Let’s stop romanticizing the predator/prey relationship

Dear Dad,

I’ve been thinking a lot about violence in relationships, and specifically stalking. I can’t escape the impression that everywhere I look, there’s another romantic depiction of a predator/prey relationship. Our culture has a terrible tendency to glorify “the hunt,” and it has dire consequences.

A drawing of a bobcat chasing a bunny. The bunny is diving into a hole between two rocks and looking behind it with fear.

Not a depiction of the dating world.

I’ve dated men before that I wasn’t attracted to. After a date or two, I decided that we didn’t jive, and I respectfully made clear that I was not interested in a relationship with them. Some of these men express disappointment, try to convince me otherwise or understand my motives, but eventually agree that I have a right to date whom I want.

Others, on the other hand, don’t let go so easily.

The scariest example I can think of was a man who, when I told him I didn’t want to see him anymore, started sending me angry text messages. He accused me of being rude to him when I ran into him in public, though he ignored me when I said hello. He later texted me to ask why I was so bitter, why I hated him. He started calling me in the middle of the night. I remember waking up at 2 a.m., terrified, my phone vibrating and lighting up my whole room. I remember staring at it until it went to voicemail. I remember thinking how grateful I was that I’d moved out to the country and that he didn’t know where I lived.

We had only dated for a week before I realized that we didn’t really relate. I told him I wasn’t interested and so I was harassed for months. I never knew when I’d receive a midnight phone call. I never answered.

It seems so obvious that this is wrong. It should be obvious that this man was an aggressor and that I was lucky to get out with only psychological trauma. And yet these predators think of themselves as the romantic hero in some movie. Just look at people like this creep, who writes about how he is a “benevolent stalker” because his harassment is “purely an expression of affection.” Again, it seems obvious that this is not love but sexual violence, but our society is full of examples of this same type of sexual violence glorified as romance.

Just look at Maroon 5’s creepy “Animals” song. When I heard it on SNL, with lyrics like “Baby I’m preying on you tonight” and “Maybe you think that you can hide/Hunt you down, eat you alive,” I was already repulsed. Then the band released a video where Adam Levine stalks his real-life wife, complete with graphic blood rain. Given Levine’s sexy image, this video was particularly terrifying, a sex symbol portraying a stalker.

Of course, this isn’t the first time sexual violence has been glamorized in pop music. The hunter/prey dichotomy has been glorified in too many songs to count, including Pharrell’s recent “Hunter,” off of an album that is supposedly a tribute to women’s power following the critique of his creepy Robin Thicke collaboration “Blurred Lines.”

“Just because it’s the middle of the night/That don’t mean I won’t hunt you down,” Pharrell sings in “Hunter.” And in case you have any doubts that the “hunter” in this song thinks he’s being romantic, that’s immediately followed by, “‘Cause up, in, deep inside/It’s pulling me and I want your love.”

And then there are books and movies like “Twilight,” in which Edward standing in Bella’s room watching her sleep every night for months is romantic because he JUST LOVES HER SO MUCH. And girls read this and believe it!

Then, when a man “loves” a woman so much he can’t resist her, he stalks her, harasses her or assaults her, we say he’s a creep. We say these people are scary anomalies. What’s scary to me, though, is how much our society tells them that they’re good and romantic, right up until they cross some unspoken line. This includes female stalkers, though they make up only about 15 to 20 percent of all stalking cases.

It’s time to say enough is enough. I don’t support artists who create work glorifying stalking. It’s harmful and perpetuates this belief that if you love someone enough, stalking can be “benevolent.” Let’s call if what it is: sexual violence.

And I’m not standing for it anymore.

Love,

Victoria

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