Original Article

Sex Roles

, Volume 58, Issue 7, pp 477-489

First online:

Everyday Victimization of Adolescent Girls by Boys: Sexual Harassment, Bullying or Aggression?

  • Rosalyn ShuteAffiliated withDiscipline of Psychology and Centre for Health Research and Practice, School of Behavioural and Social Sciences and Humanities, University of BallaratSchool of Psychology, Flinders University Email author 
  • , Larry OwensAffiliated withSchool of Education, Flinders University
  • , Phillip SleeAffiliated withSchool of Education, Flinders University

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School-based sexual harassment of adolescent girls by boys appears commonplace, yet aggression and bullying studies rarely yield sexualized material. This qualitative Australian study with 72 14- to 15-year-olds and 7 teachers aimed to discover whether interviewer use of neutral language in gender-segregated focus groups and interviews would yield material indicating that the victimization of girls by boys is sexualized. Verbal and indirect victimization were reported to be everyday occurrences, and almost entirely sexual. Findings are discussed in the light of definitions of sexual harassment, bullying and aggression. It is concluded that the term “sexual bullying” appropriately captures the gendered power structure underlying these behaviors. As such, they need to be understood, and become visible, more broadly than in terms of individual pathology.


Adolescence Aggression Bullying Sexual harassment Victimization