Publication - Research and analysis

Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2014: Attitudes to violence against women in Scotland

Published: 25 Nov 2015
ISBN:
9781785448003

This report presents findings from the 2014 Scottish Social Attitudes survey on the attitudes of the Scottish public to the following forms of violence against women: sexual violence, domestic abuse (physical, verbal, mental and emotional), sexual harassment and commercial sexual exploitation.

131 page PDF

1.8 MB

131 page PDF

1.8 MB

Contents
Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2014: Attitudes to violence against women in Scotland
5. Sexual harassment

131 page PDF

1.8 MB

5. Sexual harassment

This chapter reports and analyses views on four different types of sexual harassment: stalking, sexual harassment in the workplace, wolf-whistling and posting naked photos online of someone else. Since 2010 there has been a specific criminal offence of stalking in Scotland, brought in as part of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010. Figures from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (2012/13) (Scottish Government, 2014c) showed that 6% of adults had been stalked by someone during the previous 12 months. Data on the prevalence of the other specific forms of sexual harassment covered in this chapter are not available. However, the same survey did find that 10% of people in Scotland had reported some kind of harassment in the previous 12 months and 9% of women said this harassment was related to their gender (Scottish Government, 2014c).

How wrong and harmful do people think sexual harassment is?

As in the case of the various forms of abuse and violence examined in the three previous chapters, people’s attitudes towards sexual harassment were explored by presenting them with four different scenarios. The first three of these were sexual harassment in the workplace, wolf whistling by a group of strangers and stalking by an ex-boyfriend. (The fourth, about posting naked pictures on the internet, is discussed later in this chapter). In each case respondents were once again asked, (i) what they thought of the man’s (or men’s) behaviour on the 7-point scale from 1 – ‘not wrong at all’ to 7 – ‘very seriously wrong’, and (ii) how much harm they thought it did to the women in question. Specifically, the scenarios were as follows:

  • Sexual harassment in the workplace: ‘Imagine a woman who has always got on fine with her boss. Recently he has told her how pretty she is and has started touching her shoulder whenever he speaks to her’.
  • Wolf whistling by a group of strangers: ‘Imagine a woman is walking down the street. She passes a group of men who start wolf-whistling and saying things like “hey sexy” to her’.
  • Stalking by an ex-boyfriend: ‘Imagine a woman who broke up with her boyfriend a few months ago. He wants them to get back together, she does not. He has been sending flowers and gifts to her work and home even though she has told him she doesn’t want them’.

Different kinds of sexual harassment were included in the expectation that people’s attitudes would vary depending on the type of harassment and the circumstances in which it took place. Table 5.1 shows that attitudes did indeed vary between these three different scenarios. And as a result, two of the forms of harassment are considerably less likely to be regarded as ‘very seriously wrong’ than any of the examples of domestic abuse (perpetrated by a man) that were examined in the previous chapter.

Most likely to be regarded as ‘very seriously wrong’ was the behaviour of the boss who persistently touched an employee’s shoulder. Nevertheless, even in this case less than half (46%) regarded it in that way. Only a quarter thought that a group of men wolf whistling at a woman was ‘very seriously wrong’, and only around 1 in 5 (19%) thought that an ex-boyfriend sending unwanted gifts was ‘very seriously wrong’. Not that the latter behaviours were thought to be acceptable. No less than two-thirds (66%) put the behaviour of the men who wolf-whistled at 5, 6 or 7 on the scale, while almost as many (62%) did the same for the ex-boyfriend sending unwanted gifts. So these behaviours were regarded as negative by a majority of Scots, but they are widely regarded as not quite so serious as many of the other behaviours examined in this report so far.

