The Sexual Politics of Murder Author(s): Jane Caputi Source: Gender and Society, Vol. 3, No.

4, Special Issue: Violence against Women (Dec., 1989), pp. 437-456 Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. Stable URL: . Accessed: 17/01/2014 00:36
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JANE CAPUTI University of New Mexico

In mainstream discussion,violentcrimesagainst women frequentlyarepresentedas inexplicable and theirperpetrators as social deviants.Feministshave arguedfor an awarenessof thesexually political and conformistnature of such crimes and have inventedthe word gynocide to name the range of systematicviolence against womenby men.I lookat the issues raisedby threerecent manifestationsof gynocide in the UnitedStates: the batteringof HeddaNussbaumand murder of Lisa Steinbergby Joel Steinberg, the execution of serial killer TedBundy,and a series of murdersof "prestigeless"women.

When is an act sexed? When do you kill, or die, as a member of your gender, and when as whoever else you are? Are you ever anyone else? -Catharine A. MacKinnon (1982b, p. 703) Those of us who are ... so much influenced by violence in the media, in particular pornographic violence, are not some kind of inherent monsters. We are your sons, and we are your husbands, and we grew up in regular families. -Ted Bundy (Lamar 1989, p. 34) They made me out to be a monster.... I was a good father. but, even my worst enemies admit that -Joel Steinberg (Gross 1989, p. 72)

In her recent book, The Demon Lover: On the Sexuality of Terrorism, Robin Morgan (1989) relates an incident that occurred during a civil rights movement meeting in the early 1960s. A group composed of members of
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I would like to thank Patricia Murphy, Gordene MacKenzie, Elena Ortiz, Mary Caputi, Elizabeth McNamara Caputi, and Shari Weinstein for their help in finding the news stories necessary for researching this essay. Thanks also to Judith Lorber and Pat Miller for editorial suggestions. I dedicate this article to the memory of Elizabeth Ann Landcraft, Frankie Bell, andAlthea Oakeley. REPRINT REQUESTS: Jane Caputi, American Studies, Ortega Hall, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131. GENDER& SOCIETY, Vol. 3 No. 4, December 1989 437-456 ? 1989 Sociologists for Women in Society 437

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. Although the FBI refuses to release all the details of that abuse. and a part-time careeron theglamoroussportscar racingcircuit. Wilder did not wish to date. Those weren't political" (pp. Twenty years later. raped. There's been some brother disappeared who never even got reported. The Albuquerque Tribune (April 14. upon hearing that news. as Kate Millett (1970) noted in her classic work. 1984. And yet . From a feminist perspective. Christopher Wilder raped and murdered a still unknown number of women. is impeded by longstanding tradition. 223-24). About to be apprehended by the police.16. a form of murder rooted in a system of male supremacy in the same way that lynching is based in white supremacy. would have had no troubleattracting This man not only murdered women but first extensively tortured them. both in emergenciesand as an ever-presentinstrument (pp. So perfect is its We are not accustomed to associate patriarchy system of socialization. in the spring of 1984. Such murder is.. Morgan recalls that a male CORE leader. 17 Jan 2014 00:36:07 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . During this search. however. 2) commented: Wilder'sdeath leaves behinda mysteryas to the motives behindthe rampage in Withplentyof money. so long and so universallyhas it prevailedin humansociety. photography. His were sexually political murders. of intimidation.26. why only one lynching and what about the other 16 bodies. there is no mystery behind Wilder's actions. control in patriarchal unless it had the ruleof force to rely ties would be imperfect.. in short. beautifulwomen." When Morgan asked..5 on Fri. that it scarcelyseems to socierequireviolent implementation. he shot himself. The FBI. that perception still holds sway. local police.a background of deathand terror. so complete the general assent to its values. That recognition. Wilder. for. it was revealed that Wilder had bound. all but one of whom were women. Obviously. 44-45) This content downloaded from 138. or attract women.soft-spokencharm.even inoperable.39. she was told: "Those were obviously sex murders.. repeatedly stabbed his victims. charm. Sexual Politics: with force. upon. his desire was to torment and destroy. agonized: "There's been a whole goddamned lynching we never even knew about.438 GENDER & SOCIETY / December 1989 both the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (with men outnumbering women three to one) had gathered in the wake of the disappearance of three civil rights workers in Mississippi. For example. p. and tortured them with electric shocks. and the national guard had been dredging local lakes and rivers in search of the bodies. One woman (who survived the attack) had even had her eyelids glued shut. the mutilated parts of an estimated 17 unidentified bodies were found. a form of patriarchal terrorism.

1989. San Diego County. In Januaryand February1989. a crime of victim provocation. as well as thatcommitted by strangers-are not some inexplicable evil or the domain of "monsters" only. The murdersof women and children-including tortureand murderby husbands. manyof son. Sex murder(what the FBI also terms "recreationalmurder")is part of a traditionthat Mary Daly first named as gynocide (1973. This content downloaded from 138..I will look at some of the issues raisedby these threeseparatebut relatedgynocidal events.16.rape is a direct expressionof sexual politics. and/or killing of women by men . and fathers. serial sex killer Ted Bundy. In this article. It is only throughan extraordinary numbing that such a reality can be denied. Nor is it one perpetrated only by an aberrant fringe. Rather. newspaperreportsof various public and private atrocities. along with all thegrimlyusualstories. As furtherdefined by Andrea Dworkin (1976). 73).5 on Fri. police are investigatingthe murdersof 69 prostitutesand the killings of 30 otherwomen in what they term"streetmurders" (Overendand Wood.threeothersdemanded my attention. a ritualenactmentof male domination. for the terribleremindersare everywhere:in the ubiquitousposters in the daily pleadingfor informationaboutwomen who have "disappeared". Serrano1989)." She adds that "under patriarchy. the relentless violence perpetratedby the gender class men on the gender class women.26."The thirdalso is relatedto serialmurder: hundreds in thepast whom police say were workingas prostitutes.gynocide is the ongoing reality of life lived by women" (pp. gynocide is "the systematic crippling. drugaddicts.39 women who have been categorizedas "prostitutes. raping.where oppression takessexual forms. and where sexuality is the very "linchpin of gender inequality" (p. biological urges. the ultimatestrangerand paradigmatic"good of women. Griffin 1983.The first was the conviction of Joel Steinberg-the batterer. while in Los Angeles.lovers. The second was the execution of the deathof his illegally adopteddaughter. as the common mythology insists. p."Currently.. On the contrary. have been murdered seven years on the West Coast by killers such as Seattle's "Green River Killer"and the Los Angeles "SouthSide Slayer. 17 Jan 2014 00:36:07 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .for child killer.turewhere sexuality itself is a form of power.sexual murderis the ultimate expression of sexuality as a form of power.a form of terrorthat functions to maintain the status quo. Russell 1975) assertedthat rapeis not. 533). and street denizens" have been killed since 1985.Caputi / SEXUAL POLITICS OF MURDER 439 Early feminist analysts of rape (Brownmiller 1975. andself-proclaimed"goodfather". MacKinnon (1982a) an act of violence but is a sexual furthermaintains thatrapeis not primarily act in a cul. 19).or uncontrollable frustrated attraction.familiarfamily member.

