Elizabeth Brake will present the 2023 Rhoden Lecture titled "How Does Stalking Wrong the Victim?"
ABSTRACT: Stalking is widespread and has serious consequences; but, like intimate partner violence in general, it is underexamined in moral philosophy. In this paper, I develop an account of the essential moral wrong of stalking. Such an account must solve a puzzle: some cases of stalking consist in behavior which would normally be permissible, such as appearing in public places. How does the stalker wrong his victim by engaging in behavior which would normally be permissible? I argue that the stalker tries to force a personal relationship on the target, and that this is the essential wrong of stalking. I further argue that our interest in being able to refuse such relationships is strong enough to ground a right. Trying to force a personal relationship is distinct from a simple privacy violation or from forcing association. It might be thought that this account does not do justice to the violence associated with many cases of stalking. But my point is that trying to force a relationship is a serious wrong, and one which disproportionately affects women in a variety of contexts. Further, I see it as a benefit of my account if it changes the standards of what kinds of attention- and intimacy-seeking behavior we consider permissible.
Elizabeth Brake is a Professor of Philosophy at Rice University and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Applied Philosophy. She holds a PhD in Philosophy from the University of St. Andrews. Brake’s research is primarily in feminist ethics and political philosophy. She is the author of Minimizing Marriage: Marriage, Morality, and the Law and has published in journals such as Ethics, Journal of Moral Philosophy, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Social Theory and Practice, Kantian Review, and Economics & Philosophy. She is currently working on two new projects: one on the state’s role in disaster response, and one on wrongful behavior in intimate personal relationships.