Rapists: the Jeckyll and Hyde thing

This essay tells the first-person story of a big woman who is made to feel physically beautiful for the first time in her life. She’s been made to feel beautiful in other ways by other men, but it’s always been despite her looks rather than because of them. Not so with this guy. She sleeps with him. Then on another visit he makes her uncomfortable by ignoring her boundaries in various ways, and as she rebuffs him he attempts to rape her. She finally bites him on the arm to get him to leave. And the point is, she is so shaken by the experience that she distrusts a man she meets later, who also seems to genuinely like her looks.

Her story is not my point. What I want to examine is this comment:

How did Dr. Jekyll become Mr. Hyde? It couldn’t be booze, because there was that at the bar in the hotel where they met. This story, while poignant, is very odd. Also, the notion that a fat woman can never be loved both for who she is and how she looks is simply not credible. There are plenty of fat fetishist men out there, even web sites.

There’s a lot wrong with this comment, and I’m going to start at the end and work back to the most important one. First, being “fetishized” is not being loved. Second, she never said a fat woman can’t be loved for how she looks, just that she hasn’t experienced that.

But most importantly, the Jeckyll and Hyde thing is not odd at all. It is so common, in fact, that people call it the “Jeckyll and Hyde syndrome” – go ahead, copy that into the search engine of your choice and see what I mean. People who are abusive – whether they’re rapists, or the type to verbally abuse you, emotionally manipulate you, or take over your bank account – are typically good actors. They have to be – otherwise they’d be seen clearly for what they are and jailed (if appropriate) or shunned by all the people they want to impress. They learn to wear the Jeckyll face in public and the Hyde comes out in private.

But they also learn to show you the Jeckyll face for a while, until they’ve got you where they want you. This could be two dates, a whole courtship, however long it takes to worm their way into your will, etc. And then suddenly you meet Mr. – or Ms. – Hyde. But, if Hyde judged things correctly, by then it’s too late for you to easily extricate yourself from the damage they’ve done.

It’s called conning and I’m not sure why people find it “odd” that rapists engage in it. But sadly, one of the best defenses against a rape accusation is “We’d previously had consensual sex.” It’s effective because too few people understand that the vast majority of rapists are as capable of impulse control as anyone else. They aren’t compelled to rape – if they were, they’d do it right in front of cops in the town square if that’s where the urge struck (what the law calls irresistible impulse to determine legal sanity). Rapists simply like to rape, so like most of us with our hobbies, they take steps to create situations in which they get to do what they enjoy.

Rapists often operate just like people who worm their way into someone’s life just to get their money. Whether it’s someone marrying for money or cozying up to an elderly person in hopes of inheriting a buck or two, these people often have no affection at all for their target, but they will feign affection convincingly to get what they want. Many rapists, particularly the ones who avoid capture, are con artists.

Can someone explain to me why this is such a mystery to so many people?


  1. Alex says

    I think it’s standard denialist behavior engaged by shallow people seeking an illusion of control. The idea of somebody playing the long con and one day turning abusive is a frankly scary prospect and there’s no 100% way of detecting it (although I think how a person drives generally reflects their real attitude). Therefore, it’s comforting to believe it’s triggered by something external and avoidable lest one believe that some people are undetectably awful human beings.

  2. Maria says

    I always feel like people are being more accurate than they know when they do the J&H comparison… the thing that was terrifying to Jekyll was that Hyde was always inside him. It’s the Jekyll that wants to rape, that wants to kill and maim, and it’s the mask of Hyde that gives him permission to do it. It wasn’t that the potion magically brought out this other person over whom Jekyll had no control. It just gave him an excuse to avoid claiming responsibility. Here’s a good post on this:


    I think the implications for rape culture are obvious — “bad” Hyde does all the fun rascally raping and it’s not “good” Jekyll’s fault, because he simply can’t control that pesky Hyde.

  3. DM says

    Maybe because people often regard rape as a crime of passion that’s motivated by overpowering lust or some other temporary loss of control. Otherwise how could they act like regular people and peaceably go about their lives most of the time? And also it must be the victim’s fault for tempting those poor souls in the first place with [insert victim-blaming staple]. Apparently that logic is easier to swallow than thinking of rapists as smart, opportunistic predators who usually know exactly what they’re doing and how to get away with it (hence why they so frequently get away with it).

  4. SunlessNick says


    I was going to say something similar. And the metaphor extends outside of the rapists themselves, too – how many interpretations or adaptations of the book miss the point that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person inside as well as out? And how many people when confronted with a rapist they know or think they know will find a way to say, “it’s not him, it’s…” – anything to separate the act out from the supposed true self of the actor.

  5. Zaar Oshas II says

    I find it amazing how few people realize that a typical rapist has high “social skills” which he uses to manipulate the victim and then the court, the society, etc.
    I post on a forum about mental disorders and stories about rapes done by “nice guys” are extremely common.
    From my experience people with “social skills” (manipulative people) almost always mean trouble – mobbing, gossip, abuse, playing with feelings, cheating, stealing, etc.

    “Can someone explain to me why this is such a mystery to so many people?”
    Cult of “social skills” and “positive thinking”. And by this I mean manipulation and bullshitting being presented as necessary social skills.
    Advertisement, store employees behaving like customers are their friends, image building, fashion, that sort of stuff.

    Ultimately, there’s no Jeckyll and Hyde thing. These people are manipulative from the beginning to the end. It’s just that people in general believe that manipulation is not only normal and acceptable but also necessary for “success” and thus virtuous.

    • says

      That’s generally a good point, but your last paragraph is wrong. A lot of rapists do NOT have jobs or social standing where ambition is well-tolerated (I’ve known two preachers who were rapists), and they manage to feign humility just fine. I agree that society needs to tolerate manipulation less, but many rapists could adapt to that if they had to.

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