• ‘Is This Sexual Harassment?’ participants. (SBS)Source: SBS
Host Ben Zand facilitates fiery discussion between a group of 20 British young adults as they determine the difference between acceptable workplace behaviour and sexual harassment.
By
Tanya Modini

27 May 2019 - 1:21 PM  UPDATED 29 May 2019 - 1:37 PM

After moving into a house together for the duration of the social experiment documentary Is This Sexual Harassment?, a group of 18 to 26-year-olds watch a fictional drama broken into several scenarios about Kat and Ryan – a twenty-something man and woman who are work colleagues at a bar. Following each scenario, Zand asks the group to discuss their views about Ryan’s behaviour towards Kat – was it acceptable or was it sexual harassment? Participants’ opinions shift as different issues are presented throughout the show.

Ryan leans very closely over Kat while showing her how to use the stock control software on the computer. He compliments her perfume in this close setting. Is this sexual harassment?

Ryan refers to their teamwork as “brains and beauty”. Is this sexual harassment?

Ryan slides his hand from around Kat’s shoulder and down her back. She hastily moves his hand away. Is this sexual harassment?

And that’s just the beginning – the scenarios continue with Ryan’s actions becoming more overtly inappropriate. But where was the line? And when did he cross it?

If the participants weren’t bamboozled enough, special guests are brought in to talk to them in between scenarios, including a man who says he was wrongly accused of sexual harassment in the workplace, and a woman who took her work colleagues to the Fair Work Tribunal for sexual harassment. And after each guest, a bit more flip-flopping occurs within the group before a barrister arrives and throws some very bright light on what actually constitutes sexual harassment under the law.

The group of millennials featured in Is This Sexual Harassment? are likeable and relatable. They appear to be putting in their best efforts to make what they believe are fair judgements. But they are mostly clueless about what actually constitutes sexual harassment and, as a result, at what point the line of sexual harassment is crossed.

The need for knowledge of the facts is evident, and this is one of the reasons why Is This Sexual Harassment? is interesting and timely viewing.

 

A very blurry line

Results were released last week from the 2017 National Community Attitudes Survey (NCAS) – Young Australians’ attitudes to violence against women and gender equality. Among the findings was that almost one in five young Australians agreed with the statement, ‘Women find it flattering to be persistently pursued, even if they are not interested’. Clearly there is much attitudinal work to be done in Australia as well.

Is This Sexual Harassment? reinforces how crucial peer to peer respectful relationship education programs like R4Respect are in educating young people around where the line is in the behaviours that constitute sexual harassment – behaviours that are directly linked to violence against women.

 

Is This Sexual Harassment? is streaming at SBS On Demand:

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