Table 5.1 Attitudes to sexual harassment in the workplace, wolf-whistling and a man sending unwanted gifts to his ex-girlfriend

Boss touching shoulder Group of men wolf-whistling Man sending unwanted gifts to ex-girlfriend
7 Very seriously wrong 46% 25% 19%
6 21% 20% 20%
5 15% 21% 23%
4 8% 15% 18%
3 4% 9% 10%
2 2% 6% 6%
1 Not wrong at all 2% 4% 4%
Don’t know/ refused 2% * *
Weighted bases 1433 1433 1433
Unweighted bases 1428 1428 1428

Base: All who completed the self-completion

The behaviour of the boss who repeatedly touched his employee’s shoulder was also the most likely to be regarded as harmful of the three forms of harassment (see Table 5.2 ). Nearly 3 in 5 (58%) said that this caused either ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of harm to the employee. However, despite being the least likely of the three to be regarded as ‘very seriously wrong’, people were much more likely to regard the behaviour of the ex-boyfriend as harmful than they were the wolf-whistling by a group of men. Nearly half (46%) thought that an ex-boyfriend sending unwanted gifts caused ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of harm, whereas only 29% thought that a group of men wolf-whistling at a woman did so. Perhaps in themselves the sending of flowers and gifts, unwanted though they might be, did not strike many people as behaviour that can necessarily be viewed as wrong. But at the same time there appeared to be some awareness that such behaviour could appear threatening to a woman in receipt of such unwanted attention.

Table 5.2 Attitudes to level of harm caused by sexual harassment in the workplace, wolf-whistling and a man sending unwanted gifts to his ex-girlfriend

Boss touching shoulder Group of men wolf-whistling Man sending unwanted gifts to ex-girlfriend
A great deal 25% 9% 14%
Quite a lot 33% 20% 32%
Some 27% 34% 37%
Not very much 11% 28% 13%
None at all 3% 8% 3%
Don’t know/ refused 1% 1% 1%
Weighted bases 1433 1433 1433
Unweighted bases 1428 1428 1428

Base: All who completed the self-completion

How do attitudes to sexual harassment vary between groups?

This section examines whether attitudes to sexual harassment varied by gender, age, income, education, whether someone had ever experienced gender-based violence and whether they held stereotypical views about gender roles. None of these factors were found to be consistently related to all of the measures.

Young people (aged 18 to 29 years old) were least likely to think that a male boss touching a female employee on the shoulder was either wrong or harmful. Only 30% of those aged 18 to 29 thought this behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’, whereas 47% of those aged 65 years or over did so (see Figure 5.1 ). Meanwhile, only 14% of those aged 18 to 29 thought it did ‘a great deal’ of harm, compared with 21% of those aged over 65 and, in this instance, as many as 33% of those aged 40 and 64.

Younger people were also the least likely to think that it was wrong or harmful for a man to send unwanted gifts to an ex-girlfriend. Only 12% of those aged 18 to 29 thought an ex-boyfriend sending unwanted gifts was ‘very seriously wrong’, compared with 27% of those aged 65 or over (see Figure 5.1 ). Meanwhile, just 35% of those aged 18-29 thought that this behaviour caused ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of harm, compared with 54% of those aged over 65. However, age was not significantly related to people’s attitudes to wolf-whistling.

Figure 5.1 Believing sexual harassment in the workplace and a man sending unwanted gifts to his ex-girlfriend is ‘very seriously wrong’ by age

Figure 5.1 Believing sexual harassment in the workplace and a man sending unwanted gifts to his ex-girlfriend is ‘very seriously wrong’ by age

Base: All those who completed the self-completion
Unweighted bases: 18-29=179; 30-39=212; 40-46=646; 65 & over=390.

See Annex A Table 5.1 for weighted bases

Women (49%) were a little more likely than men (43%) to think that a boss touching a female employee on the shoulder was ‘very seriously wrong’, though they were not significantly more likely to think that such behaviour was harmful. Meanwhile, surprisingly perhaps, it was men rather than women who, though no more likely to regard it as ‘very seriously wrong’, were more likely to regard both stalking and a group of men wolf-whistling as harmful (see Figure 5.2 ). For example, around a third (34%) of men thought that a group of men wolf-whistling at a woman walking down the street would cause either ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of harm, compared with only 25% of women.

Figure 5.2 Believing men wolf-whistling at a woman and an ex-boyfriend sending unwanted gifts causes ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of harm by gender?

