It seems like we estrogen carriers have a little case of the Twilight Syndrome -- even more than our men!
Dr. Wendy Walsh: In the middle of a divorce battle, Sheila Bellush, a mother of quadruplets, confided to her sister that if anything were to ever happen to her, she should look up true crime author Ann Rule to tell her story. Sure enough, soon after, Sheila was shot and killed by a man hired by her husband. Rule's book about the crime, "Every Breath You Take," has sold over a million copies, and 86 percent of its reviews on Amazon.com are written by women readers.
This anecdote is used in a new study that reveals why books that evoke fear are popular with women. People might assume that men, being the more aggressive sex, would be most likely to find such gory topics interesting. But the reverse is true. The researchers found that what makes books about graphic crime appealing to women is a survival instinct -- a desire to learn about crime in order to prevent becoming a victim. The study, "Captured by True Crime: Why Women are Drawn to Tales of Rape, Murder, and Serial Killers," is published in Social, Psychological and Personality Science, and makes a connection with women's fascination with crime and their internal fear. Despite the fact that women are statistically less likely than men to become a victim of a violent crime (with the exception of rape), they perceive themselves to be in more danger. Some researchers blame the media, which tends to award more coverage to violent crimes against women than those with male victims.
The problem with the practice of reading about crime, according to the researchers, is that it can become a vicious cycle. Women feel fear and read about crime in order to be better informed about ways to prevent or survive a crime, but they also become unknowingly exposed to more dangers! They meet more murderers, more unusual ways to bite the bullet, and their fear factor goes up. Thus, the books become a fear-based cycle for women who are buying them to decrease their fears.
All this got me thinking about the obsession my daughter and her friends have with the Twilight series of books and movies. With vampires around every corner, there is no shortage of danger and blood flow in those pages. And clearly there is much confusion for heroine Bella as to which man-boy-vampire can be trusted. I wonder if the principles that the researchers discovered about true crime novels also apply to this kind of romantic thriller.
In today's times, love has become a dangerous game for teen girls. While most of the sexual mores -- like the double standard -- have been removed, women are still more at risk for pregnancy, an STD, or a broken heart (women's oxytocin release during orgasm helps create a bond). Could the Twilight vampires, a metaphor for dangerous love, be one way that young girls are trying to make sense of all this?
And if the researchers' speculations are true, might this also become a vicious cycle? More stories about dangerous love means more exposure to ways that women can be hurt by men. Besides the Twilight series, there are enough literary clones to warrant a large display table at my local Barnes & Noble called "Dark Love." Is this what our daughters fear today? Dark love?
|Dr. Wendy Walsh holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and her area of interest is Attachment Theory, a psychological, evolutionary and ethological theory that provides a descriptive and explanatory framework for understanding interpersonal relationships between human beings. As a psychological assistant registered with the California Board of Psychology, Dr. Walsh has treated individuals, couples and families for a variety of mental health concerns including personality disorders, anger management, eating and substance disorders, and depression. Connect with Dr. Walsh on Facebook.|