millionswatchedon live television as the disfiguredNussbaumtold herstory of theirmutualcocaine abuse. he has largely been overshadowed. by the troublingand controversialfigure of Hedda Nussbaum.HeddaNussbaum(Hackett1988. On the otherhand. Steinberghas consistentlyrefusedto admithis guilt. This case has opened up debate amongfeministsas to the culpabilityof Nussbaumherself.16.herdesireto protectandremainloyal to herbatterer. 60) On November 1. andfor seven days. No longer a defendant. Nussbaumtold of herabusiverelationship with Steinberg.The two people who hadbeen raisingher in theirGreenwich Village apartment-Joel Steinberg.first-degreemanslaughter in the death of Lisa Steinberg. and her overwhelmingadorationof him.and proclaimshimself to be "avictim. six-year-old Lisa Steinberg was brought to a hospitalemergencyroom unconsciousandwith injuriesthatled to herdeath four days later.440 GENDER & SOCIETY / December 1989 MIXED SIGNALS' He was giving me mixed signals. particularlyamong the Steinbergwere chargedwith second-degreemurder. and HeddaNussbaum. she was afraidsuch an action would show disloyaltyanddistrustto Joel. Steinbergwent out for threehours. as she testified.both Nussbaumand but a year later. they freebased This content downloaded from 138.26. p.5 on Fri. no matter how reprehensiblySteinbergbehaves.the formerchildren'sbook editorhe lived with and batteredfor some 12 years-were broughtin by the police for questioning.she became the key witness in the state's case. claims that Lisa's death was accidentalor that Nussbaumkilled her. After beating Lisa into unconsciousness. Steinbergwas convicted of a lesser charge.a lawyer who had illegally adoptedthe child. the prosecution dropped the charges against Nussbaum.he was constantlycritical. Whenhe returned."Yet. this is due to the enormous media attention. On January30. The trial was televised.with Nussbaumand Steinbergcontinuallydescribedas "nationalsymbols"of domestic abuse."he joked that"Lisawould never be an Olympicathlete. Suspicionwas directedat Steinbergin partbecause uponbeing told that the child had sufferedat the very least "permanent braindamage. Massive nationalattentionwas focused on the trial.Duringthattime. 1989. In part. He would praiseme and build my ego."At first. 17 Jan 2014 00:36:07 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . .videotapes of her extensively and permanentlydamaged body and face were introducedas evidence. Nussbaumdid not call for emergency help because.hermoralresponsibility in the murderof the child.his increasinglybizarreandtorturous beatings over a periodof 10 years. 1987.And he would strikeme. trial began.he denies thateither Lisa or Hedda was abused.

90). He was the most wonderful man I had ever met. By 1984. Nussbaumlost her editor'sjob.In to help her dying child?" In the story. and about pornographic videos I had supposedly made. Joel got me to believe these things happened. she was particularly prey to Steinberg'smind games. I believed he had supernatural. 1989 issue of People Weekly. Aided by cocaine. perhapsdramatizedmost vividly in the show of love and affection that often follows a beating.Caputi / SEXUAL POLITICS OF MURDER 441 cocaine togetherand did not call for help until the following morning.26. no matterhow battered.Nussbaum'sphysical appearance had deterioratedto such an extent that she rarely left the apartment. about the sexual encountershe said I had with all these people. Thus isolated. dress glamorously.Manywho have studiedor experiencedabusive men would agree thatsuch behavioris common. eight years after they began living together. How could any mother.Not insignificantlythen. Basically. p. hung her in handcuffs from a chinning bar. Underneath. That took shape not only in the bizarrecult delusion psychological manipulation but also in the quotidianmixed signals he consistentlysent to her.but if you are were asking for it-frequently riddlepatriarchal communications. the only cult involved was the cult of one thatSteinbergwas forming aroundhimself.5 on Fri. flanked by two smaller pictures of Joel and Lisa.but I never had any recollectionof them"(Weiss and Johnson 1989.of course. told by a "close friend. She laterrecalled:"I loved to listen to him talk.Some feminists are now asking. godlike power" (Hackett 1988. was Nussbaumvictim or collaborator? Steinberg had used not only physical force but elaboratepsychological to controlNussbaum.the copy asks the "hauntingquestion. Ironically. lacerateda tear This content downloaded from 138. the female supplicantprovidesfodderfor the of the empowered. beaten her sexual organs.We are told in great detail of the horrors of Steinberg's abuse: Steinberghad kicked her in the eye. The cover itself shows a large photo of an unsmilingand clearly disfigured Nussbaum. The battering of Nussbaum'sbody was clearlyrecapitulated in Steinberg's simultaneous batteringand disfigurementof her memory and of the most blatantof such mixed messages can be found in the February13. As in other and cults patriarchal religions. Indeed. strangledher.16. 17 Jan 2014 00:36:07 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . manipulation the batteringhad caused her to miss too much work. urinatedon her. Nussbaum fantasies pornographic recalled:"Manydays and nights."Nussbaumis presentedas the largelypatheticvictim of a sadistic monster.Joel would push me to fantasizeaboutthe cults. I worshiped him. god-identified men. 60). p.contradictory messages-for example. he convinced her that her friends and family (and eventually even the two children)were partof a hypnoticcult thatwas out to get them.

