Updated: Jan 23, 2018 11:30 am
I think we can all agree that true crime is having a moment, from its documentaries to its podcasts, the genre is bigger than ever. But strangely enough, it's mostly women who are doing all the consuming. According to a 2010 study, women just can't stop reading true crime novels about rape, serial killers, and other bloody, terrible things and are more likely to watch shows like Law and Order: SVU or listen to podcasts like My Favorite Murder than men. But why? As an actual living, breathing woman, I decided to do some digging (with a little help from professors and psychologists) to figure out exactly why we ladies enjoy dark, macabre stories. And rest assured, guys — it's not because we secretly want to murder you (at least not entirely). Below, eight reasons why women can't get enough of true crime.
It gives women a chance to tap into their revenge fantasies.
As you know, society often socializes women to bottle their anger, smile, and be nice to the creepy dude at the bar (lest he gets mad and stalks her home). Because of this, women have a lot of untapped anger, and true crime allows women to channel that rage by living vicariously through female killers. "Crime fiction and drama lets us feel the outrage we aren’t encouraged to express in real life," crime author Mel McGrath explained, "about the violence meted out to us by men, and the sense of satisfaction and relief when the (mostly) male perpetrators get their comeuppance."
Women are less squeamish about blood.
We ladies deal with blood all the time, you know with periods and all. A little blood from getting sliced and diced to death is nothing compared to childbirth.
"In fact, we’re often encouraged to think of ourselves as a collection of body parts ('Is my bum too big? Are my breasts OK? Is my stomach flat?')," Mel added. "So forensics, where bodies are broken down into limbs and feet and necks, makes perfect sense to us too."
They're attracted to the "dark" side of the human psyche that they don't understand.
“It’s the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction,” Pamela Deutsch, a Senior Executive Producer at ID, said. “The idea of relatable characters is something that’s really important to us, because I think that really speaks to why people really enjoy true crime: a lot of the people that we feature really look like your friends and neighbors. People just want to understand the whys. You hear all these stories in the news, and it just gives us kind of a desire to understand, like, ‘How did this person make that wrong turn? They look just like me!’”
Because they know what it's like to live in fear.
It's not like men don't have fears, but women are afraid literally all the time. For some women, watching true crime shows helps ease the anxiety of feeling like they're going to get murdered.
“I sort of exorcise that anxiety through obsessively reading about true crime and learning about it,” Anna Breslaw told The Atlantic. “You’re like, 'I’m not afraid of this. I’m going to face this,' and I think it’s like exposure therapy.”
However, some experts think this might not be such a good idea.
"All this focus on crime may be resulting in a vicious cycle for women," Amanda Vicary, assistant professor of psychology, said. "They fear being a victim of a crime, so they may subconsciously turn to crime books or television shows to learn ways to prevent being a victim. This in turn exposes them to even more crime, perhaps increasing their worry even more."
They're f--king addicts.
No, really. According to Psychology Today, there's a neurological reason for why women can't help but consume true crime stories almost obsessively. "People also receive a jolt of adrenaline as a reward for witnessing the terrible deeds of a serial killer," Scott Bonn, Ph.D. wrote. "Adrenaline is a hormone that produces a powerful, stimulating, and even addictive effect on the human brain. If you doubt the addictive power of adrenaline, think of the thrill-seeking child who will ride a roller coaster over and over until he or she becomes physically ill. The euphoric effect of serial killers on human emotions is similar to that of roller coasters or natural disasters."
Women are more empathetic to victims.
"By the time you get to adulthood, women are able to empathize to a greater degree than men, on average," Dr. Howard Forman, forensic psychiatrist, said. "That may lead to true crime being more interesting to women than men, simply because if you empathize more with the victim, it may be more relevant to you and more gripping."