Can Psychopathy explain sexism? I believe that it may go beyond being a simple correlate. When presented with the evidence I will soon lay out you may be convinced that it is the primary factor explaining the gender gap, possibly explaining even more than obvious maternal factors. The glass ceiling may have been put in place by psychopaths.
At this point I need to put an obligatory statement… one required in every article about psychopaths. Most are not serial killers. Many are not even in prison. They live among you… and you probably have no idea how to identify them. They exist at a rate of one in twenty five but they hide well. They even fool experts that had studied them their entire lives. They are prevalent in society… selfish, greedy, evil, and uncaring. Martha Stout’s rule of thumb… they constantly lobby for your pity while at the same time consistently hurting you and others. In other words… the pity-play.
Genetic research has attached psychopathy primarily to the X chromosome. As with other traits attached to the X chromosome they tend to present stronger in Men than women and be more prevalent in men than women. A common example of a trait attached to the X chromosome is male pattern baldness. Men afflicted with this tend to have an earlier onset and go balder than their female counterparts as well as more prevalent. Research on psychopathy shows a similar pattern. Those women that are psychopaths are often not quite as psychopathic as their male counterparts and there are fewer women psychopaths.
There is a strong lack of study on the female psychopath (psychopaths in general but females particularly) and how they present. The subject was widely considered unimportant until there was a drastic increase in females being imprisoned in the 1960s and 1970s. What we do know is that they tend to be less physically violent and aggressive. Female psychopaths tend to engage in more promiscuous behavior. They tend to have higher unemployment rates, relationship instability, and dependency on social assistance programs… where males have more unlawful behavior and violent crimes. In other words, Men are more antisocial but women present as more histrionic.
These differences are small but significant. They affect where one ends up. Female psychopaths end up on welfare. Male psychopaths end up in prison… or as CEOs. This is because psychopathic traits, as an unfortunate reality, are desired in today’s business world. The tie between psychopathy and narcissism is well-documented. There are two main types of narcissists… the intellectual narcissist (best known as a know-it-all) and the physical narcissist who fits more of what we traditionally think of as a narcissist. Psychopaths being inherently selfish and narcissistic often will have shades of one type or the other. While no studies exist on the subject, would the young developing female psychopath be more likely to be an intellectual narcissist or a physical narcissist (especially considering the documented tendency towards histrionics.) Which type of narcissism plays best in the business world?
Let’s look a bit further at the linked article that dives into the top professions for psychopaths. The top profession is CEO and there are currently 12 Fortune 500 CEOs that are women. Going down this list (in order) Lawyer is next and Women make up 31% of all Lawyers. The Media in many respects is still male dominated. The Sales profession is about 34% female. Women make up about 15% of surgeons. For Journalists I defer to the same article on the media. About 14% of police officers are women. Men obviously dominate the number of clergymen. Women serve up 24% of Chef Positions and about 42% of Civil Service positions. So when you look at positions that tend to attract psychopaths you see less Women.
Now the other side of the coin…the professions that have the least psychopaths.
- Registered nurses——————————————91.1 %
- Elementary and middle school teachers————–81.8%
- Medical and health services managers—————-72.5%
- Tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents——66.1%
- Education administrators———————————-63.0%
- Advertising and promotions managers—————-61.1%
- Accountants and auditors———————————60.1%
- Public relations managers——————————–60.0%
- Insurance underwriters————————————59.3%
- Medical scientists——————————————-53.7%
- Financial managers—————————————–53.2%
This information is derived from the department of labor report detailing the professions with the highest percentage of female workers. No surprise though that there is a very strong overlap with the list of positions psychopaths avoid. The real list in order is Care Aide, Nurse, Therapist, Crafts person, Beautician, Charity worker, Teacher, Creative Artist, Doctor, and Accountant. Numbers are not kept on Crafts persons and Creative Artists. The same can be said for Charity workers but I can tell you that older women donate 89% more than men.
The hypothesis regarding what attracts psychopaths to a specific career (or away from others) is that psychopaths have an insatiable greed for money, power, and… Whatever motivates the individual psychopath. They lack empathy so a position requiring one to be ruthless, cunning, and emotionless allows them to excel. Positions requiring emotion and a human connection… well those would repel them. The same would be true of professions with relatively low pay or that don’t give you power over others. It’s odd that this holds true even with less glamorous positions such as being a Chef or low paying positions such as being a clergy person. What about the least glamorous profession… criminal. Men outnumber women in prison 15:1. In more glamorous (typically thinking… not MY thinking) aspects there is a clear disadvantage of females in politics which is also hypothesized to be filled with psychopaths. Leading researcher Robert Hare has previously pondered if it would be best to have studied Wall St. as opposed to inmates. Women make up 27% of workers on Wall St (and far less in management at 10%)
The truth is that this difference cannot be explained directly by psychopaths. They only make up about 4% of the population (on the high side some experts theorize around 10%). Assuming they are all male with no females that would be a range of 8 – 20% of men which is not an insurgence into such careers that would cause such a large distortion of numbers plus we know that this discrepancy is not true and the female psychopath exists.
