Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Robert Black

Sudden Mindless Violence

As he grew older his reputation as a bit of a ruffian grew. The local bobbie, Sandy Williams, later said that Black was a "wild wee laddie" who "didn't give a damn - no respect for authority. He had a dangerous spirit" and "needed a smack round the ear to keep him in line." Having said this, in the period that he was living with the Tulips, Robert never really got himself into any serious trouble: he had childish fights, played up at school, and bullied the younger children, yet he seemed to avoid anything more serious than a rebuke from Williams for swearing in front of ladies.

In addition to this propensity for petty violence, Black was also developing a precocious sexual self-awareness. Years later Black remembers the emergence of a practice which began while he was living with the Tulips and would continue, and intensify, as he matured: "I used to push things up my anus," Black told Wyre, "I was eight years old." When asked what objects he would use, Black replied - holding his fingers about eight inches apart - that it was usually "a little piece of metal". After his arrest in 1990 police found photographs that Black had taken of himself: one showed him with a wine-bottle up his anus, another with a telephone-handset, yet another with a table leg. Black explained to the incredulous officers that he wanted to see just how much he could fit up there. At around the same age Black also remembers fantasizing about excreting on his hands and then rubbing the feces in. He also always had an uneasy feeling that he would have preferred to have been a girl - although there was certainly nothing feminine about his behavior - he simply hated his penis and would have preferred to have had a vagina. We have here a nice inversion of the usual Freudian model, wherein women envy men the presence of the penis, whereas the lack, or absence, that Black experienced all of his life was that of the vagina. His life-long practice of self-penetration seems to have been an enactment of this vagina-envy.

But he was by no means homosexual in his desires. Not only did his auto-erotic sex life begin early, so did his experimentation with the opposite sex. His first sexual experience, which is one of his first memories, was when he was only five. Black vividly recalls himself and a little girl undressing and looking at each other's sexual parts. Then at the age of seven, at his Highland Dance classes, he remembers being far more interested in lying on the floor and looking up the girls skirts than dancing. At the age of eight while looking after a neighbour's baby, he took off her nappy to look at her vagina. Both vaginas and anuses fascinated him, and he was obsessed with discovering how big they were, how much they could hold.

It is interesting to speculate what he was looking for - what could the orifices hold that he might discover? To search the vagina for some large hidden content is like a regressive version of the fantasy of searching for the origins of the self. If one looks up there, knowing how much it will hold, might one not encounter the ultimate secret: the baby, oneself? For one who had never known his parents, never had access to his birth-mother, and may subsequently have been abused, what a compelling obsession, to look into that darkness to see what it might have contained.

There is the further fascination, of course, with the anus, which may be thought of as the Thanatos to the Eros of the vagina. But a childs first fantasies are cloacal, it is the hole that fascinates, and the functions are not so closely differentiated in infantile fantasy. As the child grows more self-aware, the anus, of course, is differentiated as the remover of waste, though it may continue to exercise its old childish fascinations - so much so that Freud calls an entire personality type, formed round a matrix of characteristics such as tightness and the tendency to withhold emotion, the anal personality type. That Black was universally characterised as messy and smelly his entire adult life, also suggests some further manifestation of his compulsion to play about with the 'dirty' part of himself.



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