Nearly A Quarter Of Men Think It's OK For An Employer To Ask An Employee For Sex, Survey Finds

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Although in the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements there's been a lot more discussion about the scale of sexual harassment in the workplace, there are still some statistics that can stop you in your tracks. And one of those is hearing that a sizable number of men think that it's OK for an employer to ask an employee for sex. Yes, really.

A survey from CARE, a poverty-fighting organization, looked at sexual harassment attitudes and behaviors from eight different countries and over 9.400 adults. The survey covered Australia, Ecuador, Egypt, India, South Africa, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam, and found some very worrying attitudes toward sexual harassment. Across the eight countries, an average of 23 percent of men — or almost one in four — sometimes or always think it is acceptable for an employer to ask for or expect sex from an employee. The number varied from country to country — as high as 62 percent in Egypt — but a global average of nearly a quarter is shocking.

"We actually weren’t surprised by the overwhelming prevalence of attitudes and beliefs that lead to sexual harassment and abuse," Michelle Nunn, president and CEO of CARE, tells Bustle. "Unfortunately, we at CARE see these forces at play every day in the 93 countries where we work around the world. These findings are not aberrations — attitudes everywhere need to change. The world has a huge sexual harassment and abuse problem on its hands, one that cuts across countries, cultures and industries. That’s why CARE launched the #ThisIsNotWorking campaign."

Although an employer asking an employee for sex is an extreme and obvious form of sexual harassment at work, much of the harassment women face has become so normalized that we don’t always realize that it’s happening. "I think many women put up with sexual harassment because they don't recognize that it is sexual harassment," attorney Patricia Barnes tells Bustle. It means that women put up with behavior far longer than they should have to.

But if you feel like behavior in your workplace is inappropriate or you feel violated by a colleague's actions, don't be afraid to seek help. "Victims of sexual harassment should become familiar with their employer's sexual harassment policy," Barnes says. "If they experience harassment, they should consider filing a complaint in accordance with the policy. If the supervisor to whom they are supposed to complain is the one who is doing the harassing, they should go up the line."

Here's what else the survey from CARE found.

Almost 1/3 Of Women Have Experienced Sexual Harassment Related To Work

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

According to their data from all eight countries, 32 percent of women said that they have experienced sexual harassment or assault related to work. That’s nearly one in three — and that's not looking at sexual harassment generally, this is just specifically at or relating to work. That's nearly one in three women who probably don't feel safe in their place of employment. It's just not OK. The figure for men — 21 percent — was also worryingly high.

Men And Women Have Very Different Ideas Of What’s OK At Work

Men and women had very different feelings in the survey about what was OK at work. In the U.S., 44 percent of men age 18-34 say it's sometimes or always acceptable to tell a sexual joke to a colleague at work, according to the survey. But only 22 percent of women agree — that’s half as many. Similarly, in India, 52 percent of men think it’s sometimes or always OK to rank colleagues based on appearance, but only 35 percent of women agree.

"We commissioned the survey to better understand the often-unspoken rules and perceptions that underlie the epidemic of sexual harassment and abuse worldwide," Nunn says. "The stark difference between what men and women find acceptable in the workplace, particularly among young people in many of the countries we surveyed, prove that we have a lot of work to do to change attitudes. It’s alarming to us, for example, that sexual harassment in the workplace is not yet illegal in one third of the countries around the world."

#MeToo Has Given People Hope

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

It's really heartening to see that the movements that have been happening around the world have actually helped make people more optimistic. Sixty-five percent of women thought that #MeToo would have a positive impact on the workplace conduct and safety where they live — and 56 percent of women surveyed said that they thought the recent allegations in Hollywood would lead to improvement in the workplace for everyone. "The true test of #MeToo isn’t whether it brings down dozens of men in the United States but whether it lifts up millions of women worldwide," Nunn says.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a huge problem — and seeing how many men think it's OK to ask employees for sex shows just how far we have to go. But knowing your rights is an important step, so don't be afraid to look in your handbook, talk to HR, and get advice if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe at work.