The truth is that the effects of psychopathy have deeper effects on the overall culture of the United States (and world) in regards to sexism than their direct numbers are able to explain. Psychopaths have a way of infecting others with their pathological thinking. There are many correlates with psychopaths and the various cluster B personality disorders. All of these disorders tend to have black and white thinking which is also a staple of psychopaths. This black and white thinking lends itself to separating people and grouping people. This can be done by color, ethnicity, sports fandom, or any number of traits including gender. Actually, gender in particular because of one trait psychopaths lack and loathe… emotionality and empathy. As I will explore, this may be at the very heart of misogyny.
There is a theory that is gaining a foothold on the internet known as Ponerology (the science of Evil). It hypothesizes that occasionally a country can come under the grips of what boils down to psychopaths at most positions in power. In a sense they can trickle down their pathological thinking onto the population. This seems a likely mechanism considering their insatiable greed for both money and power and their ability to reach high places. Many have considered if almost all of our most recent presidents have been pathological. We know many CEOs are and they have tremendous influence over elections. There is also interesting evidence considering psychopathy rivals every other chronic medical condition in terms of cost to America yet the funding is not close to that of heart disease, diabetes, or other epidemics our country faces. Consider this excerpt.
Essential psychopaths are the type that is closest to the idea of psychopathy discussed by Cleckley, Hare, Babiak, and others. Łobaczewski makes the frightening remark that “They learn to recognize each other in a crowd as early as childhood, and they develop an awareness of the existence of other individuals similar to them. They also become conscious of being different from the world of those other people surrounding them. They view us from a certain distance, like a para-specific variety.”
Think about the ramifications of this statement: They are, to some extent, self-aware as a group even in childhood! Recognizing their fundamental difference from the rest of humanity, their allegiance would be to others of their kind, that is, to other psychopaths. Łobaczewski points out that, in any society in this world, psychopathic individuals often create an active network of common collusion, estranged from the community of normal people to some extent. They are aware of being different. Their world is forever divided into “us and them”; their world with its own laws and customs and that other “foreign world” of normal people that they consider to be full of presumptuous ideas and customs about truth and honor and decency in light of which they know they are condemned morally. Their own twisted sense of honor compels them to cheat and revile non-psychopaths and their values. In contradiction to the ideals of normal people, psychopaths feel breaking promises and agreements is normal behavior. Not only do they covet possessions and power and feel they have the right to them just because they exist and can take them, but they gain special pleasure in usurping and taking from others; what they can plagiarize, swindle, and extort are fruits far sweeter than those they can earn through honest labor. They also learn very early how their personalities can have traumatizing effects on the personalities of non-psychopaths, and how to take advantage of this root of terror for purposes of achieving their goals.
This statement has even more profound effects for the female of our species. You see less psychopaths amongst women and those that are psychopaths are not quite psychopaths to the same degree as others. So what other way can this black and white thinking be more relevant to a psychopath? Think of the justifications for misogynist thinking… how much has been justified because of the emotionality of women? Is this not a perfect fit to the puzzle?
However, again, it doesn’t stop with the psychopath. It’s their influence over others. They are in positions of power. They tend to speak their mind without shame. They tend to be hyper sexual. They model their behavior for others… and they move into positions to be role models. They mentor others. Through both their direct and indirect behavior they make things difficult for women to also move into positions of power… into the professions that offers these type of rewards. To some degree you can explain the caring nature of women may attract them towards certain positions but the other side of the coin is the brutal conditions they must put up with in other professions. This hostility faced seems to be placed within the profession… but by whom?
This then brings me to the issue of child rearing and how this creates further discrepancy. Not only is this a great excuse to keep women out of management positions but during maternity leave it provides excellent opportunity for the psychopath to spread rumors and break alliances. Their drive is relentless and unending with no regards for morals or decency. Plus, the female psychopath with her heightened promiscuity and lack of responsibility can often end up pregnant derailing her career path. The male simply abandons his significant other at this point with minimal damage to his career. Keeping in mind the female psychopaths tendency to abuse welfare this piece of the puzzle also seems to fit. In other words… the female psychopath’s don’t represent their gender as often at the top of pyramids. Those that do make it there may do more disservice than add benefit (reference Ms. Palin… while not a diagnosed psychopath enough is known about her to allow for generous speculation).
