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‘Monstrous men’ and ‘sex scandals': the myth of exceptional deviance in sexual harassment and violence in education

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
Article number147
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>11/12/2018
<mark>Journal</mark>Palgrave Communications
Volume4
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

One might argue that sexism, sexual harassment and sexual violence have become hyper-visible in recent times. The #MeToo movement has focused our attention on the prevalence of sexual harassment and abuse in a range of contexts, including in Hollywood, the media industry, Westminster, science and academia. Media reporting of these high-profile cases represents the perpetrators of these crimes as ‘monsters’, ‘sex pests’, as highly unusual or deviant individuals. We argue here, that rather, such practices pervade a range of contexts, including educational ones, and are normalised and ‘hidden’ within these settings. We will draw on our recent research on ‘lad culture’ in higher education to discuss how harassment and sexual abuse are normalised in certain university contexts. Our piece will explore how such cultures silence survivors and mask, or make invisible, instances of everyday sexism and harassment and how such silencing can perpetuate the notion that individual ‘monsters’ commit such acts. Drawing on interviews with staff working in universities, this piece shows how sexual harassment is mis-perceived, justified and minimised (particularly in relation to less visible examples of degradation or abuse of women) and how the notion of the ‘problematic individual’ prevails in favour of a structural, gendered analysis of harassment and violence. University responses to sexual harassment and violence have therefore tended to be responsive and focused on individuals, rather than taking a whole-institution approach to tackling these practices.