“One must feel sorry for those who have strange tastes, but never insult them. Their wrong is Nature’s too; they are no more responsible for having come into the world with tendencies unlike ours than are we for being born bandy-legged or well-proportioned”. Marquis de Sade, “Dialogue the Fifth” (1795). I was especially intrigued by this statement which offers explanation on whom we are and why we do things. In essence, it states that some of us do some things that may perhaps be different from what the rest of us do.
We, however, should not fault them for having done the same nor should we insult them because these things do happen and they may happen against the person’s volition. This is similar to a personality theory called the Biological Trait Theory which argues that there are biological conditions that control human behaviors. These biological conditions can be traced directly to the processes that happen in a person’s brain. The theory that human behavior can be traced to biological causes was hypothesized by Hans Eysenck who thought that criminality resulted from a nervous system distinct from that of most people.
On the other hand, some disregard the impact of inner mental processes to a person’s behavior. Some trace human behavior to the development of a person’s unconscious personality. Sigmund Freud theorized that human personality develops in three stages: id, ego and the superego, all of which may explain human behavior. (“Psychoanalytic Theories”) The id represents the storehouse of a person’s desires and wishes and is considered the most primitive of the three personalities.
From the moment of birth, every human person possesses id which is manifested by the self-centeredness of the child as he is more focused on the satisfaction of his wants and desires. The ego, on the other hand, represents a self-conscious person who has understood what the world is not about him alone. It is at this stage that the child learns to socialize and obey certain social norms. The superego pertains to the stage when the child learns to distinguish between what is morally right and wrong. It is at this stage when the child develops the proper values and gains a concept of morality.
This essay is concerned with these two famous personality theories. I aim to explain these two concepts and apply the same using the personality trait of Jeffrey Dahmer, a famous serial killer. I believe that both theories can adequately explain the behavior of a serial killer and can both explain why a person engages in deviant behavior. Personality Profile of Jeffrey Dahmer Jeffrey Dahmer was a famous serial killer who victimized 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. What could have motivated or impelled such a shy young man to commit such atrocities?
Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer was born on May 21, 1960 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was said that Jeffrey Dahmer’s problems started even before he was born. Her mother, Joyce Dahmer constantly complained of her morning sickness and even the smell of food cooking bothered her. She also developed muscle spasms which caused her to take drugs and pills. It was reported that her mother consumed up to 20 pills a day. As a child he found pleasure in killing and in mutilating animals like nailing a dog to a tree and crucifying squirrels in his small pet cemetery.
He also performed weird experiments with these animals by performing surgeries on them. During his trial, it was found out that he collected dead animals and exhibited signs of necrophilia. His stepmother Shari Dahmer stated that when he was still young, he liked to use acid to scrape the meat off dead animals. She even recalled that there was one time an odor emanated from their basement and garage. This prompted his father to investigate. He was surprised to find out that Jeffrey Dahmer collected bones and meat residue of animals and placed them inside containers.
His family was known to be a religious family. At such a young age Jeffrey also experienced moving to different neighborhoods. By the age of 8 years old his family moved to Ohio. However, because his father was so busy with his work and his desire to obtain a PhD, he spent little time with his family. His family fell apart when he was still very young. His father left their home and eventually his parents got divorce. His mother took his brother while he went on to live with his father. At such a young age, Jeffrey Dahmer felt the anxiety of being abandoned by his mother and brother.
It was reported that as a child he was sexually molested by his neighbor. During his younger days he was extremely shy and was regarded as loner. He was afraid to go to school and he was terrified when he was with people. At school, he had no friends and he did not like to be with people. His teachers noticed that Jeffrey had a different personality compared to the other boys at school and suggested that his parents should get help from experts. But he did not. When he attended university, he was poor in class. Later on when he dropped out of class his father convinced him to join the military and he became an army medic.
In 1988 however he was arrested for sexually fondling a 13-yr-old boy for which he served one year in a work release camp and was required to register as a sex offender. It is however interesting that his 13th victim was the older brother of the 13-yr-old boy he molested. During his lifetime he killed 17 victims: 3 are white and 14 are black. Most of his victims were African American and Asian young men. During his trial he however denied that the nature of his crime was racial. All he said during his trial was “it was my selfish lust” (Reader’s Guide to Jeffrey Dahmer).
But it can not be denied that race was primarily the reason for his murders. The number of black people he killed as against the white will highlight that race not lust was his primary motivation. Jeffrey Dahmer died in 1994 when he, together with another inmate named Jesse Anderson, was killed by a white inmate, named Christopher Scalver, who suffered schizophrenia and delusions. They were beaten to death by a lead pipe. It is said that the reason for the killing was likewise racial. Modus Operandi Dahmer was 18 when he started his legacy as a serial killer.
His modus operandi was to pick up young homosexual or bisexual men in bars. He offers them money so that they could take pictures of them or he simply invites them to watch videos at his house and drink beer. Dahmer will then drug his victims so that he could have sex with them without any response or reciprocity. He will eventually drill holes in the skull of his victims and pour acid on these holes to destroy their brains. The effect of this mad experiment is that it makes the victims alive but semiconscious. Dahmer will then make sex slaves out of his victims.
The victim’s head and genitalia were eventually kept as trophies and the muscles would be frozen to be eaten later. Dahmer also conducted medical experiments on his victims by drilling holes and pouring acid to the hole. Jeffrey Dahmer’s cannibalistic tendencies as a child and his practice of necrophilia became manifest only at the age of 18. It is said that the number of victims he killed would not have escalated to 17 had the police closely looked into the disappearance of gays or black people within the neighborhood. Likewise the courts were considered lenient on offenses he committed earlier in his life.
