True Love or a Mental Disorder? You Decide

Being that the story of “Bonnie and Clyde” is often romanticized—and being my novel is about them—it’s not surprising my post for this week’s topic of “love” is about the duo.

Throughout all the anecdotes I’ve come across in my research, Bonnie and Clyde’s love has always been depicted as instantaneous. Boom. The very essence of “insta love.”

Of course, in BECOMING BONNIE, I try to put some meat on the bones of their relationship to avoid that trope. I also try to create an understanding of how and why they fell for each other (with original lyrics to narrate their love story), and how and why they fell into their life of crime (while still fully asserting what they did was horribly wrong).

Regardless, in both my book and real life, the two were devoted to each other, time and time again risking their lives to stay together. In fact, Bonnie and Clyde even made a death pact. That’s some serious stuff, and some may wonder what made Bonnie stick it out with Clyde.

Turns out, there may be a scientific reasoning for Bonnie’s devotion to Clyde. Recent research has shown that Bonnie may’ve had a mental disorder, known as hybristophilia, a sexual fetish that creates an attraction to violent men. Clyde’s not the only bad boy Bonn fell for. She also married a man named Roy, who spent his fair share of time behind bars.

Over the years, there’s been other infamous examples of hybristophilia: the gaggle of women who wrote love letters and attended the trial of Ted Bundy, the many groupies of Charles Manson, and Jeffrey Dahmer‘s admirers, who sent him countless gifts and money while he was in prison.

But Bonnie and Clyde take the cake, with hybristophilia even being known as the “Bonnie and Clyde Syndrome.” Yikes.

Note: In BECOMING BONNIE, my Bonnie is sound of mind (mostly).

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Jenni L. Walsh spent her early years ​chasing around cats, dogs, and chickens in Philadelphia's countryside, before dividing time between a soccer field and a classroom at Villanova University. She put her marketing degree to good use as an advertising copywriter, zip-code hopping with her husband to DC, NYC, NJ, and not surprisingly, back to Philly. There, Jenni's passion for words continued, adding author to her resume. She now balances her laptop with a kid on each hip, and a four-legged child at her feet. BECOMING BONNIE (Tor Forge/Macmillan, 5/9/2017) is her debut novel that tells the untold story of how church-going Bonnelyn Parker becomes half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo during the 1920s. SIDE BY SIDE, telling Bonnie and Clyde's crime spree story, will be released in the summer of 2018. Please learn more about Jenni's books at jennilwalsh.com.

This article has 5 Comments

  1. I once knew a woman who went to visit a man in prison who had killed his wife. She fell in love with him and married him when he go out. Here’s the crazy part. Some of her friends agreed with her that the first wife “deserved” to be killed because she was verbally abusive. Needless to say, I slipped away from this group of crazies.

    1. Terry, those stories are always so bizarre. When I was researching this post, I came across this story (and of course now I can’t find it again) but it was of two sisters who both became obsessed with inmates. When the convicts got out, they both married them. One sister unfortunately had a run-in with a hammer. The other sister got her ear cut off. Noooooo thank you! (Edited)

  2. As someone with a mental illness, I was a little uncomfortable with the use of “Some would say a bit mental” and came down here to ask you to please reconsider your wording because mental illness isn’t some flip punchline. Then I saw your response to another comment, reiterating the use of the word ‘crazies’, and maybe you shouldn’t be writing about mental illness if you use such ableist language.

    1. Tanya, I truly am sorry for the insensitive wording and making you uncomfortable. You’re right, I was using a play on words as a transitional punchline and didn’t consider the nature of it because I intended this piece to be lighthearted. But intent doesn’t matter and I’d like to reassert my apology. I am someone who suffers from depression, and recently postpartum depression, and I should know better than to devalue a condition. I’ll remove this language, but I’m pasting it below for transparency because I don’t want to simply ‘backspace’ my error away. Thank you for reaching out and speaking up!

      “Regardless, in both my book and real life, the two were devoted to each other, time and time again risking their lives to stay together. In fact, Bonnie and Clyde even made a death pact. That’s some serious stuff. Some would say, a bit mental.

      Turns out, some of Bonnie’s fascination to Clyde may be just that: mental. Recent research has shown that Bonnie may’ve had a mental disorder, known as hybristophilia, a sexual fetish that creates an attraction to violent men.”

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