On the (Rest of the) Net.

kilgrave

The toxic masculinity of Jessica Jones‘ Kilgrave—and other male anti-heroes. [Bitch Flicks]

The privilege of being able to talk freely about mental health. [Daily Life]

Don’t let anyone own you: how to start a Fuck Off Fund. [The Billfold]

Portland Community College is having a Whiteness History Month to examine white supremacy. [Bitch Magazine]

The Oscars ignore black actors like we ignore black people being killed by law enforcement. [New Yorker]

The militant ranchers who’ve occupied a national wildlife building are destroying the very land they’re looking to take back from the government—which isn’t theirs to give in the first place. [Feministe]

My dark, twisted fantasy: playing house. [The Cut]

The slow progress of Disney princess films. [Daily Life]

The Oxford dictionary is sexist. [Medium]

Sexual harassment belongs in professional wrestling no longer. [Femmezuigiri]

David Cameron called Muslim women “traditionally submissive”, they fought back on Twitter with all the ways they defy that stereotype. [Daily Life]

El Salvador—a country where abortion is illegal and birth control is hard to obtain—is asking women not to get pregnant in a bid to avoid birth defects as a result of the Zika virus. [Vocativ]

How romantic comedy stalker myths work against women when they’re actually stalked. [HuffPo]

Kanye West’s obsession with Amber Rose. [Jezebel]

His music has always been sexist. [WaPo]

Amber Rose writes in defence of herself for Time.

Image via Bustle.

80th Down Under Feminists Carnival.

Sex & Relationships.

Men find us more desirable when we’re incapacitated. [Reuters]

Rachel Hills on sex then and now. [Time]

Three former sex workers tell their stories. [Cosmopolitan]

Sometimes human bodies are just human bodies; do we have to sexualise them all the time? [SBS]

Race & Racism.

People of colour can be racist, too. [Daily Life]

“Every 28 hours a black person is killed by police or vigilantes”: what Aboriginal deaths in custody have in common with America’s current protesting of the murders of unarmed black people by police. [Daily Life]

Please don’t act so surprised that Indigenous children are 5.2 times more likely to die than non-Indigenous children. [The Koori Woman]

“When is anthropology going to start taking Indigenous theories seriously instead of subjecting them to their own analyses and theorising about them?” [Fieldnotes & Footnotes]

A guide to therapy for Asian Australians. [No Award]

Is two upper-middle-class white guys agreeing about the fate of Indigenous Australians in the constitution really the best way to go about it? [New Matilda]

Punjabi migration to New Zealand. [Stargazer]

The cycle of poverty and homelessness continues for one West Australian Indigenous family of women and girls. [The Stringer]

Reflections on #illridewithyou from the woman who started the hashtag. [Silence Without]

Australia’s racism problem in ten incidents from 2014. [The Koori Woman]

Racism in Australian media: some choice examples. [No Award]

Pop Culture & The Media.

The Australian ran a photo of Christmas-ruiner and Greens senator Larissa Waters’ young daughter wearing pink because journalism. [Junkee]

“Dear Mark Latham, Mothers Are Not the Natural Enemy of Stay-At-Home Dads.” [Daily Life]

Sarah MacDonald called the Australian Financial Review to complain about Mark Latham’s column. They called her husband back. [Women’s Agenda]

Lena Dunham and the Slenderman attempted murder both make us confront our fears of women and girls not behaving in socially prescribed ways. [Bitch Flicks]

Further to that, we’re still as captivated by witches in popular culture as we were during the medieval and Salem witch inquisitions.

What does Miss Julie have in common with Gone Girl? [Flaming Moth]

The responsible reporting of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. [Women’s Agenda]

On that note, Junkee published a guide on responsible social media use in the wake of Sydney’s hostage situation.

Why did The Guardian give a platform to an allegedly falsely accused rapist when alleged victims of rape are so rarely afforded the same? [Women’s Agenda]

“The Best Misandrist Films of 2014.” [Brocklesnitch]

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is in dire need of an update. [Hoyden About Town]

How many times do we have to read news reports on sexual assault that focus on the victim’s actions not the perpetrator? [The News With Nipples]

Ju’s Australian Women’s Writers Challenge wrap up. [The Conversationalist]

Girl-friendly video games. [On the Left]

Violence Against Women *trigger warning*.

Has 2014 been the year of the stalker?

“The Worst Time I Was Street Harassed.”

