Motivation and emotion/Book/2019/Stalking motivation

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Stalking motivation:
What motivates a person to stalk and how can it be prevented?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Rebecca Schaeffer is an actress/model stalked by Roberto John Bardo in 1989.

Stalking behaviour has become a social problem and notably caught the public's attention between 1988 to 1991 (Mullen & Pathé, 2002). Social researchers considered stalking as a phenomenon that [missing something?] slowly impacting criminal justice, public and mental health (Nobles et al.,2018). Rebecca Schaeffer (Figure 1), a model and an actress at CBS comedy "My Sister Sam", was stalked and murdered by Roberto John Bardo in 1989[where?]. Carolyn Warmus stalked Betty Jeanne Solomon, her lover's wife, also led to a tragic crime and was convicted in 1992 of second degree murder and illegal possession of firearms[where?].

Approximately 1 million women and 371,000 men are stalked yearly as well as 8% women and 2% men in the United States reported that they had been stalked sometime in their lives (Amar & Alexy ,2010). Celebrity stalking cases are known cases because of their popularity that led policy makers in submitting anti-stalking law but most of the stalking cases involved ordinary or non-popular people (Etervic-Soric et al., 2017).

The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the motivation of stalking and how an individual can prevent or stop the behaviour. First, we will discuss the definition of stalking and then we will focus our discussion on stalking motivation through research. We will then examine studies that suggests victim's coping strategies to attempt to prevent the stalking and the future directions of research about stalking.

Focus Question
  1. What is stalking?
  2. What are the behaviours that can be linked to stalking?
  3. Is stalking a mental disorder or a behaviour?
  4. How does neurobiology explains[grammar?] stalking?

What is stalking?[edit | edit source]

The definition of stalking through research are[grammar?] not conclusive, however,[grammar?] practitioners and researchers are describing the same characteristic of behaviour and considering the behaviour as a chronic problem (Sheridan, Blaauw & Davies, 2003)[vague].

Stalking is defined as an intimidating and intentional act of persistent harassment,[grammar?]of one person by another that threatens his or her safety (Mullen et al.,2009; Miller,2012). There are three conditions needs to be met to be qualified as stalking, these are; (a) the perpetrator harasses or follows frequently, (b) the behaviour is unwelcome and (c) the victim feels threatened and admitting of feeling fearful (Dietz & Martin, 2007).

Motivations of stalkers[edit | edit source]

Spitzberg & Cupach (2006) stated the stalking motivations and triggers are still not conclusive, however, the first step to identify an effective treatment to manage stalking situations is to define the types of stalking (typologies) (Raccine & Billick, 2013). These most common typologies are:

Typology of stalking[edit | edit source]

