Sexual Jealousy

Angelo Bronzino

A Portuguese celebrity, Carlos Castro was recently found dead in a New York hotel room. He had also been castrated. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/10/portuguese-model-killing-carlos-castro?INTCMP=SRCH. Though who killed Castro, and what their motive was, is yet to be proven, it is thought that Castro may have been murdered by his lover, and that the motive may have been sexual jealousy. If this is true, Castro is not the first victim of jealousy. As Wilhelm Stekel remarked in 1921: ‘Has anyone counted the victims of jealousy? Daily a revolver cracks somewhere or other because of jealousy; daily a knife finds entrance into a warm body; daily some unhappy ones, racked by jealousy and life weary, sink into fathomless depths. What are all the hideous battles, narrated by history, when compared to this frightful passion jealousy?’

To give one more example of the victims of jealousy, on June 28th 2008 a 17 year old boy called Simon Everitt was tied to a tree, made to drink petrol and was then doused in it and set alight. He was so badly burned that it took a week to identify his remains. The motive for the murder was said to be sexual jealousy – two of the three murderers had previously been in a relationship with Simon’s girlfriend, Fiona Statham http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/8048281.stm A few months after these killers were convicted, peers in the House of Lords voted 99 – 84 against a bill which would have stopped people from being able to use sexual infidelity as a partial defence for murder. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8329444.stm.

Sexual jealousy deserves consideration. Though the murders mentioned above are clearly extreme cases, few people are lucky enough not to have suffered the torments of sexual jealousy at some point in their lives. It is the ‘green ey’d monster’ (Othello, Act 3, Scene 3) that can destroy relationships and take over lives. Jealousy seems to be an inevitable part of life, tied to our need to be loved and to the fear of losing love. Indeed, jealousy is often seen as a sign of caring, hence the practice of ‘making someone jealous’ in order to induce loving and protective feelings in them. However, whether jealousy is natural and inevitable or otherwise, allowing sexual infidelity to be used a partial defence of murder seems to be based on out-dated assumptions about marriage partners being each other’s property. If not, then why shouldn’t other anger-inducing behaviours (leaving your clothes all over the floor, spending all of your joint money in the pub etc.) also count as partial defences for murder? Allowing jealousy to occupy such a privileged position in society serves only to make us less likely to try and control our jealous urges and the subsequent destructive behaviour they may cause.

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Tyler Doggatt: Recent Work on the Ethics of Self-Defence

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1747-9991.2010.00382.x/abstract

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