Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Women Who Love Monsters (Not Just Any Bad Boys)

Can you take one more post on bad boys in books and life? But this time, I mean realllly bad. Like beastly bad. Well, ‘tis the season to trot out the monsters. And that’s what I’m doing, a take on a disturbed Beauty and the unredeemable Beast.

In folk and fairy tales it’s easy. The Beast is really a good guy. Beauty and the Beast; Shrek the ogre and Fiona the princess. The trope may have duped some women into thinking monstrous bad guys are really not so bad. Maybe, as the Beatles sang, all they need is love.

We’ve all read the stories about these women. You know who I mean. The ones who write letters to rapists. The women who marry serial killers. Some think Bonnie (of Bonnie and Clyde fame) may have had the condition. It seems not to matter how heinous the crime, there are women lining up for the chance to forge a future with a monstrous man in or out of prison.

If the man is attractive, there are even more women drawn to him. Ted Bundy, Lee Malvo, Jeffrey Dahmer, Aaron Hernandez, Scott Peterson. There are some great looking men who performed atrocious, inhumane acts. And women. Some women. Get off on that. Literally.

Hybristophilia is a condition in which women (mostly) become sexually aroused when thinking about and/or engaging with men (mostly) who participated in very bad criminal behavior. Like said rapists, child molesters and brutal killers.

Wikipedia says it is a psychological condition not yet listed in the DSM, the psychologists’ bible, but it and other forms of the condition, are potentially lethal. They go on to say it is “ ‘of the predatory type in which sexual arousal, facilitation, and attainment of orgasm are responsive to and contingent upon being with a partner known to have committed an outrage, cheating, lying, known infidelities or crime, such as rape, murder, or armed robbery.’ The term is derived from the Greek word ὑβρίζειν hubrizein, meaning ‘to commit an outrage against someone’ (ultimately derived from ὕβρις hubris ‘hubris’), and philo, meaning ‘having a strong affinity/preference for’.”

The causes of hybristophilia are unknown but experts speculate that the attraction can be traced to the belief that like regular bad boys, these women think they can “save” the rapist. All he needs is the woman she is, and he will change.

Some hybristophiliacs believe that present behavior can be traced to what happened to him as a little boy and they can provide the love and support he needs to heal. Some like that incarceration means he will be faithful because he can’t get to other women, therefore, he is all hers.

Doctors have considered that hybristophiliacs exhibit an extreme fanaticism because they can’t find love in the normal way. With some, their insecurities cause them to seek someone with whom they can’t consummate the relationship.

Some of these women are turned on by the power they impute to men who commit horrible acts. They see him as manly and powerful, in control.

And it is not ruled out that hybristophilia is triggered by the need to be in the spotlight. By proclaiming love for a monster, they attract attention to themselves. “Who could love such a man?” most of us would ask. “Who is she?”

These women leave themselves open to manipulation and seduction. They will do anything for these guys, putting themselves at risk physically, financially, and legally.

In too many of the cases where the “jailhouse romance” led to them getting together on the outside (because of a prison release), women were killed or hurt. These men aren’t the normal “bad guys.” They are irredeemable. And that plays out if they are given the opportunity.

If you are writing romances with a horror element or based on a true crime drama, including a woman with hybristophilia coming onto your monstrous bad guy could lead to some interesting plot twists. Admittedly, this kind of book wouldn't appeal to the normal romance reader, but you might draw in readers attracted to the bizarre and unacceptable, people who follow the true crime stories and know about this type woman.

What if she were even too weird for the monster? What if a prison guard was attracted to her when she visited? What if she stalked him when he got released on a technicality? Or what if he manipulated her and went to live with her upon being paroled? What if they married while he was on death row and she gave him access to all her money which he gambled away, stripping her of financial security? Or what if she was artificially inseminated by her rapist to give him a child?

Oh, so many possibilities.

But even a "normal" romance might include a sub-plot with hybristophilia for a minor character. Most people don't know about or think about the condition. Your book could inform them. Not just romances, but many books include romantic relationships as a major or minor plot line. Consider giving your next book a twist many won’t see coming. Just imagine… what if…? how come…?


  1. What a fascinating subject... fascinating condition. I'm actually tempted to include a hybristophiliac in my next novel ;)

  2. Yeah, me, too. I'm trying to think how to work her into a culinary mystery cozy. Tough to do! LOL I could probably write a stand-alone thriller featuring her. Thanks for coming by Lori. Hope to see you again here.