We know only too well that by far the majority of psychopaths are men. Or at least we think we know that. Could it be that the criteria used to identify psychopaths are biased towards men? After all Hare began his work in male prison.
Think about it. While behaving and being the way the PCL-R without doubt earns one the label psychopath, this is simply a list of symptoms. It says nothing about the underlying dynamics. If psychopathy is life centered on the principle of power (as opposed to love) and if it is therefore characterised by what Liane Leedom nicely calls ‘warped empathy‘, then wouldn’t you expect there to be more or less the same number of woman as men psychopaths? And wouldn’t you expect them to come across differently?
I am beginning to wonder whether there may be two broad types of psychopathy – a ‘male’-type and a ‘female’-type. I place these in quotes because, when I think about it, men with might be thought of as ‘female’ psychopathy come to mind and we all know about women with ‘male’ psychopathy. And yet, at the risk of being un-PC, I want to maintain these descriptors for now so that the difference I think I see doesn’t disappear.
A ‘female’ psychopath would not necessarily commit crimianl/antisocial acts like her male counterpart, but she woud be as power-driven, as toxically narcissistic as a ‘male’ psychopath. The control, the manipulation, the dishonesty, the selfishness, the callousness – all these would be present, but we might not recognise them for what they are because of 1. media portrayal and 2. medical diagnosis of psychopaths. The difference would come in the gendered style of their behaviour.
In my clinical work I have come across this phenomenon. For example, a woman I now consider to be of the ‘female’-type of psychopath didn’t come close to committing a crime and yet the way she mothered her daughter, my patient, came close to destroying the child’s mind. This seems to me to be a perversion of motherhood eqivalent to the perversion of fatherhood we read about on this website.
Do readers have any comments? I’m particularly interested in any examples you might have of how ‘female’ psychopathy – if such a thing does exist – manifests itself?