The lost little boy

If I had a dollar for every time a man sent me an obnoxious message or tried to be my ‘fraand’ (friend*, yes, some spell it as such, perhaps for emphasis or simply because they do not know otherwise,) I would be a wealthy woman; not that being rich is particularly a priority in life, but that’s me being diplomatic and acting like a goody two shoes. Of course, I don’t mind being rich at all but not at the expense of creepy and vulgar messages from potential stalkers.
I have half a mind not to block the next one and perhaps have an exploratory conversation with one to understand the motivation behind such messages and the gratification they seek from pursuing random women and not getting affected by any insult whatsoever, or maybe that’s my perception but in essence, moving from one woman to another until someone responds and something starts that may look like a relationship or friendship; both physical and emotional.
I am curious to understand what drives this behaviour by these persistent men. What’s the psyche behind stalking various women on social media, getting attracted to a photo, and relentlessly pursuing contact? I believe this behaviour is instigated by multiple explicit and implicit factors that include personal motives and social and cultural factors rooted in the collective psyche of society.
On the surface, it looks like the need for a friend. Still, underlying that is sexual frustration as most men, immediately post sending a few platonic messages, start to sing a different tune to start sexual advances. There is also a power play being enacted and validation seeking that the man gets when a female stranger responds to them and succumbs to the pressure of their pursuing. And sometimes, it is simply the thrill of the chase, a common term we hear; the law of attraction for the unavailable.
I remember the last time I got a similar message, and I chose to respond by saying that I would report him when he kept contacting me from one number after another; the man replied with a know-it-all statement, ‘see, you answered, so it means you are interested too.’ Are you kidding me? It smelled of narcissistic beliefs rooted in the misogynist Pakistani society. For example, this man believed that his inappropriate reaching out was something I desired and found it hard to say no. Our patriarchal society is the perfect breeding ground for an inter-generational misogynist attitude that objectifies women and sees them as an object of desire rather than another person with her own choices and rights.
It also makes me think that these men welcome even a negative response because it’s validating for the man that the woman was affected, irrespective of the nature of the impact.
We all have our wounded inner children. I wonder if a lost little boy within these males is seeking attention. And that need for attention manifests in inappropriate ways based on their family history, social background, and so on.
They are over-sexualised, and that’s no surprise, as since becoming a therapist, I realised how common child sexual abuse is and such behaviour can be driven by experiencing sexual abuse at a younger age. Also, in our culture, boundaries are still an alien concept, so for these men not to take a woman’s no for an answer is not surprising.
I also find this persistence by these men to be a very child-like state. This demand for attention is like a spoiled toddler stamping his feet on the ground, wanting immediate gratification. A lack of impulse control is usually found in adults who were not emotionally taken care of as children by their parents.
As a therapist, I can continue to dig deeper within the psyche to understand all of this and perhaps empathise with the individual who chooses this way to act out his personal wounding story but as a woman who feels harassed by such messages, I will continue to block these men and can only hope for a change.

The writer is a BACP (British Association For Counselling and Psychotherapy) accredited individual and couple psychotherapist based in Islamabad. She can be reached at or her official website.

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