Gender, Bodies and Cyberstalking: Embodying Theory, Developing Methodology
The exponential growth of advanced communication technologies has corresponded with diverse opportunities for criminal offending within this arena. New forms of deviance are supported by the unique characteristics of the Internet environment, whilst pre-existing crimes are also paralleled online. Research indicates that content related offences, including cyberstalking and online sexual harassment, mirror offline gender disparities, although research addressing this disparity is minimal. The disparate victimisation of women, and the characteristics of cyberstalking, facilitates the recognition of this offence as a gendered form of harassment and the development of a theoretical framework responsive to this disparity. However, current theories addressing the Internet often display concepts concurrent with what is commonly referred to as the online disembodiment thesis. These concepts, namely the promotion of an absolute demarcation between the online and offline environment and the notion that bodies can be transcended online, are problematic when addressing the online victimisation of women as feminist theorists have located much of women's power in the centrality of the body. To inform the development of a gendered framework appropriate for an assessment of cyberstalking this thesis rejected the online disembodiment thesis, alternatively employing the theories of the body to develop a theoretical framework appropriate for an examination of cyberstalking. Criminologists are currently in an exploratory research era in regards to cybercrime, the growth of which has thus far not been matched by criminological scholarship. Consequently, there currently exists little methodological precedent for the researcher intending to qualitatively examine the online victimisation of women. The lack of methodological precedent prioritised the development of a methodological framework suitable for researching the online victimisation of women. The development of an alternative theoretical framework that recognised the immutability of bodies online subsequently informed the development of two key methodological considerations. The methodological considerations developed in this thesis lay the foundations for additional research on cyberstalking and prioritise a gendered assessment of this crime.