Belfast Telegraph

Sorry Jamie, but women don't want to be stalked in real life, even by you

By Mollie Goodfellow

I wonder if Jamie Dornan knows what it feels like to be followed? Most women do, doubtless including the one he has admitted to stalking in preparation for a role. I was walking home from college last Friday when I attracted a rather unwanted companion. There I was, strolling in the sunshine listening to David Bowie, when a stranger walking fast enough to keep up with me insisted on making eye contact until I removed my headphones.

Frankly, I just wanted to get home. I'd had a long afternoon of shorthand, and this was not part of my evening plans. He asked my name, I told him it was Hannah - it's not. He asked my age, and I told him I was 17. I'm not, but I hoped the underage lie would make him leave me alone. It didn't. He asked whether I was single. I said I wasn't. He said it didn't matter. He kept following me, despite my tone being sharp and my answers short. I've been followed a few times before, and the thing is you can't go straight home because they'll know where you live. So I had to take a detour. Eventually I managed to slip through a big crowd of men outside a pub and head down a side road, losing him.

He wasn't aggressive, he didn't touch me, and I managed to get home, but nevertheless it freaked me out.

Being followed is not a pleasant experience, and why any man would admit to doing it, let alone enjoying it is beyond me. There's something quite sadistic in admitting a thrill to doing something so predatory. But Dornan has told the LA Times that to get into the mindset of a character he actually stalked a real woman on the underground. He said it felt "exciting, in a really dirty way".

Well good for you Jamie, but for the woman being followed, it's not exciting, even in a 'dirty' way. It's frightening and it makes you question if you are capable of even walking outside alone. Jamie makes no mention of whether he approached the woman he chose to practice on to let her in on his scheme. I called a friend after my experience last week, and we talked about our multiple experiences of being followed in public. Something we both felt strongly was that men just don't understand what it's like.

I'm a rather small woman who, despite a sharp wit, is not particularly able to defend herself. I am well aware that if I was followed and the man tried to attack me, I'd be in real trouble. It means if someone starts walking too close, I feel vulnerable. Some men are conscious of this - they cross the street when walking behind a woman at night time, knowing that their very presence can be the trigger of deep anxiety.

Women are taught the 'rules' for walking home at night time - talk to a friend on the phone, put your keys between your fingers ready to attack if necessary, don't wear high heels in case you need to run, don't wear your hair up as it makes it easier for men to grab you.

Perhaps there could be a similar checklist for men? Don't walk too closely behind a woman walking alone, if you're in a group try not to be too loud or laddish, wear a high-vis jacket so that you're easily visible to all.

So Jamie, next time you want to get your method acting on and use women as a means to an end, perhaps you could ask a female friend to be in on the game and you can play stalk around your local park, rather than preying on other women.

Sure it might not be as 'real' for you, but let me assure you, stalking is very real for the women that endure it - no matter what the intention.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph