Convenience sample of student perception of sexual harassment definition

An informal convenience sample of 35 students consisting of 16 female students and 19 male students were asked to voluntarily and anonymously take the following paper-based survey:

Which of the following do you believe is sexual harassment? (mark all that apply)

◯ Stalking or cyberstalking
◯ Persistence in asking someone out on a date after being told no
◯ Commenting on someone’s buttock or breast size
◯ Commenting on how often someone hooks up
◯ Threatening to rape someone because they look so good
◯ Attempting sexual activity with someone who is under the influence of alcohol
◯ Greeting someone and telling them they look nice today
◯ Sharing intimate photos or videos of someone without their permission
◯ Telling of sexist jokes in class by an instructor
◯ Commenting by an instructor on how nice a particular student looks every time the instructor sees the student
◯ Whistling or hooting at a student of the other gender
◯ Unwanted physical touching
◯ Having someone make unwelcome sexual comments, jokes or gestures to or about you
◯ Being called gay or lesbian in a negative way
◯ Being shown sexy or sexual pictures that you did not want to see
◯ Being touched in an unwelcome sexual way
◯ Having someone flash or expose themselves to you
◯ Being forced to do something sexual
◯ Sitting down at a table in the dining hall where only one person of the other gender is sitting alone
◯ Learning about sexually sensitive topics in a classroom

The results, reported in descending order:


QuestionFemaleMaleTotal
Unwanted physical touching151833
Being forced to do something sexual161632
Threatening to rape someone because they look so good151631
Being touched in an unwelcome sexual way161531
Attempting sexual activity with someone who is under the influence of alcohol141630
Having someone make unwelcome sexual comments, jokes or gestures to or about you121224
Sharing intimate photos or videos of someone without their permission111223
Being shown sexy or sexual pictures that you did not want to see121123
Commenting on someone's buttock or breast size91120
Being called gay or lesbian in a negative way91019
Stalking or cyberstalking71017
Having someone flash or expose themselves to you8816
Persistence in asking someone out on a date after being told no6915
Commenting by an instructor on how nice a particular student looks every time the instructor sees the student8513
Whistling or hooting at a student of the other gender6612
Commenting on how often someone hooks up279
Telling of sexist jokes in class by an instructor459
Learning about sexually sensitive topics in a classroom134
Greeting someone and telling them they look nice today022
Sitting down at a table in the dining hall where only one person of the other gender is sitting alone011

The correlation between the male and female responses was strong with r = 0.94. The largest differences of opinion did not exceed 0.24 in either direction. The top four items where the female percentage exceeded the male percentage were:


Commenting by an instructor on how nice a particular student looks every time the instructor sees the student0.24
Being touched in an unwelcome sexual way0.21
Being shown sexy or sexual pictures that you did not want to see0.17
Being forced to do something sexual0.16

The results suggest these are areas in which the female students more often perceive sexual harassment than the male students. The small sample size and lack of the sample being a random sample means that while a difference is hinted at, the difference is not statistically significant.

The top four items where the male percentage exceeded the female percentage:

Commenting on how often someone hooks up0.24
Greeting someone and telling them they look nice today0.11
Persistence in asking someone out on a date after being told no0.10
Learning about sexually sensitive topics in a classroom0.10

The results suggest that these are areas in which the male students more often perceive sexual harassment that the female students. If sexual harassment is taken as gender asymmetric, then these might be interpreted as areas which male students perceive as more harassing than the female students.

A final question asked:

"Optional: Have you ever been sexually harassed and in what way?"

Three female students answered in the affirmative. Two noted that the incident involved unwanted touching. The third noted a physical assault involving two men under the influence of alcohol. No male students answered in the affirmative. 

The above goes to gender asymmetry. For the female students their responses may be based in part on experienced or witnessed incidents, a lived reality. For the male students the survey exercise is more likely to be hypothetical. 

Note that the final question did not specify time frames nor locations. The question was intentionally left as a broad net with an indefinite time frame. 

(Click to enlarge)

The survey was a one-off survey in an area for which the author is unaware of existing survey data for the student population involved. The survey was intended primarily as a starting point for dialog and discussion. The survey will not pass tests of reliability, validity, nor even a test for clear understanding of the terminology by those who took the survey. The results should be used with extreme caution. Consider them a glimpse into student perceptions, but not actionable data. The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author. The author wishes to acknowledge the on line resources that assisted in assembling the survey including the University of Kansas Office of Institutional Research and Planning.

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