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Sexual harassment of women in China: the role of liberal sexual attitudes

Lake Lui (The Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China)

Social Transformations in Chinese Societies

ISSN: 1871-2673

Article publication date: 3 October 2016

1598

Abstract

Purpose

Sexual liberation for women is often seen as a means of empowerment. Yet challenging the conventional Chinese beliefs of what constitutes a “good woman” might threaten men’s power, resulting in sanctioning. This study aims to uncover the link between women’s liberal sexual attitudes and an extreme form of sanctioning – sexual harassment.

Design/methodology/approach

Using data from Chinese Health and Family Life Survey, structural equation modeling is applied to examine the hypothesized relationships between sexual harassment and individual and community characteristics, as well as the direct and indirect effects of liberal sexual attitudes.

Findings

The author found that a woman’s liberal sexual attitude has a positive direct effect on sexual harassment. Whether the woman resides in rural or urban areas is not directly linked to sexual harassment, yet liberal sexual attitudes among urban women mediate the effect of geographical location, leading to their greater risk of being harassed. Youthfulness and women having a paid job are risk factors for sexual harassment but self-rated attractiveness is not.

Research limitations/implications

The results reflect a conservative societal view of women’s sexuality, even though it is often believed that China’s sexual revolution is on the way – which plausibly refers to the greater permissiveness for heterosexual men. This study thus illuminates the importance of gender egalitarianism in the process of liberalization of social and moral attitudes toward sex.

Originality/value

This study thus illuminates the importance of gender egalitarianism in the process of liberalization of social and moral attitudes toward sex.

Keywords

Citation

Lui, L. (2016), "Sexual harassment of women in China: the role of liberal sexual attitudes", Social Transformations in Chinese Societies, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 181-196. https://doi.org/10.1108/STICS-08-2016-0014

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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