Stalking awareness: Crossing the line between romance and intimidation

Stephanie Canto, Crier staff

Seats quickly filled up in the Student Center event room to hear Professor Jennifer Thorn’s lecture on stalking awareness and how pop culture influences our tolerance for stalker-like behavior.

Professor Thorn, from the English Department, began the lecture with a brief definition of stalking, which legally amounts to “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.”

However, the subtle signs of a stalker do not always inflict fear. The line between stalking and romance has been blurred since the law came to be first in California in the 1990s.

It can be argued that a large influence of this blurred line comes from the media, such as music and movies, which leaves actual stalking difficult to recognize. Because of this normalization, around 7.5 million men and women experience some form of stalking every year.

There is a slew of popular movies and music which romanticize the idea of persistence and a refusal to back off, regardless of the receiving party’s reaction. Films depict a somewhat 50/50 ratio of stalkers being men and women, despite official reports which place male stalkers in the vast majority. Stalking is a well-used trope in the horror genre, though the statistics which

Professor Thorn provided prove that sexual violence is more prevalent in stalking as opposed to homicide.

The first clip that was shown at the awareness event was the music video of Maroon 5’s hit song “Animals” (2014). The lyrics alone suggest that the speaker has stalker-like tendencies, and the music video only confirms this with images of the singer keeping multiple Polaroids of a seemingly unaware woman. The song was a hit on the radio for weeks, though the music video did cause some controversy at the time of its release.

Stalker-like habits are also portrayed as a romantic gesture in popular movies. For example, Seven Brides and Seven Brothers (1954), The Graduate (1967), Twilight (2008), and even Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961).

Actions within these movies may not seem like they are behaviors a stalker would have due to how it is romanticized. However, stalking can range from something as seemingly harmless as unsolicited texts or phone calls to threatening you or your family’s safety. It is not a matter to brush off, nor is it a behavior to glorify.

As stalking has become increasingly easier to achieve with social media, it is concerning how much our popular culture has normalized these behaviors.

A visit to can guide you through what stalking truly consists of and how to get help if you or a friend is experiencing anything like this.

However, if you are ever in immediate danger, contact campus security, go to the Harbor, or call the police.