Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 739–758

Stranger Danger: The Role of Perpetrator and Context in Moderating Reactions to Sexual Harassment

  • Megan K. McCarty
  • Nicole E. Iannone
  • Janice R. Kelly
Original Paper

Abstract

The majority of research on sexual harassment focuses on achievement contexts where the perpetrator of the harassment is known to the victim. More recent work has begun to explore sexual harassment perpetrated by strangers in public places. The current work sought to bridge the gap between research on sexual harassment in achievement contexts and stranger harassment. In doing so, the current work manipulated factors related to three important distinctions between these topics: the relationship between the perpetrator and victim, the location, and the type of sexually harassing behavior. The current study provides evidence that stranger harassment elicits more negative reactions than harassment from a coworker. Additionally, harasser type interacted with harassment type, with situations involving strangers making physical contact eliciting the most negative reactions. Thus, the current work suggests a need for more research on stranger harassment, as well as on additional factors that may operate differently depending on harasser type.

Keywords

Sexual harassment Stranger harassment Context effects Permissive norms Touch 

References

  1. Angelone, D. J., Mitchell, D., & Carola, K. (2009). Tolerance of sexual harassment: A laboratory paradigm. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 949–958. doi:10.1007/s10508-008-9421-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berdahl, J. L. (2007a). Harassment based on sex: Protecting social status in the context of gender hierarchy. Academy of Management Review, 32, 641–658. doi:10.2307/20159319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berdahl, J. L. (2007b). The sexual harassment of uppity women. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 425–437. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.92.2.425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berdahl, J. L., Magley, V. J., & Waldo, C. R. (1996). The sexual harassment of men?: Exploring the concept with theory and data. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 20, 527–547. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1996.tb00320.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bowman, C. G. (1993). Street harassment and the informal ghettoization of women. Harvard Law Review, 106, 517–580. doi:10.2307/1341656.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burgoon, J. K. (1991). Relationship message interpretations of touch, conversational distance, and posture. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 15, 233–259. doi:10.1007/BF00986924.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cartar, L., Hicks, M., & Slane, S. (1996). Women’s reactions to hypothetical male sexual touch as a function of initiator attractiveness and level of coercion. Sex Roles, 35, 737–750. doi:10.1007/BF01544089.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chaudoir, S. R., & Quinn, D. M. (2010). Bystander sexism in the intergroup context: The impact of cat-calls on women’s reactions towards men. Sex Roles, 62, 623–634. doi:10.1007/s11199-009-9735-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cortina, L. M., & Berdahl, J. L. (2008). Sexual harassment in organizations: A decade of research in review. In C. L. Cooper & J. Barling (Eds.), Handbook of organizational behavior, vol. 1, pp. 469–497. doi:10.4135/9781849200448.n26.
  10. Dougherty, T. W., Turban, D. B., Olson, D. E., Dwyer, P. D., & Lapreze, M. W. (1996). Factors affecting perceptions of workplace sexual harassment. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 17, 489–501. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-1379(199609)17:5<489:AID-JOB780>3.0.CO;2-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fairchild, K. (2010). Context effects on women’s perceptions of stranger harassment. Sexuality and Culture, 14, 191–216. doi:10.1007/s12119-010-9070-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fairchild, K., & Rudman, L. A. (2008). Everyday stranger harassment and women’s objectification. Social Justice Research, 21, 338–357. doi:10.1007/s11211-008-0073-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fitzgerald, L. F. (1993). Sexual harassment: Violence against women in the workplace. American Psychologist, 48, 1070–1076. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.48.10.1070.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fitzgerald, L. F., Drasgow, F., Hulin, C., Gelfand, M. J., & Magley, V. J. (1997). Antecedents and consequences of sexual harassment in organizations: A test of an integrated model. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82, 578–589. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.82.4.578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fitzgerald, L. F., Shullman, S. L., Bailey, N., Richards, M., Swecker, J., Gold, Y., et al. (1988). The incidence and dimensions of sexual harassment in academia and the workplace. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 32, 152–175. doi:10.1016/0001-8791(88)90012-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fitzgerald, L. F., Swan, S., & Fischer, K. (1995). Why didn’t she just report him? The psychological and legal implications of women’s responses to sexual harassment. Journal of Social Issues, 51, 117–138. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.1995.tb01312.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fredrickson, B. L., & Roberts, T. (1997). Objectification theory: Toward understanding women’s lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 173–206. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1997.tb00108.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gallace, A., & Spence, C. (2010). The science of interpersonal touch: An overview. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 34, 246–259. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2008.10.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gardner, C. G. (1995). Passing by: Gender and public harassment. Berkley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  20. Gelfand, M. J., Fitzgerald, L. F., & Drasgow, F. (1995). The structure of sexual harassment: A confirmatory analysis cross cultures and settings. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 47, 164–177. doi:10.1006/jvbe.1995.1033.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Glomb, T. M., Munson, L. J., Hulin, C. L., Bergman, M. E., & Drasgow, F. (1999). Structural equation models of sexual harassment: Longitudinal explorations and cross-sectional generalizations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84, 14–28. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.84.1.14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gosling, S. D., Vazire, S., Srivastava, S., & John, O. P. (2004). Should we trust web-based studies? A comparative analysis of six preconceptions about internet questionnaires. American Psychologist, 59, 93–104.Google Scholar
