Would Britons rather be stuck in a forest with a man or a bear?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
May 17, 2024, 11:15 AM GMT+0

53% of women aged 18-29 choose the bear

TikTok prompted another viral discussion recently by posing a question to women: would you rather be stuck in a forest with a man or a bear?

The question has been repeated numerous times on the platform, with women in particular often taking the ursine option. The answers serve as a reminder that many women still see men as a potential threat to their safety – “men are scary”, was one of the first responses in the example linked above.

Now a new YouGov survey has posed the question to the British public, and the results indeed do show that many women are more concerned about the man than a bear.

Overall, 54% of Britons say they would rather be stuck in a forest with a man they didn’t know, compared to 24% who say a bear. But among women, the bear preference rises to 31% (compared to 42% who would still rather a man), while for men it falls to 15%.

Younger women in particular are more comfortable with the bear – in fact, among the youngest women (18-29 year olds), fully 53% say they would take their chances with the bear, compared to 31% who would opt for the man. By contrast, only 17% of men the same age choose the bear.

Women in their 30s are somewhat torn, with 44% choosing the man and 37% the bear.

Some variations of the TikTok question initially make the choice between a woman and a bear – one such example sees a man asked by his wife to choose between their daughter being alone with a woman or a bear in the woods, with the man choosing a woman without hesitation, but then struggling to answer whether he’d prefer her to be with a man or a bear (ultimately choosing the bear).

When put the woman-bear combination to respondents, we see gender differences largely drop away. Only 9% of women say they would rather be stuck with the bear under these circumstances, about the same as the 8% of men who made the same choice.

Likewise, among 18-29 year old women, who were most likely to choose the bear when the alternative was a man they didn’t know, just 9% make the same choice when the other option is a woman.

Our colleagues in the USA have found a similar trend to the UK, with 31% of American women opting to roam the woods with a bear over a strange man, falling to 12% in the event the stranger is female.

Were you to find yourself in the woods with a bear, do you think you could defeat it if it came down to a fight? A 2021 YouGov study found that only 2% of Britons think they could win an encounter with a grizzly bear. That said, many Britons don’t rate their animal fighting skills in general – only 67% think they could beat a rat in a fight, and just 45% think they could triumph over a goose.

See the full results here

Would you rather be stuck in the woods with a strange man/woman or a bear? Do you think women are right to feel unsafe around men they don't know? Have your say, join the YouGov panel, and get paid to share your thoughts. Sign up here.

Photo: Getty

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