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Gender, Psychopaths, And The (Revealing) Differences

female-psychopath

Psychopaths are akin to the nastiest side-effects of the human condition. They are, by their nature, an extreme manifestation of certain traits that often run counter to humanity’s best strengths. A big part of our success, as a species, is our ability to coordinate, cooperate, and empathize with one another in ways that balance selflessness with survival. Psychopaths completely throw off this balance.

Between popular misconceptions and a glut of TV shows and movies that glorify psychopaths, most people don’t know the specifics of these twisted minds. In a medical context, psychopathy isn’t considered a mental illness like schizophrenia or OCD. It’s a personality disorder in which individuals exhibit a set of common traits such as:

Having little to no empathy, conscious, or capacity for guilt

Poor impulse control and reckless disregard for the consequences of their actions

A low threshold for boredom coupled with a high capacity for stimulation

Little respect for authority and a predilection for controlling others

Excessively high self-esteem and strong inclination towards selfish behavior

Basically, these are traits consistent with every classic supervillain ever made. Look at all the defining traits for a character like Lex Luthor. That’s the essence of a psychopath. It’s not just that they’re more selfish and less likely to regret bad behavior. They take their selfishness to an extreme and regret doesn’t even enter the equation. Guilt, for a psychopath, may as well be an alien concept.

Naturally, that kind of deviant behavior ensures that psychopaths are highly represented in prison. While they’re not always violent, they tend to be cold and calculating in their actions, not caring for mortality, law, or social norms. From an evolutionary standpoint, this makes them useful as ancient blood-thirsty warriors and modern dictators. In ordinary society, though, they can be dangerous.

However, and this is where discussions generally get heated, that danger manifests differently when gender enters the equation. While men, women, and everything in between are equally prone to becoming psychopaths, an emerging body of research is showing that the effect is not entirely equal.

One recent study revealed that while female psychopaths share most of the same traits as their male counterparts, those traits vary in a few key ways. They’re just as inclined to selfishness, manipulation, and deviance. They just go about it differently. You could even argue they’re more cunning in their approach.

That same study also showed that female psychopathy is frequently attributed to mental illness or other disorders, such as borderline personality disorder. While there often is overlap, it’s actually somewhat convenient from the perspective of a psychopath. It allows them to cloak their psychopathic behavior as an illness that warrants sympathy.

That approach does plenty to serve the interest of the psychopath because sympathy is an easy emotion to manipulate. Others don’t see them as selfish, callous, or reckless. They see them as victims. That means they need treatment, attention, and care, which can both stroke their ego and serve their interests. It’s working smarter and not harder.

While it’s difficult to know for sure whether someone has a legitimate issue with mental illness, the fact people are more prone to attribute psychopathic behavior with illness in women reveals something critical about our approach to gender. We’re perfectly fine labeling a man a psychopath if he fits the criteria, but we’re more inclined to make excuses for women.

Some of that, in my opinion, has more to do with popular culture than gender politics. When most people think of a psychopath, the first image that comes to mind isn’t some devious woman who emotionally manipulates everyone around her to get what she wants. They tend to conjure images of villains like Lex Luthor and serial killers like Ted Bundy.

That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of female psychopaths in popular culture. From the Wicked Witch of the West to Regina George in “Mean Girls,” most people can think of at least one female psychopath in fiction. Some can even identify a few notable female psychopaths from history. However, the fact they’re not the first image that comes to mind when we think of psychopaths is telling.

On some levels, we don’t want to believe that women can be as psychotic as men. Historically, society has been less inclined to attribute heinous crimes to women. More recently, especially with the anti-harassment movement, there’s an even greater tendency to give women the benefit of the doubt, even when there are documented cases of deceit.

Another major difference manifests in the preferred tactics that psychopaths utilize. One study by the International Journal of Women’s Health concluded that female psychopaths are more included to use flirting and sexuality to manipulate others into serving their selfish ends. While I doubt that’ll surprise anyone familiar with the traits of a psychopath, it further plays into a distinct gender-driven narrative.

Some of that is due to logistics. Male psychopaths tend to bully others more directly because of basic strength differences. A female psychopath is less capable of imposing their will on someone physically, but emotions can be every bit as powerful as muscles. When sex enters the equation, the incentives get even stronger.

These methods can be both effective and devious, but they serve the same goal. It helps the psychopath get what they want, be it attention, money, power, or just a good thrill. Psychopaths have a low threshold for boredom and a high threshold for satisfaction so they need to use whatever tactics work best for them. Women just work with different tools.

The end results for male and female psychopaths is just as striking. While all psychopaths care little for law or morality, female psychopaths are less inclined to commit homicide. They’re also less likely to end up in prison, but that may just be a byproduct of having different tactics that make killing less appealing to a psychopath’s interests.

