Are serial killers dangerous or attractive? A certain fascination and mystery has always surrounded serial killers and mass murderers. What goes on in their heads? Do they experience guilt? How do they justify their actions? These questions have led to an ever-increasing rise in media revolving around said criminals. This essay includes an exploration of depictions of murderers in popular media and the criminal fandoms that seem to revere and idealize these murderers.
Why Females Are Sexually Attracted To Serial Killers ?
Serial killer enthusiasts not only include people interested in criminal psychology but also people sexually and/or romantically attracted to these personalities. Turns out, there’s a word for it. American Psychological Association defines hybristophilia as a sexual interest in and an attraction to those who commit crimes.
It is understood to be a paraphilia in which sexual arousal, facilitation, and attainment of orgasm are contingent upon being with a partner known to have committed a crime. In pop-culture, this phenomenon is also known as the “Bonnie and Clyde Syndrome“. Even though this is not a very well documented and researched phenomenon, it has been observed to be most common in young females directed towards white male cis-gendered serial killers with “handsome features”.
Conversation about the media’s role in romanticising serial killers opened up with the release of the 2019 film ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile‘, starring popular heartthrob Zac Efron in the role of one of the most popular serial killers in history, Ted Bundy. The movie was accused of portraying Bundy in a charming and likeable manner that encouraged sympathy towards him. Supporters of the movie argued that Bundy was famously good looking and charming and used this to lure victims, so the movie does an extremely good job depicting the same. Though movies and other media may encourage romanticising of criminals, fandoms for serial killers existed long before internet fandoms were the norm.
Ted Bundy, a serial killer whose total kill count is considered to be well above 30, was known to specifically target young women and kill them in extremely torturous ways. Yet his ‘fandom’ today and then mainly consisted of young female fans, even teenagers, and some who even consider themselves stout feminists but manage to justify or ignore Bundy’s actions.
Bundy, who represented himself in court, would usually be greeted with applause and a packed courtroom whenever he went to the stand. He was already a celebrity when he was awarded the death penalty, but his death, which wasn’t delayed for too long, promoted him to legendary status. He now has hundreds of fan pages across social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. During his trial, Bundy proposed to a woman named Carole Anne Boone who he had worked with previously and she accepted.
Another such name popular among female fans is Richard Ramirez, also known as the night stalker. Ramirez was tried for 13 counts of murder, 5 counts of attempted murder along with several counts of sexual assault and burglary. Much like Bundy, he too showed no remorse for his actions or tried to justify them. But his popularity grew nonetheless; fan mail would arrive for him every week, visiting days would see long lines of women at the prison.
Media referred to such women as prison groupies. One of these woman was Doreen Lioy, who interacted with Ramirez through letters and later got married to him in 1996. Although she said she would kill herself if Ramirez was executed, she eventually left him and at 53, Ramirez was engaged to a 23-year-old when he was finally executed.
Curiously, while most of the killers show no remorse for their actions, their “fans” find ways to justify them. According to experts, this attraction towards dangerous personalities may be based in narcissism which is fed by thoughts of being special enough to love and be loved by a person that the rest of the society has effectively rejected. It may also be caused by a savior complex where they feel that they hold the power to “change”, “save”, and “heal” the person.
A similar depiction can be seen in media where it is common to see women characters attracted to the “bad boy” character. Some of these women also either simply refuse to believe that these men committed these crimes, or justify their actions by blaming society, their upbringing, or their desire for being loved. Some claim they are simply fascinated by the danger and rush of being with someone who is known to have killed people. A lot of these people admit that this attraction is simply unexplainable and unreasonable.
Sulmaaz Siddiqui is a student pursuing Psychology at Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Nidhi
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.