"A prostitute hunting men...is a deeply comforting story."
September 19, 2019 11:59 AM   Subscribe

 
How did they write that whole article without referencing Thelma and Louise?
posted by elizilla at 1:06 PM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


Monster is the relevant movie here. Charlize Theron was amazing in it. Highly recommend.
posted by emjaybee at 1:10 PM on September 19, 2019 [10 favorites]


Thank you for posting this article. It was...weird, to say the least, to see headlines like "How to talk to sex workers" and "how sex workers say you should treat them" alongside this horrific telling of abuse. As if Aileen, and workers like her, would have had it good if only the john's had been polite.
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:34 PM on September 19, 2019 [7 favorites]


After watching a few interviews with her, I'm struck by a number of things:

- How consistent her POV is
- How othering and patronizing every interviewer is
- How she comes across not as unhinged or mentally incompetent but like someone who has had the empathy beaten out of her over many, many years
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:01 PM on September 19, 2019 [21 favorites]


Having watched “Monster” a few years ago, I guess I thought of her as a complicated and disturbed woman. It jars me to see her called a “prostitute,” as though she were limited to that category because she took money for sex.
posted by SLC Mom at 2:55 PM on September 19, 2019 [18 favorites]


It's wrong to glorify serial killers.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:37 PM on September 19, 2019 [7 favorites]


It's wrong to execute people for committing murder in self-defense.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:49 PM on September 19, 2019 [25 favorites]


Fascinating, but not surprising, that stand your ground laws don t apply to people like Aileen.

I suppose, then, that certain people's fear is evidenciary, while other people's fear is necessary.
posted by eustatic at 2:44 AM on September 20, 2019 [14 favorites]


According to this film, there is an exemption to self defense based on repeat offences.
posted by eustatic at 3:03 AM on September 20, 2019


I have a sweatshirt with the infamous portrait of Aileen with the handcuffs. Below it says,

"I'm with her"

It is absolutely my favorite garment of clothing and I want to be buried in it.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:48 AM on September 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


Oh they mention the shirts! Yay!
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:55 AM on September 20, 2019


I watched an interview with Wuornos that I think was filmed shortly before her execution. She claimed then that none of it was self-defense. Is the belief that she lied to speed up the execution or that she was telling the truth in her final days? The current narrative seems to still be she was doing it in self-defense.
posted by jzb at 6:25 AM on September 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'd be interested to know if there is generally a division in the Wuornos fandom between those who see her through the lens of self-defence and "solidarity and survival in the face of male violence", and those celebrating her as a vengeful killer and being comforted by the proactive violence of "a prostitute hunting men" (who could again be split between those whose celebration is mostly performative, #killallmen, etc. and those who really mean it). Or whether most of her fans have a complicated mix of the above.

If you get to the point where you idolise the murderer as murderer, that seems like a not very healthy place to be (even though the victims are those who put you in that place to begin with) - a manifestation of the loss of hope.
posted by inire at 6:37 AM on September 20, 2019


Why are you interested to know exactly? Since we don't have a scourge of women hunting men, and we don't have a movement spawned by Wuornos that has lived manifestations in the world... what purpose does it serve you?

I personally believe hand wringing around Wuornos (who, frankly, was not the kind of threat a male serial killer tends to be) is mostly a manifestation of the very real fear that men bury.... that women deserve a reckoning for how they've been used, broken and discarded.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 6:51 AM on September 20, 2019 [25 favorites]


I'm interested because I find it interesting, not because I'm worried about Wuornos motivating a wave of man-murder.

Specifically, I'm interested in the way that people react to morally complex figures (which I now know Wuornos to be), especially in the context of fandom, role models, etc., and I'm also interested in the point at which people start to see violence as a desirable (or at least acceptable) response to a situation. There are some similarities to the discussion around use of violence against the alt-right / fascists - how far it's a means to an end, or a worthwhile end and thing to be glorified in itself.

