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jake brodsky

I have never understood the attraction that so many women seem to feel with violent, physically powerful men. I suspect some may delude themselves in to thinking they can control these monsters. Perhaps some may think that they don't really mean the violence they perpetrate. Some may think that this is common and acceptable behavior.

Whatever the case, I know my wife and I will teach my daughters differently. And above all, they will be taught how to defend themselves, in both civil methods and physical self defense methods, if needed.

They will also be taught how not to send mixed messages both when dating or just in casual friendships. I think this is a leading role for fathers to play in their daughter's upbringing.

The monsters are real. My children will learn to spot them, remain clear of them, and to defend themselves from them if it has to come to that.


Boy, are you taking on a tough subject Laurie!

Trying to find the awnser to society's fascination with the monsters amoug us is not going to be easy.

Finding "The reason it takes us so long to see them in our midst" is a different matter. The answer is simple. They live next door to us everyday of our lives. (See the "The Sociopath Next Door" http://tinyurl.com/2apf8e) They are "hiding in pain sight".

As Doctor Martha Stout points out in her book, "normal" people (those who have a sense of remorse), find it almost impossible to believe that someone they know can be completely devoid of one of the most important characteristics that make us human.

"Normal" people tend to make excuses for the psychopaths in our lives. Often we blame ourselves, or circumstances, or society, or almost anything else we can think of before we can come to terms with the idea that someone we know (or love) can be an inhuman monster without a conscience.

But they are there. And in greater numbers that we care to admit. Estimates of the prevalence of psychopathy range for a low of 4-5% of the population to as high as 15-20%! The most fequenty quoted numbers seem to hover around 4-5% range. But even that "low" estimate is frightening.

Psychopathy is not exclusive to males. Although there seem to be more male psychopaths than female. 3 to 1 buy some estimates http://tinyurl.com/ygnl2mu .

Please write a line or two about the women sociopaths among us too.

Laurie Essig

Of course there are women who behave in psychotic ways and women sociopaths too (although only one or two of the serial murderer sort or even the attacks on random strangers as opposed to known persons).

My guess is to the extent we don't notice female monsters is because they are protected also by something else- like race and class- which might mark them as "ladies." Amy Bishop comes to mind here.

Caitlin Kelly

Every woman, and girl, needs to read this book, The Gift of Fear.


It was given to me -- no, not kidding -- by the convicted felon I dated in 1998. It was his way, belatedly, of shouting "Wake up!" after he defrauded and psychologically victimized me. Women can be, and are, intellectually gifted and astute in many ways. But when it comes to "romance" or attraction, the lizard brain takes over. Knowing this, and knowing what triggers your "attraction" to someone -- and it can be an ugly and unsettling realization -- is the only way to avoid some of these creeps.

This is a tough but important subject.


Pr. Essig,

This is a story as hold as the hills. Men are savage, wild, sexual animals who must be tamed by the civilizing influences of women. "Beauty and the Beast" is just one of an innumerable collect of folk tales that capture this cultural and psychological truth. Folk tales do not always capture factual truths, although "Little Red Ridding Hood" is the opposite story, where the ravenous male is not overcome. These stories are metaphors, not news reports.

Unfortunately, part of the human condition is that people often confuse symbols for what is symbolized and metaphors for history. The "Bad Boy" is exciting because he is clearly "The Beast" in need of feminine reform. He might also be a convenient method of establishing independence from parents and proving adulthood.

Like dreams, cultural fantasies cannot be taken at face value, they have to be interpreted.


Other than outright pathology involving the number (or quality) of the sex chromosomes themselves, this must be an environmental, or learned behavior (or spectrum of behaviors). I know it sounds like "communism" to say parenthood should be licensed, but on the other hand everyone receives driver education nowadays in high school, why not parenting skills. Teaching children throughout several generations that gentleness is attractive, persuasive and effective will be society's best way to deal with gender violence and sex roles. Re-education. Re-education. Re-education. But then maybe the "christians" taking over our schools (not "communism", is it?) don't want to teach children to turn the other cheek.


