Ted Bundy: The First Incel

The infamous serial killer tells us a lot about toxic masculinity today.

January 25, 2019

Jessica Wildfire
if looks could kill
Wikimedia

ne of Ted Bundy’s own defense attorneys described him as “the very definition of heartless evil.” But let’s be honest. Bundy wasn’t just evil. He was evil towards women.

All of his victims were women.

The misogynist roots of Bundy’s crimes probably explain the backlash to the 2019 film about Bundy, starring Zac Efron. People expressed concern, even disdain, for the way it portrayed Bundy as a misunderstood anti-hero along the lines of Dexter or Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and downplaying his monstrosity.

A Netflix series began streaming around the same time last year, titled “The Ted Bundy Tapes,” a documentary based on recordings of interviews that nobody’s heard before. Here, he goes into disturbing depth about what drove him to kill at least 30 women, most of them college girls.

It’s billed as entertainment. But this series also speaks to our current political climate, which makes it more terrifying than most of us even want to think about right now. But you should.

Truth: Ted Bundy was no suave anti-hero, but an incel in mind and spirit. He had a hard time getting laid. His first girlfriend dumped him because he wasn’t successful enough. Plus, he didn’t get into his top law school picks. Bundy spent most of his life compensating for his shortcomings by lying, manipulating, and constantly bragging about himself.

He displayed the same mix of narcissism and psychopathy that psychologists now find in business leaders and politicians.

Rejection didn’t “create” Ted Bundy, but it did shape him into the kind of killer he became — one that exclusively targeted women. One who “heard a voice” in his head, which said bad things about them.

It’s no accident that violent incel groups worship Bundy. They use his photo for their avatars. They praise him for killing so many women. To them, Bundy used his handsome “Chad” looks as a weapon against shallow girls, and then punished them for it.

An incel isn’t just an adult male virgin. Many men who identify as incels blame women for their problems. They idealize violence towards the opposite sex, as a form of retribution for rejecting them.

Bundy did what many incels dream about, talk about, and even manage to carry out (albeit with less strategy). Consider this snapshot from an incel forum, posted to Reddit for discussion:

// reddit

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Here’s what an incel does: He doesn’t get the girl(s) he wants. Because he doesn’t have the job he wants. Or the clothes he wants. So he blames the world, and solves his problems with violence.

It’s easy to dismiss Bundy as an aberration, a fluke of brain chemistry. Let’s not be so quick to call him a bizarre monster.

Ted Bundy’s monstrosity is familiar to women. It lives practically everywhere, including the mainstream and subcultures that idolize him.

Pick up a crime thriller. Odds are, you’ll find a serial killer villain who targets women. They’re all spinoffs on the original Ted. They sell because our culture regards them with fascination.

We claim to be repulsed by this type of killer. The truth is a little darker. We’re fascinated by them. We reward them with celebrity status.

The judge who sentenced Ted Bundy described him as a “bright young man,” and referred to him as “partner,” as if it was the end of a Western. He told Bundy to “take care of yourself,” and regretted that nobody would ever get to see him practice law. This judge said nothing about regretting the loss of 30 women. It’s the same logic that describes mass shooters as “lone wolves,” and narrates the “tragic” downfall of men like Harvey Weinstein.

Here’s a thought experiment. A certain type of entitled person executes the same thought process as the incel. It doesn’t matter if he’s gotten laid a few times before. Something gets in the way of what he wants. Actually, what he believes he’s entitled to. Or what she’s entitled to. (Let’s not forget the Ann Coulters of the world.)

They’ll destroy whatever stands in their way. They’ll even destroy the thing they claim to want the most.

And they’ll keep destroying anything that resembles what they wanted, or what resisted them. (Often, they’re the same thing.)

Afterward, they’ll justify what they did.

There’s the incel mindset for you. It transcends whether or not they had sex. This is how they approach their problems. Blame. Hate. Destruction. Even of the things they want, love, or desire.

What scares us about Ted Bundy isn’t just what he did, but how well he did it.

He blended in, and used our own protections and prejudices against us. There’s a thousand more guys (and gals) like Ted out there. They’ll put on the face that you want, to get what they want. Some of them just happen to occupy the highest levels of government right now.

When they don’t get what they want, they destroy. All while sporting a smirk. They’ll likely be almost very charming.

Look at Ted Bundy’s life. He hungered to be at the top of his class in high school, but he never pulled it off. He wanted to date the prom queen, so to speak. But she wasn’t interested in him.

Ted Bundy came from a working-class family, but he aspired to far more. He wanted to climb the social ladder. He wanted to become a lawyer or politician. He wanted to marry a rich white girl.

But his LSAT scores weren’t high enough to get into a good law school. The rich white girl he was dating dumped him.

So Bundy killed.

Still, Bundy had white male privilege in his corner, even after he was caught. He was good-looking and knew how to act like a college boy from the upper-middle class. Watch the clips.

Bundy’s charm did give him brief access to political campaigns in Seattle. It even helped him onto a crime task force, where he managed to learn all about law enforcement’s strengths and weaknesses.

Ted Bundy is just the flipside of Steve Jobs. While Jobs was picking up factoids from typography class that would turn into the smartphone, Bundy was picking up his own factoids that would help him elude capture for years. “Think different” works both ways. They both used and abused their white male privilege.

Imagine a black male or female loafing in a college lecture hall, or a crime task force meeting. Imagine anyone other than a white dude in a questionable turtleneck barking abuse at their employees.

Ted Bundy wasn’t just especially smart or calculating. He was a handsome, intelligent white guy doing things nobody ever considered a handsome, white guy capable of in the 1970s, or today.

Why would a handsome white guy named Ted rape and kill 30 women in a world where handsome white guys could have whatever they wanted?

Why would someone nominated for supreme court justice, or voted president, ever feel the need to prey on vulnerable women? Of course, they didn’t know they would be back then, but they felt entitled.

This simple fact echoes throughout the Netflix documentary, as if they want you to hear it, but don’t want to say it out loud.

Smart.

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// Gizmodo

A few woman did survive Ted Bundy. Like Carol DaRonch (pictured above). She faced her attacker in court, just like we’ve seen so many times. Imagine her terror. DaRonch wasn’t just testifying against a rapist. She was squaring off against one of the most evil killers in history — who also happened to enjoy all of the privileges of white college guys.

Ted Bundy didn’t hit on DaRonch in a bar. They weren’t on a date. He pretended to be a detective, who needed to ask her some questions. Back in the 1970s. Bundy practically invented the idea of impersonating law enforcement. He knew how to scare women.

Even worse, he knew how to disarm them. He alternated between a detective act, and a disabled person act.

He preyed on human psychology, but specifically how women were socialized to respond to authority and also nurture those in need.

DaRonch was testifying in court against a handsome and privileged white man, one with knowledge of the legal and political system, who kept women’s heads in his home. She stood up to that.

Plus, she endured the usual bullshit defense attorneys trying to confuse her with gaslighting tactics. Maybe they didn’t ask her, “What were you wearing that night?” but they might as well.

If you ask me, Carol DaRonch is a hero for you. Why don’t we do a Netflix documentary on her? I’d like to know more about what gave her the guts the stand up to all that.

Am I saying that every sexually-frustrated man will turn into a serial killer? Of course not. Ted Bundy may have been born a psychopath, but it was toxic masculinity and porn consumption that nudged him down the specific path of raping and killing 30 women. It’s the same brand of sickness that leads some men into joining online hate groups, stalking women, and preying on them — or ramming them with their vans.

Ted Bundy may lurk in our history’s past, but he still represents the same entitled privilege that every one of our recent feminist movements have fought against.

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