pp. what can we make of these strategically placed and highly resonant words of Guisewite: "I never have the energy . 17 Jan 2014 00:36:07 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . "Youknow exactly how I feel.because I never have the energy even to get to Step Two. I have burnmarksall over my body from that. TV programs are surrounded by commercials and other programs. It'sthe one thingI don't have to torturemyself about. "Sometimeshe'd taketheblowtorchwe usedforfreebasingandmove it around me.. Key themes in each are torture.. In order to understand the mode of communication here.Joel told me he did this to improvemy coordination. I always go back to NeutrogenaSoap. 89-90) This last quote from Nussbaum is reiterated in a blown-up section on the left side of a two-page spread..5 on Fri. We move from a graphic description of the tortureof a former successful career woman (Nussbaum) to the smiling confession of egregious self-torture by a current career woman (Guisewite). I'm so relieved thatsomebody else sits in the closet and eats a cheesecake aftera bad date. I mean." as well as a highlighted quote from the woman herself: I know all about eating a cheesecakeaftera bad date.But." (Weiss and Johnson 1989. a result encouraged by programmers "so that one program leads effortlessly into the next" (Adler 1976. On the right (p. I stagger into the bathroom. be- This content downloaded from 138.) Moreover. 91) is an advertisement for Neutrogena soap."I think I verbalizefor a lot of women the anxietiesand insecuritieswe live out every day. anxieties. (We might note that Guisewite's "torture" also can be traced to an "abusive" man. brokenhernose severaltimes and pulled out clumps of hair while throwing her about their apartment.26. it is useful to borrow a concept from television criticism.I wash my face. It features a large photo of a grinning woman. I always go back.16. an uninterrupted following of one thing by another. People say...442 GENDER & SOCIETY / December 1989 ductby poking his fingerin thecornerof hereye. and masochism.. Cathy Guisewite. the "bad date" for whom she locked herself in a closet.. 7). because it's so simple. andI can handleit. we might consider the basic message that the juxtaposition of article and ad in People Weeklydelivers." including its mention of the six times Hedda left Joel Steinberg (the lifelong "bad date") only to return. Cognizant of this media structure.. One result of this flow is a powerful tendency to blur the contents together. cartoonist and creator of the strip "Cathy. after reading "Hedda's Story. Raymond Williams (1974) has described a central characteristic of the television experience to be that of flow-that is. Commercial advertisements that accompany programs also participate in this flow pattern. I've boughtthe 25-step skin careandit's still in the bottom drawer. like I'll buy anythingthatwill promiseme a miracle. makingme jump. feminine insecurities. p.

it takes the burdenand the focus off Steinberg. but for the grace of God. I can handle it. not to use the 'brainwashed the behavior of a her free will. andso on. could have been a Joel Steinberg. editorial(1989a) as well as an articlein Ms. this argumentcollapses in a numberof significant ways.26. followed by a horrifieddenial and distancing. murder.I stagger into the bathroom. it seeks the reason for batteryin the personalityof the woman. In some ways. honorablemen rushedto put a vast distance between themselves and Lisa's convicted killer"(p.I mean. (1989b). However. much of women's vituperationagainst Nussbaumequally might stem from an identificationwith her. 61).no manof my acquaintance She further alarming.5 on Fri.self-abuse)thatresultfrom abuse. In her Timeseditorial. A19) and finds thatshe was a "participant in her own and Lisa's destruction"(1989b." While Nussbaum'storture by a manshe continuedto live with is appalling (though fascinatingenough to rivet the nation). Firstof all. p.and smilingly cute. The point of feminism is to give women the victim's excuse to courage to exercise free will.16. . pp. woman who surrenders explain away Victimhoodmust no longer be an acceptableor excusable model of female behavior"(1989b. in this case her"narcissism. This content downloaded from 138.masochism. such an argumentmight be compelling. and cause it's so simple.This is a mixed message parexcellence.battery." "empty at the core"(1989a. 61). the questioncenters not on how the man could have done this rape. in some ways.Caputi / SEXUAL POLITICS OF MURDER 443 I washmyface. . Susan Brownmiller. the entire media packagesubtextuallyattemptsto instill in women the very attitudes(insecurity. Yet." has felt the need to proclaim that he. 19). 17 Jan 2014 00:36:07 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .Guisewite's self-tormentis pitched as normal.Finally.Decent. Second. but on how the womancould have let him.Brownmiller(1989a) deploreswhat she finds to be a common feminine identificationwith Nussbaumto be both "simplisticand observes:"Significantly. 273-285). representative. incest. . p. has arguedvehemently thatfeministsshouldnot support"unquestioningly the behaviorsandactions of all batteredwomen. particularlyif one assumes the perspective of the abused child.but in her oppressionin the nuclearfamily and in her statusas a torturevictim (Russell 1982. p.Nussbaum'sfailureto summonemergencyaid for Lisa as she lay unconsciouswas abusive. replicatingthe typicalpattern of the batterer.but an understandingof that behavior must first be sought not in Nussbaum's personality. Though the article superficially abhors Nussbaum's battering(all the while describing it in titillatingdetail)." and not in male dominance. She condemnsNussbaumas a "narcissist.once again. The patriarchal constructionof female victimizationis at the heartof the in aNew York Times debateover Nussbaum'scollusion.

