Why do so Many Serial Killers Target Sex Workers?

DATED: 01.07.22

It’s no secret that the typical serial killer profile depicts a hatred of women, particularly sex workers; however, this is by no means a stereotype. The psychology of serial killers means that they completely lack empathy, especially for those they consider to be bad people.

We can define the extent to which sex workers are targeted by serial killers by use of the following USA statistics. From 2009 to 2019, 43% of victims of serial murders were known sex workers, and these are only the confirmed cases. This figure becomes even more problematic upon addressing the fact that only 0.3% of the US population is involved in sex work. In fact, social psychologist, Eric Hickey, claims that “Being a prostitute increases your chance of being murdered by 200 times”.

All the most famous serial killers, starting with Jack the Ripper, notoriously targeted sex workers, but this begs the question – why?

What’s a Serial Killer?

The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable defines a serial killer as “a murderer who repeatedly commits the same offence, typically following a characteristic, predictable behaviour pattern.” This predictable behaviour pattern is often influenced by the narcissistic criminal profiling of serial killers. They’re usually impressed by and proud of their work, meaning that they follow a set modus operandi so that others know they committed the murder.

With this being said, why is it that notorious American and famous British serial killers predominantly target sex workers?

An Ingrained Hatred of Women and Sex Workers

One of the key signs of a serial killer is an overwhelming hatred of women, especially sex workers. We’re not just talking about your standard misogynist that still believes women have no place outside of the kitchen, but rather someone who wholly despises women.

This hatred often stems from the aforementioned narcissism, as narcissists don’t take well to rejection. Typically speaking, serial killers will have felt rejected by their mothers during their childhood, which is the first female relationship anyone has. After maternity, the predominant connection that men usually make to women is a sexual one, whereby women are often perceived as sexual objects. When sex is the be-all and end-all of a woman’s career, this only contributes to the objectification that she’s subjected to by misogynistic men. Therefore, many serial killers don’t even regard women as humans, which enables them to justify their actions in their minds.

A Lack of Neighbourly Connections

On top of the intense dislike that serial killers have for sex workers, these poor women are also, quite simply, easy targets. Sex is perhaps one of the most vulnerable positions you can be in, leaving sex workers frequently open to attack. Similarly, sex workers are typically perceived as lone wolves without close family or friends, meaning that their disappearance is likely to go unnoticed for a significant length of time.

Neighbourly connections can go a long way when it comes to someone’s protection. In fact, the author of Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery, Robert Kolker, states: “If it were somebody in the community who was running around screaming, they were looking at the woman who went screaming as the ‘other’. That’s a version of something we all do. I live on a street. I know my neighbours. If someone is screaming on the street and seems to be in genuine distress, I might call 911 or I might not call 911. But I will check to see if it’s someone I know first.” Sex workers are so often “othered” and they lack these personal connections that would lead to them being seen as the absolute.

Widespread Antipathy Towards Sex Workers

A lack of neighbourly connections also contributes to the widespread antipathy towards sex workers that is displayed by serial killers, the general public, and the police alike. Even way before 1888, sex workers were considered evil and immoral and, although the attitude towards them is improving, this general belief still prevails.

From the police’s perspective, it’s impossible to solve every crime, meaning that they’re often selective about which cases they pursue. Although serial killers have always predominantly targeted sex workers, the police don’t seem to take action until three or four disappearances of sex workers have occurred. In fact, there have been instances in the past, such as that of the Times Square Killer, whereby the bodies of sex workers weren’t regarded as “human remains”. Since there’s hardly any social pressure to look for missing sex workers, police officers often won’t break their backs in doing so.

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