“Why Rape Jokes Are Never Okay”. [Feminaust]

We don’t need to ask why Man Haron Monis perpetrated the Sydney siege. His miles-long rap sheet of sexual and physical violence towards women speaks volumes. [Women’s Agenda]

And in the wake of the siege, a dissection of the Change.org petition calling for stricter bail laws and the impact that might have. [Hoyden About Town]

This is what happens to women who fight back against street and sexual harassment. [Daily Life]

Reproductive Rights.

Abortion should be safe, legal and be performed as often or as rarely as the woman who finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy wants and needs it to:

“We are a society that can land a rocket on a comet, splice fish genes into strawberries, and invent cars that reverse park all by themselves; we’re people that fight for marriage equality, dig deep during natural disasters and legislate overnight against ‘coward punch’ violence in the street. And yet our attitudes to the simple procedure of discontinuing a pregnancy remain shrouded in misconception.” [Daily Life]

We can’t forget informed consent when it comes to medical procedures. [On the Left]

Politics.

Tony Abbott plays that “gender card” he so often accused Julia Gillard of. [Women’s Agenda]

Further to that, it’s “too little, too late”. [No Place for Sheep]

Women lawyers have a fat chance of being considered for appointment to High Court judge. [Women’s Agenda]

A Very Tony Abbott Christmas. [Brocklesnitch]

Just like the Labor government they said they’d be nothing like, the Coalition has had their fair share of surprises and excuses since taking office. [No Place for Sheep]

The way we report on politicians’ personal lives proves that “understanding and empathy aren’t dependent on one’s relationship status or parenthood”. [No Place for Sheep]

Prime Minister Tony Abbott misses the mark on why the repealing of the carbon tax is good for women. [Curl]

Why don’t our politicians have any personality? [No Place for Sheep]

Miscellaneous & General Feminism.

Depression around Christmastime (trigger warning: suicide). [Brocklesnitch]

On identity politics: “You’re Not Really X”. [The Rainbow Hub]

“Adventures in Free-Boobing.” [Jessica Hammod]

“How to Be a Good Parent to Your Bisexual, Lesbian or Gay Child.” [Opinions @ BlueBec]

The history of cyberfeminist group VNS Matrix. [Motherboard]

How to be alone as a woman:

“To be alone is to be eccentric. To be alone and a girl is to be nuts.” [Spook Magazine]

Rachel Hills has just started a newsletter: sign up for updates on her blog, book and more! [Emails of an Inappropriate Woman]

How personal feminism evolves. [Skud]

“Pregnant Refugees Left in Sun, Denied Food & Water, Removed with Force: Advocates.” [ABC]

I said goodbye to friend and colleague Stella Young.

More farewells to Stella, from Maeve Marsden and Brocklesnitch.

On Old Fartism: “a position of social insecurity… Old Fartism can be found in people of any age or gender, but it is most prevalent among those who have lived in a world where their viewpoint and interests were reflected by default, to the exclusion of other subject categories.” [Junkee]

Critiquing modern motherhood doesn’t equate to being anti-children:

“It is indeed the opening of these doors that has rendered work-family balance problematic in the first place since it is the entry of women into the public domain, and specifically into paid employment, that problematises liberal-capitalist conceptions of the ideal worker, which presupposes a wife at home.” [Online Opinion]

Who are the top game-changing women medievalists? [Australian Medievalists]

Rosie Batty is Daily Life’s Woman of the Year.

The ugly girls club. [Daily Life]

On the Rest of the) Net.

blank space taylor swift gif

Taylor Swift could change the way we think about dating and casual sex:

“Sex without commitment is what you do before commitment, no matter what your gender. If more girls like Taylor made it okay we wouldn’t be so fucking precious about when and how girls are allowed to fuck.” [Lainey Gossip]

Bad Feminist Roxane Gay on being a bad victim. [The Butter]

Gay also writes that “2014 was the year we stopped worshipping at the altar of monsters. It was the year when we saw predators for who they really are, even if justice eludes them.” [The Guardian]

The white rappers who appropriate hip hop. [Complex]

Crafting a costume while fat. [This Ain’t Livin’]

Speaking of costumes, I went as Beyoncé standing in front of the feminist sign at the MTV VMAs to a work Christmas party last week. Check out some of the photos here.

The sexual black man in music videos. [Pitchfork]

Why aren’t we talking about the sexual assault scene in Beyond the Lights? [Shadow & Act]

Rosie Batty is Daily Life‘s well-deserved Woman of the Year.

Women ain’t got time or means to shave when the apocalypse is nigh but Hollywood would have you believe differently. [Sociological Images]

I asked what Lena Dunham and the Slenderman attempted murder have in common: they both challenge the way we think women and girls should behave. [Bitch Flicks]

ICYM them, I’ve been publishing some year-end posts throughout the week, on the prevalence of stalking, “The Year of the Witch”, Scarlett Johansson’s banner year, and not a year-end post per se but a short piece about probably the worst time I was street harassed.