TheAge of Sex Crime(1987).26.killed the girl next door.16. an analysis of the contemporary phenomenonof serial sex murder. The careerof sex killerTed Bundyis especially instructiveon this point. -Jimmy McDonough(1984. the boy next doorwho did not meant that my subject was getting closer and closer to my psyche. the cultureregularlydoublethinksa distance between itself and sexual violence. some of those very same men for and identification with the sexual crimfrequentlygush with admiration inal. Justice Department official Robert O. Ted Bundy committed serial murder. They torture theirvictims in terrible ways and This content downloaded from 138.5 on Fri. Heck summed up the general situation: We all talkaboutJackthe Ripper. 17 Jan 2014 00:36:07 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and FBI statistics show that this new type of murder has increased drastically in the United States in the last 20 years.suburban neighborhood I grew up in andthatTedBundyhad moved in a few houses down. This male rushto disassociate(especially afterthe fact) is characteristic of a patriarchal culturein which awarenessof institutionalized male supremacy is repressed. 3) At some pointwhen I was writingmy book.444 (ENDER & SOCIETIY / December 1989 and this is my centralpoint. rather. indecent will rush to disassociate themselves from a man who has been andmurderer.Thus. p. But it also was significant that the nightmarefigure was Ted Bundy. But we've got people [sic] out therenow killing 20 and 30 people and more. the Justice Department estimated that there were at the very least 35 and possibly as many as 100 such killers roaming the country.he killed five people [sic].1987. In addition. in 1984. publiclyshown up as a batterer or with fictional representatives of the type. andmaybe"Sonof Sam"who killedsix. of course men both decent and Furthermore. middle-class.I had a dreamthat I was back living in the white. Ted Bundykilled them. TIlE BOYS NEXT DOOR Most men just hate women. Certainly. and some of themjust don't kill.Still it made a deep impressionon me.This was but one of several such dreamsI had while engaged in the writing. Caputi1987). denying the fundamental normalcy of thatviolence in a male supremacistcultureandtryingto paintit as the domainof psychopathsand"monsters" only (CameronandFrazer. in myriadways. We all talkabout the "BostonStrangler" who killed 13. Priorto his publichumiliation.for Bundy is almost universallyhailed as the killerwho represented the all-Americanboy.

" Londonprostitutes. In England.buttons."the "Green River Killer. some stereotyped featureascribed in common to the victims (e."the "Boston Strangler.called Jack's Back. Jack the Ripper. tiethcenturyis markedby a new formof mass gynocide:the mutilation serial sex murder. 17 Jan 2014 00:36:07 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . p."to name only a few.g." the "Hillside Strangler.So hiddenis thisknowledge. to study may lead researchers goes on to observe:"Thissexual differentiation maleness and its socialization as an etiological consideration.16. he commonly appearsas an immortalfigure in literature.however. after first noting thatall known serial killers are male. (Lindsey 1984. The functionof such mythicizatelevision. for the "people"who torture. territorial. an exploitation thriller. mythic hero.Patriarchal culturehas enshrined"Jackthe Ripper" as a film.. prostitutes.26. Yet most researchershave not yet made that so obvious distinctionbecause to do so would inevitably introducethe issue of sexual politics into sexual murder. This content downloaded from 138. a "signature" style of murderor mutilation.and so on). about a killer of prostitutesin contemporaryLos Angeles. It's an epidemic.the lackof thisobvious distinctionhasapparently precludedsuch study"(p. and sensationally nicknamedkiller.This "age of sex crime" begins with the crimes of "Jackthe the still unidentifiedkillerwho in 1888 murdered and mutilatedfive Ripper. 7) AlthoughHeck's statementis superficiallycorrect."the "Son of Sam. Thatoccasion was celebratedby multipleretellingsof the Ripper legend. T-shirts. Retellings includeda British-produced massively promotedmade-for-TVmovie.his languageobscures what actually is going on out there. As this hierarchyindicates. 351). the centennialyear of the originalcrimes.these are crimes of sexually political. all coeds. and mutilate in this way are men.Caputi / SEXUAL POLITICS OF MURDER 445 mutilate them before they kill them."and the "SouthSide Slayer.jokes.kill. andotherculturalproducts. tion is twofold: to terrorize women and to empowerand inspiremen. while their victims are characteristically females-women and girls-and to a lesser extent younger males. The unprecedentedpatternlaid down duringthe Ripper's original siege is now enactedwith some regularity: the single. Ripper-typekillers include the "LipstickKiller. essentiallypatriarchal.5 on Fri. and scores of new books on the masterkiller.thatcriminologist Steven Egger (1984). The Rippermyth received renewedattentionin 1988. redheads. Ripperparaphernalia. Something's going on out there. the twenAlthoughsexual force againstwomen is endemic to patriarchy.However.socially powerless and scapegoatedvictims.and an accompanyingincidence of imitationor "copycat" killings. domination. such as a computer and cocktails game.intense media involvement. appeared(Cameron1988).

