Sexual Harassment in Higher Education - Experiences and Perceptions among Students at a Danish University
Taking higher education to be an arena in which professional and social interaction has a special propensity to overlap, this paper investigates university students’ experiences and perceptions of sexual harassment. Based on survey data, we find varying responses according to their gender and nationality, indicating that men and Danish students are least likely to experience and perceive situations as sexual harassment. Further, we find a wide-spread normalization of certain potentially offensive acts and behaviours. In addition, students report varying degrees of acceptability of certain acts, depending on context. On this basis, we argue that normalization hinders individual students’ ability to recognize and denounce sexual harassment. The influence of social norms on individual experiences and perceptions, we assert, means sexual harassment is neither an objective category nor an individual responsibility. In consequence, issues of sexual harassment can only be dealt with if and when universities assume responsibility for the norms that prevail within their spheres of influence.
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