The Year of the Stalker.

morello oitnb stalker

2014 has been the year of the stalker, wouldn’t you say?

Let me count the ways.

In May this year, college student, men’s rights enthusiast and “involuntary celibate” Elliot Rodger shot dead three students at the Isla Vista campus of the University of California and murdered three more in his apartment before turning the gun on himself in an attack meant to target “blonde sluts” who wouldn’t sleep with him. We know this because of the video and written manifestos he left bemoaning his virgin status, fixating particularly on girls from his past who rebuffed him. (This is a frightening trend we can see in the stabbing death of a high school girl who said no to a prom invitation and the shooting killing of a Detroit woman who wouldn’t give her assailant her phone number. And for all you MRAs out there, male entitlement to women’s bodies doesn’t just hurt women: a man was stabbed nine times for defending his girlfriend against street harassment.)

In the fictional world, Orange is the New Black’s second season revealed the extent of inmate Lorna Morello’s crimes, including the stalking of her oft-discussed “fiancé” “Chris-tuh-phuh”, with whom Morello only went on one date in reality. This revelation was one of the more shocking storylines on the show, but on the whole it painted the perpetrator in a sympathetic light as opposed to a potentially dangerous criminal.

Robin Thicke presented a good case for being named the biggest sexist of 2013, and this year he solidified that title by producing an entire album dedicated to the stalking of his estranged wife, Paula Patton. The album failed at “Get[ting] Her Back”, the title of the lead track, and it also failed to make a dent in the charts, selling just 54 copies in Australia alone.

The young adult book blogging community didn’t escape unscathed, either, with author Kathleen Hale thinking she could publish an account of her stalking of a book blogger who gave her a bad review and not see ramifications.

And back to reality: gaming critic Anita Sarkeesian had to cancel a talk at Utah State University earlier this year when organisers wouldn’t do anything about the bomb threat she was sent should her seminar go ahead. Just today, she posted this snapshot of a cyber threat she received on Twitter.

Anti-street harassment organization Hollacback! attempted to shine a light on just what women go through every day while going about their lives in public. While many of the 108 incidences of harassment caught on camera over a 10-hour period of walking alone in New York City couldn’t be classified as stalking, one of the men did follow volunteer Shoshana Roberts for several minutes despite her giving him no indication that she was into it.

But stalking is nothing new: the focus on it in the media this year doesn’t mean it’s a novel phenomenon. Victims of intimate partner abuse, sexual assault and murder are a testament to that (As of 12th November, 2014, 61 women had been murdered by their intimate partners in Australia this year. The murder-suicide of an estranged Deer Park couple yesterday only adds to that unacceptable number.) It is interesting that 2014 has been smattered with high-profile (albeit sometimes fictional) cases of stalking.

In Australia, one in ten people will be stalked, with women making up 75% of victims. As with sexual and physical violence, most stalking is likely perpetrated by a person known to the victim, with 76% of women in the U.S. who die by the hands of their intimate partners having also been stalked by them. Still in the U.S., according to Colorado State University, those who identify as LGBTQ* were twice as likely to experience cyberstalking and harassment on campus, while non-white women also experienced a higher likelihood of stalking in general. And people with disabilities also experience a higher likelihood of victimisation across the board. While Hollaback!’s video was an important one, it failed at showing marginalised women’s experiences as evidenced in the statistics (which is why this video about the harassment experienced by women of colour in New York City is an important next step).

I don’t think the up-tick of stalking in news stories and fictional representations (Gone Girl’s Desi Collings is another example of this) is indicative of an increase in violence against women, I think it’s more representative of the fact that we’re finally starting to give a shit about violence against women. The deluge of allegations against Bill Cosby (though the general public’s response has left much to be desired, with the majority of people willing to believe one man in power over dozens of women with scarily similar stories and not a whole lot to gain) and the ousting of “dating coach” Julian Blanc from many countries, including Australia, on his tour of pick up artistry are evidence of this. We’ve still got a long way to go, baby, especially when it comes to non-white, middle class women, but respect for and recognition of women is gaining strides baby steps in 2014.

So 2014 is the year of the stalker not because stalking is becoming more prevalent but because police reports, news stories and fictional representations are moving into focus.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit http://www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

Related: Gone Girls & Nice Guys.

On Stalking.

Orange is the New Black’s Morello’s Fractured Relationship with Romance.

Robin Thicke’s Paula: He Still Hates Those “Blurred Lines”.

Elsewhere: [The Daily Mail] Elliot Rodger’s Manifesto Targeted British Pop Star’s Daughter.

[USA Today] Boy Stabs, Kills Girl Who Turned Down Prom Date.

[Crime Feed] Engaged Woman Shot to Death After Refusing to Give Man Her Phone Number.

[CBC News] Man Stabbed 9 Times for Asking Catcallers to Stop Harassing His Girlfriend.

[The Guardian] Robin Thicke Named Sexist of the Year.

[Vulture] Which Country Hates Robin Thicke the Most?

[The Guardian] “Am I Being Catfished?” An Author Confronts Her Number One Online Critic.

[Buzzfeed] This is What Happens When an Author Tracks Down a Critic in Real Life.

[Kotaku] Anita Sarkeesian Cancels Speech Following Terror Threats.

[Daily Life] Australian Government Tells UN Violence Against Women Isn’t Torture.

[The Age] Deer Park Women Found Dead in Suspected Murder-Suicide.

[Wire] Stalking Information Sheet.

