Search Box

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Why are such a high percentage of serial killers gay?

Here's a list, from Ranker, of the most prolific serial killers in the US; I've indicated which of the killers are gay:

1. Gary Ridgway (the Green River Killer)
2. Donald Harvey (the Angel of Death) -- gay
3. John Wayne Gacy -- gay
4. Jane Toppan, (nurse, active from 1885 to 1901)
5. Ted Bundy
6. Dean Corll -- gay
7. Juan Corona -- gay
8. Wayne Williams (the Atlanta Child Murders) -- gay
9. Ronald Dominique -- gay
10. Patrick Kearney -- gay
11. Earle Nelson (the Gorilla Killer, active from 1926-1927)
12. William Bonin -- gay
13. Raymond Martinez Fernandez
14. Paul John Knowles
15. Jeffrey Dahmer - gay
16. Joel Rifkin
17. Randy Steven Kraft -- gay
18. Robert Lee Yates
19. Charles Ray Hatcher -- gay
20. Leonard Lake
21. Robert Hansen
22. Angelo Maturino Resendiz
23. Richard Ramirez (the Night Stalker)
24. Charles Cullen (nurse)
25. Orville Lynn Majors (nurse)

If you cross reference this list with Wikipedia's list of the most prolific serial killers worldwide, you'll see that the number of murders each killer is credited with varies somewhat. That's because there's always some doubt about the actual number of victims any serial killer had. Some lists go by the number that a killer was actually convicted for, some go by the number the killer confessed to, and some will also include the number of estimated victims, which in many cases is far greater than either of the first two numbers.

For instance, Gary Ridgway, who is number one on this list, had 49 proven victims, confessed to 71, and is thought to have had closer to 90.

Part of the reason the number of convictions is almost always lower is because once a killer is convicted of, say, seven killings, and gets the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole, there's no point of spending a lot of money on trials convicting him of other killings. You can only give someone the death penalty once. The police then quietly close some of their cases with similar signatures, and that's that.

So, what does it signify that 11 out of the top 25 most prolific serial killers are gay men? (And if you just look at Ranker's top 20, it would be 11 of the top 20.) That's 44% (or 55% of the top 20), an amazing disparity considering that gay men account for roughly 2 to 3% of the population.

I don't know what it means, exactly. But I do know that it means something. And if we're trying to understand what makes serial killers tick, we ought not ignore the fact that so many of them are gay.

Is it because gay sex is more likely to be tied in to violence somehow? Because gays are more unbalanced? Because gays are angry at a world which regards them as disgustingly perverse?

None of those reasons really explain it. I've racked my brain, and can't figure it out.

But I do know that the disparity is so overwhelming -- they're punching way, way above their weight here -- that it can't just be coincidence.

Maybe you can figure out the "why" of the connection.


Samuel Nock said...

Wow. That's stunning. I'll take a stab (probably not a great turn of phrase in this content....) at the "why". First, I would point out that gay men are also waaaaay overrepresented among pedophiles. Indeed, leaving aside Mexicans and a few other minorities who are disproportionately represented in heterosexual pedophilia, pedophilia in the West (or among whites) is largely a homosexual phenomenon. So the criminal (and anti-social) propensities of gay men go beyond murder to sexual crimes as well.

As to "why?" I would put forward a two part conjecture. There is a "nature" component and a "nurture" (or social) component. The nature part: traits seldom travel alone. Thus, the HDBer tendency to reduce race to a question of "intelligence" is highly reductionist. Many other traits vary (on average) by race: time preference, openness, intro/extrovertedness, violence, etc. To the extent homosexuality is a biologically inherited trait, it would not be surprising if it came with a suite of other tendencies, personality traits, etc., even physiological differences. Science is even confirming things like "gay face" (we all know it when we see it). The stereotypes about the homosexual personality exist for the same reason there are stereotypes about other groups: they are based on an underlying reality. It may be a reality we don't fully understand and one we cannot catalogue, but it is there nonetheless. There is a reason why gays were marginalized and sometimes persecuted in the past: they were a threat to social norms and mores AND, to John's current post, there may have been a recognition that they acted on certain criminal propensities.

