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Sexual Harassment On the Internet by Azy Barak review

For this blog post, I’ve decided to examine an academic article on cyber sexual harassment. The article I’ve decided to review is Sexual Harassment on the Internet by Azy Barak published in 2005. He begins by understanding the various terms for sexual harassment that occur offline. These terms I've also explored in my previous posts such as, gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion. He then demonstrates how the internet merely acts as an extension for these real life occurrences but only appearing in different ways. Active verbal sexual harassment (SH) appears in offensive sexual messages or offensive comments on gender. It can also appear through commercial distribution, e.g. e-mail spam, popup ads, etc. He also gives examples of passive verbal SH that are not meant for one person in particular but to the wider public (explicit chat room names) and flaming that is mostly initiated by men.He concludes this portion by discussing how these kinds of acts can escalate into abusive physical contact and ultimately realizes that sexual harassment online is not about sex but power. He argues that the internet encourages users to behave more naturally and less defensively, thus creating potential victims and potential harassers. He finally discusses the problems and solutions to preventing SH on the internet. He briefly talks about the psychological effects of SH victims, such as developing eating disorders, depression, poor academic performance etc. This further demonstrates the damage cyber sexual harassment is capable of. 

He concludes by stating that new legislation, changing the organizational-social culture, and educating potential victims and harassers are important in combating SH online. However he states that legislation is secondary to fighting cyber sexual harassment. The only way to truly eliminate SH online is to change the social and cultural norms as well as spreading awareness about this major problem. Barak states that educating kids while still in school is a great way to begin educating and spreading awareness about internet safety. He also suggests, “ guides that contain explanations, recommendations, tips, and instructions can be posted on numerous sites to complement previous training and to highlight important issues”(86). I could not agree more. Legislation is only effective to a certain extent. When it comes to anonymity and jurisdiction, legal boundaries are nearly impossible to set. However, through remanufacturing and spreading awareness, the social and cultural norms about sexual harassment online can change for a safer and less damaging cyber experience.

-Maddie xx

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#1 POSTED BY Wade Wallerstein, 04/24 3:41 PM

I really like that he understands that legislation is going to do little to alter cyber sexual harassment. On the Internet, under the veil of anonymity, users are nasty, unfiltered, and crude. It would be impossible to target harassers and provide adequate and accountable repercussions for their actions. The Internet is a cultural space, and you're totally right that awareness and cultural change will be the key to preventing sexual harassment online. On a lighter note, guides like the one that he suggests can already be found in various virtual spheres—I personally have seen more than a few in browsing my tumblr feed. Like any activist cause, change starts with the action of individuals.

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