Engaging boys and young men to reduce sexual harassment in schools

01 July 2016

The Women and Equalities Committee asks how we think about boys and young men in relation to sexual harassment in schools. In particular, the Committee will be asking if challenging stereotypes of masculinity could reduce levels of sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools.


Tuesday 5 July 2016, The Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House

At 11.00am

  • Rebecca Asher, Author, 'Man Up: Boys', 'Men and Breaking the Male Rules'
  • David Brockway, Project Manager, Great Men
  • Professor Nicky Stanley, University of Central Lancashire

Purpose of the session

The Committee will discuss the following key questions:

  • What is the significance of focusing on boys and young men?
  • How much emphasis has been placed on boys and young men to date?
  • What mechanisms would be most effective in engaging and supporting boys and young men to reduce levels of sexual harassment in schools?

There is evidence that the majority of perpetrators of sexual harassment and sexual violence are male. A 2015 study of 14 to 17 year olds, found 41% of teenage girls in England reported having suffered sexual violence and abuse from a partner compared to 14% of teenage boys. 96% of the respondents had a partner of the opposite sex.


During the session Rebecca Asher will be discussing the findings of her book 'Man Up: Boys, Men and Breaking the Male Rules'. She will be answering questions on how boys today develop their perceptions of masculinity and the ways in which this understanding shapes their attitudes and behaviour towards others. She will also be discussing her opinions on the importance of early intervention and the part that schools can play in changing attitudes to gender roles.

Also attending the session are David Brockway, Manager of the Great Men project at the charity The GREAT Initiative and Nicky Stanley, Professor of Social Work and Co-Director of the Connect Centre for International Research on Interpersonal Violence and Harm. David will be talking to the Committee about his experience working in schools delivering workshops that question the way boys and young men view and interact with each other, as well as with girls and women.

Both the GREAT initiative and the Connect Centre have submitted evidence to the inquiry which voices concerns about how pornography can alter boys’ perceptions of sex and relationships and the extent this affects levels of sexual harassment. One submission from The GREAT Initiative states:

"In a workshop 2 years ago, when asked to respond to the statement, "Porn has changed the way I view women", a boy aged 12-13 answered, "When you watch porn, you want that, so you’ll go out and rape someone to get it." This is at the extreme end of how viewing pornography can impact young boy's attitudes. It also impacts the way in which boys view any form of sexual activity. Many boys see sex as an inherently violent / aggressive activity, with some boys using the term "beating on someone" as slang for having sex."

The Committee will be asking for any evidence that the availability of porn is having a negative effect on young men’s attitudes towards women and what schools and stakeholders can do to tackle possible correlations with sexual violence or online harassment.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Committee, Maria Miller, said:

"We have heard a lot about girls in our inquiry so far and the evidence shows that this is where much of the work on sexual harassment and consent tends to focus. Today we want to concentrate on boys and young men. We’ll be exploring whether the school environment perpetuates negative gender stereotypes and what can be done to engage and support young men. Can more be done to address the culture that leads a minority of them to engage in sexual harassment?"

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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