Why do men harass women? New research reveals the motivation.
When a man in his early 20s came into contact with her, the Esraa Yousria Saleh was walking down the busy streets of El Hussein in central Cairo, a street famous for its souvenirs and tchotchkes. He followed her, circled her, then suddenly – she felt a warm breath in her ear:
“I want to put it in there.”
Saleh, 28, a feminist and activist in Egypt, is furious. Why did the man think he could look at her? Follow her? Say those obscenities to her?
A study by the international research organization Promundo and the United Nations women’s organization in May found the motivations for harassing women in four areas of the Middle East: Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian territories.
One of the authors of the report, “sex and the castle: intimate life”, the author of Shereen El Feki said: “we learn a lot about women and girls, but relatively few men and boys’ change in the Arab world.
The report found that as many as 31 percent of the 4,830 men questioned in Lebanon, 64 percent of egyptians admitted to sexually harassing women and women in public, from theft to stalking rape.
Of course, street harassment is a global phenomenon. Studies show that the vast majority of urban women in Brazil, India, Thailand and the United Kingdom are subjected to harassment or violence in public. According to a 2014 survey conducted by research firm GfK for Stop Street, an advocacy group, 65 percent of the 2,000 women surveyed said they had suffered Street Harassment.
According to Promundo, there are several cases of street harassment in the Middle East. In the Palestinian territories, Morocco and Egypt, young men with moderate education are older and are more likely to be sexually harassed by their peers with lower levels of education.
The researchers were surprised by the findings. In more than 20 countries study of men and gender equality, buck said, in general, complete high school or university graduation of men than women who did not have primary or gone to school more liberal attitude towards women.
Barker and El Feki suspect that the factors contributing to this behavior include high unemployment, political instability and pressure to supply household needs. For example, about half of the men surveyed said they felt stressed, depressed or ashamed, unable to face their families. Perhaps harassing women is a way to assert their power, barker suggests.
“These young people” have high expectations of themselves and are unable to meet them, he said. “So they put them in their place and they feel the world owes them.”
El Feki says things are easy to understand in places like Egypt’s countryside. “It’s a sign of the boredom of being a young man there,” she said.
They can’t find a job. They can’t get married. They are trapped in a place where they live with their parents. There’s nothing to do. “They are in a state of suspended adolescence,” she said.
El Feki says the harassment is also a way for young people to “start playing football.” When asked why they sexually harass women in public, the vast majority of men in some places are as high as 90 percent, which they say is for fun and excitement.
That’s not how women see it. “It’s not fun at all,” Mr. Saleh said. “It was a nightmare.”
Holly Kearl, executive director of Stop Street, and author of “stopping global Street Harassment: the growing activism of the world,” says she is not surprised. “I’ve seen this reasoning in other studies before: ‘I’m bored, I keep in touch with my male friends, we’re just having fun,'” she said. “Men don’t think about how women feel.”
Promundo’s researchers suspect that the male motivation behind this behavior is not unique to the Middle East. “We know that street harassment is a problem around the world and may have similar dynamics,” said Brian hellman, a researcher at Promundo, which helped write the report. “Through this data set, we just happen to see what the area looks like.” The report is the first time the group has studied street harassment from a male perspective.
Women can experience the psychological effects of street harassment, Kearl said. Studies show that harassment can be triggered and traumatic for women who have survived sexual violence. It also makes women feel unsafe and limits their actions.
For example, Mr Saleh stopped using the subway system in central Cairo. Fearing the events of el hussein, she started using Uber to solve the problem. “But sometimes I ran out of money, so I had to use [public transport],” she says.
The entire Middle East group, like HarassMap in Egypt and HarassTracker Lebanon, USES the package’s data mapping and reporting of harassment to keep streets safe. In 2010, the United Nations launched a security and public space, a global plan to prevent street harassment in more than 20 cities around the world through education.
“Unfortunately, we don’t know that it works in the long term,” says Kearl. “It’s hard to see what works on a large scale.” She suggested contacting the school to discuss harassment in a mixed environment.
Maybe boys and men can understand the consequences of their “fun” : “it’s like having a hand in my stomach and grabbing my intestines,” salih said. “It’s like I want to throw up, but I can’t.”