Women are Wired for Horror: An Essay

 Mercedes M. Yardley

Women know a thing or two about horror. In fairy tales, women are always stolen away by nefarious villains. Little girls are raised by witches who pretend to be their mothers. I can’t think of a single fairy tale where the man pricks his finger, is smothered by a piece of apple caught in his throat, or opens the forbidden door only to find his wife’s seven murdered husbands inside.

We’re taught that it’s unsafe to travel alone. Self-defense classes tend to have more women participants than men. Our boyfriends walk us to our door; it’s seldom the other way around. They are fairly sure they can get home unmolested.

When we’re young, we’re warned that our bodies will gush blood every month for the rest of our lives. It will hurt. It will make us ill. It has the potential to be humiliating. The junior high choir/band/drama competition is five hours long and we’re forced to wear white dresses. That is true horror.

The blood prepares us for pregnancy, where something grows within our bodies and ripples under our skin. The baby either bursts out of our bellies or is sliced out with surgical tools. In the case of the latter, the smell of cauterized flesh accompanies the birth. We look at the first pictures of baby and realize we’re staring at our own flayed-open abdomen, at our own guts. We continue to bear the scars.

Yet often there is a disconnect when somebody hears the words “women” and “horror”. Women are stereotypically known as the fairer sex. It’s supposed to be our job to beautify things. We’re supposed to soothe fevered brows, take a few walls and make a home out of them, and throw stardust and glitter everywhere. Women are, again stereotypically, supposed to be beings of love and light. Often it is unseemly to mention the darkness.

But it’s there. It’s always been there, and we have a front row seat. We write what we know, and we know loveliness. We know want, and desire, and bloodshed. We know joy, of course, and we especially know horror.

11 Comments on “Women are Wired for Horror: An Essay”

  1. Excellent essay, Mercedes. You bring up many good points that men seldom consider. Women have darkness in them as men do, and they can draw upon more actual life experiences for that darkness.

    Both of my sons were born via caesarian. With the first one I was given an up-close view of my wife’s red, gaping abdomen. I could not rush to my wife’s head fast enough. Afterward I told her I now know her “inside and out”.

  2. Oops, sorry that was me that posted the first comment. Sorry I did not fill out my name. *blushes*

  3. Knowing her inside and out. I like that, Paul. 🙂

    I, of course, had a c-section with the triplets. It was absolutely horrifying. I could feel the cuttting, the tugging, hear the sounds, smell the flesh. I still have nightmares about it. My husband was showing me pictures he was taking, and I was like, “I can’t look at that right now! AHHHH!” Just let me see my babies when they bring them to show me. The rest was too grotesque. 😛

  4. Good essay Mercedes! You are correct in your assessment that women know horror. We know it all too well, it courses through our veins. We are reared to understand the darkness and be aware of it in ways that males are never expected to learn, which is not always to their benefit.

    As for being expected to be “light bearers” if anyone thinks that we can have the light without the dark they are only fooling themselves…this is how we can truly know the other side for as women we have to live the dichotomy. It is our destiny.


  5. Love it Ms. Mercedes! And it’s so very true…wonder if I can squeeze an evil female in to the TBW pile o’ mine…MUHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  6. And it just gets more real as the kids grow. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve replayed our happy Disneyworld adventure in my mind, except the replay always features me and my son on the biggest, scariest roller coaster, my grip on his little body somehow slipping … Totally didn’t happen, of course. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have nightmares about it. Oh, the joys of motherhood!

  7. My dear dear Sadie how you can make me blush still. you are absolutely correct I had never pieced that together.

  8. Fantastic post, Mercedes, and so very right! I’ve never understood the mythos of the “fairer sex” and why it’s constantly hammered into everyone’s minds when it seems to hold no truth in reality.

  9. Pingback: Women Doing Horror | Kerri-Leigh Grady

  10. I did enjoy this entry all those years ago. Hmm? No, i’d stopped stalking you by the time you wrote this. Somebody, uh, somebody linked me to it. Stop asking me to explain myself when you’ve got glue all over your nose!

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