A disturbing number of men think sexual jokes are OK in the office

Despite the rise of the #MeToo movement unveiling the injustices against sexual harassment and sexual assault around the world (and in the office), men still think it’s acceptable to tell jokes or stories of a sexual nature in the office, according to a new international survey.

More than one in four men around the world think telling a sexual joke or story at work is acceptable, reports a study released by market researcher Ipsos Mori and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London. The survey, which interviewed more than 20,000 adults across 27 countries, found that sexual jokes don’t fly with nearly as many women as only 16% of female participants globally found that type of humor acceptable at work.

“The workplace is one of the most important battlegrounds in the fight for equality between women and men, and these findings show we still have some way to go,” said Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia and Chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership in a statement. “While those who help fuel toxic work environments are in the minority, it’s nonetheless a significant one – and their views can make people’s working lives a misery. If employers want to pay more than just lip service to gender equality, they need to invest in creating cultures that value diversity and inspire respect for all.”

The survey explored significant differences in what women and men find acceptable workplace behavior in accordance with International Women’s Day.

Domestically, 60% of Americans polled in the survey said it wasn’t acceptable at all to ask a colleague on a date. Thirty percent of American men said they think asking a coworker out was acceptable while just 19% of women said the same.

If a colleague has rejected you before, you best want to think twice before trying again. Ninety-one percent of respondents in the US said it was unacceptable to continue to ask an employee for a date when they have said no before. Again, more men (7%) said they thought it was OK to give it another shot compared to women (2%).

Here’s a glimpse at some other behavioral trends in offices around the US.


Flirting in the office is a thin line. It’s been argued that flirting with your coworkers can be beneficial because flirting can make people feel good about themselves, which can distract and protect them from stress in life outside the office.

While compliments can often be interpreted as flirting, nearly three-fourths (73%) of Americans said it was acceptable for someone to tell the opposite gender that they liked their appearance in the workplace. That number rose to 82% when it’s complimenting someone of the same gender in the same manner, according to the study.

When someone is in distress, 72% of American respondents said it was fine to accept a hug when crying with female respondents being more open to it (80%) than male respondents (64%).

Calling out

When it comes to confronting inappropriate behavior, nearly a quarter of Americans aren’t confident in confronting a man who is harassing a woman in a public place.

However, when a family member or friend makes a sexist comment, 74% of Americans said they’d have no problem putting that person in their place.

In the office, respondents’ reactions differed depending on whether a senior colleague or junior colleague made a sexist comment. Only 53% of Americans said they were confident to tell off someone senior to them in work, while 65% said they’d feel fine to confront someone junior to them.