There’s something deeply disturbing about “The Sexual Politics of Murder” – and I don’t think it’s what Ms. Caputi was aiming for. What I think she was trying to say – and I’m extrapolating quite a bit here – is that the patriarchal systemic dominance of women contributes to and is expressed in individual acts of violence against women. That’s an argument that is pretty hard to refute, and a disturbing notion indeed.
That’s not quite what Ms. Caputi says.
Instead, she ascribes individual motive throughout, nearly insisting that Ted Bundy – and other male killers – are inherently, consciously, and deliberately enforcing the patriarchy as the KGB enforced Communism. That male serial killers are explicitly intending to terrorize all women and enforce a patriarchal reign.
I don’t think that makes a whole lot of sense.
Her thesis is not necessary to explain their behavior – and in fact, seems counterproductive to their egocentric tendencies. This does not absolve the system of culpability, nor does it remove the unintended effects. Yet Ms. Caputi seems unsatisfied with this, and draws a near conspiracy of men actively conspiring to deliberately keep women down.
Further, her examples leave much to be desired. She paradoxically uses a demonstration of people joyous at Ted Bundy’s execution to demonstrate his appeal, and forgets basic logic when asserting that porn is in itself evil. This latter fallacy is obvious on the face of it; were porn nearly as horrible as she claims, then a much greater percentage of persons should be serial killers. This is manifestly not the case.
Instead, it is not difficult to find killers using all sorts of texts and influences to justify their own decisions and excuse their behaviors. That these killers were consumers of pornography – especially with her loose definition making it ubiquitous – is not surprising; that does not imply the causal link that she asserts.
It is definitely a different way of looking at the world, and brings some potentially uncomfortable questions to bear regarding our culpability in sustaining a system that works so steadily against women. Ascribing individual motivations, however, is a step too far.