the "handsome."Ted Bundy is a One Night Stand. memorializing and further mythicizinga killerwho hadalready been the subjectof scores of articles.In the late 1970s. 182). A Prophetof Our Times.The poster advertisingthatevent displayeda likeness of the killer under the headline: "A Man with Vision.Now we're all ecstatic. A Man with Direction. Colorado. All observersconcur:"InAspen. 17 Jan 2014 00:36:07 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . gushed atmosphere surrounding execution was repeatedly described as a "carnival"or "circus. he was convicted of threewomen's deaths and is suspectedof being responsible for perhaps47 more.playing songs like "Ain't No Way to Treata Lady. when he was awaiting trialfor the murder of CarynCampbellin Aspen.26.. like "Jackthe Ripper.In Americanson." This sort of spontaneous outpouringof folk sentiment regardingTed Bundywas not without precedent." consistingof nothingmore thana plain This content downloaded from 138. The Myth.five books. 46). The Legend."is a sex criminal who has spawned a distinctive legend and been attended by a distinctiverevelry."Tedachievedthe statusof Billy the Kid at least"(Rule 1980." "intelligent."On the of the (fromphotographs morningBundywent to the electricchair." and chantedsongs such as "Hebludgeonedthe poorgirls. Bundy:The Man. The first time he was caught and returned second time he was successful and traveledto Florida. T-shirtsappearedreading. 255). p.A folklore sprang up out of the thin Rocky Mountainair" (Nordheimer1978. Bundy. Ted Bundy is dead.In the days precedinghis actorwhomPeople Weekly over the his as "world's sexiest The man").hundreds to the be of across the crowd seemed event.5 on Fri.p.16."A commonjournalisticmetaphorfor the overall scene was thatof a tailgate partybefore a big game. Bundy hadbecome a folk hero"(Larsen1980. that very father-a man who himself was portrayedas a paradigmatic and"charming" TedBundy. Many wore specially designed costumes. all over the head. and a made-for-TVmovie once (wherehe was played by MarkHarmon.Bundymanaged to custody.But uponthe news of his escapes (particularlythe first) a phenomenal reaction occurred. waved bannersproclaiminga "Bundy BBQ" or "I like my Ted well done. p."A local restaurant offered a "Bundyburger.his story dominatedthe mass media. composedlargely men)gathered street from the prison." Radio KSNO programmeda Ted Bundy request hour. the to escape twice.446 GENDER & SOCIETY / December 1989 Within months of this anniversarycelebrationfor the mythic father of the focus effortlessly and eerily shiftedto a figurativeson of sexual murder." 1979. "Aspen reacted as if Bundy were some sort of Robin Hood instead of a suspected mass murderer. Indications of a spreadingBundycult continueto appear: a studentgroupat the University of New Mexico in April 1989 offered a programshowing a tape of Bundy's final interview...

seeking him "inconnectionwith 36 similar-typesexualslayings throughoutseveral Westernstates."explaineda the last momenthe confessed to his crimes and manifestedfear of death.5 on Fri. but now delightedly demanded that the preeminent son die as a token sacrifice for his and theirsins. a rising star in Seattle's Republicanparty. Millett 1970. generally middle-classvictims were stereotypically (and with markedracistand classist bias) universalizedas "anyone's daughters. 117) Bundy also spoke for himself (although in the third person since he had not yet decided to openly admit his guilt): This content downloaded from 138.26. intelligent. 17 Jan 2014 00:36:07 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Bundywas now cast into the alternaterole of scapegoat.veiled threats(I might be the Strangler. orjiggly starletson talk shows.moreover. p. But subsequently.Caputi / SEXUAL POLITICS OF MURDER 447 roll:"Openit andsee the meathasfled. and he had to dropout of law school due to badgrades). the male identification was with Bundyas an outlaw rebel-hero. butnonetheless he was schooling himself.. Crimestories fascinatedhim.. as revealed in "jokes. That learningremainedincidental to the centralthrillof readingabouttheabuseof female images.Bundy and murderfantasies. a former law student. providedan attractive persona for purposesof identification. After his firstescape. (p.Bundy did the supremely unmanly thing of getting caught. Five years earlier.The "bloodthirsty revelers"outside the their of and lust for death.anotherinterviewer(Michaudand Aynesworth1983) had reporteda similarconversationwith Bundy: He told me thatlong beforetherewas a need to kill therewerejuvenile fantasies fed by photos of women in skin magazines. innuendoes. a psychologistand thatsince his youthhe hadbeen obsessed with pornogreligious broadcaster. a recurrentand vivid pattern accompanying episodes of sensationalized sex murder is ordinary male identificationwith the sex killer.As several feminist analysts (Lacy 1982-83. claimed that pornographyinspiredhim to act out his torture raphy. Bundy spoke directly about his culturalconstructionas a sex killer.tellingJamesDobson.." Just as Bundy'swhite. the victims prison gates. patriarchal In the final days before his execution.suntanoil advertisements. Yetafterhis second escape. He readpulp detective magazines and gradually developed a store of knowledge about criminal techniques-what workedand what didn't.16. the FBI took Bundy seriously enough to name him to their 10 Most WantedList. you know)"(Lacy 1982-83. He was transfixedby the sight of women's bodies on provocativedisplay."Bundy himself was depicted as the fatherland's(almost) ideal son-handsome. through objectification still mirroredBundy.And althoughthat idealization falls apartupon close examination(Bundy's photographs show an ordinaryface. 61). Walkowitz 1982) have noted.No longerqualifyingas hero.

. 46).misogynist myth prevails and the finger of blame is pointed unswervingly at a woman. and tormentedanimals) to actual sexual assault is consistent who claim with testimonyfromothersex offenders. normal fellow. Bundy's assertions released a wave of scorn.Yourgirlfriend. the abuse.While nothingof this motherson relationshipis known. Thereare. Russell 1988. As one columnist(Leo 1989) aspersionson pornography fulminated: "As Bundy told it. Russell (1988) has proposed a theoretical model of the causative role of pornographyin violence against women. Bundy's testimonyclearly supportsthat model. Russell arguesthatpornography predisposesor intensifies some a predispositionin some men to rapewomen andthatit can undermine men's internalor social inhibitionsagainstactingout sexually violent absolves pornographyand instead This content downloaded from 138. H.a whole host of substitutions thatcould come underthatparticular heading.26. in thecontext is devotedtowardliterature of a sexual encounter. 117) (reportedlyintroduced Bundy'sself-confessed movementfrompornography who beathis wife. they are treatedas victims. Since Bundy's execution.of course. predictably. Then he got sucked into the more sinister doctrines that are implicit in pornography-the use. regularlyassaulted to him at an early age by a grandfather other people. 17 Jan 2014 00:36:07 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . or the victim. She defineseroticaas "sexual representations premisedon equality"(Leidholdtand Russell forthcoming. normalcyas well as "malenessand its socialization" are vehemently discardedas an etiological considerationfor sexual murder. Once again. p.yourwife. Einsiedel 1986). an extensive article has appearedin VanityFair..16..children-whatever-a whole host of victims are found in this And in this literature. drawingupon a definition distinguishesbetween pornography of pornographyas "sexually explicit materialthat representsor describes the degradingor abusivesexual behaviorso as to endorseand/orrecommend behavioras described"(Longino 1980. 53).. ( one way or anotherengages in some sortof violence towarda woman. 44). literature. ridicule. with some commentatorsseemingly more angry at his thanat his crimes.448 GENDER & SOCIETIY / December 1989 as a vicariousway of experiencingwhat Maybe he focused on pornography his peers were experiencingin reality. and fury in the mainstreampress. a hatredof women virulentenough to claim 50 lives does not usually springfull-blown from the readingof obscene magazines" (p. Diana E. Using the findingsfroma rangeof social researchfrom the past decade. p. . a stranger.includingsex murderers. the possession of women as objects. an 'allAmericanboy' properlyraisedby diligent parents. Russell first and erotica. that viewing pornographyaffected their criminal behavior (Caputi 1987.5 on Fri. he was a good.. A certainpercentageof it [pornography] thatexploressituationswherea man.thoughone would have liked to hearmore abouthis 'diligent'mother.

