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The Many Stalkers of Taylor Swift

There is a fine line between pest and stalker.

One of my interests, which I’ve written about previously for Psychology Today, is research into the behavior of stalkers. Seven types of stalkers have been identified, one of which is the celebrity stalker. To minimize their exposure to stalkers, celebrities should not allow “selfies” with fans.

Yesterday I received an inquiry from a journalist, which piqued my interest and prompted me to delve into Taylor Swift and one of her stalkers (as you will see, she has oodles of them):

I'm a freelance journalist developing an article on celebrity stalking. The article focuses specifically on the case of [name deleted], a man who's become known online for harassing pop musician Taylor Swift. Of course, I recognize that you can't diagnose [name deleted] personally without having examined him, but I think you could offer some valuable general insights [about] what motivates celebrity stalking behavior and how stalkers' psychology works.

From what I’ve learned about this alleged stalker, it’s clear that he’s a pest as far as Taylor Swift is concerned — possibly to the point of making her worry about what he might do next. But I can’t say whether his behavior meets the legal definition of stalking. So I will call him “pest” rather than “stalker.”

He has repeatedly attempted to send her a song he wrote in hopes of having her record it. Each time, his submission has been refused. Swift’s agents reportedly advised the pest that she has a policy of not reviewing unsolicited material. So he sued her — twice. One case was dismissed, the other is pending.

If you think that he is merely interested in Taylor Swift for her talent and the riches that she can produce, think again. The pest desires to possess her physically. He fantasizes about a romantic connection between the two of them and sees no reason why meddling agents and others should keep them apart.

There is no reliable profile for identifying potential stalkers (nor is there a “pest” profile, as far as I know). Research has identified common traits among stalkers, but these same traits manifest in others who never stalk anyone. As you can see, these traits are not specific enough to be helpful in making predictions:

  • Unemployed or under-employed
  • Late 30s to late 40s
  • High school and/or college graduate
  • More intelligent than most criminals
  • Any race or ethnicity
  • Mostly male
  • Frequently delusional

Based on the limited time I was willing to spend reading about him, the pest appears to be a disabled white male, probably late 20s to early 30s, with a spotty work history, fairly bright in a book-learning way, but lacking social skills, emotional intelligence, and sound judgment. And he does strike me as deluded, at least where Taylor Swift is concerned.

As I mentioned earlier, Swift has many stalkers. One of them threatened to rape and kill her because, he alleges, she is his soul mate. Here’s a list of 10 people who allegedly have stalked her.

Some stalkers, of course, are more dangerous than others. I imagine the same is true of pests. For stalkers, “approach behavior” is a key indicator of who is more dangerous and who is less so.

Contrary to what you might expect, stalkers who communicate hateful, threatening, or obscene messages or content are the least likely to physically attack their target. This is especially true when the unwelcome communications are made anonymously. However, if such communications persist, the risk increases with each successive contact. Stalkers who express a desire to meet their target in person and to travel for that purpose are much more likely to be dangerous. But paradoxically, those who express a desire to have children with their target are typically less of a threat.

Based on the above criteria, I too would be concerned about the pest if I were Taylor Swift.

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