Within the global female community there is an unfair but shared knowledge that women are sexually assaulted and harassed in everyday life. This common female experience seems almost innate to women because it is something we are forced to live with. However, the sheer proliferation of the matter is widely unrealised by some men because it rests on testimonies by women which are often ignored and vilified.
Whilst it is important to remember that men too are victims of sexual misconduct, 81% of women have reported being sexually harassed, more than double the number of men.
Although such harassment is not limited to a set location, sexual abuse is particularly common in the context of bars and nightclubs.
To illustrate the sexual harassment of women in more concrete terms, tonic brand Schweppes partnered with advert agency Ogilvy on an experiment called ‘The Dress for Respect’. Whereby a touch sensitive dress was designed to monitor three women in a São Paulo nightclub for 3 hours and 47 minutes. Altogether the women were touched a shocking 157 times, equating to just under 40 times an hour. Touches were not limited to a specific area of the body, ranging from the waist to buttocks and thighs. The harassment manifested verbally too, with one man branding one of the women ‘so annoying’ for not responding positively to his advances.
“81% of women have reported being sexually harassed”
The tough news is that whilst most women are well acquainted with this harrowing reality, some of the men who featured in the video claimed that women do not experience major problems with harassment. It seems beyond belief that the same men who assaulted women in the video confidently declare that women are ‘just complaining about everything.’ This void between some men and women in their understanding of the issue only serves to perpetuate and entrench harassment in our everyday culture.
The disparity between male denial of assault and female lived experiences must be addressed through education and female empowerment. This experiment should be shown in classrooms all over the world, and paired with lessons on consent for both sexes. Above all, women must feel emboldened to speak about such experiences and actually recognise them as assault. The banality of sexual assault means that even for women who have suffered at the sleazy hands of others, cases are not even mentally registered or reported because of their regularity.
“…touched a shocking 157 times”
Women should not have sexual harassment as a lifelong encumbrance and it should not take this experiment for their testimonies to be believed. It’s imperative that men call out the behaviour of their peers and talk to their mothers, sisters and female friends so as to further understand and tackle the issue. The severity of the problem is evidenced in the fact that for women, the findings of this experiment do not shock, but merely confirm their own experiences.
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