Sexual harassment of women and girls in public places Contents

Annex A: Summary of YouGov research on sexual harassment

This is a short summary prepared by Dr Helen Mott and Dr Fiona Vera-Gray of the key findings and analysis of the polling and focus group research on sexual harassment that YouGov carried out for the Women and Equalities Committee in 2018.255 More detail, and some implications of the findings, are discussed in the body of this report. The research did not ask direct questions about behaviour, such as perpetration of sexual harassment, or use (consumption) of pornography, but it did ask about attitudes towards sexual harassment and wider social policy issues that have been linked in the research literature to sexual harassment.


Most people think that public sexual harassment is unacceptable, however there are significant gender differences depending on the form and context of harassment.

More men (60%) than women (51%) believe it is acceptable for a man to start talking to a woman he doesn’t know in public.

Women are more aware of the frequency of public sexual harassment and of its impact than men are.

There is a significant relationship between belief in traditional masculine gender norms and acceptability of public sexual harassment.

In line with findings from the British Social Attitudes Survey, overall belief in traditional gender norms is lessening, however young people show some concerning trends in relation to traditional gender norms.

The acceptability of illegal prostitution is connected to acceptability of sexual harassment. In addition, the law operates as a key marker for acceptability of prostitution. Prostitution is understood as generally unacceptable when it is illegal, and generally acceptable when it is legal.

Acceptability of wolf-whistling did not follow this trend, with those who find legal pornography unacceptable being more likely to think wolf-whistling is acceptable—this appears to be related to age.

While the acceptability of men’s use of legal pornography varies significantly between men (75%) and women (48%), men in focus groups were able to claim that pornography is both acceptable, and harmful to men and women. This suggests that men are not persuaded that harm is a sufficient condition to affect the acceptability of pornography: “Well it’s legal and regulated then fair game” (L).

Published: 23 October 2018