  • Zona's stalker (1993) - Zona, Sharma, and Lane worked within the Los Angeles Police Department's Threat Management Unit who proposes[grammar?] these typologies in 1993 (Racine & Billick, 2013). The authors put the stalkers in one of these three classifications:
    1. Simple obsession stalker - stalker and the victim has a prior relationship, most of the cases are a male stalker. Most of the stalkers has been reported to have personality disorder and/or substance abuse issues (Miller, 2012). This group of stalker[grammar?] are motivated to pressure the victim to return in the relationship or to seek revenge because of unfair break-up (Raccine & Billick, 2013),[grammar?] and the most commonly reported cases of stalking (Meloy, 2001 as cited in Eterovic-Soric, Choo, Ashman & Mubarak, 2017).
    2. Love obsessional stalker- stalker may have or may not know the victim, the stalker is delusional, they strongly believe that the victim is denying the fact that they also feel the intense feeling of love towards them. Cases of celebrity stalkers fall in this category (Miller, 2012).
    3. Erotomanic stalkers - stalker are mostly woman, persuading casual or strangers target believing that the target is in love with them (Miller, 2012).
  • Mullen's stalker typology (1999) - This was a study of 145 cases that were referred to a forensic psychiatry centre for treatment. This case was largely reviewed by Mullen, Pathe, Purcell and Stuart in 1999. The authors widen the previous group based on stalker's motivation as well as considering the kind of relationship that stalker-victim dyad is made up. Some of the stalker's profile may fit more than one classification (Raccine & Billick, 2013).
    1. Rejected stalker - motivated by retaliation for unfair dismissal or pressuring to reconciliate with the victim whom they had an intimate relationship.
    2. Intimacy seekers - pursuing ex-partners or acquaintances believing that the victim is still secretly in love with them, thus, most of the stalker[grammar?] in this category is socially inept and mostly psychotic.
    3. Incompetent stalker - the same concept with the intimacy stalker, however, they are only motivated by a sense of entitlement for a date or sexual gratification with the target.
    4. Resentful stalker - behaviour is motivated by revenge and injury to their ego. The stalker use intimidation and threats providing them with the sense of control of the situation.
    5. Predatory - behaviour is sexual in nature, mostly reported [awkward expression?] of these cases were men having a history of criminal convictions. The stalker engages in following the victim and leading to the preparation of sexual assault or domestic violence.
  • RECON (Relationship (RE) and Context-Based (CON)) - proposed by Mohandie, Meloy, McGowan and Williams that was based on the context of the stalker-target relationship (Eterovic-Soric, Choo, Ashman & Mubarak, 2017):
    1. Intimate are stalkers who had been involved with the target such as ex-partner or previous sexual relationship and Acquaintance - stalkers known to the victim in a professional relationship, non-intimate friendship and clinician-patient interactions. This classification is based on the context of the victim had a prior relationship with the stalker such as client-psychologist relationship or client-lawyer relationship, etc.
    2. Public figure are those of popular person or a celebrity stalker and Private stranger are that stalker[grammar?] who victimised someone who is not popular or are not a public figure. This classification is based on the context of the victim having no prior relationship with the stalker.
  • Cyberstalking - is a stalking strategy by using a computer or any technology to harass, threat or contacting the victim repeatedly (Miller, 2012). The author describes different forms of cyberstalking which includes using different spyware to monitor the victim, using victim's identity to send messages or doing activity online mostly pornography and taking victim's nude photos or videos without the victim's approval (Miller,2012). The internet age has opened up toll[say what?] and research which allows the perpetrator to know a person's life in details without the victim's knowledge or consent (Eterovic-Soric et al.,2017).

Stalking behaviours[edit | edit source]

Logan and Walker (2015) stated that creative stalkers uses a variety of tactics and it is impossible to conclude the list of all possible tactics. There are eight categories of stalking behaviours that are commonly mentioned in literature of stalking and these are:

  • Hyperintimacy behaviours: is a classic courtship behaviour but in uttermost level such as endless phone calls, showering with cards, gifts, flowers and emails. Although it seems normal at first, however, it becomes creepily desperate over time.
  • Mediated Contacts: this behaviour is increasingly becoming common as this involves the excessive use of technology such as text messaging, emails and can lead to Cyberstalking.
  • Interactional contacts: involves direct interpersonal encounters such as showing up at the victim's school class or stalker enrolling in the same course as the victim, working on where the victim works or meeting the victim's families, friends or partner.
  • Surveillance tactics: following the victim anywhere, gathering information about the victim by using the victim's friends or family. The stalker may or may not let their victim know and without them revealing themselves to scare or intimidate the victim makes them feel in control.
  • Invasion tactics involves hacking into the victim's computer files or a stealing property or vandalising the victim's car or property.
  • Harassment and intimidation involves harassing the victim's friend and relatives or may try to compromise the victim's work status.
  • Coercion and threat involves directly harming the victim, her pets, her friends or damaging the victim's property and this is their way to influence the victim in desperation.
  • Physical aggression and violence involves physical assault, sexual assault, murder, suicide or attacking the victim's friends, relatives or anyone they directly involved with the victim
Figure 2. Attachment Theory Model

Theoretical framework of stalking[edit | edit source]

Studies are consistent in findings that victims who experienced severe psychological, physical and economic cost are those who had a prior romantic relationship with their stalker (Sheridan & Lyndon, 2012). Spitzberg and Cupach mentioned that although these typologies and behaviours are useful information, this does not offer an explanation. The authors further suggested that there are two theoretical frameworks that may assist in explaining stalking and unwanted pursuit and this includes:

