Harry Styles Is Correct: His Girlfriends Have Sustained Various Forms of Harassment
The singer expressed concern in Rolling Stone about the regular attacks on his romantic partners from his fans.
According to his Monday Rolling Stone profile, Harry Styles is the “world’s most wanted man,” which has apparently created some difficulties for those closest to him, particularly his girlfriends.
When asked about the frequent online harassment directed at his girlfriend, Olivia Wilde, the singer described Twitter as a “shitstorm of people trying to be awful.” He described it as “difficult” to “feel like being close to [him]” means a “corner of Twitter” will always be out for the blood of whoever he’s linked with—an unsettling side effect of celebrity Styles is still learning to navigate. “All I wanted to do was sing.” I didn’t want to get involved if it meant hurting people like that.”
Styles is well aware of the long history of assaults and harassment directed at whomever he is dating, and he explained that this reality has prompted difficult conversations early in his relationships: “Can you imagine going on a second date with someone and saying, ‘Okay, there’s this corner of the thing where they’re going to say this, and it’s going to be really crazy, and they’re going to be really mean, and it’s not real….'” But, in any case, what do you want to eat?”
Styles and Wilde’s relationship has recently been the subject of internet controversy, with rumours of drama on the set of their upcoming film Don’t Worry Darling going viral. Within weeks of Wilde’s split from ex-fiancé Jason Sudeikis, with whom she has two children, rumours circulated that Wilde cheated on Sudeikis with Styles on set, much to the chagrin of Styles’ co-star, Florence Pugh. Messy!
Aside from the cheating rumours, which have resulted in routine, sexist attacks on Wilde, there’s also her ongoing, increasingly acrimonious custody battle with Sudeikis. Even without all of the complexities of Styles and Wilde’s relationship, Wilde would have likely been subjected to unsettling cyber-bullying regardless.
Styles’ dating history includes both famous women (like Kendall Jenner and Taylor Swift) and those who are less accustomed to constant media scrutiny. Several of his ex-wives have spoken out about receiving regular death threats and harassment; one of them, model Shaniece Nesbitt, said she received terrifying messages telling her she “deserved to die” while dating Styles in 2013. When her relationship with Styles became public in 2017, chef and food blogger Tess Ward disabled comments on her Instagram after One Direction fans reportedly bombarded her posts with hateful comments.
In 2018, Austrian model Nadine Leopold recalled having “pictures sent to my apartment with my face crossed out” while dating Styles in 2015. “It kind of affects your whole relationship because you think about that and you’re worried,” Leopold said of the attacks she faced. When Wilde and Styles first went public in January 2021, Wilde almost immediately restricted comments on her Instagram posts in response to a barrage of comments telling her she should be “ashamed” and accusing her of “stealing” Styles.
The abuse directed at Styles’ romantic partners is a textbook example of stan culture taken to abusive and disturbing extremes. Plenty of Styles fans are fairly chill online (including yours truly and, as of Sunday, Jezebel’s very own Emily Leibert), but others pour a lot of energy into toxic, parasocial relationships with the singer, and feel the need to involve themselves in his real-life relationships by waging territorial war on whoever his actual partner is.
The fan obsession with Styles is frequently dismissed as typical tween girl boy-band lust, but the abuse directed at his romantic partners should not be normalised. Deactivating social media should not be a requirement to work with this man, and the fact that it is should cause his fans who are responsible for the dog-piling to reflect and possibly consider a break from social media themselves.
In the Rolling Stone piece, Wilde also commented on her interactions with Styles’ fans, calling the majority of them “deeply loving people.” “What I don’t get about the cruelty you’re referring to is that that kind of toxic negativity is the polar opposite of Harry and everything he puts out there.” “I don’t think the hateful energy defines his fan base at all,” she said. “The vast majority of them are genuine champions of goodness.”