The portrayal of sexual harassment in popular media

The Portrayal of Sexual Harassment in Popular Media

Sexual harassment is an increasingly salient issue in today’s world, especially with recent news stories of influential people using their power to take advantage of those around them. Hollywood, a hub of popular culture and entertainment, also retains some of this predatory behavior in its storytelling. Therefore, how sexual harassment is portrayed in popular media is critical to evaluate due to its potential effect on how we view the crime.

Traditional Representation

Historical stories, particularly those from the 1930s and 1940s, tends to portray sexual harassment as a form of “flirtatious fun”. These stories often featured male characters “o thougatorily” harassing an unsuspecting female character in a “romantic” or “funny” manner. In these cases, the female characters are often reduced to a damsel in distress, or someone to be rescued.

Recent Representations

Fortunately, recent movies, television shows, and other popular media have begun to address the issue of sexual harassment with more gravity. Many of these works feature an explicit statement on the issue of sexual harassment and its effects. This has included:

  • Advocacy stories which relay the struggles of characters facing sexual harassment and assault, with honest portrayals of the emotional aftermath and pain caused.
  • Action stories which heavily feature characters confronting those engaging in sexual harassment and withstanding retaliatory consequences.
  • Educative stories wherein characters are taught educationally about the definitions and ways to confront sexual harassment in a practical and safe way.

Overall, recent popular media works have been taking strides to inform people about the real and devastating effects of sexual harassment, and to create a better understanding for those facing such issues in real life.


The way sexual harassment is portrayed in popular media can have a profound effect on our perception of it, as well as people’s beliefs and behavior. While traditional shows and movies often depict sexual harassment as a form of romantic flirtation, more recent works have increasingly presented a more realistic perspective by including stories of strength, resilience, and awareness. As time progresses, we can hope for further development of these stories, in order to promote understanding and prevent the perpetuation of sexual harassment.

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