It was 6:00 p.m. and I was walking to work through Leicester city centre. I was listening to my iPod and, daydreaming, when a man shouted a sexual comment to me from across the road whilst staring at me. At first I didn’t hear him, so took out my earphones to see what he wanted. After understanding what he had said, I ignored him and carried on with my walk feeling quite uncomfortable and vulnerable.

This is just an example of the sexual harassment that many women face on a regular basis. As a woman, it is not unusual to be the subject of sexual harassment. It is often expected, and it is ignored. According to the leading organisation, Stop Street Harassment, one in four women will experience sexual harassment by the age of 12, and 90 per cent by the age of 19.

What urges us to ignore this behaviour, is that ‘milder’ forms of sexual harassment such as the ones mentioned will not be considered sexual harassment by everyone. Although there is no single definition of what constitutes this behaviour, many of us believe that a man making a comment in the street is completely innocent and harmless. It’s true that this behaviour is unlikely to have long-term effects, but it still makes some of us feel intimidated, vulnerable, and degraded.

Something that really highlights this point is a study by the Guardian, and Everyday Sexism Project. Everyday Sexism Project is one of the most influential projects working to tackle sexual harassment. It is a place for everyone to tell and record their stories and experiences with sexism and sexual harassment on a daily basis. The Guardian’s study consisted of a journalist, Leah Green, acting as a sexist man in various scenarios by taking real experiences from Everyday Sexism. Only when the tables are turned you fully see how wrong all forms of sexual harassment are. Women tend to accept sexism as a norm, but when you witness the same things happening to men, it seems ridiculous. Why is this? Maybe it is because we are so used to seeing sexual harassment against women, it doesn’t even seem like an issue anymore. The men in the study have the same reactions; shocked and confused. One of them shouts: ‘You can’t speak to me like that’.

Unfortunately because of the idea that sexual harassment towards women is acceptable, some people don’t understand the consequences. This month, YouTube star Sam Pepper has caused social media outrage after the upload of his most recent ‘prank’, the ‘fake hand ass pinch prank’. The video features him approaching girls on the street in the US, asking them for directions to the Apple store, and grabbing their bum whilst blaming it on innocent passers-by. The 25-year-old British prankster, who has around 2.5 million subscribers, introduced his video on Twitter with the comment, ‘New video is up, retweet if you love booty as much as me!’ Sam Pepper’s behaviour in this video only reinforces the idea that this attitude towards women is something that is socially acceptable.

After the hugely negative reaction to the video, Sam Pepper released another video claiming that his prank was in fact a ‘social experiment’. Although he fooled for about 10 minutes, it has now been reported that the girls in the video were not the only ones to be sexually harassed by Sam Pepper. Girls have come forward claiming that he has groped them at events, one girl made her own YouTube video describing a date with him when she was 15, and one girl even spoke out about him forcing her to perform an oral sex act on him.

Thankfully, Pepper’s latest video has received an amazing response through social media. Many other YouTubers have made their own response videos and tweeted about Pepper’s ‘prank’. Popular YouTuber, Tyler Oakley, tweeted: ‘Saddened by @sampepper’s new video. Sexually harassing women is vile to begin with, but normalising it by calling it a prank? So harmful’. Cherry Wallis, also a famous YouTuber, tweeted: ‘Brb punching Sam Pepper in the face for sexually harassing women, but don’t worry it’s “just a prank” so it’s okay!’ There was even a trend on Twitter, ‘#reportsampepper’, which aimed to raise awareness with the hope of Pepper eventually being reported to the police for harassment. The idea that this video is a prank is immensely offensive, as pranks are by definition ‘a practical joke or mischievous act’, not something that violates a person’s privacy and integrity.

Sadly, Sam Pepper’s video is just an example of attitudes that are demonstrated on a daily basis within society and the media. Earlier this year, two young people pleaded guilty for threatening to rape and kill both Caroline Criado-Perez, a feminist campaigner, and Stella Creasy, an MP, on Twitter. Criado-Perez and Creasey were campaigning for Jane Austen to replace Charles Darwin on banknotes, when the Twitter ‘trolls’ sent threatening messages such as ‘Rape?! I’d do a lot worse things than rape you!!’. One of the harassers in this case was female, and I am in no way denying that women are capable of sexual harassment too, or that men can face sexism directed by women. But, as a whole, sexual harassment for women is unfortunately so common that it has become a part of our everyday lives. Hopefully projects like Everyday Sexism will bring us one step closer to reaching gender equality.

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