because the This content downloaded from 138.26. Task Force 1984. the fundamentalistcrusader. Indeed. 17 Jan 2014 00:36:07 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 106) (Starr There was wide public attention in the Ted [Bundy] case .5 on Fri.. loathing of eroticism.Thus. one who. it was claimed that Bundy. and the containment of women in male-controlled institutions-structure fundamentalism'svery self-serving opposition to pornography.a freelancer)in the maintenance of patriarchal orderthroughforce."witch-hunting inquisitionsby the Christian so on.16. Yet a feminist analysis would not accept the equation that to recognize the responsibility of society for sexually political murderis to absolve the murderer.the purityof his misogyny. pornography(as well as its diffusions through mainstream culture)is a modernmode for communicatingand constructing patriarchy'snecessary fusion of sex and violence. ..was and lying one last time. namingBundy as that society's henchman(albeit.led Bundy to his assertionsto furtherhis own agenda.Butnoteverybody on thePacific prostitution Highway. belief in the sanctity of marriage and the family. and churchandstate. and his attendant celebritywith his life.Caputi / SEXUAL POLITICS OF MURDER 449 condemns Louise Bundy as responsible for the evolution of her son into a "depravedmonster"(MacPherson1989). aftergettingcaught. . . Clearly. like other sex criminals.Yet few feminists would agree with the Right thatpornographyis the sole or root cause of violence against women. A companion chorus of voices suggests that we cannot take Bundy seriously because Dobson.p.and would point to the connection between Bundy and his society. EVERYONE'S SISTERS victimsresembled relates to everyone's [sic]daughter.Robert of theGreen member River Keppel. a characteristicmanipulator.that imperativehas assumed other forms historically:the political the enslavementof Africansin the "new operationsof militarydictatorships.Rather.had to pay for his fervor.we mightfurther recognizeBundy as a martyr for the patriarchal state. Finally.. for sexualizing torture. tryingto absolve himself in his simply manipulating eleventh hourby blaming society. once again. The basic elements for a gynocidal campaign-an ideology of male supremacy. Rather. the feministconnection between violence against women and pornographyis potentially discredited by its association with fundamentalism.a vivid imaginationof (particularly female) sexual filth.

but perhapsthe saddestpartof this case is thatsome were not. The Bundy murders consistently aroused not only a unique folklore and ritual revelry but also a public display of mourning because. the "Yorkshire (Holloway 1981. In the "Jack the Ripper" crimes. on a 1979 series of murdersin Boston) Some of the victims were prostitutes. 28) Ted Bundy's victims were young white women and were consistently described in the press as "beautiful" with "long. the "Son of Sam." chose victims on the basis of their correspondence to a pornographic. powerless. single and elderly women.prosecutingcounsel at the trialof Peter Sutcliffe. runaways.. but also boasted: "I am down on whores and I shan't quit ripping them until I do get This content downloaded from 138. brown. 17 Jan 2014 00:36:07 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and racist ideal. The distorted of the girls and women could be expected in a city notoriousfor its portrayal sexist turn. Jones and Wood 1989. as Steven Egger (1984) noted. .. .Margaret Prescod. far more likely.becausethe victimswere not only racism. objectifying. "share common characteristics of what are perceived to be prestigeless." We can recognize some of this description as a fetishization meant to further eroticize the killings for the public. 39) Ripper" There'd be more response from the police if these were San Marino housewives. prostitutes. A pattern of police officials waiting an unreasonable amount of time before organizing a concentrated effort to catch a killer.yourlife isn't worthmuch. and so on." and not middle class.5 on Fri. impoverished women. p. p.or drug addicts who "deserved"to die because of how they lived. If you're Black and living on the fringe. but female. and/or lower socioeconomic groups" (p. refusing to initiate community involvement. 348). someone pretending to be the killer) wrote to the press a letter that not only originated the famous nickname.founderof the Black CoalitionFightingBack SerialMurders (Uehling 1986.26. mainstream men could readily identify with Bundy and also because sexual murder. and ignoring community input has marked nearly all investigations of the murders of "prestigeless" women (Grant 1988a. in the first place. prostitute women. while some highly celebrated killers such as Bundy or David Berkowitz. not "family women. failing to warn a community. the majority of victims of serial killers are women who.but therewas a particular Black. prejudicially labeling victims.450 GENDER & SOCIETY / December 1989 The victims were universally described as runaways.16. -Barbara Smith (1981. 68. like rape.Sir Michael Havers. . However." women of color. is understood as a property crime. p. "street women. all of the victims were prostitute women. A far different societal response is forthcoming when the women killed are not white. 1988b. hair. that is. Serrano 1989). The killer (or.

