MP’s report on sexual harassment in schools ignores evidence of female intrasexual competition

I had to rattle this off quickly  as a counter-point to the media frenzy today about this report.  Apologies for typos – there will be many!

Toxic masculinity or female intrasexual competition?

“MPs seek better plan to fight school sexual harassment

Sexual harassment and abuse of girls are too often accepted as part of daily life, according to a Commons Women and Equalities Committee report.”

Key findings are:


The committee chair, Conservative MP Maria Miller, is popping up on my radio every hour on the news bulletins and is explicitly pointing the blame at boys and pornography. She repeats the most shocking and salacious findings as if they were the most prominent findings in the report.

The report had already piqued my interest so I have been looking at it today. Here are some pertinent points from the list of conclusions and recommendations from the report itself

“1.Sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools is a significant issue which affects a large number of children and young people, particularly girls, across the country. Evidence shows that the majority of perpetrators of this abuse are boys, and the majority of victims are girls. However it is essential that the negative impact on both boys and girls is recognised and addressed.”

“2.There is insufficient data to conclusively demonstrate that sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools is a growing problem. It is true that such behaviour has occurred in schools for many years, as in wider society. However, significant qualitative evidence suggests that increasing access to pornography and technological advances, including online platforms, can facilitate harassment and violence and thus exacerbate the problem.”

(Yet somehow, in light of this lack of evidence, the government should non-the-less…)

15…create a statutory obligation in the forthcoming Education Bill for all schools, primary and secondary, to develop a whole school approach to preventing and tackling sexual harassment and sexual violence. We also recommend that the Department for Education remind all school Governors of their legal obligations to address sexual harassment and sexual violence in school. Guidance and support on how to achieve this most effectively should be provided to Governing Bodies.”

(Echos of Title IX, anyone?)

24.By the time they reach secondary school children often have entrenched views about gender norms. It is therefore important that children are educated about gender equality, consent, relationships and sex in an age appropriate way starting in primary school.”

(In other words, an entrenched political and  ideological organisation wants government funding to go into schools to teach young and impressionable boys and girls how to interact)

“30.Too often, SRE ignores the position of boys and young men. It must be broadened to challenge harmful notions of masculinity and reflect boys’ experiences. It should also support boys to challenge and reduce sexual harassment and sexual violence.”

“31.We welcome the Government’s interest in supporting boys and young men to be part of the solution to the problem of sexual harassment and sexual violence. We recommend that the Government fund research to establish the most effective ways to achieve this.”

You get the implicit picture; girls are victims, boys perpetrators of sexual harassment. In case this wasn’t clear enough, they included a visual signpost.

Girl, interrupted by sexism

Girl, interrupted by sexism

Of course the feminist Twittersphere is going nuts. If there was a flag representing “the patriarchy”, they’d be in the streets gleefully burning it.

So lets review:  the report itself states there is no evidence to support the problem is a growing problem, yet the rhetoric I’m hearing on the radio makes it appear out of control and endemic. Which is nothing new:


And indeed further down the page we find this statement:
I’ll come back to this later.

Firstly, I was particularly interested in the following claim, number 1 on their page of findings and recommendations:


Further down this page it states:


Note the reference. I followed it. It took me here:


Lets just be clear. The cited reference is to support the claim that “Evidence shows that the majority of perpetrators of this abuse are boys, and the majority of victims are girls.”

It took me a while to find a break down of the sex of the harassers – in all graphs they are referred to in sex and gender neutral terms – but when I did, it revealed something very interesting:

The findings here clearly state that even if girls are more harassed in total, they are not more harassed by boys, they are harassed by other girls.

Spending more money on teaching kids about consent, as is in the recommendations, will not help victims. Demonising boys, toxic masculinity or “laddism” – all deemed problematic in the report – will not help anyone. The claim they want to help boys is hollow.  The claim they want to help girls even more so. Who commissioned this report? How much were they paid and was it from the public purse?

Note above boys appear to “harass” other boys more than girls. This is a finding because in their definition of sexual harassment they include name calling and banter as harassment. “Calling someone “gay” or “lesbian”…was the most frequently mentioned type of sexual harassment”

The numbers on female abusers here appear to be in line with the findings of a 2014 Demos report on internet misogyny which found that 50% of online abuse came from females.


Lets revisit this comment in Crossing the Line…

“Because girls reported higher rates of sexual harassment than boys did, this finding raises questions. Why didn’t boys or girls admit to sexually harassing girls when more girls than boys said they had been sexually harassed? Why does it seem to be more acceptable to sexually harass boys? These questions are critical to developing new strategies”

Now read this again in light of this new information:



I research female intrasexual competition, something I frequently call the pink elephant in the feminist room. Female competition and rivalry exists but takes a very different form from male competition, which is more open. What these reports are uncovering is not the tip of the iceberg of endemic male chauvinism but of endemic female passive aggressive bullying of their female rivals.

The main strategies of female competition are well documented; targets are socially ostracized, she is the subject of pernicious gossip, her character attacked, her sexual history discussed, her reputation ruined and crucially, boys are recruited by the female bullies to join in the attack. This is the well documented anatomy of how females compete – by stealth. The effects on the target are utterly devastating. It is this phenomena that feminists should be looking into if they genuinely wish to help young girls thrive at school. It is this research that needs more government funding not feminist sex education.

Logic dictates that if there actually is such a thing as toxic masculinity, there must also be a female analogue. And there is. There is also evidence that it is feminists, not “the patriarchy”, who seek to suppress and control female sexuality, especially in the West. (See Baumeister & Twenge, 2002).

The recommendations in this report do NOT support the papers findings. Feminists want access to young women in schools, to police their sexuality via fear – when the main negative effect on their self esteem is their female peers. These are all questions I am working on as a researcher, but many people have come before me. Female intrasexual competition is not new. It’s just taboo.

