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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: History of Kleptomania

     The birth of criminal anthropology codified scientists' ideas that kleptomaniacs, mostly women, were born to steal. In The Female Offender (1893) Cesare Lombroso wrote: "Shoplifting, which has become so fashionable since the establishment of huge department stores, is a form of occasional crime in which women specialize. The temptation stems from the immense number of articles on display….We saw that fine things are not articles of luxury for women but articles of necessity since they equip them for conquest." This, according to Lombroso, resulted in "women's organic inability to resist stealing."

     The idea that kleptomania arises out of female sexual repression was made popular around 1906 by Freud's disciples, who attached the Oedipal myth to the disease, attributing it to infantile revenge fantasies and the castration complex, and sometimes equated shoplifting with sex. Best known as a charismatic anarchist, free-love advocate, and cocaine addict who influenced expressionism and Franz Kafka [a novelist], Otto Gross was the first psychoanalyst to champion kleptomania as sexual release.

Rachel Shteir, The Steal, 2011

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