Are Female Serial Killers More Shocking Than Men Who Commit the Same Acts?

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Serial killer Aileen Wuornos

Let’s say that for some reason you are sitting in a criminal psychology class and the teacher scrawls one statement across the chalkboard that is to serve as the one essay topic for your final exam:

Describe a serial killer.

If you have been paying attention in class all semester, or even just watched some good thriller movies at the local theater, you probably would share a serial killer is usually a male and often white. He tends to be a narcissist. There may be drug abuse involved, but there’s a good chance he is perfectly clean. There is likely some dissociative disorder, an inability to feel for others or to develop normal emotional connections. There may be evidence of abuse in his childhood.

But as you are writing, are “he” and “his” and “him” the words to which you default? After all, the first defining characteristic I included in the paragraph above is that serial killers are men. And, this is true in an overwhelming number of cases. There is an interesting new posting on CNN’s website, however, that takes readers on a tour of some notorious female serial killers who have committed heinous crimes over the past century.

If you take a few minutes to look at the photographs and read the descriptions of the crimes, you will find female criminals who murdered their own husbands and mothers and children. There are other examples of women who killed the elderly and sick who were relying on them for medical care and still others who decided to murder for sport or money. Their faces are chilling.

I have long been fascinated by the minds of serial killers and I have used my novels to delve deeper into the psychology behind their acts. Due to the societal expectations of gentleness and protection of family with which women are associated, I wonder if we find female killers even more shocking than their male counterparts.

What do you think? Are we more jarred when the photo of the accused murderer shown on our local news is that of a woman?

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About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
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3 Responses to Are Female Serial Killers More Shocking Than Men Who Commit the Same Acts?

  1. rosereads says:

    I think as a society that we get wrapped up in the paradigm that women are the protectors and nurturers of our most vulnerable so when they kill for what we perceive as pleasure or greed we are thrown off and we are fascinated. We shouldn’t be, but media plays it up as unusual and invites us to be extra shocked because it was a woman.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ronnie Allen says:

    I like writing the female killers, mainly because I like playing the bad girl. But sometimes men are over played. I like layering how a woman who society thinks should be nurturing, into a killer and yet give them a redeeming characteristic.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. danagriffin says:

    I try to be equal in my thoughts towards others. Try being the keyword. But when it comes to serial killers, yeah, I think I’m a little more shocked a woman could carry out those crimes. Why, probably how we as a society view women. The ole adage, men will be men, meaning that some of the things men do are acceptable because… well, they’re guys. But should a woman do the same thing, oh my god, many will think.

    Good post.

    Liked by 1 person

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