Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 739–758 | Cite as

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


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.


Sexual harassment Stranger harassment Context effects Permissive norms Touch 


Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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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

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