Where Romance Meets Stalking: How Heteronormative Gender Beliefs Perpetuate Stalking Culture
Evidence suggests that we live in a stalking culture; that is, a culture in which stalking is normalized, minimized, and romanticized through various cultural institutions. This study examines potential pathways in which stalking is normalized: through gender, heteronormative beliefs, and sexual scripts surrounding heterosexual romantic pursuit. The data come from an original vignette study (N=821) and are analyzed using logistic regression and ordinary least squares regression. The findings suggest that gender significantly impacts the likelihood of labeling cyberstalking as well as perceptions of cyberstalking as socially acceptable. Further, heteronormativity, and its components—hostile sexism, benevolent sexism, and sexual double standards—predict higher endorsement of cyberstalking. Through a theoretical framework of sexual scripts, gender, and heteronormativity, this study builds on the limited literature on perceptions of stalking and on the further limited literature on perceptions of cyberstalking. Moreover, it begins to shed light on how the sexual norms of “the real world” apply to the elusive, understudied cyberworld. Through this study, we are one step closer to finding an answer to the question: where do we draw the line between ordinary romance and sexual violence?