  • Attachment theory offer[grammar?] a general explanation about dysfunctional relationships and stalking behaviour (Miller,2012). Miller discusses how children develop attachment style and have a great influence of either a feeling of security in an interpersonal relationship (secure attachment) or may think that the world is cold and full of rejection in adult life (insecure attachment, figure 2) styles. Insecure attachment styles will[grammar?] be perceiving break up as a stinging rejection, that stalker believes that they can reclaim what they have or the victim deserves to be punished and humiliated (Miller,2012) and this includes:
    • dismissive attachment style which is confrontational towards others, people who have narcissistic personalities display this behaviour,
    • preoccupied attachment style may seek for self-loathing or desperate validation from others and;
    • fearful-avoidant style will try to avoid entanglements all together or will find one attachment figure that they will trust to take care of them.
  • Relational goal pursuit theory described an individual that excessively pursuing a relationship because they believe that it is still feasible and desirable (Spiztberg & Cupach, 2007). A study reported that jealousy and difficulty of letting go are associated with pursuing the former partner (Deuuton-Greene, 2004 as cited in Spitzberg & Cupach, 2012).

Evolutionary Perspective in stalking

Duntley and Buss (2012) proposed that these are the available resources or strategies, despite it's[grammar?] the cost to the stalker, is favoured to help them address their issues of selecting a mate. They hypothesized that the functions of stalking which includes:

  • acquiring a new mate
  • guarding an existing mate to prevent defection
  • fending off potential mate poachers
  • poaching away someone else's mate
  • strategically interfering with competitors for mates
  • reacquiring an ex-mate
  • sexual exploitation and predation
  • guarding female mates and kin to prevent them from being sexually exploited

Psychopathology of stalking[edit | edit source]

Nijdam-Jones, Rosenfield, Gerbrandij, Quick & Galietta (2018) emphasised the role of psychopathology in explaining the unusual characteristics and behaviours of stalking offenders. Research has relied on those people who are referred to psychiatric clinics or hospital, hence, emphasising the role of psychopathology in stalking offenders is not surprising (Nijdam-Jones et. al, 2018). This chapter will focus on the common mental disorder that has been linked with stalking situations which are:

  • Erotomania is defined as an unrealistic belief that an individual is passionately loved by a prestigious or a popular person (Nijdam-Jones et al.,2018). The erotomanic delusions usually start when an individual, mostly in their puberty stage, met someone who resembles an ideal love story or an individual appears to be interested to be a part of that ideal romantic ordeal (Seeman, 2015).
  • Axis 1 disorder such as Psychotic or Paraphiliac disorder McEwan and Strand (2013) study indicated that the individual who more likely to stalk a stranger or acquaintances is most likely diagnosed with this disorder. The authors highlighted the motivation or the goal that is associated with the disorder, such that paraphilias, stalked because they are seeking sexual gratifications (motivation) or sexual relationship (goal) from their victims (McEwan & Strand, 2013). Consistent with other studies researchers agreed that a stalker who is psychotic is not considered at risk of carrying out an act of violence, perhaps because they can't think or make a plan due to disorganised thinking (Miller, 2012).
  • Borderline personality disorder is characterised as a pattern of erratic behaviour paired with frenetic efforts to avoid imagined abandonment (R. A. Sansone & L.A. Sansone, 2010). This disorder is found among female stalkers and is persistent with attachment pathology found in domestic violence and stalking studies in men (Meloy & Fisher, 2005). BPD has been found and linked with stalkers who victimised their former partner and indicated higher rates of violence ( Nijdam-Jones et al.,2018). Antisocial, borderline or narcissistic types are found to be more likely to act in violence (Miller, 2012). Unwanted Pursuit Behaviour (UPB) was also associated with and described as a product of BPD as they display impulsivity, recklessness and unable to control emotions (De Smet, Uzieblo, Loeys, Buysse & Onraedt, 2015).
  • Substance abuse disorder Consistent with other research it is clearly suggested that those who have substance use disorder has[grammar?] a vast antisocial behaviour pattern within the subset of stalking offenders and is identified as a huge risk factor for violence (Churcher & Nesca, 2013; Harmon et al., 1998; Mullen et al., 1999; Rosenfield, 2004; Rosenfield & Harmon, 2002 as cited in Nijdam-Jones et al.,2018).

