What we learned from LORENA

Amazon Prime is currently streaming a four-part docuseries (produced by Jordan Peele) chronicling the infamous 1993 Lorena and John Bobbitt assault cases. John beat and raped Lorena repeatedly over four years, and she subsequently cut off his penis and threw it out of the window in front of a 7-11. We’ve all heard about it, and many of us remember the media circus. But there is a lot more to the story.

WARNING: There are spoilers ahead, but due to the infamy of this case they may or may not be things you already know without watching the series.

Here are five take-aways from LORENA:

  1. FACTS ARE EASILY MANIPULATED IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION: The thing I remember the most back then was how we heard so little about Lorena’s abuse, and when she finally took the stand in her own trial, it became clear that this woman was not a calculated and evil harpy hell-bent on retribution. She was the victim of prolonged brutality, and she snapped. But before her trial, John stood trial for raping and abusing her. Because of the domestic violence laws in Virginia, the prosecutors were only allowed to discuss the five days leading up to Lorena cutting off his penis. During his trial, she was painted as a jealous psycho who lashed out because he wasn’t satisfying her sexually and planned to divorce her. If you were to only watch the first episode of the series, you would believe that John was the victim.
  2. PENIS WAS A TABOO WORD IN 1993: The media was all over this story. But using the word “penis” in the news wasn’t something Americans were okay with yet. “Organ” seemed to be the most popular alternative, which is preferable to “ding-a-ling”.
  3. WE NEED MORE JOSEPH & DIANA FLETCHER: These two were the Bobbitt’s neighbors in 1993. They’ve both smoked A LOT of cigarettes. They laugh frequently, but they’re not making light of Lorena’s abuse. You can tell they’ve both seen some serious shit and haven’t let it break their spirits. They’re interviewed on their couch where they sit with a chunky lap-dog. Every time they appear on screen, which wasn’t often enough, it is a breath of fresh yet smoky air. I totally want to hang out with them.
  4. HOWARD STERN WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN ELEVATING JOHN BOBBITT’S CELEBRITY: Stern had him on as a guest many times. Stern referred to Lorena as a “psycho-bitch” and suggested she wasn’t pretty enough to be raped. He hosted a telethon for John, raising $260,000 for his legal and medical bills. Stern had a platform to raise awareness of domestic abuse, but chose instead to fuel the eternal flame that is toxic-masculinity.
  5. THEIR LIVES AFTER OFFER MORE EVIDENCE: Since the dissolution of their marriage, John has been arrested multiple times for battery and theft. He was fired from the Bunny Ranch for getting drunk and abusing female employees. He had well-publicized penis enlargement surgery, and lashed out when it turned out to be a bad idea. He desperately clung to his reality-star status by appearing in porn, and making public appearances such as judging a pageant comprised of naked women and a drag-queen Lorena-look-a-like contest. He still blames everyone else for his behavior. The women are all lying about him, his parents messed him up in the first place (which is probably true, but that’s why we have therapists), and none of this is his fault. Conversely, Lorena has remained largely out of the public eye, emerging only to bring awareness to domestic violence. She is an advocate and activist, drawing from the terrible things that happened to her as a way to help others.  

John has written several love letters to Lorena over the years. He says they can get back together for a media tour and make money. According to John, it would be the “ultimate love story” if they could forgive one another. But Lorena has stayed away, probably because she knows a reconciliation would end with him murdering her. Because that’s where domestic abuse often ends. LORENA is worth watching, but the anger will stick with you. As evidenced by the last few years in American politics, we still don’t listen to women.