Leveraging the power of academia to combat public sexual harassment
The Our Streets Now (OSN) academic team aims to:
Provide accessible academic research insights on PSH, so that academic knowledge on PSH becomes mainstream and taken seriously by feminist and human rights activists, policy-makers and the general public.
Encourage academic research around PSH, so that this form of gender-based violence becomes a legitimate research subject, integrating interdisciplinary research on other forms of violence.
Promote academic research on PSH within OSN to be embedded across OSN's policy tasks, educational work and social media outreach.
Academic research on PSH
Scholars have been investigating PSH in different fields (e.g., psychology, criminology, sociology, law, queer studies, nursing, geography, etc.). Still, the literature is considerably lacking compared to other forms of gender-based violence. Previous academic literature on PSH can be divided into four main categories: gender-based violence, policy-making, intersectionality, and impacts. Our reviews are works in progress and far from comprehensive, so do reach out about any glaring gaps.
This review looks at a body of evidence to explore: what is the relationship between public sexual harassment (PSH) and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV)? This question speculates that different types of GBV (ranging from catcalls to rape) might be related - a proposition that Liz Kelly (1988) conceptualised as the ‘continuum of sexual violence’. The continuum remains a prominent idea as it is useful for showing that different forms of GBV are connected because of structural relations of power.
Gender-based Violence review
This short literature review on public sexual harassment and policy-making aims at giving an overview of how this form of gender-based violence is tackled in public policy. While it briefly describes the cases of the United Kingdom and France, it mainly aims to stress the need for further research on policy-making against public sexual harassment.
Previous research shows that PSH can create long-lasting and cumulative impacts on the victims' well-being, including physical and psychological effects. The majority of people who suffered from PSH tend to consider it a degrading, objectifying, humiliating and threatening experience. The literature shows four main investigations regarding the impacts of PSH: psychological effects; mobility and access to public spaces; strategies used by people to limit the risk of being sexually harassed or avoid it completely; and responses to PSH acts.
Islamophobia and PSH
Previous literature demonstrates how veiled Muslim women are frequently at high risk of harassment, which has previously been considered an ‘invisible’ harm yet severely impacts the women’s access to public spaces and forces them to alter their routines, removing their autonomy. The punishment of veiled Muslim women for not performing gender the way such male perpetrators wish them to must be considered to allow for nuanced and thoroughly developed policies. Policymakers and practitioners should ensure that they involve Muslim women and other minoritised communities at every stage of development. Future research must be done to inform further our understanding of the intersectionality between misogyny and Islamophobia.
Racism and PSH
Academic research studying racialised experiences of PSH in the UK context are far and few between. The location of academic work is, in this case, incredibly important as racialised PSH is informed by racist stereotypes that are highly dependent on historical context. One thing most studies making mention of race agree on is that women of colour experience more PSH than white women and that their fear of escalation and violence is higher.
Gender Expression, Sexuality and PSH
Little has been written about how queer/trans women and non-binary persons are impacted by PSH. Scholars have shown that queer women are more likely to encounter sexual harassment when perpetrators assume they are straight, and only become targets of homophobic harassment when identified as queer, at this point their experiences often become sexualised. Queer women or non-binary persons experiencing heterosexual harassment often feel invalidated in their gender and sexual identity. Trans women are at a far higher risk than either queer or heterosexual women for PSH acts, and it is unclear if queer women experience the same amount or more sexual harassment than straight women. Queer/trans women’s harassment tends to be spontaneous, while attacks on gay men tend to be premeditated and concentrated around gay spaces. Theoretical accounts explain that PSH is a form of gender policing due to queer/trans women and non-binary individuals violating the heterosexual matrix by existing. Visibly queer/trans women and non-binary persons live with a greater risk of being sexually harassed for transgressing gender roles in more ways than heterosexual women. This includes being fetishised for their sexuality or gender identity and threatened with punitive or corrective rape.
Here’s our Bibliography!
Research sent to us:
Barradale, Alice. () ‘Take the mask off sweet cheeks’: Exploring how Covid-19 has transformed women's experiences of street harassment. School of Law, Politics and Sociology, University of Sussex.
Farkas, Fruzsina. (2021) Gender-Based Violence Online: How does Gender-Based Violence Affect Young Women’s Every day, and How are They Using their Social Media Platforms to Voice and Fight Back Against Harassment? BA Thesis, School of Media, University of Brighton.
Tutton, Maya. (2021) Reclaiming The Public Sphere: Online Counter-public(s) Confronting Offline Public Sexual Harassment. BA Thesis, Centre for Gender Studies, University of Cambridge.
Want your research (BA, MA, PhD thesis) to be featured in our Academic Hub? Send us an email.