it was declared.and support. In the wake of thatcontrothe Britishpress has claimed thatthe majorproblemthat versy in Yorkshire.and. Four years after the first mutilationand murder. Thatindicatesyourmentalstateandthat you are in urgentneed of medicalattention. From such official statementswe learnthat it is normalto hate prostitutewomen. a gynocidalkillerwas active in northern Britain. Over in the Americas."the "South Side Slayer."Here.Many people do. His deeds.' with no sensible middle ground"(Berger 1984. it when he turnsto so-called innocent seems. 1). This content downloaded from Yorkshire.Caputi / SEXUAL POLITICS OF MURDER 451 buckled. we are at an utterloss in distinguishingthe point of view of the ostensibly deviantsex killerfromthatof his pursuers or his society. at least 17 women.5 on Fri. will continue to arrest prostitutes.a great deal of controversyhas attendedpolice handling. depends upon public interest."As in many cases involving the serial murderof prostitutewomen. Moreover. We.the killer had begun to target nonprostitutewomen.of the case (Serrano1989). In the mid-1980s."In the late 1970s.mishandling. and West Yorkshire'sConstable Jim Hobson issued an extraordinary statementas an "anniversary plea"to the killer:"He has made it clear that he hates prostitutes. p. Hobson matter-of-factly motives andactionsto largersocial interestsas well as police aligns "Ripper" goals. Perpetuatingthe myth of the immortaland recurringsex criminal. He goes on. shifting voice to a direct appeal to the killer: "But the Ripperis now killing innocentgirls. seeing women as " 'angels or whores. Give yourself up before anotherinnocentwoman dies" (Smith 1982. p."and a currentseriesof murders of "prestigeless" women in San Diego County. only become socially problematic girls.You have made yourpoint.were murderedwithin a 40-mile radius in South Central Los African-American all but3 of thevictims Angeles. Ironically. including those of the "GreenRiver Killer. 17 Jan 2014 00:36:07 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . the killer is even assured of social solidarityin this emotion. a primarily neighborhood.16.thenotion that this distinction has any abiding reality in the sex killer's mind is both erroneousand dangerous. 11). p. the first victims were all prostitutewomen. the police faced in the early yearsof thatinvestigationwas "apathyover the killing of prostitutes."Police work. offered his expert opinion that serial murderers either idealize women or degrade them. psychiatristJohn Liebert.26.or rather. "Such was the apathyat the time that it was virtuallynil" (Osman and Ford 1981. as a police force. characterizedby the police as consultanton the "GreenRiver Killer"case.such open attitudesof hostility to prostitute women and apathytowardtheirmurders were openly expressednot only by the public but also by the police themselves. Once again.the men of the press nicknamedhim "the YorkshireRipper.cooperation. 5). as the London Timesnoted.

20). 1). the killer might begin with prostitute women. or if we are"sexualoutlaws"of any kind.452 (ENDER & SOCIETY / December 1989 were diverts the blame to the victim. these women. in a piece in the Los Angeles Times (Boxall 1989) titled. The same article states: "Police sweeps have greatly reduced streetwalking in Hollywood. Margaret Prescod.16. police say. prostitution tends to take more sophisticated."This statementreflectsthe attitudeof the police towardpoorwomen generally. police chief in charge of the "Jack the Ripper" case. and place themselves in such a position that they can be slaughtered without a sound being heard" (Cameron and Frazer 1987. such as escort services" (p. and . Charles Warren. . it lulls nonprostitute women into a false feeling of safety. We all know only too well thatany of us at any time can be labeleda prostitute woman. Thus we can surmise that police actions have contributed toward creating a more dangerous city for South-Central women. Rachel West (1987) notes: The Black Coalitionhas statedagainandagainthatthey arenot convincedthat were prostitutes andthatthe police have offeredlittle all the women murdered evidence to supportthatclaim. "Prostitutes: Easy Prey for Killers. good daughters gone bad. 23). expensive and less hazardous forms. in peacetime.most effectively . They take the murderer to some retired spot. .5 on Fri. targeted This content downloaded from 138.26. "but she was a street woman.especially if they are black. Elsewhere in Los Angeles. 285) West further observes that in many other instances of serial murder. leaving the gritty main drags of South-Central the city's streetwalking center. 17 Jan 2014 00:36:07 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . When the police or press describe the murdered women as prostitutes. In response to police and media neglect. p. In October 1888. The police waited until 10 women were killed before notifying the public that a serial murderer was operating and then waited until there were 4 more deaths before forming a task force. if we darestep out of line in the way we speak and dress. That sentiment was echoed. and contains a quote from Commander William Booth of the Los Angeles police department: "I think that's the highest-risk occupation there is. they immediately said. a longtime public spokeswoman for US PROS (a national network of women who work in the sex industry and their supporters) founded the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders. as streetwalking prostitution" (p." It portrays "drug-dazed" women. moreover. . Whenthe police could not dig up a prostitution arrest record on victim 17. in the hourswe keep. but then moves on to women of all types (as in the "Hillside Strangler" killings). Mercenaries are way behind prostitutes. There is nothing that carries the risk with it. It plays upon sexist and frequently racist prejudices to mute the seriousness of the murders. one century later. (p. the numberof friendswe have. pontificated to the press: "The police can do nothing as long as the victims unwittingly connive at their own destruction.

