Green, G., R. Barbour, M. Banard, and J. Kitzinger. 1993. — Sexual Harassment in Research Settings.

Green, Gill, Rosaline S. Barbour, Marina Banard, and Jenny Kitzinger. 1993. “’Who Wears the Trousers?’ Sexual Harassment in Research Settings.” Women’s Studies International Forum 16(6): 627-637.


Especially in field research regarding sexuality or sexual behavior (here, HIV-related risk behaviors), respondents may view such inquiry as “provocative” or “inviting,” leading to overt and covert sexual harassment (here, of women interviewers by male heterosexual respondents). Male fieldworkers do not experience or do not perceive themselves as vulnerable to SH as their female counterparts (Komaromy, Bindman, Haber, and Sandi 1993; Yount 1991).


SH risk factors?: “sexy” subject matter, nature of interaction/data collection, level of formality/structure of interaction (here, in-depth interviewing), age, gender — lent to vulnerability of SH during field workers — however, all fieldworkers are potentially vulnerable, requiring greater consideration (by whom?)


Researcher experiences of SH are frequently omitted from formal authorial review, field notes – (kx^ omission due to professionalism, gender barriers within academia, fear of withdrawing of resources, internalization/minimization) —- even disturbing cases often attributed to the nature of data collection process/research area (see also Gurney 1985) – feeling bound to the structures of professionalism, women’s traditional typification/fulfillment of emotional labor, social passivity in diffusing threatening situations

  • General lack of attention given to SH in field research (Gurney 1985, Warren 1988)
    • Though some institutions have policies to protect researchers, many researchers do not demonstrate knowledge of or command of these policies, failing to implement them in research practice. Scarcity of resources offered to address this (here, they attribute this to sex segregation in academic positions/power) — relegation of address of issues to insurance policies/injury benefits (kx^ seems to address issue AFTER it has happened) – but, the “official” stance of most institutions aligns with “professional competence” – recognizing warning signs and working to diffuse threats (see also Medical Research Council 1991) —- authors challenge this, noting “the wording of such guidelines suggest that experiences of harassment or assault might be related to professional incompetence or lack of ‘good interpersonal skills’” (635) – upholds SH as an individualized issue, sustains victim-blaming (not in such words)
    • Female fieldworkers may have enhanced inhibition about raising issues of SH and physical molestation (SV) in environments where stratified power in academic ranks may already exist (Warrant 1988) – concern for safety may be paternalistically used to restrict women’s access to fieldwork (Lutkenhaus 1988).
    • Cross-sex interviewing may complicate rapport-building


Dominant stereotypes/prejudices may inappropriately instill fear/perception of threat – but, the experience of SH when interviewing heterosex males (by females) is incredibly common – as is men’s use of threat or sexual innuendo in conversations, regardless of characteristics/demographics — as well as inappropriate physical contact — challenging men’s perpetration of SH is seemingly encouraged by research frameworks, as to maintain rapport with participants.


Female fieldworkers reported fear of environment (general, or specific situational threats), or had experienced interactions with participant men that were openly sexualized or misogynist.


Factors like race, class, and age (and, here, gender) shape research encounters (Edwards 1990, McKeganey and Bloor 1991, Phoenix 1990).


Strategies: (acknowledges that these are just diminishers and are not practical/possible at all times)

  • openly note the dilemma of wanting to present amiable professional image while discouraging SH
  • Changing wardrobe to suit the needs of participants, environment (maintaining invisibility)
  • Minimizing markers of traditional femininity or sexual availability (masculinizing appearance to deflect attention)
  • Organizing fieldwork teams in risky areas as mixed-sex pairs (to avoid external assumption/association of women within these areas as either criminal/vulnerable) – however, not financially or personnel feasible, and highly paternalistic
  • Creating “life lines” for fieldworkers – building associations with local police, community leaders
  • Training fieldworkers to be able to terminate interviews if threatened, or diffuse the SH by refusing to recognize the sexual nature of the offense (feigning ignorance), or acknowledging and firmly rejecting it (requires familiarity, insurance of non-escalation)
  • Consider practical safety considerations of fieldworkers, offer organizational support if instances do arise, and be clear about fieldworkers’ power (give approval) to terminate interviews for any reason.
  • Offer practical safety tools – informing workers about potential safety issues in trainings, offering self-defense classes, and issuing tools such as rape alarms



Edwards, Rosalind. 1990. “Connecting Method and Epistemology: A White Woman Interviewing Black Women.” Women’s Studies International Forum 13(X): 477-490.

Gurney, Joan. 1985. “Not One of the Guys: The Female Researcher in a Male-Dominated Setting.” Qualitative Sociology 8(X): 42-62.

Komaromy, Miriam, Andrew Bindman, Richard Haber, and Merle Sandi (or Sande?) 1993. “Sexual Harassment in Medical Training.” New England Journal of Medicine 328(X): 322-326.

Lutkenhaus,, Nancy. 1988. “She was Very Cambridge: Camilla Wedgewood and the History of Women in British Social Anthropology.” American Ethnologist 13(X): 776-798.

McKeganey, Neil and Michael Bloor. 1991. “Spotting the Invisible Male: The Influence of Male Gender on Fieldwork Relations.” British Journal of Sociology 42(X): 195-210.

Medical Research Council. 1991. MRC Health and Safety Policy Note Number 19. London: MRC.

Phoenix, Anne. 1990. “Social Research in the Context of Feminist Psychology.” PAGES in Feminists and Psychological Practice, edited by Erica Burman. London: Sage.

Warren, Carol. 1988. Gender Issues in Field Research: Qualitative Research Methods no. 9. London: Sage.

Yount, Kristen. 1991. “Ladies, Flirts, and Tomboys: Strategies of Managing Sexual Harassment in an Underground Coal Mine.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 19(X): 396-422.


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