It's obvious that women deserve a reckoning (as do other groups that suffer from violence and oppression). But the idea that the deserved reckoning can or should include killing those who caused them harm is not obvious. Which makes it worth asking when and why it comes about, why it takes the forms it does, and what effect that idea has on the person who holds it.

(All of which reminds me that I should probably get around to reading The Power.)
posted by inire at 7:48 AM on September 20, 2019 [4 favorites]


It's not ok to kill people. The state shouldn't do it, and even if these men were violent and needed to be stopped, she shouldn't have been the one to put a stop to them. If you are surrounded by horrible people and you fantasize about revenge killing:

1. Get away from those people ASAP for your own benefit.
2. Seek therapy.

Americans fetishize vengeance. It's disturbing in our movies (Taken, The Last House on the Left, Peppermint, etc.) and our music (all country songs immediately after 9-11). We have a problem, and I think it is a combo of the Wild-West mythos and our broken legal system. Violent people aren't punished by the law but that's a problem of the legal system, not an excuse to take up a gun.
posted by domo at 7:50 AM on September 20, 2019 [5 favorites]


I'm also interested in the point at which people start to see violence as a desirable (or at least acceptable) response to a situation.

Good thing this is just a thought experiment then. Is this really such an abstraction that you can't feasibly imagine what could cause Wournos to snap? Lucky you, if it's that complicated and unfathomable.

No one wants to pick up guns and mow down men... unless you count other men.

The reverse, by comparison, is a threat women feel every day. My god, imagine if men felt the feeling women feel when we go out on dates: "Does this man want to f*** me, kill me, or both?? Is he choking me because he thinks I like it or does he like it?"

I believe the moral ambivalence of Wournos taps into the fantasies not of killing men, but of men being forced to reckon with the kind domination/violence/violation-against-women that has become sexualized and fetishized at womens' expense and for a low low pecuniary cost.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 8:06 AM on September 20, 2019 [18 favorites]


Your average male serial killer killed women for sexual gratification. Wuornos, by the common narrative, snaps and kills men after years of abuse. It's hard not to see why some people find this story compelling and perhaps slightly relatable.

I don't find that nearly as disturbing as I do the young girls on Tumblr who fangirl over, like, Ted Bundy or the Columbine shooters. Hell, they made a movie about Ted Bundy starring a former teen idol! There's a cult around male serial killers too, and it's way crazier.
posted by noxperpetua at 8:26 AM on September 20, 2019 [14 favorites]


Good thing this is just a thought experiment

Yes, thinking about other people's thoughts about killing and expressions of support for people who kill is indeed a thought experiment. Some parts of it are obvious (like the not-at-all-abstract reasons for Wuornos snapping). Some (like the tensions in the way she is portrayed and in the reasons people have for finding her compelling) are more complex and worth looking at, as this article does.

I believe the moral ambivalence of Wournos taps into the fantasies not of killing men, but of men being forced to reckon with the kind domination/violence/violation-against-women that has become sexualized and fetishized at womens' expense and for a low low pecuniary cost.

Totally. But you can see that as a means to an end (you're forced to reckon with this because it will change you), or as the end in itself (you're forced to reckon with this because I've had to deal with a lot of shit and now it's your turn). I'm interested in why people take one view or the other (or both in tension), and how they think about 'forcing' in the sense of violence rather than e.g. prosecution. Others may think it's all very obvious, which is also fine.
posted by inire at 8:53 AM on September 20, 2019


I personally believe hand wringing around Wuornos (who, frankly, was not the kind of threat a male serial killer tends to be) is mostly a manifestation of the very real fear that men bury.... that women deserve a reckoning for how they've been used, broken and discarded.

You think? See also white people's reaction to each and every instance of black-on-white crime.
posted by non canadian guy at 10:19 AM on September 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


It's not ok to kill people. The state shouldn't do it, and even if these men were violent and needed to be stopped, she shouldn't have been the one to put a stop to them.

