Murder, She Said?

I do not recall reading any book on rape, murder and serial killers specifically because of the subjects. I am, therefore, a bit surprised to find a study that states women fear becoming victims of crime so they turn to true crime books in an effort to learn strategies and techniques to prevent being murdered.

Reported in the inaugural issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science (Sage), Amanda Vicary and R Chris Fraley go on to say that by understanding why an individual decides to kill, a woman can learn the warning signs to watch for in a jealous lover or stranger. By learning escape tips women learn survival strategies they can use if actually kidnapped or held captive. It is possible that reading these books may actually increase the very fear that drives women toward them in the first place.

Unless these books are specifically of the ‘How To’ variety, this sort of assertion, and even the flipside of it, is quite disingenuous. We may imbibe by reading and characters do settle in our psyche if they are potent. But these rarely apply to how we conduct our lives. There may be people we meet who seem like someone we have read about; it is often the intriguing qualities that stay with us. I don’t think when we see an orphan we think of Oliver Twist or everytime we find a thief we go, “Ah, Fagin”. I have chosen a simple example to show just how simplistic such studies can be.

There may be books on rape that a woman reads about but she will not be prepared for it. Have they talked to rape victims? Did they see the signals? If not, does it mean they don’t read the right books?

About being drawn to such “gory” stuff, there appears to be an element of negativity attached to it, as though this is not quite a woman’s thing to do. Even more appalling is the assertion, “But we do know that women, compared to men, have a heightened fear of crime despite the fact that they are less likely to become a victim.”

Less likely according to what yardstick? On what basis is this heightened fear measured? This is not a competition of who is victimised more and on what basis. The fact is that crimes are committed and both women and men are killed, maimed and psychologically and physically abused.

It appears we are a bunch of crime-fearing females. Imagine a woman enters a bookstore wearing a long jacket, all covered up, riffles through the pages of some romance novels and then stealthily her feet take her towards the gore. She sees knives, blood, and bodies on the cover and thinks, hey, this just might save me as she reads the back jacket. At home, she lounges on the sofa – after bolting all the doors and windows – and then gets drawn into the thriller. Instead of just reading it and perhaps getting a little spooked out, she makes mental notes of what to look for and what to avoid.

And then the bell rings and the child she has given birth to stands there with muddied clothes and she lets out a scream, “Help!”

The study reveals that women learn to be very very careful because women don’t understand something called mystery.

Oh, duh. Give me a break or I’ll bite.


  1. Farzana,

    A couple of points here....

    My own anecdotal observation is women tend to be better skilled when it comes to "emotional intelligence" (EI here is used as a "placeholder" for several things - behavioral manifestations of "Sexually Predatory Instincts" included). So yes, women frequenting bookstores for learning the "predatory tactics" does amount to - well - bullshit. At least in our society. "Our" predators are not as sophisticated as the ones depicted in "Silence Of the Lambs" types. Definitely not at this point. A different conflict is faced by parents like me in our contemporary society. A part of me wants my daughter (currently over 12 yrs. old ) to mix with opposite sex freely. My wife, on the other hand, finds it rather appropriate to instruct her time and again to guard against "cosying" behavior of men. Between us, me and my wife are sensing (perhaps, just perhaps, imagining) a conflict in the child. It is in this context we need to see the emotional instincts of women. A
    "retro fallback" - especially adapted by parents of girl childs - is to don a hopelessly conservative stand. In fact, a popular recent marathi film "Saat chya aat gharaat" (loosely translated to - back at home before 7 p.m.) subtly takes this stand. So easy for the conservatives, suppress and forget.
    We had a different perspective from someone unexpected to offer one. Our family physician - a lady somewhat more chronologically advanced than me and wife - offered us an advice. Her take, make sure your daughter is assertive enough so as not to be cowered down by "cosying advances". Rest , leave it to her wisdom. Great advice. And interesting too - especially the "leave it to her wisdom" part. :-)
    A small "anecdotal western perspective" here before closing on this response. My earlier job had me working with a American counterpart - a lady in her late forties then. Her daughter - a teenager aged about 16 then - happened to be source of her very very "interesting" life moments then.In fact, interesting enough for her to complain about it during our work related conversation. A couple of days back in a "hope you are fine , merry christmas - happy new year" mail exchange she offered her unsolicited advice. Her take - be "cool enough" to keep the communications open with child -rest all should be fine.


  2. fv
    I don't understand why stereotyping specific gender? which can be like merry go round in circles.Both genders stereotype eachother leading to generalization which doesn't acknowledge individualization and that is where society's regression starts. There is always a grey area...women mostly are more fearless and less insecured when it comes to some gory situations. I have seen men being fainted at the site of actual gruesome stuff, while women laughs when are in the same situations. I don't believe in women being more fearful with gory scenes...

  3. Mahesh:

    To begin with I believe that EI is very much a part of IQ, in that intelligence does depend to a large measure on instinct and survival.

    I would not say our predators are less sophisticated; probably the celluloid versions are not.

    Your personal anecdotes are enlightening. It is indeed a tough situation where people have to deal with stereotypes they are born with, roles they have to play due to social pressures or because there are differences in gender responses. I would say that while the girl child is more vulnerable, boys too are exploited.

    Your family physician sounds sensible. By “leave it to her wisdom” she is probably sure of how she has been brought up, the milieu she assumes she must be socialising in and her intelligence to make choices, and the knowledge that those choices will be in keeping with certain data gleaned from the mores she was grounded in. It is mostly in stifling environments that children want to rebel, or in rather unfortunate circumstances where they do not have a choice.

    When I was growing up long ago, my mother had only one thing to say: Don’t go alone with any boy, always stay in groups. I told her several years later that I might have started enjoying the idea of orgies had I decided to add another dimension to her advice :)

    I suppose open communication is best.

    Thanks for sharing.

    - -


    True. It is about stereotyping. Individualism is nto encouraged at any level, and it is unfortunate. This ‘behave like a woman’ has made inroads into what are ‘general’ situations too. Even if a woman does not like gore – I cannot watch it on screen for long – it does not mean that it is a part of her role as a woman. Yes, there are men who quake at the sight of bloodshed, but they too will be called wimps.


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