Case study
Tina is 25 years old, and lives alone in her apartment, across a shopping centre that she works for as a cashier. During work hours, Tina was always on the lookout for Robert, feeling uncomfortable when Robert was in the store. Tina was familiar with Robert, as she always saw him in the store wanting to have a chat with her. At first, Tina thought that Robert was nice and just being friendly. It became scary when Robert started showering her with flowers and gifts, and pursuing her to have a date with her. Tina also observed that Robert started showing up on her yoga class and to her favourite restaurant. Tina confronted Robert to stop his behaviour, however, this just made the situation worse. Robert saw this as a sign that Tina was feeling the same way towards him and that Tina was making an excuse to get his attention by getting mad at him. Tina asked her manager to transfer her to another store, even though this would mean she would have to drive 30 minutes from her apartment to the store. However, this did not stop Robert in following her. Tina quit her job and moved out of state to protect herself from Robert.

By understanding the different typologies of stalking and the mentioned psychopathology, what do you think best describe Robert and why?

Biology of stalking[edit | edit source]

Figure 3.The main dopaminergic pathways of the human brain.

Biological investigation of stalking was difficult until the advancements of technology of neuroimaging were available to assist researchers in measuring the physiological of any social behaviour (Meloy & Fisher, 2005). Here are some biological studies that may linked to stalking:

  • Meloy and Fisher (2005) mentioned about the "sex drive" primarily with testosterone and specific brain systems is the motivation to achieve sexual gratification in both sexes. The author further associated the motivation to pursue a specific romantic attraction with subcortical dopaminergic pathways (figure 2) in the reward system of the brain and the activation heightened the motivation (energy) to pursue their victim while suppressing serotogenic[spelling?] which results in the stalker's obsessive behaviour (Meloy & Fisher, 2005).
  • Yin et al. (2018) study showed[grammar?] greater activity in subcortical regions ( the insula and caudate nucleus) with men compared to women. Insula[grammar?] had been associated with emotions regulations and caudate nucleus had been associated with motivation which suggests that men and women perceive romantic cues. This study shows that men who stalk are more motivated to have a sexual relationship compared to women (Yin et al. 2018).
  • Boisvert et al. (2017) studied low resting heart rate (LRHR) associated with autonomic nervous system functioning which had been associated with a wide range of aggressive behaviour. The result showed that LRHR is characterised as an individual who is less fearful in pursuing their victims. The study also revealed that LRHR is more prevalent with male rather than with females (Boisvert et al., 2017).

Prevention of stalking[edit | edit source]

Sheridan et al. (2003) stated that prevention should not only focus on the stalkers, the victims or the criminal system alone but rather the interactions between the three.  The authors further suggested that there are three areas to stop stalking:

  • victim directed interventions where safety planning should be focusing on the victim's resilience,
  • stalker directed interventions where stalkers should be supported accordingly if they have mental disorder, however, future research is needed in this area and
  • stalking directed interventions where the criminal justice system such as restraining order should have a focus on the policy that involves risk assessment

This book chapter will focus on victim's preventive measures in an attempt to prevent or stop stalking. Here is some prevention that is commonly mentioned in stalking research:

Victim coping responses

  • Moving with tactics refers to the victim's attempt to reason, beg or negotiate with the stalker to stop. This tactic may not be effective with those stalkers who are obsessed or an ex-partner who wanted revenge (Miller, 2012).
  • Moving away tactics refers to the victim to attempt to avoid the stalker by changing their routines, moving interstate or taking security measures (Dutton & Winstead, 2011). However, when the stalker is an ex-partner, this does not stop them to have access to the victim's life ( Miller, 2012).
  • Moving-inward activities refers to the victim taking actions in empowering themselves which includes psychotherapy, ignoring the problem or taking alcohol/drugs (Dutton & Winstead, 2011). This step may temporary dealing with stress but it does not address the real problem of stalking (Miller, 2012).
  • Moving-outward activities refers to the victim seeking emotional support from the third party such as law enforcement or criminal justice system by taking out restraining orders. This step (restraining orders) is proven to be effective in 85% of stalking scenarios and the remaining 15% of cases are those stalkers who do not care about the consequences (Miller, 2012).
  • Stalker deterrent strategies refers to strategies that victims need not be helpless by following the recommendations from the threat management experts and this strategy can be applied to the male victim as well (Miller, 2012).


