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The Female Born Criminal :: Crime, Scandal, Spectacle

The Female Born Criminal

Female born criminals are fewer in number than male and, unlike her male counterpart, the female born criminal does not present so many physical anomalies. Lombroso believed that this was the case because women are biologically less developed than men and are therefore closer to the primitive race. Even if they have lived as long men, their skulls and

Women from savage races

Women from savage races

skeletons have not suffered so many changes, which bring them closer to children than to fully developed men.

Even when this is the case with most women, there is a group that Lombroso considered to be the most representative of female criminality and that is prostitutes. As it is expressed in his book “The Female Offender”, the first trait that he found on these group of women is that they have a small cranial capacity, that is closer to the mentally afflicted men than to the normal women. Lombroso also found that prostitutes tend to suffer from obesity and are slightly shorter than normal women; they also have a more masculine voice and have darker hair. However, since these ladies use their bodies for work, it seems as if their born characteristics are already set for this and they rarely present wrinkles and are mostly free from anomalies that create ugliness.

The other category of female born criminal, which includes poisoners, assassins, thieves and women who commit infanticide, presents more masculine traits than the prostitute, so even though they look attractive at first sight, they have features that Lombroso considered to be typically criminal like “immensely thick, black hair, a receding forehead, over-jutting brows, and an exaggerated frontal angle, such as one notes in savages and monkeys; while the jaws and lips-indeed her whole face is essentially virile” (Ferrero, 95).

In reference to their senses, a criminal woman’s sensitivity is rather different from that of her male counterpart. Af first it was believed that since women are in general smaller than men, this means that their organs and other parts of their bodies are smaller too which makes the sense of smell, the field of vision and even taste to be more acute than that of men. However, Lombroso discovered that the other way around is actually true; for example, when considering woman’s hearing, her auditory channels are narrower than that of men and she therefore receives fewer sound waves (Lombroso, 58). What is interesting about Lombroso’s research is that “woman’s sexual sensitivity is also weaker than man’s” (Lombroso, 59) and through his studies he came to the conclusion that the prostitute is less sexually excitable and tends to have a rather insensitive clitoris which is probably because senses work better when they are idle for a long time.

When considering woman’s personality traits, Lombroso realized that the female criminal

Russian female offenders

Russian female offenders

is not only more prone to lying but also more cruel than compassionate, specially when dealing with other women. Even though the criminal woman is muscularly weak, she is a very revengeful being and becomes more hostile; since she is biologically less sensible than men, her torments are of a greater length and she has a lesser degree of control over wicked impulses.

Just as the male born criminal has a special subcategory for the epileptic, among the female born criminals we can find the hysterical. Since the etymology of the word tells us that it comes from the Greek “hystericus” which means “from the womb”, it is not hard to understand that this affection is only present in women and that it presents characteristics that have always been associated with women. For example, one of the most important traits of hysterical criminals is their mobility of mood; “hysterics pass with astonishing rapidity from laughter to tears” (Lombroso, 235). Just as the epileptic, hysterics suffer from hallucinations, delirium and impulsiveness that will lead them to committing crimes they later have little or no recollection at all. Hysterics also have a big tendency to lying and will carry on with their deceit even if there is evidence against them, and they are so narcissist that will do anything to have people paying attention to them. The physical characteristics that differentiate the hysterical from the born female criminal are “small, obliquely-placed eyes of timid glance, pale, elongated face, crowded or loosened teeth, nervous movements of the face and hands, facial asymetry, and black hair” (Ferrero, 93).

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