Until the certain neural correlates of what you call "psychopathy" are mapped, and technology (and health care) allows screening of appropriate individuals, we will never know whether this behavioral "disease" you seem to refer to is genetic, infectious, traumatic, nutritional or learned. Neural plasticity still might allow for re-programming (also known as education) at a susceptible stage.
Medical psychology is still too close to Freudian poetics (and I love his poetics too) to be an oracle or cure. IMHO.


Hi renzob

Research has been done on the areas of the brain that relate to sociopathy:

"Self-control, planning, judgment, the balance of individual versus social needs, and many other essential functions underlying effective social intercourse [and that they] are mediated by the frontal structures of the brain. (frontal cortex)


But I also suspect that the recently described "Mirror neurons" also play a role in sociopathy because: "the mirror neuron system is involved in empathy. A large number of experiments using functional MRI, electroencephalography and magnetoencephalography have shown that certain brain regions (in particular the anterior insula, anterior cingulate cortex, and inferior frontal cortex) are active when a person experiences an emotion (disgust, happiness, pain, etc.) and when he or she sees another person experiencing an emotion."


You may well wonder why this subject is of interest to me. Apart from my fascination in cognitive neuroscience http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_neuroscience, I've also had the misfortune to have loved a psychopath. It was that relationship that spurred my interest in the details of this condition. A condition that has a very poor prognosis, I'll add. I have not read a single professional opinion that holds out even a glimmer of hope that this condition can be "cured" It seems that some people really are born evil.


And every man and boy too ...


Why does this remind me of Kevin Smith's "kryptonite condom" speculation in Mallrats? Oh, right, because I'm an absolute nerd.


Be sure to research the stacks of love letters death row inmates get in prison, as well as the cases of female prison guards and staff having affairs with inmates.

Laurie Essig

Fascinating. Is that true?


What is true in what I said (as opposed to tangential and suggestive) is that education is very powerful, especially when the full force of a unified social consciousness is focused on the same message, such as dropping the birth rate in Japan, safe sex messaging in Scandinavia and Northern Europe, etc. I think with as much wealth and intelligence as there was (or is) in the US we could care for our children better, much better than we do. We could teach them to succeed, to love, to be cooperative, and to be gentle.

My comments about Christians taking over schools systems was a throw away tangential reference to the recent Texas school board book decision and the similar minded decision in South Dakota to force teaching of the "controversy" around climate change. These moves are tantamount to

Christians/corporatists actively campaigning to be awarded the Darwin awards (where your own fatal stupidity earns you the award posthumously).


Hello kenmcgowan,

It must be pointed out that many of heinous acts of violence were not necessarily committed by "psychopaths" or "sociopaths". Many terrible crimes are committed by perfectly "normal" people, who afterward can feel remorse, or rationalize their actions. In case number 2, the restroom assault at a nightclub, the man in question may well feel right now terrible remorse, especially given the fact he can anticipate arrest shortly. He may have been drunk or under the influence of drugs and committed his crimes in a very different mental state than he is in now, possibly including remorse. Consider events at Abu Ghraib, they were not committed by psychopaths or sociopaths but by men and women who would not score high on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist. They were able to rationalize their hideous acts. Dick Cheney and Karl Rove do so publicly. I am far less concerned with the crimes committed by psychopaths than otherwise "normal" people. There is nothing to be done about psychopaths but ordinary people can change and be changed.


Hi David

It's good to "speak" to you again.

You're right of course that many crimes are committed by "normal" people for a variety of reasons. i.e. "crimes of passion", crimes committed "under the influence", crimes committed "under orders" (but this one begs the question: "were the orders issued by a psychopath?") etc, etc.

However psychopaths are responsible for a disproportionately large number of the most heinous crimes committed.

"Hare (of the Hare scale you reference) estimates that abut 20 percent of male and female prison inmates are psychopaths and that psychopaths are responsible for more than 50 percent of the serious crimes committed." http://tinyurl.com/2vozb4

So we do need to be concerned with the psychopaths among us. Moreover they are particularly effective in rationalizing their behaviors and "blending in". After all they've had a lifetime to hone this skills ...

As for Cheney, Rove and Bush. It's likely that they are all psychopaths. Psychopaths are attracted to power and they are adept at "rising to the top". Because they have a competitive advantage over the rest of us. No conscience.

Consider Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin and George W Bush and company.

We need to be very, very concerned with the psychopaths in our midst.



speak of the devil

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