TRONDHEIM, Norway — Adolescent children who have shown an inclination for casual sex face a higher likelihood that they’ve also been involved in an incident of sexual harassment, a new study finds.
Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) looked at 1,326 straight boys and girls who had a mean age of about 18 years. They hoped to spot trends in the incidence of unwanted and offensive forms of non-physical sexual harassment among adolescents.
Interestingly, the study found that both victims and perpetrators of sexual harassment were significantly more likely to have casual sex than their peers.
While the researchers believe a virtuous circle may be at play— having casual sex might lead to harassment, and vice versa— they have yet to pin down an exact cause.
The researchers also clearly dichotomized two types of harassment: same-sex and mixed-sex.
Harassment across genders often is done with a sexual pretext— i.e. a desire to solicit sex. Harassment among peers of the same gender, conversely, is often done to boost one’s own attractiveness at the expense of another, the team determined.
The latter behavior is often done unconsciously; its manifestation can be as innocuous as calling another girl “‘loose,’ a whore or homosexual,” explains Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, one of the study’s lead researchers, in a university news release.
Overall, a full 60% of the adolescents surveyed said that they had been sexually harassed in the last year. Thirty percent of girls and 45% of boys reported to having been sexually harassed at least once in the past year.
Although it’s thought that males most commonly harass females, it’s is actually the second most common situation — males harassing males is the most common scenario, with a boy often calling another boy “gay.” Girls harassing girls is the third most common situation, while girls harassing boys is least common.
“Both sexes get harassed, both sexes harass, and we’ve considered the issue from the perspectives of both sexes both as target and perpetrators,” the researchers note.
The report also reveals that those who engage in the harassment fantasize more about casual sex and find it more acceptable to have sex without any commitment or emotional closeness.
While many perpetrators are simply unaware of their behavior, the researchers believe that training instructors on how to spot and prevent sexual harassment would go a long way.
“Role playing with well-developed scripts, where students are active participants, is one possible avenue,” says Mons Bendixen, another lead researcher.
The study was published in the journal Evolution & Human Behavior.