What Abuse Victims Can Learn From Prison Groupies

Updated: Jun 7

Women who love monsters are merely the extremest of the Bad Boy lovers


Richard Ramirez with one of his many sweeties. Photo by Mario Solera on Flickr



WARNING: Possibly triggering details of violent assaults.

Richard Ramirez, the ‘Night Stalker’ who terrorized Los Angeles for over a year in the mid-’80s, was quite the little hotcha-hotcha. The self-professed ‘Satanist’ convicted for thirteen murders, five attempted murders, eleven sexual assaults and fourteen burglaries was one of the biggest ladies’ men, attracting a huge following of groupies that continues even though he died on death row from liver cancer in 2013.

He married a groupie in 1996 and they divorced years later. He was engaged to a 23-year-old writer at the time of his death.

Prison groupies for serial killers and other less accomplished murderers are nothing new, and even gay killers like Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy owned their share of women wet for torture and murder.

As I researched serial killers for a friend’s movie project awhile back, falling down a related rabbit hole on murderers, torturers, rapists, and the women who love them, it struck me just how vulnerable female psychology can be to abusive men, and how we as women and feminists need to work harder to recognize and challenge those vulnerabilities.

 

No woman deserves to be hurt, but oftentimes we put ourselves in stupid situations that increase the likelihood. I’ve done it; you’ve done it.

Dumb Shit I’ve Done

I didn’t get raped, but I sure made it easy for them

Some women have a real jones for dumb shit. My friend Sandy was one of them.

Do You Have A Thing For Abusers? Knowing the red flags will help you avoid them

I can’t imagine any dumber shit than pursuing a sadist guilty of some of the most heinous crimes against (usually) women. Bad-boy prison groupies’ psychological profiles usually include:

  • Low self-esteem

  • Believe these guys to be ‘misunderstood’

  • Believe love can ‘save him’

There’s actual safety pursuing the baddest of the Bad Boys: He can’t hurt her in prison. And now he’s her Bad Boy.

There’s also an element of control for many of these women, who may have received an overabundance of it from their not-so-jailed boyfriends. She controls his access to her, not vice versa. She decides when they see each other and she doles out the gifts. He can’t screw around on her with other women.

He needs her attention more than she needs his. She has a life he doesn’t.

Some really sick groupies add an additional psychological kink you don’t find in regular abuse victims: She wants to live vicariously through her bad boy’s crime stories, particularly if he shares a detail or two that supposedly no one else knows. It makes her feel ‘special’. Not unlike non-homicidal abusers who share tidbits about their past with a lover, for the same reason and also maybe to ‘excuse’ his past and forthcoming behavior.

Some women are aroused hearing firsthand about sadistic crimes. This also explains some of the husband and wife/partner teams where she claims she was afraid of refusing her husband’s demands or expectations that she aid him in his crimes, but was nevertheless aroused by it.

Now I think I understand serial killer Karla Homolka, famous to Canadians during the late ’80s and early ’90s when the blonde beauty and her babelicious husband Paul Bernardo raped and killed three teenage girls, including her own sister. The two strangers were tortured before they were murdered, excruciating details revealed on videotapes of the crimes found too late to do anything about Homolka’s ‘deal with the Devil’.

I never understood why she participated, as her life and mindset didn’t follow the well-established psychopath course her husband did. But, she clearly enjoyed what she was doing. The ‘Barbie & Ken Killers’ raped and killed her sister the night before Christmas Eve, and in a video made a few weeks later (they documented much of their lives this way), Homolka mentioned how much fun raping Tammy had been.

Before they married, she knew Bernardo was a Bad Boy but she didn’t yet know how much. He tested the waters, telling her he might want to rape people, maybe do even more (he was already the as-yet-unidentified Scarborough Rapist who’d terrorized the eastern part of Toronto in the late ‘80s).

Karla dug it. She was into it. She’d claimed on the witness stand that Paul had committed the murders, not herself, but the videotapes proved otherwise.

 

Why do women fall in love with men who’ve committed such terrible crimes? Especially those who identify as feminists? And many do.

One might surmise these women are unattractive and not terribly bright, but some are beautiful and educated. Many consciously recognize their attraction to society’s monsters, and know they’re bad partner choices. Many women love ‘alpha males’ and these men are the epitome.

But prison groupies just can’t seem to help themselves. It never occurs to them to challenge something in their brain that drives them to such a bad decision, or maybe they don’t want to.


Yeah, blame it on Hollywood.




That’s the $64,000 question.


Maybe they’re empowered by the knowledge that other women share their fantasy, ‘normalizing’ it.

Plus, women are traditionally — and as part of our neurological wiring — ‘carers’. The belief that these men are ‘misunderstood’ and that love can ‘save him’ is the same psychological profile you get with garden-variety abuse victims.

