The Social Norm of Harassment in Bars

Glass of beer A new study published in the journal, Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, has put an important yet socially expected norm in the limelight: sexual harassment in bars.  Almost any woman who has gone out for a night on the town with friends or family can probably attest to this occurrence: a man attempts sexual advances on a woman without the woman’s consent.  Many times, women (and men) write this occurrence off as “something that just occurs when one goes to the bar.”  Unfortunately, the results of this new study prove that the acceptance of these unwanted advances are not only a norm, but they may be promoting a “rape culture” mentality  that seems to persist in many societies.

Researchers observed at least 1,000 incidences that occurred among 1,300 visits to different bars and clubs in Canada. 90% of the aggressors in these occurrences were men. It was seen that women in these bars tried at least four different methods to fend off unwanted advances from men.  These methods included directly confronting the man, attempting to ignore the man, moving away from the man, or leaving the venue altogether.  One surprising finding from this study was that most of the men who were pursuing these women were not drunk. Instead, these men tended to target women who had had more alcoholic beverages than they did.   Many of the aggressors did not want to take no for an answer. Observed unwanted sexual behaviors consisted of unwanted physical contact, verbal harassment, and threats to touch the woman without consent.

bar 3

What is going on?

It could be that the sexual atmosphere of the club or bar, and the cultural belief that it may be “okay’ to have a hook up or take someone home for the night from one of these venues spurned the men to become more aggressive. Alcohol is certainly a factor for many of the instances that occur, but the troubling issue is that some men go to these venues with the intention of targeting a woman who is intoxicated because she may be more agreeable or an easy catch.  In addition, the fact that bar staff and bystanders rarely come to the rescue for women only condones this type of mentality and behavior.

Potential Solutions

bar 2    It is time for the social norm that revolves getting hit on in bars and being pursued by men in an aggressive fashion to be erased. The bar experience needs to be redefined.  Women should not have to enter a bar or club with the expectation that some man is going to try to hit on her or pursue her in an aggressive manner.  Men should not enter the bar with the intention of targeting a woman who does not have all of her faculties due to alcohol. No means no, no matter the location.  Sexual harassment should not occur in a store, the workplace, school, or on the street, so why is it okay for it to occur in a bar or club?  We need to banish the rape culture mindset from bars and clubs.  Both men and women should be able to go out for a fun night and not have to worry about being inappropriately touched, stalked, or harassed. We also need to become better at intervening when unwanted advances are occurring. Sometimes it just takes another individual to say, “No, what you’re doing is wrong, and you need to stop,” to make all the difference.


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