Toronto Metropolitan University
08862605211030018.pdf (460.84 kB)

Young Women’s Experiences With Technology-Facilitated Sexual Violence From Male Strangers

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-09-15, 16:28 authored by Alisha SalernoAlisha Salerno, Caroline ErentzenCaroline Erentzen, Regina A. Schuller

Stranger-perpetrated harassment was identified decades ago to describe the pervasive, unwanted sexual attention women experience in public spaces. This form of harassment, which has evolved in the modern era, targets women as they navigate online spaces, social media, texting, and online gaming. The present research explored university-aged women’s experiences (n = 381) with online male-perpetrated sexual harassment, including the nature and frequency of the harassment, how women responded to the harassment, and how men reportedly reacted to women’s strategies. Trends in harassment experiences are explored descriptively and with thematic analysis. Most women reported receiving sexually inappropriate messages (84%, n = 318), sexist remarks or comments (74%, n = 281), seductive behavior or come-ons (70%, n = 265), or unwanted sexual attention (64%, n = 245) in an online platform, social media account, email, or text message. This sexual attention from unknown males often began at a very young age (12-14 years). The harassment took many forms, including inappropriate sexual comments on social media posts, explicit photos of male genitalia, and solicitations for sex. Although most women reported strong negative emotional reactions to the harassment (disgust, fear, anger), they generally adopted non-confrontational strategies to deal with the harassment, electing to ignore/delete the content or blocking the offender. Women reported that some men nevertheless persisted with the harassment, following them across multiple sites online, escalating in intensity and severity, and leading some women to delete their own social media accounts. These results suggest the need for early intervention and education programs and industry response.




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