Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Sex Slaves: The Psychology of Mastery

From Chaos to Control

Jeffrey Dahmer
Jeffrey Dahmer

Jeffrey Dahmer came to the public's attention in July 1991, admitting to police that he had murdered 17 men before one near-victim escaped and brought back the police. They went through his apartment and spotted Polaroid photos of dead men, mutilated and dismembered. A look inside the refrigerator revealed human heads, intestines, hearts, and kidneys. Around the apartment, investigators found skulls, bones, rotting body parts, bloodstained soup kettles, and complete skeletons. There were three torsos in a large barrel, and chloroform, electric saws, a barrel of acid, and formaldehyde in various places. In all, investigators were able to find the remains of 11 different men. Dahmer added six more names.

His first murder happened when he was only 18-years-old. His estranged parents had abandoned the family home, going their separate ways, and for several weeks, Dahmer had the place to himself. He brought home a hitchhiker named Steve Hicks, and killed him. "I didn't know how to keep him there," he later said. He was aroused by this control over another human being, and when he cut the body into pieces for disposal, he was further excited, ensuring he would try it again.

Steven Hicks
Steven Hicks

Once he had his own place, he brought boys and young men there from bars, drugging them before attacking them. In an effort to create zombies as sex slaves to do his bidding, he tried drilling holes into the heads of his unconscious victims and injecting boiling water or acid into their skulls. It didn't work, but it didn't stop him from trying over and over to acquire a mindless human to obey him.

Dahmer also tried to cut off the faces of his victims to preserve them as masks. He designed an altar made of skulls, which he hoped to build one day when he'd killed a sufficient number of men, and seemed to believe that from it he might gain special powers that would help him to better his life.

Lionel Dahmer, Jeffrey's father, wrote A Father's Story to explore his role in Jeffrey's development. He admitted that his first marriage had been problematic, creating a house full of tension, which had probably seemed unpredictable to a boy who had no social skills and might not understand that he wouldn't lose his security. Jeffrey had found solace in his pet cemeteries, quiet places where nothing ever changed. The situation had continued for years, further enforcing his need for stability.

Of course the making of a monster like Dahmer had numerous causes, but the need for control of other human beings, even to the point of killing them, does indicate of fear of change and unpredictability.

And what of the psychology of the victims?

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