What do the sociopathic serial killers Elliot Rodger, Adam Lanza, Anders Breivik, George Sodini, Gary Ridgway, Marc Lépine, and countless other serial killer terrorists, rapists, and abusers have in common?
They all expressed extremely misogynistic views.
Not just your run of the mill, normalizing misogyny — the “get back in the kitchen,” or, “women are irrational,” type of misogyny that people treat as a joke but think is ultimately harmless. No, these men viewed women as subhuman, bestial, and incapable of good. Rodger said,
“Women are flawed creatures, and my mistreatment at their hands has made me realize this sad truth. There is something very twisted and wrong with the way their brains are wired. They think like beasts, and in truth, they are beasts. Women are incapable of having morals or thinking rationally.”
Other serial killers express similar views. Their attitudes were often well-known, either online or in person. They made frequent statements in interviews, writings, and conversation stating their extremist views. The warning signs were overlooked by authority figures, parents, the police (and society at large) because it was conflated with everyday sexism. Look at what George Sobrini said before his attack:
I was reading several posts on different forums and it seems many teenage girls have sex frequently. One 16 year old does it usually three times a day with her boyfriend. So, err, after a month of that, this little hoe has had more sex than ME in my LIFE, and I am 48. One more reason. Thanks for nada, bitches! … Girls and women don’t even give me a second look ANYWHERE. There is something BLATANTLY wrong with me that NO goddam person will tell me what it is. Every person just wants to be fucking nice and say nice things to me. Flattery. Oh yeah, I am sure you can get a date anytime. You look good, etc. Pussies.” — George Sodini
Sounds weirdly normal, right? Just a regular guy who is frustrated at women and says some kinda sexist generalizations, then goes on a murder spree. Totally run of the mill. It reminds me of Sal Mineo’s character, Plato, in the 1955 film Rebel Without A Cause.
Plato is one of the first characters we meet, when Jim Stark (James Dean) sees him at the police station. Through the course of the movie, you get the sense that the viewer is supposed to sympathize with Plato and feel compassion toward him. The thing is, the way Plato is introduced in the police station is extremely disturbing — he was brought into the station for shooting some puppies, and looks pretty sulky/ upset about being caught as the cop lectures him. No one seems to ping on the animal cruelty as a serious character flaw, though — it’s brushed off as boyish misbehavior.
Now, today, in 2014, we read animal torture and animal cruelty as a clear sign of sociopathic tendencies, thanks to the 1963 hypothesis set forth by J.M MacDonald. A character we are meant to sympathize with would never be depicted as torturing animals, because such behavior clearly signals to the popular culture that the individual is mentally and emotionally disturbed.
The primary link actually seems to be in repetitive animal cruelty and serial killing, not in MacDonald’s “triad” of sociopathic traits. The fact remains that in popular culture, the perception that animal torture = sociopath exists, and there is good reason. There is a strong correlation between regular animal cruelty and later violence to humans. I think there is a similar link between extremist sexism and sociopathy.
“Women are like a plague. They don’t deserve to have any rights. Their wickedness must be contained in order prevent future generations from falling to degeneracy. Women are vicious, evil, barbaric animals, and they need to be treated as such.” — Elliot Rodger
Studies show that killers torture the animal for a variety of reasons — because they feel powerless and want to exert power, or they are curious to see the reactions, or they enjoy the pain. Perhaps they believe it doesn’t “count” because it’s just an animal. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that someone who tortures an animal lacks the ability to sympathize or feel concern for the well-being of the animal.
The statements made by serial killers, rapists, and abusers about women indicate a similar lack of sympathy for the personhood and humanity of women. The terrorists who commit abortion clinic bombings are worth a mention here as well — after all, they’re willing to resort to terroristic violence in order to enforce their will on the population of a town, county, or state.
Where do we see radical feminism ascendant? It is on television … in the military … in government-mandated employment preferences and practices that benefit women and use “sexual harassment” charges to keep men in line. … There is no doubt in the media that the “man of today” is expected to be a touchy-feely subspecies who bows to the radical feminist agenda.” — Anders Breivik
It seems clear that extremist expressions of sexism indicate a disturbing lack of human connection and empathy. I’m sure there’s a similar link between misandry and sociopathy, but at this point in time there aren’t any misandrist serial killer terrorist manifestos to cite — we can definitely trace a link between extremist misogyny and terroristic serial killers, though.
Now, I’m not saying everyone who says something sexist is a serial killer. I’m saying that because misogynistic sexism is so completely ingrained and acceptable in our society, it’s far too easy for people to dismiss extremist sexists as just socially awkward or angry and venting their rage. The problem, we reassure one another, is not the language we use — those guys were just crazy! No one could have foreseen it!