Mullen and Pathé (2002) suggested that stalkers who have mental disorders require continuing support of interventions and treatments of pharmacology combined. For example, stalkers who have delusional disorder best respond on psychotherapy along with anti-psychotic medications or a paraphiliacs requires a referral to mental health facilities that are specialised in sex offender programs. They further stated that rather than focusing on the mental disorders in managing stalkers, some strategies are more effective when it is aimed at encouraging the victim to take actions (Mullen & Pathé, 2002).

Quiz[edit | edit source]


1 What is an intimidating and intentional act of persistent harassment, of one person by another, that threatens his or her safety or to feel threaten[grammar?] and fearful?


2 It is a type of stalking that classifies stalker in the context of the previous stalker-victim relationship and the context in which the relationship is based?[grammar?]

Mullen's Stalker
The RECON Stalker
Zona's stalker

3 It is a mental disorder that characterised as a pattern of erratic and unstable relationship paired with frenetic efforts to avoid imagined abandonment?[grammar?]

Borderline personality
Substance abuse disorder

Figure 4. What does stalking looks like?
Figure 5. Stalking experiences is[grammar?] associated with fear but not all.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Palermo (2013) stated that term stalking may in fact [missing something?] obtained from hunting as it is a crime motivated by control and power which is probably why most offenders are males who have criminal convictions (Malsch, 2007). It is also consistent that researchers are finding that having a prior relationship with a stalker cause more serious physical, psychological, economic and social cost (Sheridan & Lyndon, 2012). Break-up situations are common factors of stalking and psychotherapeutic intervention for those stalkers who have borderline characteristics may help reduce cases of stalking.

The conditions the needs to be met for stalking[vague], such as feeling threatened or to feel fear, seems controversial. Dietz and Martin (2007) argued that the experience of repeated harassment regardless of the victim's emotions should already be already [Rewrite to improve clarity] be qualified as stalking. The author further stated that not all stalking experiences are associated with the feeling of fear, some of the cases victims feel angry or annoyed which the victim perceived the behaviour as stalking (Ngo & Paternoster, 2016).

Researchers are also encouraging the policymaker to develop interventions (for both perpetrator and the victim) to lessen or stop stalking instead of trying to ameliorate its effect on victims (Logan & Walker, 2015). Alarmingly, research had shown that stalkers who use various substances[vague] are more likely to do harm to their victims (Churcher & Nesca, 2013) and is indicating as an obvious factor in acting out the threats (Mullen & Pathé, 2002)[vague]. These studies suggest that stalking is an obvious social, health and mental problem which the criminal justice, medical and mental health professional needs to work together in tackling this problem (Mullen & Pathé, 2002).

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Amar, A., & Alexy, E. (2010). Coping with stalking.Issues in mental Health Nursing, 31 8–14. doi:10.3109/01612840903225602

Boisvert, D., Wells, J., Armstrong, T., Lewis, R. H., Woeckener, M., & Nobles, M. R. (2017). Low resting heart rate and stalking perpetration. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1-26, doi:10.1177/0886260517698823

Churcher, F., & Nesca, M. (2013). Risk factors for violence in stalking perpetration: A meta-analysis. FWU Journal of Social Sciences, 7(2), 100–112. Retrieved from

De Smet, O., Uzieblo, K., Loeys, T., Buysse, A., & Onraedt, T. (2015). Unwanted pursuit behavior after breakup: Occurrence, risk factors, and gender differences. JOURNAL OF FAMILY VIOLENCE, 30(6), 753–767. doi:10.1007/s10896-015-9687-9

Dietz, N., & Martin, P. (2007). Women who are stalked. Violence Against Women, 13(7). doi: 10.1177/1077801207302698

Duntley, J. D., & Buss, D., M. (2012). The evolution of stalking. Sex Roles, 66, 311-327. doi:10.1007/s11199-010-9832-0

Dutton, L., & Winstead, B. (2011). Types, frequency, and effectiveness of responses to unwanted pursuit and stalking. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26(6), 1129–1156. doi:10.1177/0886260510368153

