Friday, November 13, 2009

Philia Friday: Fetishism

Fetishes themselves are not an precursor for violence, they are simply a condition in which a person is turned on by an object or specific body part - usually feet - and are so fixated on it that the sex partner becomes secondary to the object of the fetish.  But, when combined with a psychopathic personality, fetishes can get bizarrely extreme (eating fingernails off corpses rather than just enjoying them on a living woman) and the things done in order to satisfy the urges of a fetish can be unspeakably violent.

Terrifying Trophies

Fetishism in serial killers tends to account for their taking trophies.  A trophy could be almost anything that once belonged to the victim - jewelry, driver's licenses, underpants, - that the killer takes to relive the crime  as a fantasy, often while masturbating.  This fact, that they use the trophy to gain sexual gratification from, alone makes them fetish objects.  Of course some killers aren't satisfied with just taking an object that once belonged to their victims...they want a part of their victims body to relive the fantasy with.  This was the case of foot fetishist and serial killer Jerry Brudos, aka "Shoe Fetish Slayer".

It's hard to say how, exactly, his fetish began but it started as early as when Brudos was five.  After finding a pair of lady's shoes at the local dump and taking them home he was caught by his mother walking around in them; the woman promptly took the high-heels, burned them, and beat her son for having them.  Of course that didn't stop him and, as he grew, his desires - and the acts he took to fulfill them - grew in scope and darkness.  In first grade he got in trouble for stealing a spare pair of his teacher's shoes and, by his early teens, he was sneaking into women's homes to snatch their shoes and underwear (which, by this time, he had taken to wearing under his clothing).  At 17 he'd attacked a young girl at knifepoint and tried to force her to strip - for this he spent nine months in Oregon State Hospital.  At 23, while his young wife gave birth to his child, he broke into the home of a young lady, choked her unconscious, and then raped her before running off with her shoes.  And, by his 30s, Brudos violence escalated to murder.

He killed four women total, though it was what he did after their deaths that served to shock and disgust others.  Brudos would use them as sort of life-sized dolls, dressing the bodies in the underwear collection he had and then taking photographs of the results.  The photographs weren't the only trophies he took however.  From the first victim, Linda Slawson, he severed her left foot and placed it in a spike-heeled shoe before tucking it away in his freezer.  From his second, Jan Whitney, he took one of her breasts which he kept as a macabre paperweight and the third, Karen Sprinkler, he removed both.  Once caught and asked by the police why he didn't remove body parts from the final victim, Linda Salee, he explained he was turned off by her pink nipples, "They should be brown," he stated to the authorities.  After each of his kills it's reported he would dress in high-heels and masturbate.

Even once in prison his fetish continued...he wrote to major companies asking for their women's shoes catalogues and used them as his own personal version of pornography.  A fetish alone does not make a person dangerous or violent.  But a sick and twisted mind like that of Jerry Brudos coupled with a fetish can be a terrifying and deadly thing.

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