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Who’s groping who in nightclubs these days?

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

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It’s more socially acceptable for women to be ‘handsy’ in a nightclub than men – and it’s not only men who think so.

New Edith Cowan University (ECU) research into the norms of nightclub behaviour have revealed a curious double standard when it comes to what both genders consider acceptable.

While men and women regard the ‘grab, grope and grind’ culture of nightclubs both unacceptable and entrenched, both genders are more accepting of women being the perpetrators rather than men.

School of Arts and Humanities researcher Aimee-Rose Wrightson-Hester, who surveyed 381 Australians aged 18 to 30 for the study, said the findings were surprising.

“We find it difficult to explain why participants’ personal norms are that it is more acceptable for females and males to engage in these behaviours, especially as it seems to differ from traditional gender values that women should be chaste in public environments,” she said.

“The explanation is probably complex but two factors most likely play a role – firstly, the rise of feminism and women’s sexual liberation. This could be a weird distortion of the #metoo movement.

“Secondly, it could be that people think men are more likely than women to cause physical harm as a result of their sexual behaviour in a nightclub setting.”

Turning a blind eye

The research also revealed that while both men and women regard most sexual behaviour in nightclubs as unacceptable, they are less likely to react or intervene than they would in any other setting.

“The question of consent is far less clear in the highly eroticised setting of a nightclub, so people say they largely turn a blind eye because you can’t be sure whether an individual’s sexual behaviour is being welcomed or not,” Ms Wrightson-Hester said.

“But non-consenting recipients of sexual advances may feel degraded or threatened, even traumatised, by a nightclub encounter, which is why it’s important to study why people subjugate their personal values in particular settings.

“What our research showed is that people who might step in to prevent unacceptable sexual behaviour in, say, a workplace setting won’t do so in a nightclub because there is a perception that it’s somehow normalised in that setting – and that’s a dangerous perception.”

'Nightlife Patrons’ Personal and Descriptive Norms Regarding Sexual Behaviors' was recently published in Ethics and Behaviour.

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