‘If this is sexual harassment, it’s happened to me 85 times’: Men are outraged after a barman is branded a predator in a TV experiment – for complimenting his colleague and putting his hand on her back
- Is This Sexual Harassment? challenged millennials’ ideas on the issue
- A group of 20 young people watched a fictional story about two work colleagues
- They were asked to weigh in on whether the behaviour was sexual harassment
Millennials were challenged on their ideas of what constitutes sexual harassment in a new TV experiment.
Is This Sexual Harassment?, which aired on BBC One last night, saw a group of young men and women shown a fictional film that followed the story of a bar manager and her male colleague during her first few weeks on the job.
The viewers were then asked to weigh in on whether the man’s behaviour fit the description of sexual harassment – before being given the verdict by a lawyer.
While the panel of millennials were ultimately undecided over the male colleague’s behaviour, viewers at home were just as torn with one person branding the verdict ‘a load of b******s’.
Divided: While the panel of millennials were ultimately undecided over the male colleague’s behaviour, viewers at home were just as torn with one person branding it ‘a load of b******s’
Twitter user @staffilad wrote: ‘If “you smell nice, you look nice,” [and] touching the back is sexual harassment then I’ve been sexually harassed about 85 times by women… call the cops.’
Rohin Soni wrote: ‘Guy kisses girl, she walks away but waves bye rather than calling him out – not sexual harassment… until she loses her job and then decided to take him to court.
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‘Guy clearly has no game and is socially awkward. Doesn’t make him a predator. Not all cases are as clear cut as people are making out.’
Others accused Cat of being hypocritical after one scene saw her unbuttoning a female colleague’s shirt, calling her behaviour ‘outrageous’.
Here’s how the fictional story unfolded…
1. A CLOSE-UP COMPLIMENT
In an early scene Ryan came into the office where Cat was working on the new stock order. He leaned in close to her and complimented her perfume as they worked, pictured
The story started with Cat being hired as duty manager at a bar. In an early scene Ryan came into the office where Cat was working on the new stock order.
In showing her how to use the spreadsheet, Ryan leaned down and placed his arm almost around her back before sniffing audibly and adding: ‘Nice perfume.’
2. PLAYFUL ‘BANTER’
As Ryan passed on his way out of the bar they chatted briefly and he said to Cat: ‘Teamwork, isn’t it? Brains and beauty,’ referring to himself as ‘the brains’ and Cat as the ‘beauty’
After leaving the stockroom Cat returned to the bar, where she showed a newcomer around.
As Ryan passed on his way out of the bar they chatted briefly and he said to her: ‘Teamwork, isn’t it? Brains and beauty,’ referring to himself as ‘the brains’ and Cat as the ‘beauty’.
3. A HAND ON HER BACK
Ryan placed a hand between Cat’s shoulder blades before slowly moving it down her back, pictured. As he reached her lower back, Cat reached back and removed his hand
Two weeks later Cat and Ryan both attended a work gathering at the bar.
Cat drunk too much and had to excuse herself to be sick outside, where Ryan came to check that she was okay.
As they made their way back in to rejoin the group, Ryan placed a hand between Cat’s shoulder before slowly moving it down her back.
As he reached her lower back, Cat reached back and removed his hand before leaving him to join her friends on the dance floor.
4. A KISS GOODBYE
Ryan kissed Cat after dropping her off at home from work. When she appeared distressed he apologised, saying he thought he had read ‘signals’
The following week, Cat and Ryan found themselves alone in the bar. After a few drinks, Ryan offered to take Cat home in a taxi saying he would ‘carry it on’.
However instead of continuing to his own place, he climbed out after Cat and stood with her on the street, making up the excuse of not having split the fare.
‘I’ll book another,’ he said, before adding: ‘I’ll book another… unless,’ and leaning in to kiss Cat.
She was visibly taken aback and hurried inside her home. He apologised and said he thought he had read ‘signals’ before checking she was okay.
VERDICT: THE MEN
Before being given the legal definition of sexual harassment, this man was among those who thought Ryan had not done anything wrong
The show, presented by Ben Zand, brought together 20 people between the ages of 18-30. For this first part of the experiment, men and women watched the film separately.
There appeared to be a clear difference in attitude between the male and female groups, with the majority of men appearing to agree Ryan had done ‘nothing wrong’. This was before they understood the legal definition of sexual harassment.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which:
- violates your dignity
- makes you feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated
- creates a hostile or offensive environment
You don’t need to have previously objected to someone’s behaviour for it to be considered unwanted.
Commenting on the perfume exchange, one said: ‘She’s wearing the perfume for a reason, to smell good. That’s a nice thing to tell her.’
Another said: ‘For me, I don’t think it’s right that she took offence from the kiss. Signs can be misconstrued.’
A third added: ‘If she’s giving off the signals, and you like her, and she likes you. Then there’s nothing wrong with it.’
One man was clear that more of the responsibility should lie with Cat, saying: ‘He’s [Ryan’s] making himself vulnerable in this situation… She wasn’t explicit in her denial. Until the kiss she wasn’t explicit.’
However there were some who thought Ryan was in the wrong, with one man saying Cat had not shown ‘nearly enough interest’ for him to kiss her.
Another added: ‘When he put his hand on his back towards her lower back and she moves it away. That’s a big sign.’
VERDICT: THE WOMEN
This young woman argued Cat ‘shouldn’t have to expect’ that sort of behaviour in a work environment as the group discussed the outcome of the first part of the story
Overall the women appeared clearer in their opinion that Ryan had crossed a boundary in his behaviour.
One said: ‘You shouldn’t have to expect that in a work environment… It is all about where you set your boundaries… I saw she moved her hand away. He was trying to get her drunk a lot. That’s not okay. I feel he’s taking advantage of her.’
Another agreed: ‘I would have liked a conversation before he tried to get physical with me.’
However one woman present argued that Cat should have done more to make her feelings clear.
‘He’s thought “I’m going to go to go for this” and he’s been rejected,’ she said. ‘It’s hard not to feel sorry for him in a way. She hasn’t said anything…’
VERDICT: THE LAW
The group later discovered that all of Ryan’s actions constituted sexual harassment
Minutes after being rebuffed by Cat, Ryan phoned the bar’s head office and made a complaint about her stock room management. She was later dismissed.
Cat responded by taking Ryan to an employment tribunal. She claimed she had been objectified and harassed by Ryan from the start and that she had been let go because she did not return his affections. The tribunal ultimately accepted Cat’s account.
Barrister Kerry was brought in to shed light. She explained the perfume compliment, ‘brains and beauty’ comment, hand on her back, the kiss goodbye and even phoning head office, were all examples of sexual harassment.
She added: ‘They can be sexual harassment individually but you have a lot of minor instances on their own, but together you can see them as sexual harassment.
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