As for the "nurture" part, there are several components. The sheer shame, awkwardness and resentment that would build up in most people who are marginalized for the above reasons could well trigger and/or exacerbate an unhealthy, anti-social tendency in such people. Again an analogy to race: blacks may well already have a greater innate tendency to violence / low impulse control, but the resentment they feel in white society may further exacerbate and accentuate that already latent trait, so that they are even MORE violent than their "natures" would dictate. So resentment (and self-hatred) could express themselves in homosexuals through criminal acts including murder. The taboo nature of homosexual sex could also lead some of them to want to kill those who could "out" them. Another factor we can include under "nurture" is the vicious cycle of pedophilic abuse leading to the creation of an unhinged and unbalanced adult who also becomes gay and also becomes an abuser. Many gay men were abused as children, and they perpetuate the cycle. (This obviously straddles the line between nature and nurture because it invites the question as to how many victims of abuse who become gay adults really were innately homosexual).

Given all of this, it is somehow absurdly amusing to see Western society pretend that the 30 or so years of "gay liberation" somehow represent a victory for enlightened values, and that for all the rest of human history, everyone else was an ignorant bigot. As with most things, our ancestors came to pretty good and decent arrangements on these things. In its haughty superiority and hubris, modern society condescends to and throws away ancient wisdom.

High Arka said...

The theory that male homosexuality is caused by early infection with a germ which prevents normal adult development would (if correct) explain it, because a less-developed, more childlike brain would be more selfish and less empathetic. Your sociopath interests could dovetail with this kind of thinking, e.g., is sociopathy caused by partial underdevelopment of the brain, and is it something that could be detected in childhood?

Anonymous said...

One thing that's kind of interesting to note is that sociopaths actually don't have a strong and fixed internal gender identity or sexual orientation like normal people. (I think it's safe to assume all these serial killers are sociopaths.) This manifests in many of them being basically bisexual, which could classify them as gay depending on your views.

John Craig said...

Samuel --
Great comment, thanks. Yes, traits rarely "travel alone," as you put it.

I think you've hit on an important part of it with the "self-hatred." People often most intensely dislike others who remind them of their own most hated traits. Nominally straight gay-bashers -- guys who go around beating the crap out of gays -- have always been thought to be latent homosexuals. So it would make sense that blatant homosexuals might also hate other homosexuals, and the sociopathic among them might want to kill them.

But I'm not sure that even that would explain serial killers. And the "not wanting to be outed" part of it would apply more to homosexual child molesters more than regular homosexuals. Maybe it's that serial killers in general get off sexually on torture, and as sociopaths, want to perform real torture, as opposed to the soft S&M games that a lot of people play. And with real torture, you don't just spank your partner, you maim him. And THAT you wouldn't want to be outed for. Plus I think there's a strong element of necrophilia among both homosexual and heterosexual serial killers. Both Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy were known to have sex with the corpses of their victims.

Anyway, thank you, you've put out some interesting thoughts and sparked some others and moved the conversation forward.

John Craig said...

High Arka --
Interesting, I'd never heard that theory before, that homosexuality is caused by a germ. I'd heard it had more to do with the hormonal mix a fetus was exposed to in the womb. Also, I don't think of gays as being less empathetic. It's my impression that gay men act more empathetic than straight men, whether or not they're actually that way.

I do think sociopathy can be detected in childhood, despite the DSM position that proper diagnosis has to wait until age 18. Psychologists frequently mention the deadly triumvirate of behaviors that distinguish later serial killers: torturing animals, fascination with fire, and late bedwetting. (If sociopathy can't be properly diagnosed until later, are those behaviors then meaningless?)

You have characterized sociopaths accurately, as being more "childlike." They, like children, haven't developed the social restraint and willingness to delay gratification and awareness that the world does not revolve around them that characterize mature adults.

John Craig said...

Anon of 2:42AM --
I'd never really thought of that before, but you're right, there do seem to be a higher percentage of sociopaths with a more fluid sexuality. (Charlie Manson, Anne Heche, and all those jailhouse rapists come to mind.) And they'd be more inclined to express it than non-sociopaths who might be inclined that way, too, simply because they feel no embarrassment or shame. That's a good insight.

Steven said...


are their victims primarily other gay men or non-gay people?

are their motives and psychology essentially the same as non-gay serial killers (so that its a case of that thing occurring at a higher rate among gays) or are their motives specifically related to being gay (ie some kind of hatred of themselves or their life that makes them destructive and not value or respect others)?