Now, and I wish I didn’t have to make this disclaimer, none of this is to imply that female psychopaths are worse than male psychopaths. At the end of the day, the damage done by psychopathic behavior is gender neutral. Using, abusing, and manipulating people for selfish ends is deplorable, regardless of what body parts someone has or doesn’t have.

There’s still something to be said about how psychopaths conduct themselves and how we react to their behavior. In some ways, we may be doing female psychopaths a favor by approaching them differently than their male counterparts. Psychopaths don’t need much incentive to take advantage of other peoples’ more considerate tendencies. Our attitudes towards gender are only making their job easier.

Like it or not, psychopaths are part of our society. Some of them even wield a distressing amount of power and influence. This is one domain in which we have to be brutally honest and exceedingly fair in how we deal with psychopaths of any gender because they most definitely won’t.

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Filed under gender issues, human nature, philosophy, psychology, sex in society

Using Sex Robots (As Therapy)

It feels like I joke about sex robots every chance I get on this blog. In my defense, this is a blog that sells sexy stories, promotes steamy romance, and dares to imagine a future with bionic genitalia. Make no mistake, though. sex robots are a serious issue.

Sure, they’re easy to make light of when they still look like over-sized blow-up dolls with tits, but they are steadily becoming more advanced. They’re already entering the sex industry, albeit in a limited capacity. There are actual companies working on them, as we speak, and for good reason. The demand for sex is like the demand for water. It’s a market that can always be counted on and one Amazon hasn’t monopolized yet.

I’ve talked a bit about how sex robots might impact us, but I always assume that impact will be far greater than anything an aspiring erotica/romance writer can imagine. Hell, I doubt even movies can imagine it, although some like “Ex Machina” make a concerted effort.

I intend to keep discussing the breadth of that impact on this blog in all sorts of ways, including those that’ll make people horny as hell and others that’ll make people more uncomfortable than a vegan at a butcher shop. In any case, it’s worth belaboring both the upheavals and the opportunities that functional sex robots will present.

Sure, there will always be truly deranged people who will become more deranged by presence and use of sex robots. Those people are always a minority, though. Like Charles Manson, they’re the disturbing exceptions that make the news, but not the norm.

Beyond the extremes, though, there’s another aspect of sex robots that I think warrants discussion and one that actually builds on other issues I’ve brought up on this blog, primarily those involving the challenges most people face in forging a healthy sex life in the modern era. If the failure of celebrity couples are any indication, then those challenges are more daunting than we think.

To illustrate the extent of those issues, take a moment to think about the number of people you know who have sought therapy or counseling in some form. Chances are you know more than one. I certainly do. Hell, I challenge anyone to find someone who doesn’t know anyone who has sought therapy.

According to the American Psychological Association, approximately half of American households had someone who’d sought therapy in some form or another. That data was gathered in 2004, though, and pointed out that some couldn’t even seek therapy, due to a lack of insurance. That’s a lot of therapy and a lot of people who need it that aren’t getting it.

Now, take a moment to consider how much of that therapy involved someone’s sex life. While I doubt it applied to every case, I imagine there’s a significant portion of psychological issues that are tied to sex. The fact that sexual dysfunction is so prevalent leads me to believe that more than a few psychological issues are at work here.

Hell, it’s practically part of our popular culture. Watch any sitcom, any movie that doesn’t involve talking animals, or any novel that involves a Biff Tannen/Regina George knock-off and you’ll see it. A man or a woman has an unsatisfying, frustrating, or non-existent sex life. It is the source of a lot of problems, plots, jokes, gags, and obstacles.

Enter the intelligent, interactive, fully-functional sex robot. What does that do to therapy and the reasons we seek it? I’m not just asking that because I want you to picture a world full of advanced sex robots that look and function like Jenna Jameson and Channing Tatum on crack. Granted, I always want people thinking those kinds of sexy thoughts on this blog, but I want people to keep their panties on and look at the bigger picture.

Think, for a moment, how much stress and frustration most people experience when dealing with their sexual desires. It doesn’t matter that it’s the 21st century, internet porn is everywhere, and women are legally allowed to have sex that doesn’t involve making babies. People who aren’t celebrities, supermodels, or as attractive as either struggle to satisfy those desires.

It can and does take a psychological and physical toll on people. If the documented health benefits of orgasms are any indication, then nature wants us to have plenty of sex. Not getting it is like denying the body and mind key nutrients. Without it, there will be issues that go beyond bad moods and morning wood.

