Internet is a scarier place for women than for men, report finds

By Andrea Peterson

Here's how the internet affects men and women. Photo / 123RF
Here's how the internet affects men and women. Photo / 123RF

A new report on online harassment highlights how the Internet can be a scarier place for women than for men.

Women are more likely to be distressed by the harassment they face online and to self-censor themselves, according to the report published Monday by researchers at Data & Society.

The study found that nearly half of American Internet users have been targeted by some form of online harassment. While men and women experienced harassment at the same rates, women were more likely to face "more serious violations," according to the report.

For instance, 1 in 10 female Internet users said they have faced sexual harassment online vs. 1 in 20 male Internet users, according to the survey on which the report is based. Women were also more likely to be harassed over long periods of time and subjected to damaging rumors.

That's one reason women have a more harrowing experience online, according to Amanda Lenhart, the paper's lead author.

"The tactics applied more often to harassment of women are more varied, longer-lasting and often designed to provoke fear," she said.

"In many cases, the harassment more often aimed at women has further-reaching repercussions - personal, financial and professional," Lenhart said.

Women who said they faced online harassment were "almost three times as likely as men to say the harassment made them feel scared," according to the study - and twice as likely to say it made them feel worried.

Men were more likely to say they weren't bothered by harassing behavior - and were less likely to describe what they experienced as harassment at all.

Of the people who said they went through some of the harassing behavior asked about in the survey, just 40 per cent of men thought their experiences counted as "harassment or abuse" compared with 50 per cent of women.

Some of that gap is because of the different types of behavior men and women experience online. But it's also connected to who has power in our culture at large, according to Lenhart.

"If you generally find yourself in a powerful subject position in your life, these experiences of harassment and abuse do not appear to have the same impact as they do on those who are more often subject to the power and control of others," she said.

- Washington Post

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