[National Centre for Victims of Crime] Stalking Fact Sheet.

[CSU Women & Gender Advocacy Centre] Stalking Statistics.

[Victims of Crime] Crimes Against Persons with Disabilities.

[Jezebel] A Hollaback Response Video: Women of Colour on Street Harassment.

Image via SheRa Magazine.

Robin Thicke’s “Paula”: He Still Hates Those “Blurred Lines”.

Robin Thicke, along with Pharrell and T.I., came out with arguably 2013’s most controversial song, “Blurred Lines”, about this time last year.

Now the son of Growing Pains actor Alan Thicke is back with a whole new album about his estranged wife, Paula Patton, entitled simply, Paula.

Thicke was caught with his hand on a female fan’s bottom and allegedly followed this up by cheating on his high-school sweetheart Patton, with whom he’d been involved for 21 years and has a son. The unflappable Patton seemed to take the split in her stride, at least compared to Thicke, who’s taken to social media and radio waves in an attempt to win his former ladylove back.

The fact that his forthcoming album’s tracklist consists entirely of breakup-and-makeup songs is supposed to be romantic, but to the discerning eye, Thicke’s predation that was front and centre in “Blurred Lines” has come to the fore yet again.

Not only does his public begging read as more desperate than romantic, it publicly shames the other party who’s chosen to deal with the dissolution of their marriage in private.

But we all know Thicke’s favourite pastime is to “degrade a woman” and that’s exactly what he’s doing with this ill thought out album. For some perspective, the titular woman filed for divorce from Thicke in February this year, and the album’s first single, “Get Her Back” was released in May, giving Paula a lead-time of three months. And it has only been a year since Thicke’s previous album, Blurred Lines, featuring the rape anthem of the same name, came out.

The actual Marvin Gaye medleys that Thicke has become so well known—and taken to court—for and that make up Paula aren’t the worst in the world, but it’s when listeners pay mind to Thicke’s lyrics that the album really starts to run into trouble. The calypso rhythm of “You’re My Fantasy”, for example, can’t rescue it from this little ditty: “Your legs on my walls/Your body’s on my ceiling”; while Thicke makes reference to the cheating rumours on the Motown-y “Black Tar Cloud”, crooning “I thought everyone was gonna eat the chips/Turns out I’m the only one who double dipped”. (Thanks for that visual.) The mumbly “Forever Love” is luckily accompanied by a lyric video because Thicke’s enunciation is so poor it’s hard to sing along like the 14-year-old sung along in Patton’s ear to Stevie Wonder’s “Jungle Fever” upon their first meeting as teens in early ’90s Los Angeles.

“Get Her Back”, the earwormy lead single is arguably the album’s only redeeming one however its problematic video, featuring scrolling text messages that we’re to believe were sent between Thicke and Patton atop close-up shots of a fake-bloodied and allegedly crying Thicke being groped by masked women who look marginally like Patton before they plunge head-first into cavities of water, references intimate partner violence, like much of the album.

Thicke carried out a thick (so to speak) and fast social media campaign for Paula, including the hashtags #GetHerBack and #AskThicke, which ultimately backfired in a flurry of negative feminist press. Thicke even went so far as to engage in a cross-promotion with 1800-Flowers, for which the “Get Her Back” bouquet will set you back a cool $350—but it comes with a free digital download of Paula, so you’re actually saving money. But it would seem that many music consumers are holding on to their pennies this time around: just 530 fans in the UK and a dismal 54 in Australia forked out for Paula.

Thicke might not be a one-hit wonder (remember his 2002 debut, the equally as rapey as “Blurred Lines”, come to think of it, “When I Get You Alone”?), he proves that perhaps sex was the only thing that sold “Blurred Lines”.

The Hollywood that Thicke grew up in would have us believe that male persistence is the way to a girl’s heart: “the boy keeps trying to get the girl until she says yes,” writes Jessica Valenti for The Guardian. “You need to look no further than the outrageously popular Twilight series—books and movies—to know that the stalker-as-romantic lead looms large in our cultural imagination.” Real life headlines about intimate partner violence suggest that stalking is more deadly than romantic.

Further to that, Alyssa Rosenberg writes over at The Washington Post that “the simple fact of male persistence ought to be enough to bring a woman around to loving him”, while Clem Bastow asserted on Daily Life that Thicke’s quest to “Get Her Back” is “about the feelings of the man in question, not the woman he is searching for or seeking to reconcile with”.

But that’s Thicke’s pattern (pardon the pun); he’s crafting a pop cultural narrative where he’s the ultimate NiceGuy™ and if Patton continues to reject him she’s a cold-hearted bitch. And if Thicke was hoping for a deluge of sales to help him convince Patton to take him back, he’s sorely underestimated the public’s keen nose for desperation.

Elsewhere: [HuffPo] Robin Thicke Cheated on His Wife, Claims Socialite Lana Scolaro.

[HuffPo] Marvin Gaye’s Family & Robin Thicke’s Label Settle in “Blurred Lines” Dispute.

[Time] Robin Thicke’s #AskThicke Hashtag Completely Backfired.

[1800-Flowers] Robin Thicke Flowers & Music Download.

[Vulture] Which Country Hates Robin Thicke the Most?

[The Guardian] Robin Thicke’s Video: Further Evidence That We’re Romancing the Stalker-Esque.

[WaPo] The Real Problem with Robin Thicke’s Creepy Attempts to Win His Wife Back? They’re Boring.

[Daily Life] The False Romance of “Winning Her Back”.