The John Bobbitt effect?

While a story about a man's superglued penis makes international news, a woman's horrific mutilation is a footnote

Published August 4, 2009 4:05PM (EDT)

You've probably heard by now about the trial of Matthew Jaeger going on in Lawrence, Kansas. That is, if you live in or near Lawrence, Kansas.

Jaeger, 24 -- said to have a history of physically and sexually abusing his former girlfriend -- is accused of breaking into her apartment in October 2007 and attacking and kidnapping her after finding her with another man. (Warning: very gory details ahead.) Jurors in the trial recently viewed an interview with the accuser, 23, videotaped from her hospital bed several days after the incident. On the tape, the woman "tells police that Jaeger choked her until she passed out and that when she regained consciousness, she was bleeding profusely from her vagina," the Lawrence Journal-World reported. "I don't recognize myself down where he hurt me. It's a part of myself I can no longer recognize. It doesn't look like me. It looks like it's been mutated and deformed."

The case and current trial appear to have been covered extensively in area media outlets. But over here on the coast(s), we heard about it only from a Broadsheet reader, who observed: "I'm thinking a case of a man's genitals being mutilated by a woman would probably be a national story."

Apparently, our tipster invoked some sort of evil make-it-so genie. Two days later came the story of four women facing felony charges for assaulting a man they accused of cheating. They are accused of luring him to a hotel room, striking him, and gluing his penis to his stomach. And voila: a quick Web search reveals page after page of news coverage, national and international.

There are obvious differences between the two stories. In the latter, not only did the victim escape relatively unharmed, but penises and Krazy Glue (not to mention krazy broads!) were involved; this, regrettably, is a gift to writers of punny headlines and seekers of “wacky” news. So like it or not, we can see why it’d get so much ink.

And maybe the Jaeger case doesn’t need to top the national news or start “trending” on Twitter. But in a world where John Bobbitt becomes a punchline (and “Lorena” a verb), while the woman in Lawrence remains, likely, a footnote, well, something’s a little off. For what it’s worth, the comments to the Lawrence stories do display surprising discretion and compassion. In other words, no one’s asking, “Why didn’t she just lop off his dick?”

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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