Questioning What Pew’s Sexual Harassment Survey Is Measuring


The Pew Research Center has published survey results relevant to the #MeToo moment, and this part is telling about the project’s biases:

The survey also finds that 59% of women and 27% of men say they have personally received unwanted sexual advances or verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature, whether in or outside of a work context. Among women who say they have been sexually harassed, more than half (55%) say it has happened both in and outside of work settings.

Note what happens within that paragraph.  Pew mentions three distinct things at the beginning:

  • Unwanted sexual advances
  • Verbal harassment of a sexual nature
  • Physical harassment of a sexual nature

In the next sentence, they are all lumped together as “sexually harassed.”  A review of what’s available of the survey instrument shows no evidence that “unwanted sexual advances” is ever defined.  That means it could be anything from “you look nice today” to “would you like to catch a movie Friday” to something that would be a clearly inappropriate sexual comment.  If the researchers were interested to know what sort of behavior is going on, wouldn’t it be important to differentiate between these things?

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Arguably, what the survey is actually finding is the propensity of women to claim that they’ve been harassed.  Along that line, consider the difference that education level makes for women stating that they have been harassed (including unwanted advances).  Women with college degrees answer “yes” 70% of the time, but women with no more than a high school diploma answer “yes” only 46% of the time.  Does this mean women who’ve gone through college entered a more-boorish world than those with less education?  Or does it mean that they’ve learned to interpret things as “unwanted sexual advances” and harassment that they wouldn’t have called such if they hadn’t been taught to do so?

The fact that white women, who can, on average, be presumed to be wealthier, say “yes” at a rate of 63%, while only 50% of black and Hispanic women say “yes” raises similar questions.  Are white women really more likely to be victimized, or again, are they just more likely to interpret men’s behavior in this way?

If #MeToo is going to define our era, with career-ending consequences for those who run afoul of the shifting rules, shouldn’t we be clear about definitions, boundaries, and the interpretation of behavior?

  • Rhett Hardwick

    “propensity of women to claim that they’ve been harassed.”

    For what it is worth. I remember in the 80’s, when sexual harassment was first becoming popular, I would meet a woman and within the first five minutes she would want to tell me how she had been sexually harassed. Usually as an early teen, 13 or 14. Usually by boys of an appropriate age, sometimes not.

  • The Misfit

    Don’t hurt yourself with that knee jerk reaction. Then again. What have you been telling us all along about these wanton government enabled elites? How they get away with murder. Or rape. Like a certain judge?

  • Mike678

    Agreed…the definitions are very broad and lumping “unwanted sexual advance” with the more problematic ‘physical harassment’ inflates the numbers to meet a desired narrative.

    But again, this isn’t about truth or fairness…this is about power. Power to intimidate/delay/win.

    • Monique Chartier

      Yes to all of this. To the “power” list, I would only add: an attempt to cultivate POLITICAL power by telling women that they are victims and helpless and need that politician to advocate for them. (We are not and we do not!)

      • Merle The Monster

        Would you include Dianne Feinstein, Amy Klobuchar, Maxie Hirono, and Kamala Harris in your ‘We’ ?

    • guest

      “Power to intimidate/delay/win.”

      Two words for you, genius: Merrick Garland

      • Mike678

        You may be small, blind and ignorant, but at least you understand who is smarter.

      • Justin Katz

        A worthwhile comparison. The American people gave Republicans the power to wait to approve a Supreme Court justice. The Democrats are sowing social discord in order to exercise power that the American people did not give them.

        • Merle The Monster

          Strange reasoning. The American people gave the President the power to nominate a Supreme Court Justice which is in article 2, section 2 of the US constitution. The Senate has a duty to advise and consent. The constitution does not mention political parties or majorities refusing to advise or to consider consent. The American people did not elect each of the Senators that refused to meet the Constitutional duties. The Senate’s refusal to hold hearings for the President’s nominee , Merrick Garland, lasted for 293 days or the better part of an entire year. Many important decisions were not decided as a result ending in 4 to 4 deadlocks with an incomplete court. I don’t know how you can defend the Republicans in their complete abdication of their duties. You should try to remember that you work for an outfit that claims to be bipartisan or maybe you only care about who wields power

          • Justin Katz

            I don’t see the word “duty” in that section of the Constitution. I see the requirement that the President can only appoint justices “by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.” The Senate simply did not consent to appoint any further justices from President Obama, having good reason to expect that his appointment would join the unbelievably partisan block of justices intent on subverting the Constitution by legislating from the bench.

          • Merle The Monster

            His nominee had a name and a record that should been treated the same way that other people have been treated in the past when nominated. Your hyper partisan comment puts you outside any reasonable discussion on this matter

  • Monique Chartier

    “… Or does it mean that they’ve
    learned to interpret things as “unwanted sexual advances” and harassment
    that they wouldn’t have called such if they hadn’t been taught to do

    Or those without a college education better understand the truth 1.) that such comments are not malicious nor pose any danger to them and 2.) that many of such comments arise out of a man’s nature, which is hard-wired, necessary and, for very sound biological reasons, SHOULD NOT BE STOMPED OUT as a few people are trying to do?