Friday, 23 March 2018

Cannibalism:  Is it still with us?

I am not a psychiatrist or a psychologist but I did spend a year at the University of Toronto studying abnormal psychology.

This is a subject on which you'll find extremely gross but it is interesting. It’s a known fact that there where human beings in this world who had committed cannibal acts against their victims in the last century and this century.

While this first cannibalism case I am going to cite has been sensationally, reported in the media everywhere, it certainly wasn’t what everyone expected to read about.

The cannibal I am writing about was not your average cannibal but surely there can't be two of them like Armin Meiwes of Rotenburg, Germany. He was a seemingly mild-mannered computer technician by day, but at night, he prowled Internet chat rooms and bulletin boards in his off hours looking for people to eat. What elevated Meiwes's story out of the ordinary is that he found a volunteer willing to be eaten by him. Miewes had nurtured a dream of killing and eating a human since he was 12. He said he once imagined putting a school friend onto a kebab spit "and slowly roasting him."

Meiwes, who'd been fantasizing about cannibalism since childhood, is said to have exchanged messages with at least 200 like-minded souls, most of whom he met through Web sites catering (sorry, poor choice of words) to cannibal fetishists.

It took him 29 years and 430 e-mail contacts to make his dream come true. He searched for willing victims in chatrooms such as Gourmet, Cannibal Cafi and Eaten Up, advertising for "young, well-built men aged 18 to 30 to slaughter."

By and large his correspondents—even a few who went to his house for play dates weren't ready to do more than talk about being eaten.
One man who went to  Meiwes's house but chickened out when Meiwes wanted to tie him. up. In March 2001 he hooked up with a man who was willing to put his penis where Meiwes's mouth was.

The 41-year-old computer expert eventually made contact with Bernd Brandes, 43. The Berliner, who was also a computer technician, had sold his car, written a will, and taken the day off work to sort out what he called "a personal matter." He went to Miewes' home in Rotenburg, central Germany. He obviously expected to die.

Bernd Juergen Brandes, like Meiwes was a 40-ish computer geek, who had traveled to Rotenburg.  Later when he was in Brandes’ house, he initially insisted that Meiwes attempt to bite his penis off. This did not work, and ultimately, Meiwes used a knife to remove Brandes' appendage. Brandes apparently tried to eat some of his own penis raw but could not, because it was too tough and, as he put it, "chewy". Meiwes then fried the penis in a pan with salt, pepper, wine, and garlic; he then fried it with some of Brandes' fat, but by then it was too burned to be consumed. He then chopped the penis up into chunks and fed it to his dog. According to court officials who saw the video (which has not been made public), Brandes may already have been too weakened from blood loss to eat any of his penis.

Later, after Brandes had knocked back several further courses of liquor, cough syrup, and sleeping pills, Meiwes stabbed Brandes to death in a bathtub. He then stored most of the body in his freezer, and eventually ate about 20 kilograms of it. All of this, if you can believe the media. This gross act had been done with Brandes's full foreknowledge and cooperation or so his killer claimed. Meiwes captured the proceedings on video no doubt to savour the experience later.

Miewes cooked the penis with garlic, salt, and pepper in a frying pan before both men attempted to eat it. Miewes later said that the penis was too tough to eat all of it.

Meiwes then ran Brandes a bath, before going to read a Star Trek book, while checking back on Brandes every fifteen minutes, during which time Brandes lay bleeding in the bath. Later, Brandes got out of the bath and collapsed, falling into unconsciousness due to blood loss. Meiwes then claims to have dragged him upstairs. Brandes continued to drift in and out of consciousness before finally collapsing again. After long hesitation and prayer, Meiwes killed Brandes by stabbing him in the throat, after which he hung the body on a meat hook.

He then filleted 65 lb. of flesh from the body, which he labelled as "rump, steak, fillet, ham and bacon." He stored the parts in his freezer for seven months, occasionally removing fillets to barbecue in his garden.

His first meal after he killed Brandes. was a "thigh steak" cooked in garlic and Muscat wine, served with deep-fried potato balls, Brussels sprouts, and washed down with a South African cabernet. "The flesh tasted so much like pork I can't tell you," Miewes told police. Officers who searched his library found human cookery books among a collection of Walt Disney videos. They included recipes for "penis in red wine" and "breaded young man's liver."

Meiwes ate the corpse over the next ten months, storing body parts in his freezer under pizza boxes and consuming up to 20 kilograms (44 lb) of the flesh. According to prosecutors, Meiwes committed the act for sexual pleasure.

The police got wind of Meiwes most unusual behavior only after they received a call about a year and a half later from an alarmed Austrian student who'd just seen another of Meiwes's ads seeking dinner partners.

At Meiwes’ trial (this was Germany's first cannibalism case) Meiwes's lawyer argued that the victim, Brandes had been asking for it, a defense that the court seems to have bought that explanation at least partially since he then convicted the killer of manslaughter rather than murder and sentenced him to eight and a half years. Many have condemned the sentence as being too mild, but his defenders will say that what took place was actually between two consenting adults. This makes no sense at all. Cannibalism is against the law in a situation such as what happened between those two men Therefore both men cannot legally agree to commit an act of cannibalism no matter what function of that act they each committed.

In April 2005, a German court ordered a retrial after prosecutors appealed Meiwes' sentence, arguing that he should have been convicted of murder  because he killed for sexual gratification, a motive proved by his having videotaped the crime. The court ruled that the original trial had ignored the significance of the video in disproving the argument that Meiwes only killed his victim because he had been asked to kill him.