Eterovic-Soric, B., Choo, K., Ashman, H., & Mubarak, S. (2017). Stalking the stalkers – detecting and deterring stalking behaviours using technology: a review. Computers & Security,70, 278–289. doi:10.1016/j.cose.2017.06.008

Joshua D. D., & Buss D. M. (2012). The evolution of stalking. Springer, 66, 311-327. doi: 10.1007/s11199-010-9832-0

Logan, T., & Walker, R. (2017). Stalking: A multidimensional framework for assessment and safety planning. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 18, 200–222. doi:10.1177/1524838015603210

Malsch, M. (2007). Stalking: Do criminalization and punishment help? Punishment & Society, 9(2), 201–209. doi:10.1177/1462474507074751&lt

McEwan, T., & Strand, S. (2013). The role of psychopathology in stalking by adult strangers and acquaintances. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 47(6), 546–555. doi: 10.1177/0004867413479408&lt

Meloy, R. J., & Fisher, H. (2005). Some thoughts on the neurobiology of stalking. J Forensic Sci, 50(6). doi:10.1520/JFS2004508

Miller, L. (2012). Stalking: Patterns, motives, and interventions strategies. Aggression and Violent Behaviour, 17, 495-506. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2012.07.001

Mullen, P. E., & Pathé, M., (2002). Stalking. Crime and Justice:Review Research, 29, 273-318. Retrieved from https://heinonline.og/HOL/License

Nijdam-Jones, A., Rosenfeld, B., Gerbrandij, J., Quick, E., & Galietta, M. (2018). Psychopathology of stalking offenders: Examining the clinical, demographic, and stalking characteristics of a community-based sample. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 45, 712–731. doi:10.1177/0093854818760643

Ngo, F., & Paternoster, R. (2016). Toward an understanding of the emotional and behavioral reactions to stalking: A partial test of general strain theory. Crime & Delinquency, 62, 703–727. doi: 10.1177/0011128713510077&lt

Nobles, M., Cramer, R., Zottola, S., Desmarais, S., Gemberling, T., Holley, S., & Wright, S. (2018). Prevalence rates, reporting, and psychosocial correlates of stalking victimization: Results from a three-sample cross-sectional study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 53, 1253–1263. doi: 10.1007/s00127-018-1557-3

Palermo, M. T. (2013).  Under siege? Psychiatrists and stalking. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 57, 523-525. doi:10.1177/0306624x13485296

Racine, C., & Billick, S. (2013).  Classification systems for stalking behavior. Journal of Forensic sciences, 59, 250-254. doi:10.1111/1556-4029.12262

Sansone, R., & Sansone, L. (2010). Fatal attraction syndrome: Stalking behavior and borderline personality. Psychiatry, 7, 42–46. Retrieved from

Seeman, M. (2016). Erotomania and recommendations for treatment. Psychiatric Quarterly, 87, 355–364. doi:10.1007/s11126-015-9392-0

Sheridan L. P., Blauuw E., & Davies G. M. (2003).  Stalking knowns and unknowns. TRAUMA,VIOLENCE, & ABUSE, 4,148-162. doi: 10.1177/1524838002250766

Sheridan, L., & Lyndon, A. (2012). The influence of prior relationship, gender, and fear on the consequences of stalking victimization. Sex Roles, 66, 340–350. doi:10.1007/s11199-010-9889-9

Spitzberg, B., H. & Cupach, W., R. (2007). The state of the art of stalking: taking stock of the emerging literature. Aggression and Violent Behaviour, 12. 64-86. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2006.05.001

Ying, Z., Zou, Z., Song, H., Zhang, Z., Yang, B., & Huang, X. (2018). Cognition, emotion and reward networks associated with sex differences for romantic appraisals.  Scientific Reports, 8(2835). doi:10.1038/s41598-018-21079-5

External links[edit | edit source]

  • Stalking Amanda a documentary about a teenage girl who took her own life because of a stalker who extort her for nude photos.
  • Japan's Stalking an al Jazeera documentary about Japan's growing number of stalking, interviewing stalkers and their motivations.
  • YOU (Netflix Series) a Netflix documentary series about an obsessed individual that go beyond extreme measures to be part of someone's life.
  • Obsession (Dark desires) a Netflix series about men and women who life had been jeopardised because an individual's obsession.