In spite of the feminist insistence that toxic masculinity is the problem, as a society, we need to widen the debate to include discussion about toxic femininity. If you want to see everyday evidence of female enmity in action, just look online at the bitter rivalries between feminist sects.

Orwellian Feminism

Orwellian Feminism

How can a movement with so little insight into itself or female competition be of any help to us?

If feminism is a humanitarian movement before a political one, it will face up to its own shortcomings.

The question needs to be asked: does feminism exist to help women and girls, or do women and girls now exist to help feminism?

Shoddy reports like this make me suspect the latter.

I am an egalitarian because I believe in the equality of the sexes. I am not a feminist because I do not support feminisms central aim which is to dismantle a fictional Western patriarchy, not, as many people believe, to promote sexual equality. For more in depth analysis on this issue see When is a Feminist Not a Feminist? 

More reading on female intrasexual competition:

The development of human female competition: allies and adversaries
Joyce F. Benenson

Female competition and aggression: interdisciplinary perspectives
Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2013 Dec 5; 368(1631): 20130073.
Paula Stockley1 and Anne Campbell2

A Mind Of Her Own: The Evolutionary Psychology of Women
Anne Campbell

Warriors and Worriers: The Survival of the Sexes
Joyce F Benenson


11 thoughts on “MP’s report on sexual harassment in schools ignores evidence of female intrasexual competition

  1. Thank you for this. Perhaps you and I misunderstand third wave feminism, maybe my view of the world is limited I am too quick to see third wave feminism portraying men as bad women as good.

    There was a discussion on BBC news about pornography a few weeks ago and they picked a few examples of harm that porn addicted men had inflicted on women or themselves. Obviously. Shit happens but they failed to put this in the context of how much pornography gets watched and how few, relatively, problems it is known to cause. There was a BBC Analysis podcast some time ago by a reporter describing herself as a feminist and with a natural distaste for porn but, despite looking, she could find little evidence of harm.

    Another issue I have found interesting is the widely reported Archers abuse story. Quite rightly, people have been discussing the issue of nonviolent but controlling abuse suffered by Helen Archer. Quite rightly people have been condemning the behaviour of her cruel husband. However, surely women are equally capable of this behaviour (I know one example) and if a similarly persecuted man had stabbed in a rage his controlling wife, would he have been given as much sympathy as Helen?

    I used to follow you on twitter and you did good work challenging the consensus. I became weary of the twitter self righteous mobs so I was glad to be emailed this post.

  2. Feminists will never be able to properly address the pervasiveness of female perpetrated abuse, because of what abuse is at its heart: a malicious misuse of power in the service of harming another. To acknowledge that females engage in abuse of others to any significant degree, let alone as frequently as men do, they’d be forced to address the single, inconvenient factor in that definition: women have power.

    The moment they do that, they must abandon their “patriarchy” narrative of oppressor class vs oppressed class. They must also abandon the greatest tool in their kit, the one thing that has achieved more for them since the 1960s than almost anything else: “Women’s greatest strength is their facade of weakness.” (Warren Farrell)

    That one lie–that women have no power–is evident in every single feminist effort regarding violence against women and girls. And it is there whenever one calls feminists on their past “victories”. What do I hear, time and again, when someone claims feminism has influence in media or government? “That’s ridiculous. Don’t be a conspiracy theorist. I only wish we feminists had that kind of power.” In other words, “what are you, scared of a bunch of girls? We girls have no power, therefore you can’t blame us for anything that happens.”

    It is the double edged sword of female power: the power to get things done by motivating others to do them for you, and the power to sidestep blame because it was all the fault of the people who did what you demanded.

    They would also have to own up to the fact that they are aggressively seeking legislative and policy changes to empower a population that is already empowered. That they are, in essence, power hungry rather than interested in justice.

    I am constantly stymied by the public’s ability to swallow the feminist narrative of women as subordinate to men and oppressed by a system that privileges men. Can you imagine a member of an actual oppressed group that feels entitled to throw a drink in her oppressor’s face when he’s offended her? To order him to sit down, shut up and check his privilege? To slap him when he gets fresh with her? To accuse him of having a tiny dick or being a pervert if he rejects her advances? To publicly post memes dictating how he is to behave toward her and all those like her? To hand him a list of chores he’d better get to when he’s idle? To suggest he should not approach or speak to her and those like her in public, or even make eye contact with her for too long? To discard him (divorce) because he doesn’t earn enough money, or because he doesn’t please her?

    Last I checked, things between slaves (oppressed) and slave owners (oppressors) operated in the exact opposite way. Same with serfs (oppressed) and the nobility (oppressors).

    Feminists depend on this long con of denying that women have power in order to exercise it effectively. The moment people see the power women have and acknowledge that women’s power IS power, they understand that feminism is a movement for the privileging and supremacy of women.

    And while yes, most women are not “believers”, they seem all to eager, for the most part, to take advantage of the privileges feminists have put in place for them when, say, it comes time to divorce, or when they have a personal grudge against a man. These women view the erosion of due process protections for men the way looters view a race riot–they don’t believe in the cause, but they’ll smash and grab what they can while they have the chance.

    I’m quite appalled by the entire thing. Glad to see you’re still at it, Paula.

  3. Thank you for dismantling the propaganda in this report.

    I believe it might be time for opponents of feminism to broaden their approach beyond debunking feminist social analysis to social analysis of feminism itself, so that the movement is accurately characterised and the extent of the political danger it presents is put in its proper historical context.

    This isn’t just an ideology that makes clumsy mistakes. This is an aggressive, intentional, and well-organised effort to pathologise an entire class of human beings.

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