Some of these women had already recognized certain incidents from their past as harassment or abuse.
Others have been forced by this interminable news cycle to relive, reconsider, and reclassify some of the things men have done to them against their will or to search for boundaries in the mess of human interaction.
We also asked our respondents to offer examples of incidents that, for them, fell into a “gray area”—a category of behavior that isn’t unequivocally harassment, whether because of the intent of the perpetrator, the reception of the target, or the severity of the offense.
Now, we must contend with the knowledge that the everyday woman, by virtue of existing in the public sphere, has endured untold violations.
People who felt flattered as teenagers or young adults by sexual advances from older authority figures grew to see such pursuits as “gross” or an abuse of power as they aged.
Survivors of verbal harassment were sometimes wary of naming it as such if it never escalated into anything physical.
To these survey respondents,sexual violations in the context of romantic relationships have been some of the hardest examples to recognize as assault in the moment, but they’ve also done some of the deepest and most lasting damage to both survivor and perpetrator.
The variety of behaviors people corralled into the two gray areas identified here—“borderline but ultimately OK” and “borderline but ultimately not OK”—is telling, too.