The personality of a psychopath lends for a ruthless businessman: one with no emotional ties, fears, or morals to hold them back. This is a tough negotiator and one who has studied how to manipulate emotions for their benefit. When negotiating pay it would make sense that this is a more difficult negotiation. How much of the wage gap can be explained by this… the rest being explained by differences in career path plus unfavorable conditions created by psychopaths in these fields?
A psychopath’s reality is based upon their goal at the moment. This often results in contradictions stated within close proximity to each other or plain hypocrisy. How much of the gender bias that exists reeks of blatant hypocrisy. Promiscuous women are bad. Promiscuous men are idolized. Businessmen that are ruthless are exactly that… businessmen. If a woman is ruthless she is labeled a bitch. Can this type of hypocritical thinking be attributed to the male prevalence of psychopathy amongst males and their ability to explain away their negative behaviors while criticizing their competition? The entire thought process of a psychopath is based on their infallibility compared to the flaws of others as well as their importance compared to the relative unimportance of everyone else. To what extent can such delusional thinking when considered on a mass scale explain the hypocrisy inherent in sexist attitudes? Claudia Moscovici provides a clear example on the psychopathic mindset when it comes to hypocrisy. Although she speaks of psychopaths in terms of romantic relationships, the mindset she describes is consistent regardless of the context.
But even this doesn’t fully capture the outlandishness of the psychopathic mindset. Psychopaths live in an Orwellian doublethink world. They believe the truth of the moment while actively seeking new opportunities. We might as well call it a “psychopath-think,” since such individuals have their own language. It is a language of narcissism; a delusional doublespeak. For example, to a psychopathic seducer, “I love you” means “You give me a rush at this moment.” “You love me” translates as “you forgo your needs to bend to my will.” “Trust me” means “What a sucker!” “You’re the woman of my life,” translates into “You’re one of a long, indefinite sequence of women that’s also simultaneous” (Psychopaths have their own version of math as well). “Mutual fidelity” means “you need to be faithful to me while I cheat on you.” “Betrayal” means “You dared disapprove of something I did” or “You disobeyed me in some respect.” “Mutual commitment” translates into “You need to revolve everything in your life only around me while I do exactly what I want.” “Honesty” means “My truth,” or “Saying whatever gets me what I want at the moment.” “I miss you” means “I miss the function you played in my life because I’m a little bored right now.” “What my Baby wants, my Baby gets” means “I’ll give you attention, flattery and gifts only until I hook you emotionally and gain your trust. Afterwards, Mazeltov Baby! You’re on your own.” “I cheat because my wife/girlfriend doesn’t satisfy me” means “…and neither will you, in a few months, at most.” “We belong together” means “I own you completely while I remain free.” “If anything happens between us, it won’t be because of me” means “Nothing’s ever my fault. If I do something harmful, it’s because you (and others) weren’t good enough for me.” Unless you learn to decipher the psychopathic code, you’re likely to be “lost in translation.” If I put my mind to it, I could write a whole dictionary of “psychopath-speak” and its translation into regular human language.
Every so-called “truth” psychopaths utter is momentary and contingent upon their immediate gratification. Since their feelings are shallow, so is their truth-value. If you add “for now” to their declarations of love, they may sometimes ring plausible. For instance, during the euphoric seduction phase, psychopaths may believe when they tell a girlfriend that they love her and want to spend the rest of their life with her. But, as my novel, The Seducer, illustrates, their passion isn’t grounded in any empathy, love or commitment.
When looking at small aspects individually you can see small points. As the entire portrait is painted it becomes clearer that the very roots of sexism and the ills from sexism may be a problem rooted in psychopathy. Much of this is speculation based upon the research that exists however much more study on the subject is warranted. Unfortunately psychopathy research is under-funded. It begs the question, how much of the money donated to assure equal rights to women would be well served funding psychopathy research? Could simple public education on the condition of psychopathy… the facts and not the myths… have an impact? What would the cost be compared to the benefits reaped? What if we are not even talking about money but pure effort in spreading a message? What if this was self education… community education? Can this stop the psychopathic thought process from infecting and spreading to others and in such limiting the influence to this small percentage of the population?
I don’t know the answers to these questions which may be the overall point. More research is needed as this is a prevalent medical condition. What is becoming clearer and clearer with research though is that the topic of psychopathy affects women more than men. While most any “evil” in the world (such as sexism) would allow for further consideration of psychopathic influence, psychopaths do not target other psychopaths and numbers show clearly that women would then be at a disadvantage. Dr. Hare postulated psychopaths are a sort of interspecies predator. It seems they prey most upon women and women’s emotions are an Achilles heel when it comes to psychopaths. The issue for both women and society is much greater than psychopaths themselves. Questions loom regarding how we stop them from infecting others with pathological thinking. How can we assure those in power do not act in pathological ways? Where does it start? Can it start with simple conversation? A conversation seemingly overdue…