Blood Monster: When the Serial Killer is a Woman

by K.P. Kulski

When Charlize Theron depicted Aileen Wuornos in the movie 2003 Monster, it was to critical acclaim, eventually winning Theron an Academy Award. Certainly, Theron’s role was a riveting portrayal, but the true story of not only the murders but Wuornos herself is complex, twisted and well… rivetting. We’ve seen the real and made-up faces of male serial killers, but 170px-Monster_moviefew times have we seen a female one. We didn’t know what to expect. There was a nationwide gasp when the beautiful Theron transformed herself into the physicality of Wuornos through the help of make-up, but also through something more, a dark vulnerability.

But Wuornos was the not the first female serial killer, any quick Google search will come up with lists that span the centuries with crimes that will turn your stomach. Ever present on those lists is the infamous Hungarian noble, Elizabeth Bathory of the 17th century, often proclaimed as the most prolific female serial killer in history or romanticized in popular imaginations as a supernatural creature,

220px-Wuornos
Aileen Wuornos

thirsting for blood. The flourish of storytelling that has evolved with time has helped create this image, as well from the relative proximity of the infamous Vlad the Impaler of Romania, later popularized by Bram Stoker as Dracula.

The story of Bathory is much more complex and while you may find Wuornos’s method of murder less heinous, the two woman share the same dark vulnerability despite from being from vastly different time periods, cultures and socio-economic classes.

But why?

Why did they kill?

Wuornos who occasionally worked as a prostitute, targeted men. The calculation behind the murders is uncertain, but she claims to have shot them after they attempted to sexually assault her. Unlike Bathory, we have clearer history of Wuornos’s childhood, one that seemed filled with her experiences of both physical and sexual violence perpetrated by men in her life.

Bathory’s childhood is less certain other than she spent those years mostly the family estate of Ecsed. Rumors abound on the mental health and sexual deviance of her family Bathory Unboundmembers, but there is no definitive evidence to prove them. She married young to Ferenc Nàdasdy. Shortly before at age thirteen, she gave birth to a child most likely fathered by a male of a lower social class, possibly even a servant. It is no surprise that the child was sent away immediately after birth. Bathory was considered a beauty in her time and following the birth of her first child, got into line with social expectations and often capitalizing on them. If anything, she seemed to become acutely aware of appearances.

Wuornos experienced a life where sex was a twisted commodity that both created the “monster” she became, but also provided money and goods. Bathory, as were so many women of her time and of the noble class, was subject to the requirements of propriety and strategic work of creating heirs. Along with that came the work of household management and the growth and/or protection of family power.

When Wuornos shot and killed seven men, most likely actual or potential johns, it was in reaction to either a real or imaged threat of sexual violence. A type of violence she had been, since childhood much too experienced with and familiar.

There is no record of Bathory consuming or bathing in the blood of her victims, but some

Elizabeth_Bathory_Portrait
Elizabeth Bathory

accounts suggest that she often tortured and murdered after social events that required her to maintain a high level of appearance. Her victims were all girls and young women, some as young as ten, but mostly those at the age of puberty, at or near sexual maturity.

In reaction to societal stressors, both killers seemed driven to take extreme actions that resulted in rebellion. What is particularly striking about these two examples of killers, is that they were not driven to murder only out of sexual deviation or some latent sociopathic fascination. They murdered because they were women, because they had experienced life as women, despite the time period and socio-economic differences.

Whatever psychosis they most likely had before they experienced the worst of life, it was the worst of their female experiences that they were reacting. Feeling sympathy for figures like these is dangerous and their crimes are very real. Particularly, in the case of Bathory, the crimes were brutal, horrid and filled with the unimaginable, which harnessed a vile concentrated form of rage at some of the darkest parts of the female existence.

Beautiful or Nothing at all

By: Kourtnea Zinov’yevna Hogan

Countess Elizabeth Bathory de Ecsed became fully invested in her search for beauty in 1585. Over 400 years ago. You’ve probably heard of the brutal murders she committed, considering that she’s been labelled as the most prolific female serial killer. Though her kill-count isn’t set in stone, it is estimated to be close to 650.

The Son of Sam was driven to murder by the Devil. Carl Panzram was driven by a deep hatred for humanity. But Elizabeth was driven by something quite different. The desire to be young and beautiful and to stay that way. And, of course, there is no better way to reduce crow’s feet than by bathing in the blood of virgins.

Considering that the modern cosmetic industry wasn’t invented until the 20th century (about the 1920’s), Bathory was ahead of the curve. I think we tend to view the past victim-2through rose colored lenses. It’s hard to picture such a heavy focus on beauty before the makeup industry came along (an industry I’ve known and felt forced to be subservient to for my entire life). People often hold up the art of the renaissance as a time where women were not shamed for their bodies. The women in the paintings look real, are modeled after real women, are unaltered by photoshop or airbrush. But the renaissance was running its course at the same time of Bathory’s vicious murders. Maybe being held up to the impossible standards of goddesses and angels wore women down long before film, magazines, models, and porn ever worked their way into the main thread of society.

To think that someone, many someones, could be driven to hate the natural folds and lines of their bodies is unsettling to say the least. Women are held to strict standards that blur from person to person (or man to man). Too much makeup is for whores and sluts. Louis_Bataille,_'Deux_cas_d'anorexie_hysterique'_Wellcome_L0020548_(backcropped)Who are you trying to look good for? She’s asking for it. Too little makeup is off putting, because the natural face is not what “natural” looks like in magazines and film. You look tired. Are you feeling well?

Thankfully, positive movements have sprung up from the depths of the internet. Countless women have come forward to tell their stories about the struggle of learning to love their body. Women are clearly broadcasting that the way they look is not for men, and are supporting one another for their outfits, their choice to wear makeup or not, for expressing their sexual desires in whatever way they see fit.

But positivity is slow moving. The backlash against women has had its own revival. How can boys grow up to be men who support women when the President is man who once told a woman that it must be a pretty sight to see her on her knees? Or who is quoted as saying that it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you have a young and beautiful downloadwoman attached to you? “But she’s got to be young and beautiful.” And how can girls grow into women who love themselves when they grow up hearing their mothers call themselves fat and ugly? When nearly every representation of a beautiful woman is one that is photoshopped?

We live in a world where you are nothing if you are not beautiful. No matter how smart, talented, or good-hearted you may be, if you are not physically appealing it will be brought up. And if you are beautiful that will be all that will be brought up about you too. Beauty is an inescapable vice with very strict criteria. No wonder someone would be driven to kill for it.