Have a happy holiday season and I’ll be back this time next week with the links I loved from over the Christmas break. I’m going back to my home town to relax and have my mum round around after me, so I should have ample reading time. I hope you do, too!

Image via Buzzfeed.

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.

On Schrodinger’s Rapist.

I have a stalker.

I write that partly in jest, but I do have someone that has expressed an unwanted interest in me of late, despite no indications from me that I would be remotely interested in this person apart from being cordial when he asked me a work-related question, that could potentially turn into full blown stalking.

When I relayed this to a male friend, offhandedly saying that if I go raped in the near future he would be the most likely culprit, he initially expressed MRA-levels of outrage.

“It’s a bit unfair to automatically assume that this seemingly nice guy who probably just has a crush on you could be a rapist,” he offered.

This is not the first time I’ve received a similar response when bemoaning the unwanted male attention thrown my—and many other women’s—way.

“But what if a guy thinks you’re cute and just wants to come up and say hi and ask you out for a coffee?” one male friend asked.

There have been a few instances where that has happened, and when I’ve said thanks but no thanks, they’ve accepted that and let me go on my merry way. But we have to ask why men feel entitled to women’s bodies and time as they’re going about their business with no indication that they’re interested in being interrupted so some NiceGuy™ can air his feelings to you in the first place. Why is women’s privacy and right to be left alone less important than men’s? Patriarchal conditioning would be my best guess: boys and men are taught that they’re the gatekeepers of not only women’s bodies, but women’s happiness, too. Go out and get it/provide it, essentially.

Back to my friend who questioned my use of the stalker moniker. I agree that it is unfair to assume he’s going to rape me, but at some point, deep down, most women have to assume that all men are going to—or at the very least, can—rape them. Enter Schrodinger’s Rapist.

I’ve written about the fact that for the most part I personally don’t let fear prevent me from going out at night and, if it comes down to it, I won’t be afraid to tell my stalker where to go. But I also avoid certain areas where I know harassment is rife. Again, deep down, I know there’s always a chance I can be taken by surprise when my guard’s down because women can be harassed and raped and treated as second class citizens at any time or place.

And not only are women never truly physically safe, they’re not ideologically safe. Thankfully I’ve never been in the position to have to report a sexual assault to the police or take a sexual harassment claim further than nipping it in the bud in the first instance, but if I was, I’d surely be blamed for inciting it; abused all over again, as it were. I’m not trying to insinuate that my friend is a bad person for automatically jumping to my stalker’s defence, but even the fact that he didn’t believe my descriptions of his stalkerish ways illustrates that it takes a bit of convincing for a woman to have her claims believed.

As the husband of murdered Melbourne woman Jill Meagher, Tom Meagher, wrote for the White Ribbon blog, the myth of the rapist being a monster hiding in the bushes, as Meagher’s rapist and murderer Adrian Bayley was, blinds us to the fact that many rapes are carried out by people known to the victim. Partners, family members, friends, colleagues. So my deduction that my stalker could certainly become my rapist is not that far of a reach.

Related: The Harassed & the Harassed-Nots.

Sexual Assault, Moral Panic & Jill Meagher.

Walking While Female.

To Live & Die in Brunswick: Reflections on Jill Meagher.

On Stalking.

Elsewhere: [TheVine] Feeling Like a Stalker.

[Shapely Prose] Schrödinger’s Rapist: Or A Guy’s Guide to Approaching Strange Women Without Being Maced.

[White Ribbon] The Danger of the Monster Myth.

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”.

Guest Post: On Stalking.

I am standing at a tram stop in Brunswick waiting when a poster catches my eye. Someone has stuck it over the City of Moreland sign—a prominent place. Its headline screams: “Women Should Be Careful.” I’m hooked.

Upon reading the article I become increasingly angered as it goes on to explain how women should cover up and not expose their bodies to men as men can’t help but be attracted to that “provocative attire.” Not only should women expect to be sexually assaulted if showing skin, they are actually “asking for it.” I am outraged and start tearing the poster down but the man (I would assume and hope) has stuck it on with liquid nails. I manage anyway, throwing the wad of paper in the bin with a satisfying clunk. A woman is sitting on the bench near me also waiting for the tram. She turns to me and asks, “Didn’t like what it said?” No, I didn’t like it at all.