These clear emotional brain vulnerabilities, unchallenged, drive women to put themselves in dangerous situations, and to get involved with abusive men who simply can’t be ‘fixed’ by the right woman.

 

I understand why women are attracted to ‘bad boys’ and ‘bad boy behavior’, if not at the level of a man who tried to zombify one victim and eat others as Jeffrey Dahmer did, or torture their victims like Ramirez and Bernardo/Homolka did. I used to have a big thing for Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for example. I also had what I now regard as a fairly unhealthy attraction to Alex, played glamorously by Malcolm McDowell in the 1971 movie A Clockwork Orange (although I didn’t find Alex in the novel, which I read first, attractive at all).

Still, I never wanted to meet a real Alex. A friend who also shared my Spike fixation once said, “How come I can’t find a guy like Spike?”

It’s dangerous not to understand the difference between the fantasy of a ‘bad boy’ and the real thing.

‘Bad boys’ are best left for one-night stands or the occasional fling, without making more out of it. Bad boys (and girls) don’t make for positive, functional life partners.

“There’s no such thing as a man like Spike,” I replied. “He’s our idealized bad boy. He’s brutal, but never to Drusilla [his vampire love interest] unless it’s part of sex play. He loves her to pieces and will do anything to protect her, but he never, ever abuses her, not even when she callously flaunts her new lover in his face while he’s temporarily stuck in a wheelchair. A real-world man like Spike would beat the snot out of her regularly whether she screwed around on him or not. She’d live in constant fear and probably wind up in a domestic shelter.”


How many times did I hear from abuse victims, when I was younger, “I thought I could change him?”

How many thought their love was enough? The idea you can ‘reform’ a highly damaged person with love can be fatal to women who buy into it, especially if Monsieur is released and there are no longer guards and barbed wire standing between her and her Wuv-Twoo-Wuv.

Carol Spadoni learned that the hardest way when the convicted murderer she fell in love with was released, subsequently murdering her, and her mother as well after sexually assaulting her.

Two Australian women married incarcerated men they fell in love with, one of whom committed minor property crimes and the other convicted of killing his previous wife. The one in love with the thief died from the business end of his hammer and the other guy went back to prison for trying to cut off his sweetie’s ear and pull out her teeth with pliers.

I don’t know if either of these men were psychopaths, but it’s extremely hard to reform an abuser who doesn’t want to be reformed, and it’s nigh unto impossible to reform a psychopath. No amount of love will change them; they are neurologically incapable of giving or receiving love, although they’re way good at faking it. This notion that we can change a ‘bad man’ with our love is one of the most toxic elements of female psychology and something feminism needs to seriously challenge.

There’s a difference between loving genuine monsters versus female-porn fictitious ‘bad boys’ who are bad the way we want them to be without ever turning their unholy rage on us.

The ‘rape-y’ books and movie scenes women love depict ‘rape’ defined as a woman fantasizes it is, with a hot man driven uncontrollable by lust or love rather than hostility or the desire to jack off with her body as so many drunken frat boys do. It’s the dangerous excitement of not being quite sure what’s going to happen next. The power of one individual over another. The sex appeal of Christian Grey and his Red Room, knowing the torture is consensual, and he’s not going to kill, dismember, or serve you with fava beans and a nice Chiaaanti. Where it all goes tits-up, as it were, is when we confuse the man who doesn’t exist with the one who does. It’s how we put our lives in danger whether it’s Sexy Hypermasculine Guy who beats you when he’s feeling low, or at its most extreme, when we fail to question why we think raping, torturing and murdering a woman is extremely hot when we’d never want that done to ourselves or any woman we could think of.

It’s putting yourself in harm’s way. It’s a conscious, deliberate dance with danger. It’s doing dumb shit.

We’ve spent enough time analyzing abusive men, what role male entitlement and privilege and ‘The Patriarchy’ plays. We need to turn our attention to our own psychology, our own choices, our own desires. When we identify vulnerabilities we have to address them, not just shrug and say, ‘That’s how I roll.’

And we need to challenge these toxic desires in others. We need to call out toxic feminine psychology, however kindly, in our family members and friends just as we call out toxic masculinity.

It takes two to tango, as my mother likes to say.

“Marisol takes a lot of crap from Jean-Paul,” Mom used to say about a female friend of hers, “and I say to her, ‘Marisol, why do you put up with this?’ He acts like a jerk, but she tolerates his behavior.”

Prison groupies share some of the same psychological elements as many regular abuse victims, but are simply farther down the spectrum. They’re not as far removed as regular victims might believe.

Time to stop making excuses about ‘blaming the victim’, and challenge women to stop being the victim.

We must make this feminism’s manifesto for the 21st century.

Our lives depend on it.



This first appeared on Medium.

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