That definition obviously mustbe expandedto includegender(as well as sexualpreference). intimidationor harassmentthat is due to the victim's race. there are no national statistics kept on the numberof prostitutesmurdered annually.Yet the Steinbergcase might remindus that each year 30 percent of all women murderedare killed by their husbandsand lovers.500 women pcr year (UniformCrimeReports.the Los Angeles police claim that therehave been 69 murders of prostitute women and30 women killedin what in the past four years. and murder.sexually political hatred.Caputi / SEXUAL POLITICS OF MURDER 453 because of their race and class. As I workedon the conclusionto this piece.16. about 1. as far as I know. is really quite misleading." so common in such cases. andwe realizewith RachelWest (1987) that "the rights of prostitutewomen are the rights of all women" (p. 17 Jan 2014 00:36:07 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ."June 7. mood is hatred. Two other women have been missing for months.the site of a notoriousgang rape(Chancer 1987). p.those numbers they call "streetmurders" registerappallingdanger. 1987.Obviously.26. are in far greater danger than women in moneyed." NOTE 1. p.What men might call "peacetime. battering. 1989) reportingthat nine women (all of whom were describedas prostitutesor drugaddicts)hadbeen murderedin the past year in New Bedford.5 on Fri. infanticide. Massachusetts. Although."researcher Lori Heise (1989) truthfullynames a "globalwar on women. p.the illegality of prostitutionand institutionalized harassmentby the police contributesto making prostitutionsuch a "high-risk" occupation. The reigning. Clearly.Facedwith such statistics. Yet the ascriptionof "apathy. though denied.the invidiousdistinctionscollapse. white areas. Assuredly. 285). A serial killer is suspected. 11).A "hatecrime"is conventionallydefinedas "any assault.we have response of the mainstream heard this story before."apathy"is said to be the primary New Bedfordcommunity. Partof this section previouslyappearedin my review of Susan Brownmiller'sWaverly Place (Caputi 1989)." wifehood seems to rank right up therewith prostitution as an endemicallyunsafeoccupation. Despite blandishmentsdirected toward stereotypical "angels" and "good girls. including neglect. 54).8 million women are beaten by husbands and lovers annually (Summers 1989. Vast numbersof women are now sufferingand dying fromvariousforms of hate crime worldwide. genital mutilation. This content downloaded from 138. I listenedto a NationalPublic Radio news program("MorningEdition.rape. A12). religion or ethnic background"(Malcolm 1989. and that at least 1.

1988a.March6. "TheGlobal WarAgainst Women. Heise. of Justice. 1984.Steven A. "That'sEntertainment? and Strife 13:17-19. s Liberation. and Rape. 1983. edited by RichardAdlerand Douglas Cater."Ms. 1989. "Prostitutes: Easy Preyfor Killers." Journal of Police Science andAdministration for the AttorneyGeneral'sCommission Einsiedel.Mary.16. F. 1988b. Lacy. p. 1986.OH:Bowling GreenStateUniversity Press. The Lust to Kill: A Feminist Investigationof New York:New YorkUniversityPress.Deborahand ElizabethFrazer."LosAngeles Times(February 25):1. Wendy. Hackett."Newsweek(December 12):60. 1987. 1989b.Boston: a Philosophyof Women Daly. New YorkTimes(February . "SocialScience Report. (April):56-61. 1989. thanFiction. Massachusetts. "A Tale of Abuse. Forum(July):16-18. U. Joel SteinbergTells How He Cared for the Child He Killed and the Lover He Beat."Madlyin Love. Richard. 1. Bundy:TheDeliberateStranger.5 on Fri. Chancer. Gross.New York:Praeger. 1982-83. Pornography: and the Reductionof Linkage Egger. AlbuquerqueTribune. Suzanne. 39-58 in Madefrom the Earth:An New York:Harper& Row. Jr.1984. "A WorkingDefinitionof Serial Murder 12:348-57." Sojourner: The Women'sForum (June):20-21. 1975. Boxall.Susan. TheAgeof Sex Crime.1987. "In Mourning and in Rage (with Analysis Aforethought). "TraitsSharedby Mass Killers RemainUnknownto Experts.1976. 1989a. Dworkin. Sexual Murder. Caputi. New York:Simon & Brownmiller.Lynn S.S. 1989. 1988. Schuster. Post (April9): Sec. Against Our Will:Men. Ken.Reprintedby permission.454 GENDER & SOCIE'TlY / December 1989 REFERENCES Adler.Jane."Washington Holloway. 6):34.1981. Department Grant. Men Possessing Women. "Blood Trail Ends: BrotherSays He's Glad Wilder's Killing is Over.'" Time(February Lamar. 1981. 1989. Copyright1989. "Stranger Caputi. "Rape:The All-AmericanCrime. 17 Jan 2014 00:36:07 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ."Gender& Society 1:239-60. 1989 "Denying His Guilt."Who's Killing Us? PartTwo.Andrea. JacobV. This content downloaded from 138.Bowling Green."Ikon (Fall/Winter):60-67.E.26. of Sexual Jackthe Ripperand the Celebration Cameron. "Introduction. ..Richard EnglewoodCliffs. Jaime M. Lori. "Sheriff'sDeputyHeldin Prostitute's Killings."Pp. " '1 Deserve Punishment. "New Bedford.1973. Anthologyof Writings. 1-16 in Televisionas a CulturalForce. 1983-March22. 1984. NJ:Prentice-Hall.George. W." 2):A19. Los Angeles Times. . B. "'I Just Wanted to Kill a Woman' Why": The Ripper and Male Sexuality."Sojourner:The Women's Griffin. 1984: The 'Before and After' of a GroupRape. Larsen. "Who's Killing Us? Part One.BeyondGodthe Father:Toward Beacon Press. 23.Susan.Debbie.Jane." Prepared DC. Washington."LosAngeles Times(March21):1. Violence."People Weekly (March13):72." Pp. on Pornography."FeministReview9:33-40." Times(August27):1. Women."(April 14):2 New York Berger.Joseph. New York:Perigee.1989. 1980. "HeddaNussbaum:Hardlya Heroine. 1987. Bettina."Trouble Cameron. Review of Waverly 6(May):10-11.1989. Blindness."Women'sReviewofBooks Place. Jones.JackandTracyWood.

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This content downloaded from 138. 1987).Albuquerque. 17 Jan 2014 00:36:07 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Jane Caputi teaches AmericanStudies at the Universityof New Mexico. She wroteThe Age of Sex Crime(BowlingGreen. 1974.456 GENDER & SOCIETY / December 1989 Williams.26. Television: Technologyand Cultural Form.16. Raymond.5 on Fri. 1987) and collaborated with Mary Daly on Webster'sFirst New Intergalactic Wickedaryof the English Language(Boston:Beacon Press. Glasgow: Fontana/ Collins. She is now writing a book on female power and the nuclearage.OH: Bowling GreenState University Press.

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