Fear, helplessness, pain, anger: The narrated emotions of intimate femicide perpetrators in Latin America



While studies of femicide perpetrators have focused on background factors, such as criminal history and mental health conditions, little attention has been paid to their individual experiences. Perpetrators emotions and sense-making have often been overlooked and even dismissed. With a micro-sociological approach to violence, we identify the narrated emotions involved in the perpetration of intimate femicide. The data gathered are based on 33 open-ended interviews with convicted male perpetrators from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Honduras, Mexico, and Venezuela. We identify four main emotions reflecting participants’ experiences of femicide: Fear, expressed through stories of women as threats to self, family, and community; helplessness, expressed through stories of men being trapped, judged, and persecuted; and pain, connected to stories of jealousy and belittlement. These lead to anger, expressed through stories of bodily reactions and losing control. The findings indicate that intimate femicide perpetrators resort to lethal violence to regulate self-worth and remediate actions they feel were disruptive. Our research demonstrates the importance of embodied and narrated emotions to understand femicides. We argue that viewing femicide as a product of a shared pervasive emotional economy highlights the role of emotions in maintaining a gendered social order.