It's been a banner year for the jealous female. Back in February, one girlfriend was charged with attempted murder after allegedly luring a lap dancer out of a strip club in Los Angeles, dousing her in gasoline, and setting her on fire. Last July, former NFL quarterback Steve McNair was found dead next to the body of a woman who had shot him and herself. Police believe it was because she'd seen him with another girl. Then, in August, the mother of all jealous-girl horror stories broke: A Wisconsin philanderer was lured to a motel room after being promised sex, only to be confronted by four angry women (his wife and girlfriend among them) who glued his manhood to his abdomen—an act that makes Amy Fisher seem, in retrospect, uninspired. But these stories aren't just captivating because they're lurid; they're captivating because the phenomenon of the jealous female, ancient as it is, still confounds us.

"We're supposed to do everything to avoid it, so we have no tools to handle it," says Reid Mihalko, a sex and relationship expert. "But legally it's still a defense, which tells us our culture still views it as something you can't control." And, Mihalko says, virtually everyone, no matter how rational, has the potential to lose her shit.

Mike (not his real name), a 42-year-old owner of a media company in Atlanta, experienced that firsthand. While separated from his wife, he started seeing an ad executive in Manhattan. He thought of it as a casual arrangement, but when he visited her office, he says, "she had pictures of my kids on her wall." A few months later, she flew to Atlanta and drove by Mike's wife's house to make sure his car wasn't in the driveway. "We hired a detective and ran the plates," Mike says.

Todd (not his real name), a 35-year-old nightclub owner in Manhattan, suffered a more public display of that loss of control last year. He was dating a former model who'd brought her cousin to his club. After closing, they continued drinking, and his girlfriend wandered upstairs while her cousin goofed around near Todd as he sat at the bar with friends. Turns out Todd's girlfriend was watching on the security cameras. "She comes down saying, 'I've had enough of your shit!'" Todd says. Then she stormed out, threatening to "ruin" him. She called later, scared and crying, and Todd picked her up. She berated him the whole way home. But Todd went back for more.