I hear you about not killing people, but - what was she supposed to do in that moment?  Get raped again?  Call the cops and hope this time, this time they'd believe a sex worker about getting raped and go after the john?  It's as realistic to say that she should have been like "oh hey john time out from this rape, we need to talk about morality because I'm sick of getting raped but I know shooting you is wrong too, how do we work this out?" Wuornos did the only thing available to her, and yeah, it wasn't a great thing but it was completely understandable.

Anyway I want one of the shirts.
posted by bile and syntax at 11:18 AM on September 20, 2019 [11 favorites]


Fascinating, but not surprising, that stand your ground laws don t apply to people like Aileen.

eustatic, Wuornos was active in Florida in 1989-90, and was executed by the state in 2002; Florida passed its stand-your-ground law (the first in the nation) in 2005.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:14 PM on September 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


I'm anti-capital punishment, but I think she belonged in prison. She killed seven people and her stories were really inconsistent. She typically shot them like six or seven times. Leaving a trail of seven human beings riddled with bullets doesn't make a good case for self defense. If you're looking for feminist heroes, there are plenty who aren't serial killers.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:16 PM on September 20, 2019 [10 favorites]


Americans fetishize vengeance. It's disturbing in our movies (Taken, The Last House on the Left, Peppermint, etc.) and our music (all country songs immediately after 9-11). We have a problem, and I think it is a combo of the Wild-West mythos and our broken legal system. Violent people aren't punished by the law but that's a problem of the legal system, not an excuse to take up a gun.
posted by domo at 10:50 AM on September 20 [3 favorites +] [!]


Did you read any of the article? It talks about how fans of Wuornos use her as a revenge-by-proxy, a catharsis. Literally no one, even the die-hard fans, are taking up arms in revenge. Most of real-life instances (and I'm talking in the high, high 10th percentile) of people who enact revenge are men. The country stars that you mention are men. Most of the Islamophobic attacks post-9/11 have been men. Do you only consider males to be proper americans?

All of the hand wringing about this is really just.. way off base for me. Women have been raped and subdued and murdered over and over again for literally thousands of years, and the biggest movement in the us that can be considered "anti-men" was a call for women to just stop living with them (you know, to prevent the rape and murder).

I'm really sick of women's emotions being blown out of proportion. Women aren't allowed to have feelings. I'm not advocating for murder (again, literally no one is), but apparently we're also not allowed to empathize with people. I'm just so over it
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:32 PM on September 20, 2019 [21 favorites]


Florida passed its stand-your-ground law (the first in the nation) in 2005.
posted by Iris Gambol


Thanks! I wonder if there are women acting after 2005, who would be on t shirts except for the fact that the law was passed, what do you think?
posted by eustatic at 3:29 PM on September 21, 2019


Florida passed its stand-your-ground law (the first in the nation) in 2005.
posted by Iris Gambol

Thanks! I wonder if there are women acting after 2005, who would be on t shirts except for the fact that the law was passed, what do you think?


It didn't help Marissa Alexander.
posted by bile and syntax at 4:23 PM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


I had mildly supported her since W made fun of her, not really knowing much or looking into it beyond the basic outline, but a few years ago I finally watched one of a couplefew Wuornos documentaries that were on Netflix at the time. I couldn't finish it! She was just all. over. the. place...it is probably the single strongest illustration of what appears to me as just making shit up in the moment to suit whatever comes to mind. Now, it could be the effects of prison, the glare of the lights, the glare of the attention, a desire to make the most of the story, the stress of living the life she's lead (which by all accounts basically sucked all the time)...all of these seem equally possible. In practice though, it was hard to untangle it, and this made me sad that there was really nothing I could do about that, beyond watching the other docs and movies. She's no longer around to fill in any more details.
posted by rhizome at 5:05 PM on September 26, 2019


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