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Women and Horror Movies: A Love Story

From the Safety of our Bedrooms: Why Women Make up such a Large Part of the Fan Base

By Amelia Boag McGlynn

Image Courtesy of Cottonbro Studio via Pexels

Horror movies: a staple of the film industry that brought us classics flicks like The Shining, slashers like Scream, and camp icons like Jennifer’s Body.

In a statistic that may surprise most, an estimated 62% of horror fans identify as female (CiviService), outnumbering men significantly in what is considered a less than “feminine” genre. So, what is it that draws women to horror movies? It certainly isn’t the disposable bimbo trope, or the abundance of psychopathic men on screen. Instead, we are pointed in the direction of something far more complex than a twisted plot or excellent CGI.

Could it be that women are drawn to the safety of horror movies? An adrenaline-fuelled thrill, a bloodcurdling scream - safely behind a wall of pillows and tightly drawn curtains.

To put it bluntly, women are at high risk every single day. The fairer sex isn’t provided with the same community-fuelled respect and comfort that men are afforded. There’s a reason that 97% of women in the UK have been subjected to sexual assault or harassment at least once in their lifetimes. Women are not safe in society. Mallory O’Meara, novel writer and women’s advocate puts it best:

“Women are the most important part of horror because, by and large, women are the ones the horror happens to. Women have to endure it, fight it, survive it - in the movies and in real life. They are at risk of attack from real-life monsters. In America, a woman is assaulted every nine seconds.”

This danger wedges itself between women and stereotypically male activities, like a leisurely stroll at night, an early morning run, or walking home from the pub without a group of equally terrified women tracking your every movement. As a gender, we are united through these cautionary tales and pre-planned routes, but we are also divided from our male half of the population.

As a social group, women cannot afford the same risks that men can. Statistically women live longer than men, but isn’t this is because we can’t put ourselves in the same precarious positions that men do? The majority of the female population do not take risks in the same way men do. Women don’t feel the need to get an adrenaline rush from a midnight stroll or feel a wild sense of danger from chatting to every man they make eye contact with on a night out. Men can recognise the possible risk in these situations, but this doesn’t stimulate the same fear that females experience. Women are constantly under threat, and this feeling does not need to be chased – it’s built into our identities.

Men may get a spook when they walk past dark alleys at night, but they certainly don’t feel the same sense of impending doom. Men take it for granted, not fully grasping the privilege of their risky ways. Men can afford to seek danger, whilst women are followed by it wherever they go.

Some may ask, “but why would women want to watch murders on screen, when the murderer is nearly always male?’ “Surely if this idea is so terrifying, they should avoid it at all costs, not spend their free time viewing it”.

Unfortunately, this trope is unavoidable, and for good reason too. How many serial rapists, killer clowns and mass shooters are women? I doubt a large statistic sprung to mind. In a world where women are subjected to the role of the prey in this predators’ game, fear of men is practically woven into own genes. The cliche is impossible to ignore. So, when directors try to create a female evil, it doesn’t land with the same impact. Often falling short of the mark, feminine super-villains do not tick the classic horror movies boxes that we know and love.

As humans, if we can’t relate to the fear if we can’t feel it in full force. When we watch men scare others on screen, the frights pack far more punch than any women - because we know that it could truly happen in real life. This edge of realism is what keeps the curtain closed on movie night and stimulates the building of pillow forts to keep safe from the TV screen. As humans, we are suckers for reality, and always have been. Even Edgar Allen Poe commented on the topic, famously stating,

“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.”

That’s probably why most of us find certain episodes of Black mirror scarier than The Exorcist or the Saw franchise - it’s a far more probable fate. With a sprinkle of reality, the imagination is left to fill in the gaps, and that is how true horror is created. This isn’t to say that men don’t make up a significant portion of horror lovers or are always the villains. Of course, this timeless genre is adored by many and all, and varies across directors, production companies and streaming services.

Will men ever truly be able to understand the pursuit of adrenaline purely through Netflix’s Halloween specials? I doubt it. Until that day, stay safe, keep an eye on each other, and stream Scream.


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