The Effect of Prototypical #MeToo Features on the Perception of Social-Sexual Behavior as Sexual Harassment

  • Andrea Melanie KesslerEmail author
  • Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair
  • Trond Viggo Grøntvedt
  • Ida Bjørkheim
  • Idun Drejer
  • Mons Bendixen
Original Paper


The #MeToo movement has to a large degree addressed a specific type of sexual harassment, focusing on quid pro quo over hostile environment type sexual harassment. Prototypical #MeToo features include male over female actor; superior over subordinate actor; repeated over single case harassment; private over public settings; personal over general targets and sexualized over non-sexualized physical contact. We predict that these prototypical #MeToo features that gained attention during the campaign will increase peoples’ perception of which social-sexual behaviors are considered to be sexual harassment. Predictions were tested in a sample of 489 Norwegian participants (66% women). The results suggest that men tend to rate female actions as less harassing than male actions, while women did not make such a difference. We also observed a bias toward prototypical types of sexual harassment, as people perceive these more as sexual harassment compared to less prototypical but equally harmful types. Implications for future research on, and prevention of, sexual harassment are discussed.


#MeToo Sexual harassment Gender differences Quid pro quo harassment Social-sexual behavior 



The research was approved by the Norwegian Centre for Research Data (NSD), which is the Data Protection Official for Research for all universities in Norway.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

The participation was both voluntary and anonymous. Participants gave their informed consent electronically by approving their responses at the final page of the questionnaire.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway

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