Are You Dating a Serial Killer? Psychology Today Thinks You Might Be.

Charles Emrich is here to help you come to grips with the Bateman-esque monster Psychology Today thinks you’ve fallen for.

Sometimes you have to expose yourself to awful things to remind yourself that they exist, that evil exists. Past the darkness at the end of the streetlights, you can hear it. It’s out there in wasteland, and it thinks of nothing all day but swallowing up goodness and righteousness. Deborah Schurman-Kauflin is the emissary of that darkness, a wailing beast with a hundred wings, and upon each feather of each wing is an ear, an eye, and mouth. With these mouths, she utters terrible falsehoods. (With apologies to the Aeneid.)

So let’s look the beast in the eye and see what she’s got on her mind, eh? Looks like she wrote an article for Psychology Today. Hmm. Let’s start with the title:

“Is Your Lover a Pervert?”

I certainly hope so! Because if she’s not we’re gonna run into some sexual roadblocks pretty damn quick, yes we are. In the world I live in, that most of the people I know live in, “pervert” just doesn’t carry weight as a term of abuse anymore. It’s affectionate, cuddly, a kinda-cute reminder that we used to be weirdoes, but now there are thousands of us and we have communities and we’re weird together and no one minds the Bollocks. But enough about that, let’s get back to the fun part:

“Everyone wants some fun in their sex life. Role playing and being adventurous add heat and excitement. When everyone consents and no one gets hurt, there are no problems. But many people struggle with some of the things that their lovers do.”

Aw, this seems fine. Why am I even writing this article? This is kink positive an-

When does a fantasy become frightening? If you look at certain behaviors, you’ll find a sinister element that raises red flags.

Well, yeah. There are some fantasies that people are uncomfortable with their partners having. But a “sinister element?” What sinister element would we be talking about here?

Some men have fantasies that involve their partners dressing as school girls. It is one thing to ask a lover to dress in school uniform, as many strippers do. It is another thing if your lover asks you to wear pigtails, speak like a Little Girl, shave your pubic hair, makes you call him ‘daddy,’ and pushes other things in order to turn you into a Little Girl. Such behavior points to someone who is attracted to children and is walking a dangerous line between a sick fantasy and reality.

Oh. Oh my. That’s just… not actually true. Deborah has made a pretty rookie mistake here, though: People’s fantasies are not necessarily “what they wish their reality was.” People with rape fantasies don’t want to get raped. People who want their partner to do more intensive schoolgirl roleplay aren’t, like, sad that their partner isn’t a schoolgirl. I thought this was obvious. People are into these kinds of things for all sorts of reason, only a rare one of which is “because I wish it was real.”

Let’s look at her take on pain, though:

“This is not the experimental game of getting tied up and playfully dominating. Sadistic sex is where your partner really wants to hurt you. Your partner may try to force you to have sex or go to the brink of raping you only to stop at the last minute. Just because he didn’t rape you does not mean that he is not dangerous. If he is putting you in a position of fear and pain, you need to get out. Things won’t get better.”

Holy false dichotomies, Batman! Look at the lack of middle ground between “playful domination” and “pretending to actually-for-real rape your partner because you want to hurt them.” Also, bonus points if you spotted the sexism in this paragraph. Hint: It’s using the (already pretty-sexist) universal “he” to imply that men and only men are the aggressors in situations of rape and sadism.

“One time he may simply request putting handcuffs on you. The next time he wants to gag you. He goads you into a position where you are completely helpless, and once he does, he causes damage.”

If this is happening to you, you should get out. But there’s another insidious myth here: the notion that people with kinks are always progressing towards “harder” kinks as though fuzzy cuffs and tie bondage were gateway drugs to gimp suits and needle suspensions. Now, sometimes they are. But when that happens it’s a process of people getting comfortable with pushing their own limits. Not all kinky people progress towards more “extreme” acts. There are universes of books, toys, and games for people who like their kink light, occasional, and playful. Yet the myth reigns supreme. Apparently, keeping the myth in mind is the only thing keeping you safe from your Killer Boyfriend.

Also. in excluding that middle ground she’s also entirely discounted the possibility that anyone could enjoy sex that falls somewhere between light roleplay and actually-damaging violence. Woe betide the moderately-kinky.

“Very, very dangerous activity can leave you dead.”

It’s not nice, but I just want to quote this sentence out of context because I like it when people try to use truisms to support arguments that are fully false. What “very, very dangerous activities?” Y’know… probably all of ‘em. That’s why they’re very, very dangerous activities. Does that fact that dangerous activities are dangerous support her argument? No. No it does not.

“Is your lover asking to choke you while having sex? If so, be warned. Someone who wants to strangle during sex has paired sex and violence. Such behavior does not end well.”

No. It ends great.

“You have to ask yourself why he would want to cut off your air during sex. This is someone who becomes sexually aroused while choking the oxygen right out of you. He has violent fantasies which could easily end in death.”

Literally one of the most common taboo fantasies that exists is apparently a sign that we’ve all got sex and death mixed up in our brains. Wait a second. Sex and Death? We’ve found the last living Freudian! Someone get this woman to a wildlife preserve before she dies out! Actually, Deb’s being an unreconstructed Freudian would go a long way towards explaining the associative logic she’s got going on both here and in the next quote.

