Hybristophilia (also known as the Bonnie and Clyde Syndrome) is a form of paraphilia (or perversion) involving sexual attraction to people who have committed some sort of “outrage”. The term is usually associated with fans of notorious criminals.
Many high-profile criminals, particularly those who have committed atrocious crimes, receive “fan mail” in prison that is sometimes amorous or sexual, presumably as a result of this phenomenon. In some cases, admirers of these criminals have gone on to marry the object of their affections in prison.
Some speculations have been offered as to the cause of hybristophilia. For instance, Katherine Ramsland, who is a professor of forensic psychology at DeSales University mentions that some of the women in particular who have married or dated male serial killers have offered the following reasons:
- Low self esteem and the lack of a father figure.
- “Some believe they can change a man as cruel and powerful as a serial killer.”
- “Others ‘see’ the little boy that the killer once was and seek to nurture him.”
- “A few hoped to share in the media spotlight or get a book or movie deal.”
- “Then there’s the notion of the ‘perfect boyfriend’. She knows where he is at all times and she knows he’s thinking about her. While she can claim that someone loves her, she does not have to endure the day-to-day issues involved in most relationships. There’s no laundry to do, no cooking for him, and no accountability to him. She can keep the fantasy charged up for a long time.”
Others offered reasons along the lines of:
- “Some mental health experts have compared infatuation with killers to extreme forms of fanaticism. They view such women as insecure females who cannot find love in normal ways or as ‘love-avoidant’ females who seek romantic relationships that cannot be consummated.”
Psychologist Leon F. Seltzer has offered explanations for the phenomenon of male serial killers attracting female sex partners based on evolutionary psychology.
Serial killers, in his view, are cases of alpha males that tend to attract women.
This is because such males were good at protecting women and their offspring according to evolutionary history.
He says women today may consciously realize that it is unwise to date a serial killer, but they are nevertheless attracted to them; he stated,
“As a therapist I’ve encountered many women who bemoaned their vulnerability toward dominant men who, consciously, they recognized were all wrong for them”