Delving into the dark catacombs of the human condition lends itself to the exploration of some of the most abominable crimes. Since the late 1880s, modern society began to grapple with the empirical construct of serial murder, demanding attention and insight in explaining its etiology in the criminological framework. A rudimentary understanding of serial killers has inexorably gained momentum and social significance because their attendant crimes both perplex and fascinate those in their periphery. Such illuminating examples constitute the heinous crimes of Jack the Ripper and Ted Bundy, who predated on multiple women and left a trail of horror behind. One may ask: Are there similarities in some of the underlying causes and manifestations of their crimes? Such a juxtaposition raises the specter of whether their crimes share commonalities involving the designation of a sex crime.
Attention to the predatory violence inflicted on the hapless victims of the Ripper and Bundy reflects an insatiable desire to engage in sexualized violence, perhaps stemming from immense feelings of emasculation, giving rise to a eunuch. In describing a sex crime, Caputi (1982) emphasizes a sexualized violence associated with the crime, whereby the target of the attack, the motivation, and the manner of violence are collectively relegated into the realm of “sexual,” within the cultural fabric. Thus, an ideology emerges to reveal a sex crime, conferring realistic and metaphoric significance (Caputi). In a quest for attention and infamy, Jack the Ripper sought women in the slums of London, leaving their morbid bodies on display, eviscerated and mutilated. Similarly, Ted Bundy would lure women into his deadly lair, killing them with no compunction, and dumping their bodies in remote areas to be scattered by ferocious animals. Told anew, these tragedies invoke a ritual, reflecting the perpetuation of entrenched cultural values. In this vein, the murderous ritual functions to align with the cultural universals of male dominance and patriarchy, should they be challenged.
Conceivably, this ritual allows those who manifest sexual violence to enact their dominance over women, and thus, dichotomizing the sexes into the structure of predator and prey (Caputi, 1982). This chasm, serving often as a linchpin for gender inequality, undergirds the rationalizations of a sex crime. Against this backdrop, it is instructive to understand the psychological underpinnings of the sex crimes committed by Bundy and the Ripper. In analyzing them, common themes emerge. Much blame is imputed to their mothers for their criminality, and their murderous arc represents a holy war against women and their inherent sexuality (Caputi). Jack the Ripper was adept in removing the genitalia of his victims, suggesting an animosity toward women, particularly, his mother (Caputi). Indeed, research into the crimes of Bundy and the Ripper do suggest that they had cultivated an ambivalence toward their mother (Caputi). Most likely, their childhoods were mired in psychological and physical abuse by their mothers according to the findings of Caputi in the course of her research on sex crimes.
Juxtaposing the sex crimes of Bundy and the Ripper carries the stamp of male dominance, seeking to denounce and punish feminine values in the context of a ritual, serving as a justifiable representation of embedded social values. They were purportedly raised by domineering mothers, having inflicted ambivalence and pain, which would be concomitantly avenged against. As such, killing women evinced a catharsis to countervail their painful and traumatic memories of their childhood. Having overidentified with their mothers, or the feminine sex, evoked a fundamental antagonism toward their sense of masculinity. By committing violent crimes, their status of a eunuch was neutralized through the symbolic warfare against women. For all the credible rationalizations and explanations of these serial murderers, their personas remain a formidable mystery.
Caputi, J. E. (1982). The age of sex crime (Order No. 8227475). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (303210815).