WASHINGTON — A new research study found that boys and girls are not really that different in how much they are willing to engage in sexual harassment.

The research, conducted by researchers at Harvard University and published Monday in the journal Sex Roles, found that the same amount of emotional distance between boys and men was associated with an increased risk of being the victim of sexual harassment even though boys and women are equally likely to experience physical, verbal and emotional harassment.

“We’ve always thought that the gender differences in sexual assault were largely due to cultural factors, but this study demonstrates that they can also be a result of interpersonal communication and assertive communication skills,” said study co-author Elizabeth C. Sonderman, a professor of psychology at Harvard and an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

“It turns out that these interpersonal skills are really important for a lot of different things, including assertive behavior, the ability to communicate effectively, as well as being able to negotiate in a way that doesn’t get a lot more aggressive.”

Researchers looked at the sexual harassment histories of nearly 1,000 participants in a national online survey from 2006 to 2010.

They found that, in general, the more emotional distance that a person had with a male acquaintance, the greater the likelihood that they would be the victim.

For instance, men who felt that a female acquaintance’s physical contact was too intimate were nearly four times more likely to be the victims of sexual assault than those who felt the same way about the same type of contact from a female friend.

Women who felt more distance from a male friend were also about three times more than men who did not feel that way.

Sonderman said that emotional distance is important because, for women, it is often more difficult to protect themselves in a workplace setting, where there is often a lot going on around them.

“So you’re in a room with a man who is intimidating and is aggressive, and you’re very aware of your own feelings about this,” she said.

“But you’re also in a world where it’s very easy for someone to make a remark about you that you don’t necessarily want to hear.”

Researchers also found that men who feel more distance were more likely than women to report feeling threatened, harassed or violated.

But Sondermess said that the research was limited by the way the survey was conducted.

“You could make a pretty strong inference that men are more likely and more likely perpetrators of sexual violence, but it was really a question of how they were measured,” she explained.

“The way they were constructed, it’s really hard to really tease out what the relationship is between what women and men are experiencing and what it means for the men who are experiencing sexual violence.

So we were looking at different ways of measuring emotional distance and how they’re related to these types of behaviors, and that’s what we’re really interested in.”

Sondermers research found that emotional distances are not necessarily the result of women being more likely or more likely targets of sexual attacks, but are in fact linked to a number of different behaviors, including being perceived as aggressive or threatening, being perceived by others as aggressive, being viewed as sexual or as threatening, having more than one male friend and being perceived to be threatening or aggressive in the workplace.

Sophie H. Stahl, a researcher at the Center for Sexual and Gender Minority Studies at Georgetown University and a co-senior author of the study, said the study’s findings suggest that women may not be necessarily as sensitive to their feelings about sexual harassment as men.

“For some women, being treated as a target of sexual misconduct might be one reason why they feel less likely to report,” she told ABC News.

“But I think for other women, there’s probably another reason why this may be the case, and it’s that they don’t feel safe to be vulnerable to these kinds of behaviors.”

Huffington Post’s Lauren Frasier contributed to this report.

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