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Drunk Women More Likely to Be Harassed in Bars

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(Photo : redtimmy/Flickr)

Women who look like they've had one too many drinks are more likely to be harassed by men at the bar, according to a new study.

Researchers studied sexual aggression in bars and found that nine out of ten aggressive incidents in bars involved men approaching women because they look "easy".

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Researchers found that men are significantly more likely to display sexual aggression toward women who appear drunk. Furthermore, the findings linked the level of harassment to how intoxicated the woman appeared to be, and not to their own intoxication.

"Recent data suggests that aggression related to sexual advances is very common nowadays," study author Kate Graham, a senior scientist at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health at the University of Toronto said in a statement.

"Last year, we did a study of bargoers in Windsor, across the river from Detroit. Participants were recruited on their way to bars, and then asked additional questions about two common forms of sexual aggression we observed - unwanted sexual contact and unwanted persistence - when they were leaving the bar district: more than 50 percent of women reported experiencing one or both types of sexual aggression on the evening of the exit survey," she said.

"Given the large number of young people who socialize together in bars, it is not surprising that a great deal of sexual assault occurs in bars," Jeanette Norris, a senior research scientist with the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington said in a news release.

Researchers said men may feel like they can get away with their predatory behavior in bars because these places are considered to be an environment with no rules.

"I don't think you could get away with this sort of thing in most settings," said Graham. "If a stranger came up to a woman, grabbed her around the waist, and rubbed his groin against her in a university cafeteria or on a subway, she'd probably call the police. In the bar, the woman just tries to get away from him."

"Bar-based aggression is almost certainly more likely to involve people who do not know each other very well or at all," Norris added. "This could have at least two consequences. First, perpetrators might be more likely to depersonalize and dehumanize the targeted woman. Second, it might lead perpetrators to feel more 'protected,' that is, to believe they are less likely to suffer any consequences for their actions."

The latest findings involved data from 1,057 incidents of aggression observed during 1,334 visits to 118 large-capacity bars/clubs (with a capacity of more than 300 people) in Toronto, Canada between 2000 and 2002. The findings revealed that 24.4 percent of these incidents included sexual aggression.

"We found that while misperceptions in the making and receiving of sexual advances do occur, especially in the highly sexualized environment characteristic of many bars, most of it appeared to be intentional harassment or aggression done for the amusement or gratification of the person making the overture, or for the amusement of his friends," said Graham. "This interpretation is supported by the finding that sexual aggression was related to the intoxication level of the target but not for the aggressor - that is, if the incident was about misperception, [it] should involve intoxication of both people. Instead, women who are more intoxicated may be seen as easier or more blameworthy targets, or as targets less able to resist."

"This might occur for a number of reasons," Norris said. "For instance, attacking women who are defenseless makes it less likely that a perpetrator will be apprehended or experience any consequences as a result of his actions. These men are the ultimate opportunists. What might also come into play are negative stereotypes about women who drink. Other research has shown that women who drink are often seen as more sexually available than women who do not drink. They may also be seen in generally negative or derogatory ways - as sluts, unfeminine, or generally not worthy of respect - which may provide an excuse for attacking women sexually."

The findings are published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.



Mar 04, 2014 05:14 PM EST

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