical harassment, from offensive jokes to inappropriate touching.
The study found that women have built up resistance to the forms of sexual harassment they see as just "bothersome." Lead author Iris Settles explains:
"When women view sexual harassment as bothersome, it doesn't seem to be associated with distress. In some ways this suggests that sexual harassment is such a widespread problem that women have figured out ways to deal with it so it doesn't interfere with their psychological well-being."
While men were distressed by sexual harassment whether they saw it as frightening or bothersome, women were only deeply troubled by behavior they considered scary. Settles said:
"People tend to underestimate the impact of sexual harassment on men ... [they] typically haven't had a lifetime of experiences dealing with sexual harassment and may not know how to deal with it when it happens to them."
She added the caveat that the study doesn't mean sexual harassment is less distressing for women in general, and it's easy to see how the results could be twisted to mean that women don't mind hearing crude advances from time to time. Instead, the study suggests that women are experiencing so much harassment that they've learned to differentiate between annoying and threatening behavior. While harassment may be surprising for men, it's so common for women that they've been forced to develop a way to keep functioning in a hostile environment.
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