To date, thousands of people have used the hashtag #MeToo to share their experiences with sexual harassment and assault. The loudest voices among those who have contributed have been women, including celebrities like Cara Delevingne and America Ferrera. While this makes sense given that the majority of people who experience this type of abuse are women, it's also important to reach those who perpetrate that behavior — the majority of whom are men.
So in December, MTV asked 1,800 young people between the ages of 18 and 25: How has #MeToo affected you? According to that survey the movement has affected men — namely how they think about their past behavior and are thinking about approaching current and future romantic interactions.
Nearly 1 in 3 young men (32 percent) told MTV they were “worried something I've done could be perceived as sexual harassment” and even more — 40 percent — agreed that “the #MeToo movement has changed the way I interact in potential romantic relationships.” The survey also found that #MeToo hasn't just inspired personal reflection, but wider change: Just under 25 percent of individuals surveyed reported that "since the #MeToo movement, I have noticed that the guys around me have changed their behavior.”
"Men are reflecting on this realization that certain kinds of ways men have been socialized are unacceptable," Social education innovator and feminist Don McPherson told MTV News.
While women following #MeToo have largely been encouraged by the high profile survivors speaking out, many men have likely been impacted by some of the perpetrators' more constructive responses. The fact that some high-profile men accused of misconduct admitted that they behaved the way their accusers described — like Louis CK and Dan Harmon — rather than refusing to take responsibility for their actions, "woke a lot of people up," McPherson said.
What's more, McPherson added, this movement is showing men that "misogyny baked into our culture...needs to be pulled apart and eradicated."
MTV's survey backed up McPherson's observations: The movement, young respondents said, has made them think about gender dynamics in society more broadly: 61 percent said that “since the #MeToo movement, they have thought about how society enables sexist behavior among men” and 59 percent have "thought about how difficult the world is for women.”
Of course, there's still room for improvement — especially when it comes to education. Almost 70% of the young people surveyed said they wished "it was easier to understand what is/is not sexual harassment."
But ultimately, there's plenty of reason to feel hopeful that #MeToo really can change the way men think and act.
"This is an amazing opportunity for men," McPherson said. "For the men who have always been afraid to be forthcoming with their feelings because they felt they’d be admonished by other men, now is the time to be transparent about what we really care about, what we really feel, and stop hiding behind the performance of masculinity that allows us to enjoy male privilege without acting like we’re complicit in male privilege."