Today the long-awaited documentary Lorena will air on Amazon Prime. In the early nineties, Lorena Bobbitt was a wife driven to the edge of sanity. After years of domestic abuse, she cut off her husband John Wayne Bobbitt’s penis in a fit of rage. What followed was a tabloid tirade and one of the most iconic domestic abuse trials in American history. Two wrongs don’t make a right; however, we are impressed with Lorena’s handy work. In the June 1994 issue of Penthouse, we published an exclusive picture of Bobbitt’s castrated penis. (We’ve republished the image on Twitter.) Read our 1994 coverage of Lorena’s trial below.
Immediately following Lorena Bobbitt’s acquittal this past January, radical feminists all over America gleefully exchanged high fives, chanted antimale slogans, and anointed their new heroine. But the higher the bird flies, the farther she has to come down for water. Lorena Bobbitt, the alleged victim, is not a heroine. The gruesome and barbaric act of cutting off her husband’s penis prevents her from ever rising in the hearts of humankind.
But there are always those who think otherwise. Vanity Fair has enshrined her as a “national folk hero.” She was presented and portrayed in the press as a sympathetic victim. She tearfully exploited herself last September on 20/20 by attempting to justify her savage butchery of dismembering her husband’s penis. Victimhood is now a license to commit mayhem and murder.
Expert testimony was presented by the defense in the Lorena Bobbitt case to prove that she was mentally ill. Essentially, Lorena’s defense consisted of her testimony and that of witnesses who claimed that John Wayne Bobbitt beat, raped, and sodomized her. Her psychiatrists said that after years of being battered, she struck back in the only way she could.
One of her lawyers, in her opening statement to the members of the jury, said, “In the end, what we have is Lorena’s life juxtaposed against John Wayne Bobbitt’s penis. In her mind, it was his penis from which she could not escape, which caused her the most pain, the most fear, the most humiliation. At the end of this case, you will come to only one conclusion: that a life is more valuable than a penis.” Aren’t those great words? It’s the kind of rhetoric that is harmful and mean-spirited, yet it worked.
The battered-wife syndrome is invoked for self-defense to show that a woman acted justifiably and that her conduct was excusable. In this case the defense claims that Lorena lost control, that she was brutalized, traumatized, and thus temporarily insane when she had the “irresistible impulse” to cut off John’s penis.
Most states, including New York, do not permit the defense of irresistible impulse, but the state of Virginia (where the Bobbitt trial was held) does. Virginia allows a defendant to be held blameless if his or her mind has become so severely impaired by disease that he or she is totally deprived of mental power to control or restrain his or her actions.
Lorena Bobbitt’s acquittal sends the wrong message to women. It is another case of a defendant using a victimhood defense to explain away her acts of violence. Besides the Bobbitt tragedy, there is also a woman who castrated her husband with a pair of scissors and a Massachusetts man whose wife of 13 years sprayed Mace in his face, blinding him before she struck him in the head with a two-by-four, causing an injury that required 50 stitches. There must be suitable punishment for such violent, antisocial behavior.
As a trial lawyer, I believe that in order to ameliorate the violence against men, as well as against women, we should require all people to take responsibility for their criminal acts and bar any defense (with the exception of self-defense) that permits a defendant to plead that he or she was a victim and should be excused for any wrongdoings committed.
Originally published in June 1994 issue of Penthouse magazine.