The social workers were likewise negligent in failure to monitoring him despite the earlier offenses he committed. It bears stressing that it was only when he was actually caught that the police found out that there was a racist killer in the street. An example of this is what happened with this 13th victim Konerak Sinthasomphone. Three police officers were called at that time. Upon arriving at the scene they noticed 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone who was running around naked and somewhat confused. It appeared that he was running away from Jeffrey Dahmer. Two girls noticed and they informed the police about this.
But the police however believed Jeffrey Dahmer who convinced them that the 14-year-old boy was actually 19 years old and was his lover and that they are simply having a lover’s quarrel. The police then escorted the 14yr old Konerak Sinthasomphone back to Jaffrey Dahmer’s apartment. This proved to be a mistake because eventually the 14-year-old boy was found dead. When he was caught the police discovered in his apartment a freshly severed head in the refrigerator, several pairs of hands and penis stocked at the back of the closet, there were two boiled and fleshless skulls on a closet shelf.
There were also photographs of dismembered bodies and skulls which were taken by Dahmer before and after the killing. Biological Trait Theory From the point of view of Biological Trait Theorists, science may have the answer for the enigma brought by human behavior, especially deviant behaviors. They believe that human brain may have the answer to violent human behavior. (Ingrid Solano) It is said that there are certain areas in the brain that may provide clues for serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer and that certain changes in the brain may cause a change in human behavior.
They cite as an example the case of Phineas Gage who was, before his accident, well loved by his co-workers. It appeared that while at work, Gage suffered a serious accident. Gage, who was a foreman, “triggered a premature explosion that launched a pointed iron rod, thick as a broomstick, right through his skull. The rod rocketed through his face, excising his left eye, and exited skyward through the top of his head. Astoundingly, Gage was able to stand and speak in a few minutes. His intelligence was intact. But later it became clear that the once upright young man had been altered.
He now cursed, lied and behaved so abominably that he could not hang on to a job or a friend. The balance “between his intellectual faculty and his animal propensities” had been destroyed, wrote Gage’s doctor, John Harlow. Gage was no longer Gage. ” (Claudia Wallis) Applying this theory to the case of Jeffrey Dahmer, it would seem that there was indeed something in his brain that made him commit these atrocities. Firstly, his parents, though they got separated were normal people. His father was a chemist and his mother was before the divorce a good mother. He came from a relatively loving family.
There was nothing that will show that he was abused or maltreated as a child by his parents. In fact, his parents even tried to bring out the best in him by sending him to a good school and a good environment. Although he was reported to have been sexually molested by a neighbor when he was older, this was at the time when he was already exhibiting violent behaviors. Secondly, the accounts on Jeffrey Dahmer’s life says that from the very young age of four he already showed no remorse for animals as he experimented on them and decapitated them and scraped their skin off.
It could not have been possible that he acquired this behavior from his parents or his neighbors. Thus, his behavior could only be attributed to the inner processes of his mind which is manifested by the fact that Dahmer’s violent behavior showed even at the time when he was two years old when his father noticed that he liked to violently push blocks and fiercely rip up leaves. It was as if his violent behavior was instinctive on his part. There is nothing that could explain this violent behavior except that it was the chemical reactions in his brain that trigger these violent outbursts.
Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory On the other hand, Freud offered another explanation for deviant behavior. He thought that serial killers are narcissists or what he called the stage of pure id. (“Freud Narcissist Theory”) A narcissist is an individual with no sense of empathy. They have no sense of the world and no regard for the feelings of other person aside from their own. A person who engages in deviant behavior has the feeling of self-importance and obsession with fantasies of unlimited success.
He is convinced that he is special and unique and he feels that every people deserve to be punished and hurt. He is a person who is concerned only with himself and has pure self-love. According to Freud, human personality is divided into three stages: id, ego and superego. The objective is for human personality to progress from the id to the superego. The problem is that some of us are not able to progress to superego and remain in the stage of id. Serial killers, like Jeffrey Dahmer, are never able to progress from the infantile and emotional development stage of the id.
This theory can aptly apply to Jeffrey Dahmer. It is worth nothing that Jeffrey Dahmer was an anti-social when he was still a child. He disliked participating in competitive and physical games with the other child. In facts, accounts show that Dahmer was more fascinated with games like hide and seek or games that involved stalking or concealing. At school, he did not talk to the other kids which alerted his teachers. Indeed, Dahmer had problems maintaining relationship with other people which is the foundation of the next stage of personality theory – the ego.
This personality trait continued until he reached his adulthood. He was poor in school, got kicked out of the military and was never able to stay in any kind of work. According to Freud, this feeling of excess of narcissism can be associated with having a lack of sexual libido. It is because of this reason that Jeffrey Dahmer when his victims are semi-conscious would usually have repeated sex with his victim first before he kills them. His purpose is to release his sexual libido. According to Freud, this narcissistic feeling is manifested with the manner the serial killer kills his victims.
In the case of Jeffrey Dahmer, he would usually degrade his victims, humiliate and humble them by drilling holes to their skull and pouring acid on these holes so that they remain alive but they are semi-conscious. The dismembered parts of the body will later on be placed inside the refrigerator to be eaten later. Conclusion We hear about serial killers almost all the time in our society to the point that it has become normal for us to hear and see people being killed, mutilated and violated. Our society is likewise fascinated when the life of serial killers, like Jeffrey Dahmer, are portrayed in the movies, televisions and newspapers.
Although it is true that we hate them but at the back of our minds there is a feeling of awe every time we watch a film about serial killers. I think this is because of our love for violence and danger. This however only speaks of the debase condition of the present society. We are not aware that perhaps it is the society’s fascination for serial killers and our love for lust and violence that creates a thousand more of Jeffrey Dahmer. The author feels that so long as this condition persists we will see a thousand more of Jeffrey Dahmer being born.