Harry Styles Is Right: His Girlfriends Have Endured All Kinds of Harassment

In Rolling Stone, the singer expressed concern about the routine attacks his romantic partners face from his fans.

Harry Styles Is Right: His Girlfriends Have Endured All Kinds of Harassment
Olivia Wilde and Harry Styles. Photo:Getty

Harry Styles is the “world’s most wanted man,” according to his Monday profile in Rolling Stone, and that’s apparently come with some challenges for those who are closest to him—especially his girlfriends.

The singer called Twitter a “shitstorm of people trying to be awful” when asked about the frequent online harassment directed at his girlfriend, Olivia Wilde. He said it was “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—it’s an uncomfortable consequence of stardom Styles is still learning to navigate. “I just wanted to sing. I didn’t want to get into it if I was going to hurt people like that.”

Styles is intimately aware of the long history of attacks and harassment aimed at whoever he’s dating, and he explained that this reality has prompted tough conversations early on in his relationships: “Can you imagine going on a second date with someone and being like, ‘Okay, there’s this corner of the thing, and 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 anyway, what do you want to eat?’”

Styles and Wilde’s relationship has been the subject of internet controversy recently as rumors about drama on the set of their upcoming movie Don’t Worry Darling have gone viral. The couple began publicly dating within weeks of Wilde’s split from ex-fiancé Jason Sudeikis, with whom she shares two kids, sparking rumors that Wilde cheated on Sudeikis with Styles on set—allegedly to the dismay of Styles’ co-star, Florence Pugh. Messy!

On top of the cheating rumors—which have led to run-of-the-mill, sexist attacks on Wilde—there’s also her ongoing, increasingly acrimonious custody battle with Sudeikis. But even without all of the varying nuances of Styles and Wilde’s relationship, Wilde probably would have been subjected to unsettling cyber-bullying regardless.

Styles’ relationship history involves very famous women—like Kendall Jenner and Taylor Swift—as well as those less familiar with relentless media attention. Several of his exes have opened up about facing routine death threats and harassment—one of them, model Shaniece Nesbitt, said her Facebook and Twitter accounts bombarded with terrifying messages telling her she “deserves to die” when she was dating Styles in 2013. In 2017, chef and food blogger Tess Ward disabled comments on her Instagram when her relationship with Styles went public, after One Direction fans reportedly subjected her posts to a deluge of hateful attacks.

In 2018, Austrian model Nadine Leopold recalled that, while dating Styles in 2015, she had “pictures sent to my apartment with my face crossed out.” Leopold said that the attacks she faced took a toll: “It kind of affects your whole relationship because you think about that and you’re worried.” In January 2021, when Wilde and Styles first went public, Wilde almost immediately restricted comments on her Instagram posts amid a slew of comments telling her that she should be “ashamed” and accusing her of “stealing” Styles.

Styles and ex-girlfriend Kendall Jenner at the 2019 Met Gala. Photo:Getty

The abuse hurled at Styles’ romantic partners is a textbook case of stan culture taken to abusive, unsettling extremes. Plenty of Styles fans (including yours truly, and, as of Sunday, Jezebel’s very own Emily Leibert) are fairly chill online—but others pour lots 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.

Fan obsession with Styles is often written off as typical, tween girl boy-band lust, but the abuse aimed at his romantic partners shouldn’t be normalized. Deactivating social media shouldn’t be a prerequisite to be involved with this man, and the fact that it is should prompt his fans who are responsible for the dog-piling to reflect and perhaps consider a break from social media themselves.

For her own part, Wilde also weighed in on her interactions with Styles’ fans, calling them most of them “deeply loving people” in the Rolling Stone piece. “What I don’t understand about the cruelty you’re referencing is that that kind of toxic negativity is the antithesis of Harry and everything he puts out there. I don’t personally believe the hateful energy defines his fan base at all,” she said. “The majority of them are true champions of kindness.”

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