Women Who Stalk: A Form of Personal Growth?


I read a story at the checkout counter at Earthfare from Psychology Today on women who stalk and thought it might interest readers. Unfortunately, there is only a portion of the story available online:

The lovesick who cannot eat or sleep are legion. Many go so far as to harass and stalk the lover who spurned them. And more often than one might realize, the stalkers are women.

Patricia*, a graphic designer and visual artist, was married and had a 9-year-old son when she began an affair with a man whom she refers to as Wolf. Lone-spirited and rugged, Wolf lived in a converted tack house on a ranch outside of San Francisco and seemed to be everything her corporate husband was not.

The affair lasted over a year. Wolf pressured her to leave her husband, but she refused. Yet when Wolf told Patricia he didn’t want to see her anymore, she wouldn’t accept it. She would go to the marina where his sailboat was docked and wait for him. She wrote fragments of Edna St. Vincent Millay poems in nail polish on the boat’s beautiful wood: I know what my heart is like / Since your love died. She also stole things from the boat, including a sail. “I became a predator,” she says. “I wanted to catch his scent so I could feel near him.”…

Pursuers may tell themselves that their stalking is a form of love or courtship, Sinclair allows, but that’s “just like how we once talked about a rapist as the guy who is overwhelmed with passion.” Today we have a similar myth about stalking. “People think it’s about being so in love, you’re not able to control yourself,” she explains. “But you’re driven by retaliation and obsession rather than love and idealization. Once you’re aggressive, you’re not idealizing, you’re not in love. All that’s left is the obsession.”

Stalking is mostly seen as a crime against women, and for good reason. According to a 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence survey, three times more women than men have been stalked. That still means there are plenty of male stalking victims. In fact, one in 19 men have been stalked, and about half reported that their stalkers were female. The definition of criminal stalking varies from state to state, but the three main criteria for the crime are repeated, unwanted, and intrusive behaviors; implicit or explicit threats; and causing fear. The study surveyed self-identified victims and was based on a definition of stalking as behavior that led them to feel very fearful.

The author of this piece, Lisa Phillips, has a book out called Unrequited: Women and Romantic Obsession in which she describes her own experience as a stalker:

The summer Lisa A. Phillips turned thirty, she fell in love with someone who didn’t return her feelings. She soon became obsessed. She followed him around, called him compulsively, and talked about him endlessly. One desperate morning, after she snuck into his apartment building, he picked up a baseball bat to protect himself and began to dial 911. Her unrequited love had changed her from a sane, conscientious college teacher and radio reporter into someone she barely recognized—someone who was taking her yearning much too far.

In Unrequited, Phillips explores the tremendous force of obsessive love in women’s lives. She argues that it needs to be understood, respected, and channeled for personal growth—….

Really? So when a woman is a predator, her behavior is to be understood, and channeled for personal growth. When a man is a predator, he goes to jail. Even if he is innocent (but suspected) there are often consequences, as the campus rape panic shows all too well. Phillips points out that this stalking behavior in women is quite common. Why is it so acceptable in our society? Why do we allow men to be followed and abused?

Women tend to destroy property when they stalk — what makes this okay? Women destroying men’s property is so popular, there is even a Hardee’s commercial about it. A guy has three girlfriends so they destroy his car, writing “Cheater” on it. Can you imagine a woman dating three guys who vandalize her car and write “Whore” across it? Watch the video and imagine the genders reversed:


Cross-posted from Dr. Helen, image illustration via shutterstock /