The XX Factor

Sociopaths and the Women Who Love Them

Why have Catherine Greig, the girlfriend of mobster Whitey Bulger, and Anne Sinclair, the wife of accused rapist Dominique Strauss-Kahn, stood by their men? I’m going to play amateur psychiatrist and declare both men appear to be sociopaths. There’s not much doubt with Bulger, who is allegedly behind at least 19 murders and even by the standards of professional criminals was considered to be particularly vicious. Granted, Strauss-Kahn, until his recent indictment on rape charges, was a highly successful international bureaucrat possibly on his way to becoming president of France. Yet his wife surely knew about his obsessive, compulsive philandering. Did she never hear word that the Great Seducer sometimes forced himself on the unwilling?  She certainly now knows that the night he spent in the Sofitel he propositioned two female employees, who rebuffed him, before his encounter with the maid. If the press leaks are accurate, his defense against the rape charge may be that the sexual encounter with the woman who came to clean his room was consensual. Yet it is Sinclair’s money which is making his defense possible. Given the costs of his luxurious house arrest, his security, his lawyers, his investigators, she could be sinking $1 million a month into trying to clear a husband whose treatment of women is pathological. Sinclair, who has brains, beauty, ambition, and money, stepped aside from her successful career as a journalist to help Strauss-Kahn’s rise. I imagine, now that she is in her 60s, she loathes the idea of a future as an aging single woman, left off the guest list for the best parties. But at what point do you stop defending the indefensible?

Greig was a dental hygienist who was in her 40s when, 16 years ago, she went on the lam with Bulger, who was in his 60s. Did she imagine a glamorous life on the Riviera under assumed names? These Bostonians did end up near the beach, pretending to be a married couple, living in a fairly modest rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica filled with cash, guns, and false identity papers. Greig used to be obsessed with her looks, but had let her blonde hair turn gray. Why not, as the life of a fugitive meant there was nowhere for her to go. Apparently Bulger, described by another tenant as a “rageaholic,” objected when she spent too much time chatting with the neighbors. She covered for his behavior by saying her “husband” had dementia. The two took daily walks on the beach, but he spent most of his time on the couch, watching television. It was the dull life of a reclusive, retired couple. Did she ever want to flee but fear that if she tried she’d end up a corpse like many of those who crossed Whitey? Did she regret the seemingly irreversible choice she’d made long ago to give up the chance at a normal life in order to grocery shop for a murderer?

Photograph of Catherine Greig taken in 1990/FBI