Let’s watch the progression of an argument from amusing to amazing:

“Has your lover ever asked you to play dead while he has sex with you?”

No, but I had one ask to play dead before. It worked out okay, but it turns out that even small people are really hard to maneuver when they’re going out of their way not to help at all.

“I am hoping the answer is ‘no’ because if someone is asking you to look as if you are simply a dead body, then that person has necrophilia fantasies.”

Or they may have fantasies about being the one in power? Maybe they like the notion of having a partner whose pleasure they (consensually) don’t have to care for? If they want to be the “dead” one, they may have fantasies about being helpless, or about lacking agency, or about being desired without having to put on a show. Either partner may just want to play with taboos. All of these things are a little odd, but none of them are bad.

“This person is turned on by the dead.”

And/Or any of a number of other things.

“And there is a high probability that such an individual has a desire to kill… Get out while the getting is good.”

Aaaand there we are! If your partner has a transgressive fantasy about violence, they may Literally Be Planning to Kill You.

By the way, actual necrophilia is usually an expression of extreme loneliness and desire for acceptance and rarely combines with violence towards living partners.. Deb has apparently confused actual necrophilia with the serial killer TV show version.

I’m gonna give her a break on this next section where she talks about how coercing your partners into threesomes is not OK. Because, well, it’s not OK. Something something stopped clocks.

“I have worked with so many women who were abused and raped, and they always had horrible self esteem. Sadly, none of them felt worthy of getting help. So I want to let women and men know that no one has the right to make you feel like you have to do anything degrading. Remember, that is not love. Love is comfort, not pain.”

Why hello there, token reference to the travails of abused and hurt men! I almost didn’t see you there, in the sea of assumptions about male aggression and female victimhood! It’s probably because you’re tiny, ineffectual and barely exist at all. Also, Love is A Goddamn Lot of Things. Comfort is one. Pain is another. Most people end up with some of of both. And where there’s consent to everything, it’s not really cause for concern.

That’s about as much fear-mongering as I can handle for one day. Look, I know Psychology Today isn’t exactly a bastion of field’s brightest minds, but this is pretty ugly. This is pre-modern, Freudian hand-waving pseudo-analysis. This is is dream logic, where similarites between things are signs of a deeper (and always darker) connection.

But, this is not how people work.

So if you read this article and worried, let me reassure you:

Your partner almost definitely does not want to kill you. They just want to have weird, freaky sex with you. Probably because they like you enough to trust you with their weirdness.


  1. I don’t know if you have editing abilities post publishing but, “This is is dream logic.”

  2. Wait, shouldn’t she drop the “your partner probably wants to kill you” bomb after the “coercion into threesomes” bit?

    Obviously, coercion into anything, threesomes included, should be right there at the top of Not Okay Mountain. But if you’re trying to write a panic-inducing piece of claptrap, you’d want the YOUR LOVER WANTS TO KILL YOU–DUN-DUN-DUNNNNNNN!!!!!! moment to come at the end, not in the middle, right? Otherwise you’re shooting your panic-wad way too early.

  3. I read the article before I read your post – it comes off pretty well if you read it as satire.

    Also hey! I read one of your posts!

  4. Well thought out and rational response to the Psychology Today article. Well done.

    Well it wasn’t hard! In fact I think it’s insulting to link Psychology and Today with tosh like this. I think it should have been published in The Diaper Rash Daily!

  5. Well thought out and rational response to the Psychology Today article. Well done.

    I want to reiterate that fantasies are just that fantasies. They are rarely, if ever, desired in real life. A fantasy is a way to express sometimes confusing, sometimes worrying thoughts without ever actually doing the real thing. It’s escapism. Rarely anything more than that.

  6. Oh, Psychology Today. I thought this was going to be some armchair psychologizing in which we complete a survey and get our new beloved’s DSM code. Instead of DSM, it’s BDSM. 101, that is. They could have done so much good….

  7. “We’ve found the last living Freudian!”

    God, if only. Freud is still plenty big, just not in psychology*. He’s huge in literary/media/cultural criticism, including feminist lit/film crit, which I’ve always found kind of hypocritical in light of his glaring misogyny and gender essentialism. (Why yes, Laura Mulvey, I am glaring in your direction.) That, and the fact that he was generally full of shit in his capacity as a scientist, but I don’t expect the tangled epistemic rat’s nest that is modern literary and cultural studies to care about that part.

    *You may have meant the last Freudian psychologist, in which case feel free to disregard the portion of this statement framed as a correction. Well, and there are still people who practice Freudian and Jungian-style psychoanalysis, but the mainstream psychological community doesn’t take them seriously.

    • Charles Emrich says:

      In this particular case, I am definitely referring to the last living Freudian psychologist. Or at least, the last person who seems to think of people as a tangled mess of sex and death urges.

      • Or at least, the last person who seems to think of people as a tangled mess of sex and death urges.

        Well to be fair, there are some peeps out there who still are a tangled mess of sex and death urges – just ask any new parents ant 4.30 am when the brat … sorry Lovely Little Darling is demanding attention at both ends. But I do agree with the general sentiment that that old Sigmund has had his day and his fun!

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