I suppose the least politically correct answer would be that serial killing is the most extreme perversion and if you have made a decision to do something that is (considered by society to be) a little perverted, you may be more likely to do something that is very perverted. Its kind of like how if you cross a line, you're more likely to cross more lines. That is not neccessarily to say that homosexuality is inherently perverted- it may be enough to be aware of some of society's feelings about you, internalise some of them and see yourself and your actions that way.

In which case another key question is whether there will be less serial killers now that homosexuality is a lot more accepted by society at large.

Steven said...

Or take the concept of perversion/judgements out of the equation and just say homosexuality is a form of sexual deviance (in the sense of deviating from the numerical norm of society, or in the past in the sense of deviating from accepted standards) and so is serial killing but in the most extreme way.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Their victims are all men, mostly other gay men. A few like John Wayne Gacy would get straight boys to come back to his house on the pretense of offering them work and then jump them. But most of the victims were gay guys thinking they were indulging in a regular pickup and then getting tortured and killed.

Yes, their motives seem to be the same as those of heterosexual serial killers, the simply get off on torture and death as sexual stimulants, and, being sociopaths, consider the other person's life to be worth less than their orgasm.

Your answer (in your third paragraph) is basically the same answer my son had, though he didn't phrase it as politely.

I suspect the percentage of serial killers will remain fairly constant, but obviously that's just a guess.

Pavonine99 said...

I'm wary of some of the underlying illogicality here.
The list is based on on the really famous serial murderers and/or the ones with the most victims. You could argue that they are the most deviant and therefore the most representative, but that's sort of shaky. What if the lesser known serial killers are the more "typical" ones, or they were stopped before they killed as many as they could have?
The pedophilia connection is possible, but from what I understand, pedophiles have brain anomalies that aren't present in hetero or homosexuals, and most male pedophiles who chose male victims aren't gay in the sense that they seek adult male partners.
Lastly, particularly in some of the comments, there seems to be a worrying tendency to judge people "statistically". Men commit the overwhelming majority of murders, molestations, rapes, etc. Are men just more "deviant" than women? Is misandry therefore completely justifiable? What about, say, left-handed people? Left-handedness is strongly associated with pedophilia and serial murder as well. Should we go back to forcing left-handed children to write right handed?
It's very seductive to view human sexuality on a sliding scale of deviation, and while I don't doubt that some traits cluster together more than others, it's important to remember that everything comes down to individual biology and preferences, the mechanisms of which we've began began to understand, if we ever will.

John Craig said...

Pavonine --
The list is of the most prolific serial killers; their fame was function of their numbers, but the list wasn't based on fame. Almost all serial killers only stop killing because they're caught, or because they die, not because they weary of the sport. There are plenty who were caught after one or two killings and thus never got tagged with that label.

I hadn't heard of the brain abnormalities for pedophiles. Whether or not pedophiles who seek out young boys are gay or not is an ongoing debate that usually boils down to semantics. True, some of them are married to women and aren't attracted to adult males; but their primary attraction is still to males, even if they're prepubescent, so in that sense, they are homosexual.

I think statistically is the only way you can judge groups. I agree that we should never judge an individual because of the groups that he's from; but judging a group by its group characteristics is just common sense. We have to always be careful to not make sweeping statements like, "Every single member of this group is…." because that's never true. But if we say a member of a certain group is more likely to do such-and-such, that's perfectly fair.

As far as men go, I think it's perfectly fair to say they're more deviant than women. Almost all child molesters are men, and almost all serial killers are as well. That's just a fact. Saying that men rape women more often than women rape men is also completely fair, since it's true. (I was surprised to learn once that something like .7% of rapes -- almost one percent -- are female-on-male. But, again, the statistics generally don't lie. (Unless you massage and cherry pick them.) Denying any of that stuff would be silly.

I hadn't heard that left-handedness is correlated with pedophilia and serial murder. I had heard that it's correlated with a higher incidence of homosexuality. (I'm left-handed, by the way, and have no problem with any of those statistics. I realize no reasonable person is going to accuse me of those things simply on the basis of my handedness alone.)

I'm actually writing a post now on this issue, judging groups.

Rona said...

John, a good place to read on gay germ theory It's pretty convincing.

As for serial killers, I knew homosexuals were overrepresented, but not by how much. It's sort of shocking that people rarely know it but everyone parrots the 10% gay myth. My guess is that whatever biological event perverts sexual pathways in the brain also affects many other parts of it in distinct ways. It's been known for some time that gays tend to suffer from mental conditions like depression, alcohol and drug abuse, suicide attempts etc. at a rate much higher than normal. When people bring it up, the liberal response is that it's the fault of a bigoted society and discrimination but the pattern exists in leftist utopia like Sweden, Norway, in the American bible belt.


