The bar scene is a often place to mix and mingle, but what happens when the boundaries of acceptable behaviour are crossed?

That's the focus of a new report, co-authored by a researcher at Western University.

Sara and Maria say they know what it's like to experience unwanted sexual advances in a bar.

"Guys will come up to you at the bar and they'll just immediately grab you and start dancing with you. Some girls think that's okay...but for me it's like 'No, you have to ask permission to dance with me,'" Sara says.

Maria adds "I mainly feel irritated because I feel like sometimes it's in the manner that they touch you and you don't even know who did it and then they run away."

They're not alone. A new report titled "Blurred lines? Sexual aggression and barroom culture" looked at how often people were approached in a sexually overt manner in a bar or club and how they dealt with the situation.

Among the key findings:

  • 90 per cent of the unwanted sexual contact involved a man targeting a woman.
  • 55 per cent of targets responded to unwanted advances with an evasive maneuver like moving away.
  • in 21 per cent of incidents third parties intervened - usually to help the target but sometimes to encourage the initiator

Western University's Dr. Kathryn Graham, the report's co-author, says "A lot of the violence that has occured in the past in bars has mainly been male to male but over 25 per cent of the incidents that we observed were sexual aggression - mostly minor - but still fairly aggressive."

The findings draw from a bigger study on aggression in large-capacity bars and clubs in Toronto initiated some 10 years ago, but for this new report the researchers isolated 258 incidents deemed to be sexual advances by a team of observers.

Graham explains "We defined aggression for the observers as anything that seemed to have a negative impact on someone and where the person doing it knew that negative impact was happening."

The report suggests bars could take measures such as posting signs indicating bad behaviour won't be tolerated.

"There's lots of consensual sexual behaviour in bars and that's fine, that's consensual and people can do what they want, but I don't think women should have to be subjected to incessant harassment," Graham adds.