The Language of Lust Murder: Investigating Neutralisation Theory and Dennis Nilsen’s Paraphilic Disorders
|Harris, K., Fido, D. and Wallace, L.
Background: Discursive analyses of commentaries submitted by individuals with criminal convictions suggest they utilise discursive devices to manage blame, responsibility and accountability. Sykes and Matza’s (1957) Neutralisation Theory identifies five main techniques these individuals may use to soften or eliminate the impact that norm-violating behaviour can otherwise have upon their identity and relationships. Despite rich evidence, neutralisation analyses of serial killers are rare and neutralisation analyses of serial killers’ discourse regarding their paraphilic disorders are rarer still. Objective: This study aimed to investigate the applicability of neutralisation theory to Dennis Nilsen, a convicted serial murderer with potential paraphilic disorders not otherwise specified through discursive thematic analysis. Study Design: The study sampled nine articles sourced from Nilsen’s autobiography, “History of A Drowning Boy”, which since its publication in January 2021, has not yet been examined in this light. Analysis: The themes identified suggest evidence of two main neutralisation techniques: denial of injury and denial of responsibility, both of which are designed to manage Nilsen’s accountability for, and the harm caused by the existence of his paraphilic disorders. These findings may have wider implications for the continued understanding of how serial murderers construct their paraphilic disorders, which may in turn lend insight into how best to identify, treat and further understand one of the most misunderstood groups of psychiatric disorders.
|Discursive Psychology; Discourse Analysis; Thematic Analysis; Neutralisation Theory; Serial Murder; Sexual Murder
|Journal of Concurrent Disorders
|Web address (URL)
|24 Jun 2023
|Publication process dates
|23 Aug 2023
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