Boston Bombing Suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's Disturbing Female Fan Club

The face of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, to the majority of Americans, churns up feelings of hatred, anger, and unspeakable grief. But it’s fueling something else for a surprising number of young women: puppy love.

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Since his arrest in April, 19-year-old Tsarnaev has grown into a bit of an online heartthrob, with supporters setting up special Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr pages in his honor, using the hashtag #freejahar. The fans declare his innocence, refer to him by his nickname of Jahar, write about how they wish they could get in touch with him (and, in one case, “curl up and take a nap” in his soft hair), publicize items like hand beaded “Free Jahar” bracelets, and note that he’s “beautiful,” “hot” and “too pretty to be guilty.” One Kansas teen even told the New York Post that she was going to get a Tsarnaev quote tattooed onto her arm, though she soon after changed her mind.

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The seemingly bizarre idea of crushing on Tsarnaev, or any accused killer, though, is actually not so surprising, experts told Yahoo! Shine.

“It’s not that he’s a bomb suspect, it’s that he’s notorious,” Sheila Isenberg, author of “Women Who Love Men Who Kill,” explained. The hope with such women, she added, is that they’ll somehow be able to visit him and then get their 15 minutes of fame if they latch onto his—similar to those who fall in love with convicted criminals on death row. “A lot are going to say, ‘I just want to make sure he gets a fair trial,’” she said, “but that’s really window dressing for their inherent need to get famous themselves.”

Isenberg added, “You can’t get close to celebrities like George Clooney or Matt Damon. But a celebrity-slash-killer-slash-rapist-slash-bomber? I even expect that the horrific monster in Cleveland will have people trying to get in touch with him soon.” (And as far as Tsarnaev’s looks go, that “definitely helps” him get followers, she added, but it’s never necessary, as proven by the fact that even creepy serial killer John Wayne Gacy had his female fans.)

On a Facebook page called “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is Innocent,” which had nearly 8,500 followers by Monday afternoon, the smitten young women—along with media coverage of the phenomenon—have been harshly criticized as “hurting the cause,” which appears to be to spread the word that Tsarnaev is the victim of a conspiracy.

“The media is trying to make us look like fools,” wrote one Facebook page supporter, Aida Chechenkaa. Others had harsher words, while some just took it in stride, noting that Tsarnaev’s true supporters had to stay on course. “It is what it is. If he has teenage girls that are crushing on him, so be it,” wrote one supporter named Brenton Struck. “We just have to keep focused on our cause, which is to post flyers and spread the word of Jahar’s innocence.”

Psychologist Jill Weber, author of “Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy: Why Women Settle for One-Sided Relationships,” told Yahoo! Shine that Tsarnaev may attract certain young girls because he’s a bad character, and because that’s both excitingly rebellious and also provides a chance to “help” someone.

“Similar to the fascination teen girls have with vampire characters in movies and books, dark characters are a way to forge a separate identity and to defiantly (or rebelliously) declare oneself as independent of authority figures,” she noted. “Some of this is normal teen development, but being drawn to a criminal is a dysfunctional way to forge independence.”
She added that girls who are hyper-socialized “toward caring about the feelings of others to the expense of their own are more easily drawn to relationships with dysfunctional or even sociopathic men,” and have difficulty seeing that certain men are simply unhealthy. 
In this case, as in other similar ones, such as when supporters of Aurora, Colorado, shooter James Holmes set up a Facebook page, social media fuels the fire.

“Social media normalizes such dark attractions,” Weber said. “If a teen girl sees others fascinated and interested in criminals, vampires, or other toxic personas, it makes it seem okay to her and so she digs deeper into her own toxic attraction for such. In the past, perhaps a girl may notice such a feeling but it may have passed quicker because the contagion that social media brings was not such an omnipresence force in our culture as it is now.”

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