The Unkindest Cut: A Look Back at the Lorena Bobbitt Trial - OZY | A Modern Media Company

The Unkindest Cut: A Look Back at the Lorena Bobbitt Trial

The Unkindest Cut: A Look Back at the Lorena Bobbitt Trial

By Eugene S. Robinson



Because using your words is almost always a better choice than using your knife.

By Eugene S. Robinson

When 19-year-old Lorena Gallo married 22-year-old John Wayne Bobbitt (yes, his real name) in 1989, we’re sure it was with the best of all possible intentions. But if the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then no road was paved smoother than this one, as a mere four years later, things between them were very clearly shot.

That is, shot straight to hell.

It’s been 21 years since the infamous crime, and 20 since Lorena Bobbitt was acquitted of it. Numerous allegations supported by both the prosecution and defense attorneys — and, yes, prosecutors and defense attorneys are exhibit A for a relationship that’s turned to crap — painted the problems in paradise down to the last gruesome detail. 

…the arrest, the surgical reattachment, the trial, the acquittal, John’s ex post-facto porn career and the jokes. Lots of jokes. 

“He always have orgasm [sic], and he doesn’t wait for me to have orgasm,” Lorena Bobbitt explained to the police. And alongside this delicate declaration there were accusations of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, along with John’s infidelities, a lack of financial stability and, most damningly, that the abuse was on the upswing.

So it was on the night of June 23, 1993, that John — after getting home late and either raping his wife or not raping his wife, according to whose version of events (and which jury) you wanted to believe — fell into a slumber that was interrupted by his entire penis being cut off at the base. Subsequent to these events, there was Lorena’s surreal fleeing with the penis, the flinging of it from the car window, the cops, the securing of the severed penis (which was then packed in ice and rushed to the hospital), the arrest, the surgical reattachment, the trial, the acquittal, John’s ex post-facto porn career and the jokes. Lots of jokes. 

In the end, after about seven hours of deliberating the case, the jury found Lorena not guilty, due to temporary insanity. Which meant she couldn’t be held responsible for castrating her husband, and after spending 45 days in a mental hospital, she was free to go … and to get properly divorced. Which, in 1995, they were.

John Wayne Bobbitt Man at witness stand

John Wayne Bobbitt testifying in court. 

Source Consolidated News/Getty

Even if it seemed that John’s life couldn’t get any worse after that, a cursory glance at his weird post-dismemberment trip through the netherworld of pseudo-celebrity argues otherwise. From a band called The Severed Parts to attempts at pro wrestling and benighted appearances in porn films, John made the rounds but eventually returned to what he knew best: seven arrests for a variety of offenses, including domestic abuse, plus more divorces.

“He seemed like a nice guy,” said porn star Olivia, one of his co-stars in John Wayne Bobbitt: Uncut. “Just not very smart.”

And the last we saw of him and his 15 minutes?

Appearing on Oprah in 2009 with Lorena, John publicly apologized to her. Lorena, largely unmoved, stated that her single biggest mistake in life was marrying John. A conclusion that John, who at the time still sent her Valentine’s Day cards, might have disagreed with.

After weathering charges of punching her own mother in 1997, Lorena is now a mother herself living in Virginia, running a domestic violence nonprofit organization and partnered with a man whose penis she has not yet detached. 

At press time, John Wayne Bobbitt’s penis could not be reached for comment. But as for our own fascination with this sad story of mythic proportions? Decades later, we never tire of debating whether this was a case of justice served or justice severed.

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