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With the recent Zac Efron movie, depicting serial killer Ted Bundy, the media have been shocked by the admiration many have expressed toward him. Netflix expressed their disapproval on Twitter:

Netflix US ✔ @netflix

I’ve seen a lot of talk about Ted Bundy’s alleged hotness and would like to gently remind everyone that there are literally THOUSANDS of hot men on the service — almost all of whom are not convicted serial murderers.

One research study examined women of varying ages, ethnicities, education and employment who were in relationships with incarcerated men. While they weren’t diagnosed with major mental illnesses or personality disorders, many came from difficult upbringings with a history of abuse. And, notably, 90% had experienced dominant, verbally abusive, prior marriages.

Some may become sexually aroused by being with a partner convicted of a severe crime such as rape, murder, or armed robbery. This is a paraphilia known as hybristophilia. American psychiatry’s diagnostic system, DSM-5, notes this condition may interfere with the establishment of normal sexual relationships.

Many meet their partner via online pen pal sites such as Canadian Inmates Connect. Melissa Fazzina, the site’s creator and founder, spoke with the Trauma and Mental Health Report (TMHR) to provide insight as to why woman choose such relationships:

“These women just want to offer support to people that do not have a connection to the outside world. Inmates have nothing but time. You really get to know that person because you talk about everything and anything. This is what makes these relationships strong. You can still have a relationship but you don’t have to be as committed in terms of cooking dinner every night and going to obligatory family functions etc. Pain heals pain. They feel special because they are the one.”

Julia (name changed) met her partner Bill (name changed) through Canadian Inmates Connect. Bill is convicted of murder and is serving a 25-year sentence. Julia had been through the prison system herself and knew the loneliness it brings. She made her selection based on two criteria: Bill was in for a long time, so he would not come out; and the jail was far, so she could not visit.

Julia describes her childhood in a small town:

“There has been no violence, no alcohol abuse, and no drug abuse in my family. I am educated, currently completing a university degree, and I own my own business and solely take care of my children…I don’t think my partner’s sentence is who he is; he just got caught up in something. He is loyal and hard working. He has dreams and aspirations and he is strong enough to want to change his future and get out and do something with his life.”

Psychologist Ami Rokach has worked in the prison system for 28 years. In an interview with the TMHR, he explains why some women choose incarcerated men.

“There are different types of women that could be interested in this type of relationship. There is the very high nurturing type, who feels they can “save” someone. Then, there is the type who wants someone who is considered tough, rough and “manly”, because this gives the illusion that they can protect them. Third, there is the rebellious type who are unhappy and angry and who live a vicarious rebelliousness through this experience.”

For Julia, being in a relationship with Bill allows her to experience emotional availability and connection on her own terms:

“I want people to understand that the stigma about women that are in relationships with inmates – that they are unstable or crazy – is not true. People ask me, “how can you fall in love with someone you have never seen in person?” To that I say, what is the biggest success indicator of a relationship? Communication. I talk to him for many hours on the phone. I know how he feels. I can hear it in his voice, when he is happy, sad or whatever-feeling. I compare this to a long distance relationship, it’s no different.”

When Luca Magnotta, a known killer, joined Canadian Inmates Connect, he received numerous letters of support and admiration, putting the ethics of the site into question. Melissa explained that she faced backlash for her actions:

“It was a dark time in my life, I was very upset that just because of one person who is in the public eye I get the media reprimanding me for it.”

What can be incomprehensible to many can be alluring to others.

-Eleni Neofytou, Contributing Writer, The Trauma and Mental Health Report

– Chief Editor: Robert T. Muller, The Trauma and Mental Health Report.

-Copyright Robert T. Muller

This article was originally published on Psychology Today