At his retrial, a psychologist stated that Meiwes could reoffend and that he still had fantasies about devouring the flesh of young people. On May 10, 2006, a court in Frankfurt convicted Meiwes of murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

As for medical science's take on this kind of abnormal behavior,   cannibalism; whether real or fantasized isn't mentioned in the formal index of insanity, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—presumably due to its rarity. For that matter, necrophilia and vampirism aren't in the manual either which are also abnormal forms behavior.  The medical literature on the topic is likewise sparse, and what there is focuses on the eater rather than the eaten.

For the record, Brandes's lovers (he was bisexual) say he seemed outwardly normal. While the trial court concluded that both men were "deeply psychologically disturbed," a psychiatrist testified that Meiwes was schizoid but not mentally ill, and the defendant did not plead insanity.

How prevalent are weird interests of this sort? Meiwes claimed there were 800 cannibal fetishists in Germany alone, but in the age of the Internet we needn't leave it at that. The word, Vore (short for vorarephilia) is a code word for a sexual interest in animals and humans eating other animals and humans but not   soley human, but  one can conclude that we could at least stake out the broad dimensions of the issue.  Googling the word, vore brought up 995,000 hits. That could be because the word Vore seems to be a common word in several Scandinavian languages which may have different meanings.  

Type in Cannibal fetish and you can get 24,800 hits which is an impressive number, to my mind, because it's so plausible. The Internet is the tool for all of us.  However, as you probably surmise, the twisted people are always around.  The Internet just makes it easier for two of similar proclivities to get together alone.

A man who wished to be eaten seemed quite shy when he walked into a Toronto psychiatric hospital  asking for help. Stephen, as he was called in a scientific paper, was 45 years old, “socially anxious but pleasant and cooperative, clean, cogent, casually dressed, and not appearing to be psychotic at all. But then, psychopaths are known to be seen as normal much of their lives.  His problem was an intense desire to be “consumed by a large, dominant woman and then defecated by her.”

Even to the unflappable staff of the sexual behavior clinic, this was baffling. Vorarephilia, from the Latin for the “love of devouring,” usually shows itself in the dominant desire to eat, as in extreme cases like serial killer Cannibal, Jeffrey Dahmer. The submissive inverse of this, the desire to be eaten, is among the rarest of fetishes, the black orchid of kink, and so the psychologist who interviewed Stephen had barely any idea what to ask him. Mind you, this doesn’t mean that some persons don’t fantasize being eaten.

As he shared his strange secrets, though, he offered a window into a symptom of mental illness that, to the doctors, seemed to have arisen from “a desire to never again be alone or lonely.”

“He had no obvious wish to die,” reads the report in an issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior by James Cantor, a leading psychologist of sexual disorders at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and Amy Lykins, who did the interview. “Rather, he reported the desire to be ‘taken in’ by someone and then expelled.” That was the psychiatrist’s lingo that which otherwise meant being eaten and later ending as feces.

Studies of this sort are as rare as is the subject. Despite a long history of cultural intersection, only a handful of psychiatric case studies focus on the relationship between sex and food, and vorarephilia which barely receives mention.  It is a hunger that is not usually sated due to physical and/or legal restraints. Sometimes, though, these restraints are not strong enough.

Prior to two recent American prosecutions of would-be cannibals, the “closest approximation to vorarephiliain the real world, was the case of Armin Meiwes  and the “Turkey Man,” “ who was a travelling businessman who regularly hired a dominatrix to meet him in his hotel room to pretending that she is  cooking him”

Other outlets include fantasy writing and cartoons, in which the consumer is frequently a humanoid animal, often a wolf, cat, dragon or snake. A common theme is that the victim wishes to be swallowed whole, not damaged by chewing, and the story often focuses on the resulting full belly, which looks almost “pregnant.” This brings up the biblical tale of Jonah who was found whole in the body of a whale.

The link to birth is also thought to be psychologically significant, and related to other unusual desires such as “unbirthing,” the act of physically returning to the womb. Stephen’s desire to be eaten fits into this wish to be unborn, the authors suggest, because both represent the “total destruction of being and personhood” in a permanent physical union. Expulsion also figured importantly in Stephen’s desires. “He often fantasized about being feces or semen and being expelled by a person,” the report read.

Considering all of this, Stephen was mostly worried that he was gay. The doctors explained that, as far as they could tell, based on several tests, he was not, despite some sexual desires involving men. “Persons with paraphilic interests often report sexual arousal to both sexes in the context of their paraphilic fantasies,”

They also expressed skepticism about his claims that, on several occasions at a library, he “crawled under tables, without the women’s knowledge, so that he could smell their feet.”

When he was examined, Stephen’s libido (sex drive) seemed to have decreased due to depression, but the doctors anticipated it would return if the depression was eased. There is no known treatment to change such abnormal desires into normal ones, however, so their recommendation was treatment to “help him adjust to, rather than change or suppress his sexual interests.”

Failing that, they would have prescribed medication to lower his sex drive. As it happened, though, Stephen did not return to the clinic, and his fate is not known.

I wrote this article because although many persons who are to some degree psychiatricly sick and fantasize being eaten by another human being, it is extremely rare that anyone would go to the length of permitting himself or herself to be eaten, especially while they are alive. Meiwes’ victim is the only one that I know about however, there could be others I haven`t learned about.   

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