*

The idea that a woman is asking for it if she wears revealing clothing is repugnant. Not only is it outdated in 2011, it also allows men to get off scot-free. Whatever the length of my skirt, I refuse to be an excuse for a man’s behaviour. It is a common misconception that most women are harassed, attacked and stalked because of their provocative clothing or behaviour.

When I asked a group of friends to define the look of a stalking victim the consensus was a young (18–25) woman, thin, attractive, large breasts and, most importantly, wearing “slutty” clothing. It was also decided that most of these women will be stalked by men who had seen them out at a club/pub and followed home at very late hours. This profile is not true. According to California State University, 77% of female victims and 64% of male victims know their stalker and 59% of female victims and 30% of male victims are stalked by an intimate partner. This changes the image of a creepy guy hanging out in your garden after watching you dance at a party.

In a study by the Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault it was revealed that only 1% of women surveyed were raped by a stranger. Clearly there is a different representation of this in the media. Still, even if most cases of stalking and rape will be carried out by someone who knows the victim, there are still instances when a stranger will take a shine to them.

*

I am on the train, coming home from work. I’m wearing a black dress, black stockings and a black coat and holding a bag of groceries. I sit down and accidentally knock the man in front of me with my bag.

“Sorry,” I say giving him a small apologetic smile.

“That’s okay,” he says, looking me up and down. “Are you coming home from work?”

“Yes.” I reply, not impolitely.

He then asks me where I work, what I do etc. I proceed to tell him, being polite but not particularly inviting. He then brags about working in an industry with a lot of money and invites me to join him at his work one day soon. I decline and then get off at my stop. He also gets off at my stop and I feel a tug at my bag of groceries. He offers to carry them for me and asks if I am married. I say no but that I have a boyfriend and he tells me that “we could always break up.”

He then asks where I live and follows me home. At this point I am pretty scared. It isn’t dark, it’s not isolated, I’m not wearing anything revealing… this isn’t how I expect the stalking story to play out. I panic and actually walk down my street before common sense kicks in and I stop two houses down from mine, pretending that it is my house, even going so far as to fumble with the letterbox pretending to check for mail. I get out my keys and ask him to leave. He then tries to invite himself in for coffee, then dinner, then a chat. I say no and am rude to him for the first time.

“Aren’t you going to go inside?” he asks, as if calling my bluff.

“Not until you are down the end of this street,” I say.

Then he says the words that stop me cold: “That’s ok, I know where you live. I can come anytime.”

The problem I had after this occurred was that I felt that it had been my fault. I shouldn’t have spoken to him, I shouldn’t have smiled at him, I should have been wearing a sack… all sorts of irrational thoughts went through my mind. Actually, the only thing I should regret is practically leading him to my door. That was stupid. When I told people, I was actually asked by one friend what I was wearing. Another told me I shouldn’t have used my “devastating” smile. The most common feedback I got, however, was that I’m just too nice. I shouldn’t be so polite and friendly to men because they take it as a sign that I’m flirting. This isn’t right! It just confirms what the poster said, that it’s the woman’s responsibility not to be stalked or get raped. I’m getting quite sick of men being blameless in these situations. It is the narrative that is constantly being touted by the media, in ads like the Razzamatazz stockings where you only see a woman’s legs in Razzamatazz and in the background are the men’s reactions to her sexy legs, implying they can’t help it. One of them spills a coffee, another trips over and a third is slapped by his girlfriend for looking. Unless ads like this stop then we will forever live in a sexist society that backs up the theory that the sexualisation of women is innate and part of our evolutionary journey.

At this point, I would like to say that I was living in fear every time I got on a train. I switched to the tram, I started calling my boyfriend to meet me at the station so we could walk home together and told all of my friends what had happened.

*

I am at work, re-entering the building after a break. He’s there in the foyer greeting me like an old friend. My colleague thinks we know each other, so walks ahead and leaves us alone. I am scared. I tell him I am busy and that I finish at 5pm. Why do I say that? The fear makes me irrational.

I try to tell him I’m busy after work and not to meet me, but he just smiles and says he’ll see me at five. I walk into the administration area, call my boss and start hyperventilating. Security sees me out at 5pm. I am flanked by two friends but I don’t see him. I can only hope that he is bothering another girl instead, then feel terrible for inflicting him on someone else.

*

I haven’t seen him since. I do live with the idea of him in that back of my mind, though. I just wish that other victims of stalking don’t blame themselves. Whatever I wear, wherever I go, yes means yes and no means no.

—Laura Money.

Related: Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

The Taboos of Sexual Harassment.

On Stripping.

Elsewhere: [California State University Department of Police Services] Stalking, Threats & Annoying/Harassing Calls.

[Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault] Statistical Information.