Apparently, a study has shown that most Aussie women think wolf-whistling is okay.

A wolf-whistle from a stranger is harassment, right? Well, it turns out if you agree with that statement, you’re at odds with most Aussie women.

Apparently, we are far less likely to consider wolf-whistling and even being hit up for sex as unacceptable. That is, according to a study on attitudes about sexual harassment.

Two Perth universities have polled 1734 women from 12 countries, finding Australians will accept certain behaviours than others feel crosses the line.

Just 26 per cent of the Australians surveyed believed it was inappropriate for a man to ask them for sex at a social event.

Listen: Did the women surveyed miss the Time’s Up movement memo? (Post continues after audio.)

But that’s an absolute no-no for Egyptians, with 100 per cent objecting, along with Indonesians (99 per cent), Japanese (97 per cent), and Portuguese women (88 per cent).

And only 25 per cent of Australian women thought wolf-whistling was inappropriate, compared to 98 per cent of Egyptian women.

It also seems Aussie woman are generally happy for men to buy them a drink, with just 12 per cent objecting to that, compared to 71 per cent of Indonesians.

However Aussie women are less forgiving when it comes to low-level stalking and mysterious gifts arriving in the mail.

The survey showed 64 per cent of Australian women don’t appreciate a man showing up at places they’re known to visit in the hope of an encounter.

And 74 per cent think it’s inappropriate for a man to send them strange parcels.

The Italians were far more liberal there. Just seven per cent didn’t like the idea of men popping up as they went about their business and only 23 per cent thought it wasn’t right for men to send them things.


Lead author Dr Lorraine Sheridan, from the School of Psychology at Curtin University, says the survey reveals varied perceptions of what constitutes inappropriate behaviour by men.

While the respondents – all female psychology undergraduates – agreed that groping, sexual assault or death threats were nowhere near okay, the seriousness of those less obviously awful behaviours were up for debate.

Co-author Dr Adrian Scott, from Edith Cowan University, says the results suggest that the culture you grow up in has more to do with your attitude to those grey-area behaviours than your personal preferences.

For instance, in countries where there is a higher level of gender inequality women were less accepting of relative strangers trying to pick up, but in societies where the individual has more power and there is greater gender equality, like our own, we were less accepting of monitoring behaviours.

Although, perhaps Aussie women should think twice before labelling wolf-whistling as harmless.

As Everyday Sexism author Laura Bates puts it, catcalls are “a reminder that a woman’s role in public is to be judged and commented on by men”.

“But the whole picture is much bigger than that. The toleration of minor sexist incidents sets up a power imbalance, leading to normalised attitudes and behaviours towards women that make some of the more serious abuses seem more socially acceptable.”

The study involved women from Australia, Armenia, England, Egypt, Finland, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Scotland and Trinidad. It’s been published in the journal Aggressive Behaviour.

-With AAP