Why Some People Are Attracted To Serial Killers

Serial killers get plenty of attention. Sometimes that can lead to strange obsessiveness, and even love in some cases. Believe it or not, there's a word for being attracted to serial killers: hybristophilia. The American Psychological Association defines hybristophilia as "sexual interest in and attraction to those who commit crimes. In some cases, this may be directed toward people in prison for various types of criminal activities."

Strangely, it seems that women are more attracted to male serial killers, while not many men are drawn to female serial killers (via SheKnows). Psychology Today explains that most women attracted to serial killers tend to be between the ages of 29 and 50, and most of them share a desire to protect their relationship. Some women know the killers are guilty while others don't, despite mountains of evidence. But why do such attractions occur? There doesn't seem to be a single explanation for hybristophilia, but rather several reasons. 

Attraction to charm, good looks, and manipulation

Let's face it — some serial killers appeared to be downright charming. Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, explains to SheKnows that women can become attracted to serial killers because the killer's incredible charm "reaches an excitation level that is intoxicating." That said, some women are attracted to power rather than charm. Dr. Howard Forman, forensic psychiatrist at Montefiore Medical Center, tells SheKnows that power of any kind can be attractive to some women, and that even includes the power to take lives.

Along with being charming, some serial killers are superior manipulators, and this appears to be more true if they are attractive. Dr. Melissa Hamilton from the University of Surrey School of Law points out that good-looking serial killers have probably learned to use their looks to seduce and control people. She adds that Ted Bundy is an example of how years of attention gave him the confidence to pursue women. 

Speaking of attractiveness, we as a society tend to place some value on it. Sometimes, it's easy to think that good-looking people are also good people. Hamilton says that part of this behavior can be explained through evolution, stating that physical beauty "suggests good genes, superior physical health, positive parental care and the genetic likelihood of producing good-looking and healthy children," per SheKnows.

Attraction to fame, violence, and danger

Additionally, some women are attracted to famous people, regardless of how or why they are famous. Forman tells SheKnows that instead of seeing a serial killer as an evil person, some women simply view them as a celebrity. Jeffrey Ian Ross, Ph.D., criminologist and professor at the University of Baltimore Ross, explains to Women's Health that women might even want to share some of the limelight that comes along with being the girlfriend or wife of a serial killer.

Other women are drawn to more perilous factors, like violence. In an attempt to glean some insight into how people can become attracted to serial killers, Vice took to the internet and sought out teenagers who admitted to being obsessed with them. One unidentified respondent explains that she was attracted to Jeffery Dahmer simply because he killed and ate people. She also says that lots of women are attracted to danger. Another young woman says she found violence exciting, noting that conventional is "boring."

Bad boys make 'perfect' boyfriends

Another reason women love serial killers might be the belief that they can change a bad man into a good — or at least — better one. Hamilton points out that in some cultures, femininity is gauged by a woman's ability to capture a man's attention and convince him to settle down, per SheKnows. In addition, Psychology Today explains that some women believe these men can change with proper nurturing. In many cases, women know killers are bad people, but they also feel like they are safe from them.

This leads to another reason why women might be attracted to a serial killer, and that is a killer behind bars can do no harm. Louis Schlesinger, Ph.D., professor of forensic psychology at the John Jay College Of Criminal Justice, tells Women's Health that a killer locked away is the "perfect" boyfriend because the situation is controllable and safe. These women know where their boyfriend is and can see him only when she wants to. Hamilton agrees, noting that when a serial killer is locked away, he cannot hurt her or her family. In addition, women who love serial killers don't have to deal with the sometimes mundane aspects that go along with a day-to-day relationship, which they might prefer.