Hybristophilia: The secret world of people who are attracted to serial killers
‘I have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of’
by Lydia Brown
I’ve known Abbie for a pretty long time – we don’t get to spend much time together as we live at literally opposite ends of the country, but I’d like to think I know a lot about her life. We’ve shared everything from friendship issues, school problems and just anything good friends would about her life. Recently I got to see her again; admittedly made easier us getting older and we immediately fell back into our classic dynamic.
Finally, three cups of tea drunk, she looked slightly more serious. “I’ve got something kind of strange to tell you.”
A lot of things crossed my mind of what she may be about to say – maybe a big career change or something odd about someone in her family. However I didn’t expect her to say, “I think I’m a hybristophile.” Or for that matter, understand what it meant.
Words that end in -phile are often not particularly positive words and I so I just stayed silent. Eventually she explained.
Hybristophilia, according to Wikipedia, is “is a paraphilia 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.”
This means they could be attracted to literally anyone who has committed a crime that most people would find to be utterly abhorrent, anyone from a guy in their town to Ted Bundy. However most people who are this way inclined tend to be attracted to those who are famous – or rather infamous – which sometimes causes people to claim that they are just doing it for attention or because they like famous people.
I would honestly have probably levelled the exact same accusations at those people if my friend wasn’t sat in front of me saying this. I then wondered exactly who she had told before me – her mum is kind of conservative and I couldn’t imagine her feeling okay about this.
This is when I found out about the online community – many of them girls of a similar age to Abbie – who are all supporting each other via sites such as Tumblr. They fill their blogs with photos and videos of Ted Bundy, Ian Brady, the Columbine Killers. They all have their favourites, and they talk about these murderers as though they’re celebrities or lovers. So I decided to explore and find out exactly who made up this community – how they felt about it and who they were as people.
I think the most striking thing when entering this online community is the demographic. Virtually every single person I came across was a girl, and they all ranged from being a teenager up to their late twenties. A few tried to justify their age to me, as if they had already been questioned about it, perhaps with someone asking them if they were sure they really knew what they wanted or if they were just young and silly.
A girl I spoke to, “Bundysmidnighthour” on Tumblr, was 19 but even she seemed aware this was quite young and was quick to add that she did “behave very old most of the time”.
I could understand their hesitance to reveal their age – it is certainly common of older people to dismiss the views of those who are younger as a phase or not very well thought out. However some of the girls were even younger – fourteen or sixteen, and I found it concerning to think that they were attracted to these sorts of people who have committed heinous crimes. While I believe that 20 year olds can still be vulnerable, and should be wary of what they act on in regards to this, teenagers are going through their formative years and it worried me to think this could set up a negative pattern of relationships in their lives.
However I found the answers to my next question even more disturbing.
I don’t know what answer I was expecting when I asked them why they loved serial killers so much, but I was pretty taken aback to say the least.
A few outright mentioned having hybristophilia, announcing it as a cold hard fact and barely expanding as if they felt this was the justification that I was looking for. However I spoke to a 20 year old, who goes by the Username of “hybrist0phile” who elaborated. She first claimed her attraction was a sort of envy or maybe empathy. But after talking for a little while she said she wished “[she] could have the same opportunities to kill as many people as they had”. I didn’t immediately reply and she continued, “I am attracted to a few and basically interested in the work of others”.
This was a continued theme with others lamenting their own similar mental illnesses, and suggesting their understood and related to the thought process behind their decision to murder so many.
I spoke to a 26-year-old, who didn’t wish to be identified, who said that while the crimes they had committed initially drew her to them, she didn’t feel that was the reason she found them attractive. Instead she cited the “humanity” she had seen in them since their convictions as something that kept her interested.
I also wanted to know how long they had felt this way – perhaps to assure myself that this was not in fact a phase. Many cited an interest in murder and crime, stemming from a very young age, but they found it seemingly hard to pinpoint when it had morphed into an attraction.
One girl was eighteen, “babydoll-blood” on Tumblr, and I found her story to be slightly harrowing. She talked of being exposed to violence from a young age in her personal life, and even suggested that she had an idea of a fatherlike figure as being “violent and harmful”. While she tried to sort of shrug it off as “major daddy issues” I felt sorry for her more than disgusted.
I was interested to know how people in their real life had taken the news – I was sure if I had handled it well myself if I was honest. Some said they had had friends and family take it badly which had “reaffirmed their beliefs” strangely enough. Others felt they couldn’t tell anyone at all – some suggesting that I had actually taken it very well, and they wished they had someone like me to tell.
I found “hybrist0phile” to have the most interesting outlook. “Being attracted to another human is the most natural thing in existence,” she said.”I have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of”.
Then I began to wonder – had any of them actually contacted serial killers? “Heartsick-and-hateful” had written to Edmund Kemper, also known as the Co-Ed Killer, who is a serial killer, rapist, necrophile and cannibal. He killed both women who were strangers to him, and his mother and paternal grandparents. I couldn’t imagine wanting to speak to him, though he has admittedly yet to write back.
Most of the girls, especially the younger ones, hadn’t reached out to any killers except for idolising them online. But “hybrist0phile” surprised me – she claimed she didn’t care about any human life really, and so didn’t see the point in wasting time contacting them.
I delved deeper – would they actually want to have a relationship with someone like that?
Some suggested they would be worried it would lead to their own demise, showing the first bit of human emotion that I truly recognised – fear perhaps, or self-preservation.
Others however said they felt it would be their dream – one said that “any of us could have a relationship with a serial killer and not even know”. I thought it was unlikely, but then again, supposedly the average person walks past 36 murderers in their lifetime, so I suppose it is conceivable you could date one.
I asked them how they felt about the crimes their idols had committed, and again they surprised me. Some had fairly rational responses that perhaps many others would agree with. “Bundysmidnighthour” felt they shouldn’t “have to die for what they did” and said “helping them should work better”. Many people do feel that rehabilitation is the best way to help criminals and get better results out of society.
A couple however did say that it was shameful these acts had been committed, showing they knew all human life was valuable, and said that this is the only reason they felt ashamed of their attraction to them. Another claimed she didn’t feel bad that people had died – “life itself is uncertain to us, and we could die in numerous ways” – but she did feel sorry for those left behind.
But “hybrist0philia”‘s final comment really shocked me,and gave me plenty to think about. “Crimes? I do not see them as crimes. I do not see humans any higher than animals. And I bet you not the things they did happen in animal kingdoms all around the world.”
Abbie will always be my friend – and her admission hasn’t changed how I feel about her. However it has opened my eyes to the world a little, and certainly given me something to think about. I honestly feel some of the girls I spoke to could do with some sort of support, and help, as I’m not worried about their views but what these views may lead to in their lives, and the harm it could cause to them.
I’m not sure if I agree that this is “like being straight or gay or bi” as one girl claimed, and that you can’t help how you feel, but I certainly don’t think that the majority of these girls are choosing to feel this way – I am sure some of them wish they didn’t.