John Craig said...

Rona --
Just read the article. Fascinating, thank you. He brings up a lot of points I'd never thought about before. One of the most convincing is the prevalence of identical twins having different sexualities. I've heard of some of these, and their existence certainly argues against a genetic basis for homosexuality, and also against the hormones-in-the-mother's-womb theory I mentioned in a previous comment. I also never bought the "gay uncle" hypothesis for why being gay could be a genetic advantage.

Yes, gays are unquestionably overrepresented among serial killers, though maybe not quite as much as this post implies. A sample group of 25, even if they're the 25 most prolific, is definitely not a big enough group to draw any conclusions from, and if you look at that Wiki list of the world's (as opposed to the US's) most prolific serial killers ever, homosexuals represent a smaller percentage, though they are still vastly overrepresented. And yes, as Samuel Nock mentioned above, traits rarely "travel alone." That said, I can see how some of the things you mention, like alcohol and drug abuse, ARE a result of a certain self-hatred brought on by knowing that other people think you're disgusting.

Pavonine99 said...

Could the drug use Romna mentioned also be a cultural thing? I'd imagine many groups that are more accepting of gay individuals would be more accepting of recreational drug use as well-lots of groups composed of outsiders are.

John Craig said...

Pavonine --
Drug taking is definitely partly cultural. Heck, I smoked marijuana in high school for the stupidest and also most common reason -- because my peer group did. Isolated Indian tribes in South America take certain drugs because it's part of their culture. And you don't have to be an outsider, plenty of people in Hollywood (note the numb of stars who check into a hospital for "exhaustion") and Wall Street (as in "The Wolf of Wall Street") take drugs too.

As far as gays taking drugs more, they tend to be part of the urban demimonde, and that group in general is certain more experimental when it comes to drugs.

Pavonine99 said...

I'd say being super famous/wealthy/powerful is a kind of outsider status in itself, plus there's the stress involved, which means self-medication. Not to mention the sense of self-importance and immunity that leads to bad decisions.

Thinking about it more, I wonder if some of the serial killer/pedophilia/homosexuality link isn't related to simple opportunity? Boys are left alone with men far more frequently than girls, run away more often, and are allowed to roam more than girls are. Women tend to take more precautions than men do when alone, and are more likely to listen to their intuition if something feels unsafe. I've mentioned before that the most extreme sociopaths often seem to have an inhumanly fluid sexuality-men, women, children, whatever, because they don't care about the human beings involved and have no sense of disgust.

John Craig said...

Pavonine --
That could very well be, the opportunity is definitely part of it. But keep in mind, serial killers -- and child molesters -- create their own opportunities. Molesters gravitate to fields where they will be working with children, or have access to them somehow. (Priest, Boy Scout troop leader, coach, etc.) And serial killers often just go to places where they can do regular pickups (gay bars, or places where prostitutes hang out) and then they turn that into a killing opportunity. That's a big part of the reason why so many of the more prolific heterosexual serial killers chose prostitutes, because that's who they could get away with killing.

Anonymous said...

Interesting talk by a person with a "Psychopathic" brain who did not develop Psychopathy


Anonymous said...

Actually here is a way better interview


John Craig said...

Andrew --
Thank you for those.

Yes, I'd heard of this guy before. Just watched both interviews (except for the last four minutes of the second). Interesting. You could say that Fallon has a good scam going, but he also seems to be honest and straightforward. He's definitely very narcissistic, and enjoys talking about himself. He's probably what the psychologists refer to as an "organic sociopath," meaning he has the neuro-, hormonal, and physical (fearless) disposition to be a psychopath, but was brought up with just enough love so that he's not one.

Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff. Brain chemistry aside, I would say opportunity makes a difference, too, just as many victims of gay or hetero serial killers are prostitutes. People on the fringe of society. Who jumps in a car or goes home with a creepy stranger? Why, prostitutes, and juvenile runaways do. Detection / apprehension is less likely or postponed when there is no previous personal connection, which increases the body count. Do more boys run away than girls, or do they just know stranger danger better? I don't know.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Thank you, and yes, good point. Opportunity definitely has a lot to do with it. That's exactly why the most prolific killers often preyed on prostitutes.