Romantic and Electronic Stalking in a College Context

4 Wm. & Mary J. Women & L. 373 (1998)

95 Pages Posted: 22 May 2017

See all articles by Rebecca K. Lee

Rebecca K. Lee

Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Date Written: 1998


Stalking is an insidious crime which can terrorize a victim for months and even years. Stalking occurs more often than we may realize, affecting not only celebrities and entertainers, but also ordinary people. The Internet is now another medium through which people are stalked, ushering in the age of electronic stalking. The much-touted explanation for stalking is psychological; individual mental illnesses are supposed to explain stalking behavior. The pervasiveness of the crime, however, suggests the possibility that stalking is not individually rooted. If stalking activity is not restricted to the mentally disturbed, then what exactly motivates or encourages so many people to stalk? By limiting the causes of stalking to the domain of mental disturbance, we run the risk of not understanding the potentially deeper nature of the phenomenon, thereby hindering us from taking a proactive rather than reactive approach to the problem.

I argue that stalking is not predominately socially-deviant behavior, but in fact, to a certain extent, socially-sanctioned behavior, instituted and encouraged by Western courtship mores and notions of romance. I challenge the psychological explanatory models regarding stalking and offer my Western romance theory as an alternative explanation. To bolster my claims, I adopt a multi-pronged research approach. I present a socio-cultural analysis of stalking behavior from historical times to the present, and also discuss stalking's growing presence on our nation's college campuses. I take a close look at the problem of stalking in academic settings through both personal interviews with college stalking targets and a nationwide stalking survey I conducted at various undergraduate institutions. I extend my socio-cultural analysis by investigating the impact that the information super-highway has on stalking activity. By recognizing that stalking may stem from socio-cultural factors, we can better trace the potential path of this "romance problem" and confront it before unwelcome and persistent romantic interest escalates into serious stalking.

Keywords: stalking, cyberstalking, harassment, college stalking, dating, romance, courtship, erotomania, mental illness, empirical research, survey research

JEL Classification: I20, I23, K14, K40, K42

Suggested Citation

Lee, Rebecca K., Romantic and Electronic Stalking in a College Context (1998). 4 Wm. & Mary J. Women & L. 373 (1998). Available at SSRN:

Rebecca K. Lee (Contact Author)

Thomas Jefferson School of Law ( email )

1155 Island Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
United States
619-961-4268 (Phone)

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