Surprisingly, researchers at Michigan State University found that men who suffer from sexual harassment are more likely to try and control their weight with extreme measures like taking laxatives or vomiting, compared to women.
As one of the first studies of its kind to examine what kind of effect sexual harassment has on body image and eating behaviors in men and women, the study revealed some very interesting information.
The results show that women are at a higher risk of experiencing sexual harassment than men and tend to have more weight and shape concerns, as well as disordered eating behavior as a result of harassment.
However, the lead author of the study, Nicole Buchanan, said she was surprised to find that men were more likely to engage in “compensatory” behaviors than women as a result of being sexually harassed.
“Traditionally, there has been a misperception that men are not sexually harassed, and while women do experience much higher rates of sexual harassment, when men experience these kinds of behaviors and find them distressing, then you see the same types of responses you see in women – and in the case of compensatory behaviors, even more so.”
A total of 2,446 people participated in the study, they were asked about whether they ever experienced sexual harassment, and if so, what effect it had on their body image or eating habits.
The results of the study were published in the journal Body Image.
There are different forms of sexual harassment, it is generally considered to be bullying of a sexual nature. It typically includes giving inappropriate rewards or privileges in exchange for some form of sexual favor.
The authors said that there could be some factors associated with sexual harassment that are especially influential in making men control their weight with extreme measures, such as taking laxatives or vomiting.
Buchanan emphasized that further research is needed to evaluate the full extent of sexual harassment’s effect on men.
Even though eating disorders are most commonly associated with younger women the disorders are becoming increasingly more prevalent among young men, the authors noted.
“Although boys and men have lower rates of weight/shape concerns and eating disturbances, these issues are still significant and warrant intervention,” Buchanan said.
Resistance to sexual harassment by women
A previous study, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, which was also conducted by researchers at Michigan State University, suggested that many women are building up a resistance to harassing behavior, which they consider as merely “bothersome”.
This could have something to do with why women are less likely to engage in “compensatory” behaviors compared to sexually harassed men.
Lead investigator, Isis Settles said: “When women view sexual harassment as bothersome, it doesn’t seem to be associated with distress,” said Settles, associate professor of psychology. “In some ways this suggests that sexual harassment is such a widespread problem that women have figured out ways to deal with it so it doesn’t interfere with their psychological well-being.”