When I was young, I listened to my first missing and murdered story, leading me down a rabbit hole, and a considerable amount of fear that I couldn’t understand and felt I couldn’t talk about. I told myself I was watching these videos to learn, to think about what I would do differently if I were put in the shoes of the people who’s kindness or naivety was taken for granted. These stories, videos, shows, movies, and podcasts made me look at the world differently. They also, unknowingly and suddenly, made me look at people differently, because I didn’t know who might try something. And, if they did, what would I do to protect myself? Was I broken? Forever scarred from these outlets I had begun to enjoy?
Well, the truth is, I have no idea what I would do if I were put into the back of a car, if I were approached with a weapon, if I were caught alone and the person on the other side of me had bad intentions. If this isn’t the truth behind my watching, what was? And what makes so many other women equally as interested? How has this content changed how we think about our safety? The world?
On average, the audience for true crime content is 73% women. This includes docuseries, documentaries, podcasts, YouTube videos, TikTok content, books, and more. It’s become so normal to indulge in these topics because other people are doing it too. Why? The shock value. Women enjoy the kind of adrenaline that comes from horror and true crime, because we’re constantly looking for what comes next. This “what happens next” feeling gives us the same rush as the child-like feeling of playing hide and seek and trying not to be found. We’re all looking to feel like a child again, but women may have found a strange loophole.
Not only do we get this childish feeling of bottled up excitement, but we get the chance to explore and better understand the mindset of criminals. The content we seek out often shares information known or suspected about the psyche of the killer, kidnapper, whomever. This is the information we (or at least for me) want to know in order to have those thoughts of, “what would I do here?” We fear becoming a victim, a statistic, but how can we keep ourselves from the same fate unless we know a little bit about the perpetrators themselves. Why did they do what they did? What made them choose the person(s) they chose? Why did they choose the methods they chose? What was the purpose? What was the message they wanted to leave behind? Are these people just crazy or are they calculated? We get to find out even just partial knowledge on these subjects within the horror we consume.
On the other side of the stories are the victims. Who were/are they? How did they fall into the trap of this person? How did they escape, if they did? How are they using that experience now after making it out? Provided that they were able to make it out, of course. True crime presents itself in a sense of justice. If the victim survives, they get a chance to make a difference, and if they don’t, then we do.
Women want to protect themselves and their fellow women. We are more often than not the victims in these horrific stories, and we can either lie here terrified or we can take the information we hear and we can use it to educate, protect, and serve others. We live in a world that is so male-dominated, whether we want to think so or not. We are constantly made to feel unsafe and afraid. It’s an everyday feeling. Maybe we want to learn how to take care of and protect ourselves, because in reality nobody else will.
Maybe we hope that the feeling we get when we hear a story about a survivor can be a feeling all women may one day feel, when the justice system decides to protect us properly, and work as hard as we’d like them to to adequately protect us.
Not only does true crime impact us in what we hope to change and how our endurance flows, but it can help us know what to do in the event of something terrible happening to us or a loved one. Since more people started consuming this content, there’s been a change. A shift in the way we decide to carry ourselves, whether or not we decide to walk in headphones on or music playing. It affects whether we even walk down that street and at what time, with who. It has affected how we decide to protect ourselves and what we decide to protect ourselves with. Women have started to carry pepper spray, knives, etc, and more women have enrolled in personal safety classes than before.
Although listening to true crime doesn’t change anything in our world, it does give us a sense of relief and clarity. Not only this, but women don’t find it difficult to be uncomfortable. We don’t let our discomfort stop us from listening, watching, reading, etc. Although we fear and have anxiety over this content, our need to know how the story ends is greater than our fear.
I have to add that I also enjoy true crime and horror content because I find it soothing, it can put me to sleep. And, I’m not alone in that thought, I’ve heard this from many others. Whether it’s the light tones or the background rain sounds used in most content, the comforting vocals, or the idea that we’re not a character in this story and can relax, true crime is a regular nap time listen for me and many others.
True crime can also make listeners feel better about staying home rather than making plans. It validates our decision to stay in, because we don’t want to become a statistic. While the possibility of being murdered at home is not zero, it’s lower than the possibility of being taken advantage of if we were to leave our homes. This validated people’s careful nature and need for a night in, or at least it’s what we tell ourselves when we’re feeling introverted.
Watching true crime and horror content gives us a firsthand look into power structures and the thoughts of the author, speaker, or real-life victim. It speaks to our morbid curiosity, and gives us a community to theorize with. That feeling of heightened curiosity and the endurance that comes with it is reason enough to have a listen, but if you enjoy a good spook, or like quiet speaking, you might also find this to be a very comforting pastime.
Give true crime a chance, or don’t, I can’t make you do anything.