Except we could have. We could have foreseen it if that language was unacceptable. If someone ranting that women were beasts who didn’t deserve rights was so completely socially inappropriate that it was akin to defending the Holocaust. The problem here is:
- Misogyny strongly correlates with sociopathy and lack of empathy.
- Misogyny is socially acceptable.
What if this guy had been ranting about political figures, or bankers, or CEOs? What if his hatred and invective and threats were directed toward war vets or children? What if Rodgers had said,
“The first strike against
womenpolicemen will be to quarantine all of them in concentration camps. At these camps, the vast majority of the femalepolice population will be deliberately starved to death. That would be an efficient and fitting way to kill them all off. I would take great pleasure and satisfaction in condemning every single womanpoliceman on earth to starve to death. I would have an enormous tower built just for myself, where I can oversee the entire concentration camp and gleefully watch them all die. … WomenPolicemen represent everything that is unfair with this world, and in order to make the world a fair place, they must all be eradicated.” — Elliot Rodgers
Do you think the policemen would have dismissed him as a polite but harmless young man then? Do you think they would have walked away so easily if he was making statements that were not socially normalized?
We live in a society where convicted serial rapists are set free, and 14 year old girls are told they invited their rape because they acted older than their years, and women are told to forgive their rapist. We live in a society where rape is so normalized that some people still don’t understand what actually counts as rape.
In culture where movie stars joke about raping women and rape is a cheap plot device, is it any wonder that the extreme misogyny of killers passes under the radar, and adequate much-needed treatment for severely mentally ill sociopaths is not provided? Here are some seemingly unrelated facts for you:
- Rapists rarely admit to rape — however, when interviewed they will admit to “forceful sex,” or “nonconsensual sex,” or sex with a woman too drunk to be aware of what was happening. They just don’t see it as rape.
- Vocabulary of Motive — When rapists do admit to rape, they justify it by minimizing the violence or claiming the victim enjoyed it.
- Repeat Rape — rapes are perpetuated by a small segment of repeat offenders (about 1 in 25 men.)
- Overlap of Domestic Violence and Rape — rapists tend to be abusers, and abusers tend to rape.
- Anti-Feminism of Serial Killers — there is a noticeable link between serial killer terrorists and misogyny.
- Lack of adequate mental healthcare — Mental healthcare in the United States was privatized and defunded during Reagan’s tenure, leading to a decrease in both quality and access.
- Mental healthcare is still underfunded — States cut a total of $4.35 billion in public mental-health spending from their budgets between 2009 and 2012, and long-term inpatient care is extremely difficult to get, due to a lack of space.
- Involuntary Commitment is Rare— In the 1970s, a series of well-intentioned state laws were passed across the USA that pretty much abolished involuntary commitment of mentally ill individuals (example). This makes it very hard for someone to be involuntarily committed today, which means that even when parents or authority figures are aware that someone is a serious threat to community safety, often their only real solution is to call the police (hint: this rarely works out well).
- Prisons and Homeless Shelters: The New Long-term Care Facilities — Many mentally ill people are homeless or in prison because their families cannot afford treatment, or (even when they can), it is inaccessible and short-term.
When you put these seemingly disparate facts together, you get a much larger picture about how the broken state of mental healthcare intersects with cultural acceptance of misogyny to obscure and minimize clear sociopathic tendencies, as well as the ability to address and treat the underlying cause of those behaviors.
I hope that 50 years from now, extreme misogyny will be just as widely accepted as an indicator of sociopathy as repetitive animal cruelty is today. In the meantime, I think that we as a nation should focus on refunding and supporting our mental health infrastructure, both nationally and locally, in order to reduce occurrences of untreated mental illness.
We should also institute some gun control laws. I know this isn’t a popular view, and there’s always the (legitimate) fear that a lot of gun control proposals will perpetuate bias and stigma against the mentally ill. I suggest references.
Think about it — you provide references when you apply for a job, or when you apply for a loan. So I think that when buying a gun,
- The buyer should be required to provide references (as determined by the state, but preferably no less than three).
- One reference must be from their doctor or mental health care professional.
- The seller should be required to verify the references before the firearm can be collected.
I don’t see how this can possibly infringe on the rights of sane and responsible gun owners. This should be status quo already — I mean, we provide character references to get a job or borrow money, but nothing for people buying weapons? That’s a little weird, isn’t it? With this most recent situation with Elliot Rodger, when you read through his manifesto it becomes starkly, strikingly evident that not one person in this boys’ life would have said, “Oh, yeah, sell him a gun. Sounds like a super idea. He’s totally stable.”