At the moment, it’s not easy for a lot of people to explore their sexuality and actually engage in meaningful sexual exchanges. Between uptight religious attitudes, rampant slut shaming, and woefully unequal gender dynamics, finding an adequate sexual outlet is not like going to the grocery store to buy some snacks when you’re hungry. It also comes with all sorts of risks, including disease, pregnancy, and toxic relationships.

The sheer breadth of this difficulty is a major driving force behind the sexual frustrations of many men and women, alike. It’s hard enough just articulating those desires, even to a therapist that is legally obligated to never tell another living soul about your clown fetish. Actually exploring those feelings and achieving some level of sexual gratification is more difficult.

Sex robots don’t just change that situation. They don’t just rewrite the rules of the sexual playbook. They throw the playbook out, shoot the people who wrote it, and use their notes as toilet paper. Sex robots are destined to upend the sex industry and already are in some parts of the world. The impact they’ll have on therapy, though, may be just as great, if not underrated.

Picture a scenario, if you can, of a young man or women going into a therapist’s office in the not-so-distant future. In that future, sex robots are a mature technology in the sense that robots are nearly indistinguishable from humans. They look, feel, and sound real. They have a measure of intelligence, but it’s not much greater than that of the virtual assistants we already use today.

Knowing this, the therapist sits the man or woman down and talks to them. They find out quickly that this person is dealing with depression, anxiety, stress, and loneliness on a level that’s beyond that of most people. As part of the treatment, the therapist provides them with a specially-programmed sex robot. It’s here where the implications become both daunting and seamy.

Unlike the traditional sex robots that ordinary horny people use, or the sex bots you see in an “Austin Powers” movies, these sex robots are programmed with a specific purpose. They’re not just there to give their patients a good orgasm. They can get that from porn or sex toys. The sex robot, in this case, will have a more intimate function.

First, they’re molded to look like someone that the patient feels strong sexual attraction for. That may require some kinky tweaks, especially for those who have crushes on Jennifer Lawrence. However, that’s both doable and kind of necessary. There are already sex dolls molded after porn stars. That same process can be applied to sex robots.

Second, the robot is programmed with a specific personality profile that takes into account the patient’s mental issues. It won’t be enough to just get them off. They’ll need to create an emotional bond with them so that they can help them cope with those issues.

Maybe that involves a sex robots that’s a kinky, assertive dominatrix to help someone with authority issues. Maybe it’s a sex robot that’s meek and submissive to help someone with poor self-esteem. Maybe it’s a sex robot that’s just extra-durable to help someone who’s a real nymphomaniac. There are many ways a sex robot can help people is what I’m saying.

That process may not always include kinky sex. The sex robot may just be programmed to provide some sort of emotional intimacy that the person lacks or can’t find with another person. They could even be programmed to satisfy those who suffer from physical deformities, paralysis, or chronic disease. Thanks to these robots, everyone can have a physically and emotionally satisfying sexual experienced.

The possibilities are limited only by the extent to which a sex robot can be programmed for a specific purpose. Given how good we are at customizing our phones, cars, and even weapons, it’s very likely that we’ll do the same with sex robots for therapeutic and non-therapeutic use.

On the therapy side, though, those possibilities have the greatest implications. It’s one thing for normal, healthy people to enjoy regular, satisfying sex with a robot. It’s quite another when people who would otherwise be crippled or hindered by mental illness are suddenly able to function again and achieve some measure of happiness.

Think, for a moment, what that means for society. It elevates sex robots beyond a mere novelty or kink. Suddenly, they become a means to treat people who never would’ve gotten treatment otherwise. In addition, those who’ve lost loved ones, become ill, or just can’t attract those cute cheerleader types that gets their blood flowing can enjoy intimate, satisfying experiences.

In terms of quality of life, it’s a huge boost. In terms of how we approach our sex lives and sexuality, in general, that’s a bit harder to quantify, even for a mind as lurid as mine. Having a society where everyone, man and woman alike, is sexually satisfied is kind of unprecedented.

It’s really hard to know just how such a society functions or even if it can function. Throughout history, our species has struggled to channel and manage our sex drive. The extent to which we have so many sexual taboos and asinine double standards just proves that the struggle is still ongoing.

Modern medicine, contraception, and even the mainstreaming of the porn industry has helped make sex less dirty, to some extent. We still have a long way to go before full sexual satisfaction is achievable to everyone, not just the beautiful, the popular, and the mentally healthy.

Sex robots could very well be the most critical tool society creates in helping people achieve a level of emotional, physical, and mental satisfaction. In a world where everyone is that satisfied, how will we conduct ourselves? How will we interact with each other? It’s impossible to say, but if writing sexy novels has taught me anything, it’s that few things are more therapeutic than a satisfying sex life.

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Filed under Marriage and Relationships, sex robots, Sexy Future