Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sex and Death in Suicide Attackers

I'm passing on verbatim this brief review from a recent issue of Science on sex differences in the motivation of suicide bombers:

"The motivations of suicide bombers differ depending on their sex, says a researcher at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Psychiatrist J. Anderson Thomson Jr. says that whereas males see themselves as part of a larger entity, females seem more propelled by individual motives."

"Male suicide attackers are not lone losers but members of tightly knit bands bound by ties of rage and religion. Their behavior is consistent with our ancient history of "male-bonded coalitionary violence," involving "lethal raids" practiced by small bands against their enemies, argues Thomson. But women do not fit this pattern. In a paper delivered at the biennial meeting of the International Society for Human Ethology in Detroit, Michigan, last month, Thomson mentioned Chechen, Palestinian, and Hindu female suicide terrorists who had been shunned for adultery or because they had been raped, divorced because of infertility, or whose husbands or brothers had been murdered by the enemy. In these cases, he asserts, the motives have more to do with shame or personal revenge than a larger cause. And rather than being motivated by bonds with their fellows, Thompson added, all these women were "recruited, trained, directed, or in some manner controlled by men." Brian Jenkins, a longtime terrorism expert at the RAND Corp. in Santa Monica, California, says that although the paper offers only anecdotal evidence, it contains "some interesting insights. … There clearly is a sex difference." "

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