Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods


Sadistic Sexual Fantasies

Since we're talking about the mind, what is your definition of sexual fantasy?

I think sexual fantasy is nothing more than the mental imagery of a desired event. You conjure up in your mind something you want to do. Fortunately for society, most of us do not act on those fantasies. Yet some do, with horrendous results.

In your work, have you come across a sexual fantasy that really surprised you?

Yes, many times. This goes back to the idea that there are no absolutes, the infinity of darkness. One such case involved a gynecologist who made a videotape of himself interacting with a prostitute. This videotape was destroyed by the investigative agency after I had been permitted to view it. The doctor hired the prostitute and gave her a gynecological examination. He then asked her to lie perfectly still as though she were a corpse and he had vaginal intercourse with her.

Following that, he murdered her and raped her corpse. He then removed her breasts and put them on himself. He decapitated her, removed her arms and legs and raped the torso. The video ended, but it is known that he disposed of the body and left the area. Unexplainably, he sent the videotape to a reputable associate who turned it into the police. The police linked this crime to other murders and moved to extradite the doctor. He was arrested and, on the day the police arrived, he committed suicide.

There are several questions, some of which I feel comfortable in addressing but won't here for lack of time:

  • Why did he pay a prostitute to submit to a gynecological examination when he is paid every day to do the same thing?
  • Why did he ask her to lie perfectly still during sex when he knew he was going to have her dead body to act on in a few minutes?
  • Why did he amputate her breasts and wear them?
  • Why did he amputate her limbs and have sex with her torso.
  • Why did he decapitate her?
  • Why did he make the videotape?
  • Why did he send the videotape to a reputable associate?
  • Why did he allow himself to be arrested?
  • Why did he then kill himself?

Ah, the infinity of darkness!

What are the components of an offender's fantasy?

First of all, there are two broad categories of sexual offenders. In Dark Dreams, I call them the "Impulsive" offender and the "Ritualistic" offender. This is somewhat similar to the concept of "Organized" and "Disorganized" killers that John Douglas and I originated way back in 1980.

The Impulsive offender is the most common sexual offender and the least successful in evading detection. His fantasies are two dimensional and simplistic: Victim Demographics and Self Perception.

The Ritualistic offender is the least common, but most successful in evading detection. These men have very rich, complex, and interactive fantasies. Their fantasies consist of five dimensions: Victim Demographics, Relational, Paraphilic, Situational, and Self Perception. The book goes into much more detail on this topic.

You stress the fact that a sexual sadist is a very particular type of offender and that other types of criminals are often confused with being a sexual sadist. What is a sexual sadist?

A sexual sadist is an individual who is aroused by the suffering of another. It is not the infliction of pain that is arousing to the sadist, but the victim's suffering. The sadist may use physical or psychological pain as a tool to elicit the suffering, but it is the suffering that is crucial to his arousal.

Several behaviors are confused with sexual sadism. One of the most common is cruelty during crime. Sexual crimes, by their nature, are cruel and sometimes the victims are beaten or murdered. But infrequently, victims encounter a sexual sadist. I believe that we have overused the term "sadism" in our society and that accounts for a lot of the confusion. In my opinion, the sexual sadist is responsible for between 7-10% of sexual crimes. I have termed him the great white shark of sexual predators. When he strikes, there is no question of sexual sadism being present.

Why is there confusion about the concept?

As I have mentioned, there is a great deal of cruelty in crime and the media refer to that cruelty as sadistic, which is then misinterpreted by the public as sexually sadistic. Mental health and law enforcement professionals contribute by misinterpreting a cruel rapist as being a sexual sadist. There is also confusion between what is termed the "Sadistic Personality Disorder" and "Sexual Sadism." The SPD involves a person who enjoys embarrassing or humiliating others, primarily in the work or social environments, and the distinction between the two is simple, but you have the term 'sadistic' used in both. An analogy would be the "Paranoid Personality Disorder" and "Paranoid Schizophrenic."

Why is it important to be clear about it?

To reduce the confusion for law enforcement, mental health and students. They need to understand that there is an important distinction between cruelty and sadism. A lot of your "impulsive" offenders are physically cruel because they are angry and also because they lack the skills to verbally control their victims, so they resort to physical violence. Generally speaking, sexual sadists are highly "ritualistic" offenders and are intentionally and methodically cruel for the purpose of achieving sexual arousal.

Is there any treatment or intervention for such people?

I know of no successful treatment programs for adult criminal sexual sadists. It is important that all four terms, adult criminal sexual sadists, be used. In my experience, they begin fantasizing about such acts at a very early age. I write about a case in Dark Dreams which occurred in South Dakota and the offender, Robert Anderson, began talking to friends about his sexually sadistic fantasies at 14 years of age. If he began talking about such fantasies at that age, when did he first begin thinking about them?

Since some of these people are serial offenders, let's talk more about profiling.

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