Male psychopaths are sexist by nature
This is how female psychopaths differ from male ones
Unscrupulous, aggressive, self-indulgent - this is how psychopaths are often described. Female psychopaths also have other character traits, says a criminal psychologist.
In an interview with t-online.de, criminal psychologist Lydia Benecke explains why male and female psychopaths act differently. And it requires society and the judiciary to give identical criminal acts the same rating - regardless of whether they were committed by a woman or a man.
t-online.de: The psychologist Robert D. Hare has created a checklist that can be used to identify psychopaths. They say that this cannot easily be transferred to women. What are the characteristic traits of female psychopaths?
Lydia Benecke: Women are more likely to use relationships to meet their needs. So they manipulate their love partners, friends or family to achieve certain things. To do this, they use far more social skills than men to achieve a goal. You don't have to draw a gun or use physical force to do so. They are more likely to use manipulative and emotional violence.
Can you explain why that is so?
There are probably many factors that interact. To name two: On the one hand, men have more testosterone than women. And testosterone is classically known for promoting aggressive and violent behavior under certain conditions. Another factor is social learning. While the little girl in elementary school may learn that she gets her classmate's lunch when she loves to look and appears a bit helpless, the little boy will notice that he doesn't necessarily get his classmate's lunch when she looks lovingly. Instead, however, with threats and beatings. People experience which strategy leads to which result.
Lydia Benecke, Born in 1982, works as a psychologist with a focus on violent and sexual offenses. She has written several books on criminal psychology. The last one to appear was "Psychopaths: The Psychology of Female Evil".
For example, how do female psychopaths take advantage of their own families?
Women are more likely to use relationships to get something. So it is obvious that they should direct their unscrupulousness and their hunger for needs to their families as well. For example, there was a mother who used her numerous children as work slaves. Later, when they were of legal age, she forged their signatures in order to commit various frauds on their behalf. Their children then had to pay large sums of money. The mother put the children under pressure: "If you report me, I have to go to prison. Then your little brothers and sisters come to the home and you are to blame."
Are there differences in the perception of identical crimes - depending on whether they were committed by a woman or a man?
Yes. When women behave sexually abusive towards children or their partner, this is taken less seriously. As an example: If a 14-year-old student is abused by a teacher in their early 30s, the newspaper usually says "seduced", not "abused". But when a 14-year-old student is abused by a teacher in her early 30s, they are right not to read seduced. So the boy is seduced in the public eye, the girl is abused. In reality, both are abuse and that should finally reach the media reporting as well as in our society as a realization. The perception of exhibitionism is similar.
Exhibitionism is not a criminal offense for women. This does not exist for women in German criminal law. In such cases, a woman could be investigated for "causing public nuisance", but not for exhibitionism. If a woman exhibits in front of minors, this could be prosecuted as sexual abuse. But that is extremely rarely reported. Women and men are not quite on the same level when it comes to social and legal assessments.
Lydia Benecke: Her scientific work focuses on personality disorders, deviating sexual preferences and trauma disorders, among other things. (Source: Manfred Esser)
What is the rationale for this?
The reason is: women almost never do that. We don't even know how often women actually show such behavior, because there are no reliable statistics and it is only displayed extremely rarely. Some estimates assume that there are around half as many exhibitionist women as men. Just because a group of people commits a crime less often does not mean that it is punishable for that group of people. What kind of reason is that? I think there is still a bit of catching up to do, even if I don't want to question the fact that women undoubtedly act sexually abusive significantly less often than men. Nevertheless, it would be important to take these cases seriously in any case. Sexually assaulting behavior should be taken seriously in relation to both the victim and the perpetrator - regardless of whether the sexually assaulting behavior is shown by a man or a woman and whether the victim is male or female.
Do you have an example from your work as a therapist?
In my ten years of therapeutic work with offenders so far, I have dealt with quite a few who were sexually abused by a woman as a child or adolescent - but who did not see this as abuse at all. The concept that a woman can be sexually assaulting does not exist in many people's minds. For example, there was someone who was lured into the next room by a 28-year-old when she was ten and said, "I'm going to teach you French kissing." Or another man who was animated by his teenage babysitter to "spin the bottle" at elementary school age until both were naked and the babysitter then said she wanted to show him how sex works. It would be nice to talk about the fact that even if women are less likely to be sexually abusive, the chance that they will get away with it is incredibly high.
Thank you for the interview, Ms. Benecke.
Robert Hare's Psychopathy Checklist
The checklist serves as an instrument for diagnosing psychopathy; it distinguishes two dimensions of psychopathy:
Dimension 1: utilitarian
- eloquent blender, superficial charm
- excessive self-esteem
- morbid lying
- cunning, deceitful, manipulative
- lack of remorse, lack of sense of guilt
- superficial feelings
- lack of empathy
- Lack of willingness and ability to take responsibility for one's own actions
Dimension 2: impulsive
- Need for stimulation (hunger for adventure), tendency to be bored
- parasitic lifestyle
- inadequate behavioral control
- promiscuous sexual behavior
- previous behavioral problems
- Lack of realistic, long-term goals
- juvenile delinquency
- Violation of probation conditions on parole
- many short-term relationships
- multiple forms of crime
Important NOTE: The information is in no way a substitute for professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. The contents of t-online cannot and must not be used to independently make diagnoses or start treatments.
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