Children, especially attractive, well-bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf. I say “wolf,” but there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous ones of all.

This is the moral from Charles Perrault’s “Le Petit Chaperon Rouge,” better known as “Little Red Riding Hood.” Perrault published this story in 1697, over 300 years ago. It was a didactic, foreboding tale told to young girls. Young women, especially pretty, attractive young women, needed to watch out for themselves.

Only, Red Riding Hood wasn’t exploring some unfamiliar area. She knew the path, and she was familiar with the people in the area (or so she thought). There were others present in the woods, and since the others didn’t think the wolf strange, we can infer the wolf was known.

This wasn’t a cautionary tale about stranger danger. Perrault instructed young women to watch out for the “various kinds of wolves,” particularly the ones who didn’t bear obvious canine fangs. What made these cloaked lycans the “most dangerous”? Why, 300 years later, are we still warning young girls to be careful? Why aren’t we tracking down the wolves and holding them accountable? Why aren’t we making it unequivocally clear that preying on others will not be tolerated?

Maybe it’s because these “gentle wolves” are so cleverly camouflaged among us that we, like Red Riding Hood’s own mother and grandmother, can’t see them for the ruthless predators they are. Or, maybe it’s that we don’t want to see them for who they are. Perhaps we need to change our prevention strategy. Maybe it’s time we learned more about the “gentle wolves.”

Dr. George Simon, PhD (author of In Sheep’s Clothing), has done extensive research psychoanalyzing aggressive personalities. He would call this covert wolf the most dangerous of all aggressive types, the predatory aggressive. In the videos below, Dr. Simon describes the difference between the three aggressive personality types:

  1. The Unbridled Aggressive
  2. The Channeled Aggressive
  3. The Predatory Aggressive (also The Sadist)

Dr. Simon says all aggressives share narcissistic personality traits. They differ in their motives, their objectives, their mens rea.

The unbridled and channeled aggressive types don’t intend to harm others. These types desire something and only hurt others who get in their way. People are casualties in their pursuits, but people aren’t the targets of their pursuits.

This is not the case with predatory aggressives. Predatory aggressives target people. There’s a will to wound. According to Dr. Simon, these types “seek to cause pain and degradation.” They feel supremely dominant seeing “someone else in groveling position.” Their end goal is making someone “ache” so that they can feel superior. These are the cleverest tricksters. They are the cloaked, camouflaged wolves. They are dining with us at our tables. These are the most dangerous.

Dr. Simon continues to explain predatory aggression here through a cat metaphor. When a cat is threatened it displays “reactive” aggression. It’s afraid, and it doesn’t want to fight, but it is readying itself for a fight. The primary motive for aggression is fear.

This is unlike a cat that spots a mouse in the corner of a room. The cat is unprovoked. There’s no hissing or forewarning of its agressive intent. It simply “doesn’t want the mouse to know it’s coming.” It is not motivated by fear.

The cat is motivated by desire. It wants to eat the mouse, destroy it. Dr. Simon’s cat is like Perrault’s wolf. The motive is the “pure will to victimize or dominate,” and Dr. Simon says this is a foreign idea to most of us.

We want to believe that either fear or anger must motivate bad behavior. We don’t want to believe others could destroy human beings out of pure selfish desire. Predators know this. They use this to further pull the figurative wool over our eyes. As Dr. Simon says, “We don’t see it coming.”

In a most malevolent example of malignant narcissism to the extreme, these individuals consider themselves beings superior to the rest of the human race. They view individuals with inhibitions rooted in emotional bonding to others as inferior creatures and, therefore, their rightful prey. This is the justification they use for their pattern of predatory engagement with others…predatory aggressives know human nature perhaps better than anyone. Most have made a study of it. They know every human vulnerability, shortcoming, yearning, need, etc. And they know how to mimic just about everything that is human, from emotion to empathy. But it’s all part of the unrelenting con game of taking advantage of those perceived to be at heart an inferior species.  (Dr. George Simon, “Understanding the Predatory Agressive Personality“)

Predatory aggressives know that their prey have consciences. They count on it. The key is to identify the aggressive person’s tactics.

Unfortunately, I’ve had some experience with a predatory aggressive. Reading Dr. Simon’s descriptions was like creating a checklist of everything I experienced. He was the cat, and I was the mouse. He even kept a token of his crime by taking something extremely personal to me.

Former FBI profiler John Douglas (inspiration for the character Jack Crawford from Silence of the Lambs) has written about such predatory aggression and token collecting:

Killers like to take trophies and souvenirs from their victims. Keeping some memento — a lock of hair, jewelry, newspaper clips of the crime — helps prolong, even nourish, their fantasy of the crime. In my research, I’ve seen this happen again and again.

Here’s what to look for in an investigation: Is there anything missing that belongs to the victim? Often police will mistakenly look for valuable missing items. But I’m not talking about a stereo component — that’s an impersonal item. I’m talking about something more personal — a ring, earrings, even costume jewelry — something the victim was wearing at the time of the crime.

Maybe they’ll keep the victim’s driver’s license. Some will leave it intact. Others will get rid of everything but the picture, so they just have a little wallet photo of the victim, as if they had some kind of relationship going…

Between crimes — often while targeting future victims — they’ll pull out their trophies and just sit back in their La-Z Boy chairs and relive the crime over and over in their minds.

What’s interesting is that they often give the souvenir — particularly jewelry — to a family member or significant other…the subject goes out and commits the crime, and like the cat who catches the mouse, brings it back and drops it on the doorstep. He’ll present his wife or mother with a piece of jewelry and say, ‘Look, I found this on the street. I want to give it to you.’ When he sees this person who is a part of his life wearing the item, it becomes part of a game. He looks at it and fantasizes about the victim he raped or murdered, and it’s like his own little secret: ‘If only she knew … what she’s wearing right now came from one of my victims.’ (Mindhunters)

This is the behavior of a sadistic aggressive, a predatory aggressive. I’ve seen it up close and much too personally. It’s real. Others around me have seen it. Yet, some people still don’t want to believe in “gentle wolves.” The sad reality is, as long as the predatory aggressive gets away with the behavior, he will continue the behavior. Dr. Simon explains more in the interview below.

“The Hope for Change”

Two “variables” are needed in order for aggressives to change:

  1. People must see “the problem for what it is and for how serious it is.”
  2. And the aggressive must receive the “right kind of intervention.”

The above video is long, but some of the best information about predatory aggressives’ potential to change comes from the end (at about 44 minutes): “We can learn to be better, not only if we want to, but if we’re reinforced for it.”

As long as we allow the “gentle wolves” to get away with bad behavior, as long as we fail to hold them accountable, then nothing is likely going to change. The cultural climate must change. Little Red Riding Hood can’t be expected to see potential wolves for what they are if the rest of us can’t or won’t see them for who they are.