  23. Graham, K., Bernards, S., Osgood, D. W., & Wells, S. (2006). Bad nights or bad bars? Multi-level analysis of environmental predictors of aggression in late-night large-capacity bars and clubs. Addiction, 101, 1569–1580. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2006.01608.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Graham, K., Wells, S., Bernards, S., & Dennison, S. (2010). “Yes, I do but not with you”: Qualitative analyses of sexual/romantic overture-related aggression in bars and clubs. Contemporary Drug Problems, 37, 197–240.Google Scholar
  25. Gruber, J. E. (1989). How women handle sexual harassment: A literature review. Sociology and Social Research, 74, 3–9.Google Scholar
  26. Gutek, B. A., & Koss, M. P. (1993). Changed women and changed organizations: Consequences of and coping with sexual harassment. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 42, 28–48. doi:10.1006/jvbe.1993.1003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gutek, B. A., Morasch, B., & Cohen, A. G. (1983). Interpreting social-sexual behavior in a work setting. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 22, 30–48. doi:10.1016/0001-8791(83)90004-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hickman, S. E., & Muehlenhard, C. L. (1997). College women’s fears and precautionary behaviors relating to acquaintance rape and stranger rape. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 527–547. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1997.tb00129.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hitland, R. T., Schneider, K. T., & Walsh, B. M. (2006). Upsetting behavior: Reactions to personal and bystander sexual harassment experiences. Sex Roles, 55, 187–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ivy, D. K., & Hamlet, S. (1996). College students and sexual dynamics: Two studies of peer sexual harassment. Communication Education, 45, 149–166. doi:10.1080/03634529609379044.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lee, J. W., & Guerrero, L. K. (2001). Types of touch in cross-sex relationships between coworkers: Perceptions of relational and emotional messages, inappropriateness, and sexual harassment. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 29, 197–220. doi:10.1080/00909880128110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lenton, R., Smith, M. D., Fox, J., & Mora, N. (1999). Sexual harassment in public places: Experiences of Canadian women. The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 36, 517–540. doi:10.1111/j.1755-618X.1999.tb00962.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Macmillan, R., Nierobisz, A., & Welsh, S. (2000). Experiencing the streets: Harassment and perceptions of safety among women. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 37, 306–322. doi:10.1177/0022427800037003003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Magley, V. J., Hulin, C. L., Fitzgerald, L. F., & DeNardo, M. (1999). Outcomes of self-labeling sexual harassment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84, 390–402. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.84.3.390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Marks, M. A., & Nelson, E. S. (1993). Sexual harassment on campus: Effects of professor gender on perception of sexually harassing behaviors. Sex Roles, 28, 207–217. doi:10.1007/BF00299281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nielsen, L. B. (2000). Situating legal consciousness: Experiences and attitudes of ordinary citizens about law and street harassment. Law & Society Review, 34, 1055–1090. doi:10.2307/3115131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. O’Connell, C. E., & Korabik, K. (2000). Sexual harassment: The relationship of personal vulnerability, work context, perpetrator status, and type of harassment to outcomes. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 56, 299–329. doi:10.1006/jvbe.1999.1717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Parks, K. A., & Miller, B. A. (1997). Bar victimization of women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 509–525. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1997.tb00128.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Parks, K. A., & Zetes-Zanatta, L. M. (1999). Women’s bar-related victimization: Refining and testing a conceptual model. Aggressive Behavior, 25, 349–364. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1098-2337(1999)25:5<349:AID-AB3>3.0.CO;2-O.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Popovich, P. M., & Licata, B. J. (1987). A role model approach to sexual harassment. Journal of Management, 13, 149–161. doi:10.1177/014920638701300112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pryor, J. B. (1985). The lay person’s understanding of sexual harassment. Sex Roles, 13, 273–286. doi:10.1007/BF00288085.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pryor, J. B., Giedd, J. L., & Williams, K. B. (1995). A social psychological model for predicting sexual harassment. Journal of Social Issues, 51, 69–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pryor, J. B., LaVite, C. M., & Stoller, L. M. (1993). A social psychological analysis of sexual harassment: The person/situation interaction. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 42, 68–83. doi:10.1006/jvbe.1993.1005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Reilly, T., Carpenter, S., Dull, V., & Bartlett, K. (1982). The factorial survey: An approach to defining sexual harassment on campus. Journal of Social Issues, 38, 99–110. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.1982.tb01912.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schneider, K. T., Swan, S., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (1997). Job-related and psychological effects of sexual harassment in the workplace: Empirical evidence from two organizations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82, 401–415. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.82.3.401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Terpstra, D. E., & Baker, D. D. (1986). A framework for the study of sexual harassment. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 7, 17–34. doi:10.1207/s15324834basp0701_2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Thayer, S. (1986). History and strategies of research on social touch. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 10, 12–28. doi:10.1007/BF00987202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Trope, Y., & Alfieri, T. (1997). Effortfulness and flexibility of dispositional judgment processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 662–674. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.73.4.662.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Waldo, C. R., Berdahl, J. L., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (1998). Are men sexually harassed? If so, by whom? Law and Human Behavior, 22, 59–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Weber-Burdin, E., & Rossi, P. H. (1982). Defining sexual harassment on campus: A replication and extension. Journal of Social Issues, 38, 111–120. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.1982.tb01913.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wesselmann, E. D., & Kelly, J. R. (2010). Cat-calls and culpability: Investigating the frequency and functions of stranger harassment. Sex Roles, 63, 451–462. doi:10.1007/s11199-010-9830-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Megan K. McCarty
    • 1
  • Nicole E. Iannone
    • 1
  • Janice R. Kelly
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychological SciencesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

Personalised recommendations