Figure 5.2 Believing men wolf-whistling at a woman and an ex-boyfriend sending unwanted gifts causes ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of harm by gender?

Base: All those who completed the self-completion
Unweighted bases: men=615; women=813
Weighted bases: men=680; women=752

Those with no formal qualifications or Standard Grades (54%) were more likely than those with Highers or degree level education (44%) to say that sexual harassment in the workplace was ‘very seriously wrong’. However, there was no consistent relationship between education and attitudes to men wolf-whistling or to a man sending unwanted gifts to his ex-girlfriend.

There was a small, marginally significant, difference between the views of those who had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and those who had not when it came to whether they thought a boss touching a female employee on the shoulder was ‘very seriously wrong’. While 53% of those who had experienced sexual harassment at work thought such behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’, the Figure amongst those who had never experienced any type of gender-based violence was 47%. However, there was no significant relationship between past experience of abuse and either wolf-whistling or stalking.

Those who held stereotypical views about gender roles (16%) were less likely than those who did not (21%) to think that the ex-boyfriend sending unwanted gifts was ‘very seriously wrong’. However, holding such views was not significantly related to the two other forms of harassment.

The fact that there is no consistent pattern as to which groups are more or less likely to regard these various forms of sexual harassment as wrong or harmful suggests that they are not viewed by people as different forms of the same type of behaviour. Each one stimulates somewhat different reactions in different parts of Scottish society.

Putting naked photographs of an ex-girlfriend online

A particularly negative use of the internet has arisen in recent years in the form of people putting naked photos of ex-partners online without their permission. Typically an act of revenge, this behaviour has come to be known as ‘revenge porn’. Since 2009 there have been some high profile incidences of celebrities being the victims of ‘revenge porn’. In 2013 MPs in Westminster began to campaign to have this made a specific criminal offence. Consequently it was felt to be important to include a question on this new type of abuse. Indeed, since the end of the fieldwork for SSA 2014, both the UK and Scottish Governments have announced plans to bring in specific legislation to criminalise putting naked photos of others online without their permission.

Again this topic was addressed by presenting respondents with a scenario. It read:

‘Imagine a woman sent some naked photos of herself to her boyfriend. After they split up, he puts them on the internet without telling her, so that anyone could see them.’

It should be noted that the question contains several elements that might have influenced people’s responses: the breach of trust involved in sharing something private from an intimate relationship after that relationship has ended; people’s feelings about how wrong, or harmful, it is for someone to have a naked photo of themselves freely accessible to others online; and people’s views about the portrayal of nudity in public in any circumstance.

People held much more negative attitudes about an ex-boyfriend posting naked photos online than they did to any of the other three sexual harassment scenarios discussed in the sections above. As many as 88% said that they thought an ex-boyfriend posting naked photos online was ‘very seriously wrong’, while no less than 87% thought it would cause ‘a great deal’ of harm (see Annex A, Table 5.7). In contrast, even in the case of the boss touching the female employee on the shoulder, the most serious of the previous three scenarios in most people’s eyes, only 46% thought it was ‘very seriously wrong’ and 25% thought it would cause ‘a great deal’ of harm.

Women (91%) were rather more likely than men (85%) to say that putting up naked photos online of an ex-girlfriend was wrong. Otherwise, there were no significant differences between those in different groups. The only significant difference in views on how harmful these behaviours would be was that people who held stereotypical views about gender roles (83%) were a little less likely than those who did not to see this behaviour as harmful (87%) (see Annex A, Table A5.8).

There is currently much debate about whether there should be a specific offence of posting naked photos online of someone else without their permission. Individuals can currently be prosecuted for this under existing legislation, for example stalking or threatening or abusive behaviour, however, the case for introducing specific legislation is that it would be clearer to both victims and perpetrators that posting naked photos online without someone’s permission is a criminal act To explore public attitudes to this issue SSA 2014 included a question on whether doing so should be made a criminal offence. No less than 95% thought that doing so should be illegal (see Annex A, Table 5.9). It appears that there would be almost universal support for any attempt to introduce such a law.


Contact

Email: Alison Stout