Many of us had mothers who warned us against the “bad boy”?  Perhaps you even had a father who stood on the front porch waiting for your date of questionable repute to arrive while conveniently cleaning his pistol at the same time.  Despite the wise advice to walk away from trouble and our own conscious knowledge that we are making a bad choice, a good number of women are still drawn to the men who probably will treat them badly or… in extreme instances… have already proven their character by killing other humans.  As bizarre as it may seem, serial killers are never without a shortage of love letters when in prison.

In a blog post for Psychology Today, writer Leon Seltzer, Ph.D. reviews several possible explanations for this unhealthy romance, including some of those proposed by fellow contributor Katherine Ramsland.  The women may see the killer as a wounded child who just needs some maternal affection and correction to mend his ways.  Or, there may be primitive hard wiring that still exists that draws women to look for the strongest and most fierce partner as a way of self-preservation against the dangerous elements around her.  The aggression and power is alluring, even if the woman consciously believes otherwise.  Then again, there just could be the desire to share some of the notorious spotlight.

Whatever the genesis of the attraction may be, it’s hard to dispute the notion that millions of women have some part of them that craves the “bad boy,” if only with the intention of “fixing” him.  As Seltzer writes, women convince themselves that, “his violence and lack of tender feelings is only the beginning of the story, and that their unsparing love, affection, and dedication can ultimately transform his character by helping him get in touch with his, well, ‘inner goo’.”

Hard to accept that so many women would feel this way?  Just bear in mind that number one book in the country right now is about a young woman who enters into a relationship with an older man who beats and dominates her.  The “love story” is being devoured from cover to cover.

What do you think about the attraction that some women have to serial killers, rapists, etc.? 

What is the root of this desire?

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Comment by John Michael Brantingham on July 16, 2012 at 5:23am

This has always confused me. It confuses a lot of men, but it's not just women who are hardwired to go after bad people. Men do the same thing with awful women, often with the idea that they are going to save these women. There's a big difference of course and that's that women are less likely to commit violent acts.


The compulsion however makes for good reading. Some of us our drawn to darkness, and it's so strange and yet so familiar. I love a good sociopath and the people who love him story.

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