Living in a world where we’re able to explore and embrace our sexual fantasies, realistically there are very little boundaries set in place. Fetishes or fantasies are looked upon as a bit of fun, but at what point does ‘a bit of fun’ turn into a criminal act? I thought about this a lot, so I spent seven days online posing as a nineteen year old girl fascinated with cannibalism – and the response was overwhelming.
By the majority, understandably, cannibalism is frowned upon. However, I was soon signed up to my own small cannibal community via the Experience Project forum. The site encouraged me to build on my own profile by selecting experiences which may relate to other peoples'. I selected shared experiences such as cannibal erotica in hope it would link me to some other users. Initially I couldn’t help but think of it all as a joke – that these people were just taking the piss and didn’t really know all that much about cannibalism – but I soon discovered I was really fucking wrong.
Needless to say, I was warmly welcomed into the forum’s community – by cannibals. I doubted their authenticity until I began to receive messages from them personally encouraging me to explore ‘my desires’ regarding cannibalism. The forum was pretty much flooded with adverts from men and women either selling themselves to cannibals or inviting people to engage in cannibal activity. As sinister as this ‘innocent’ social platform was, I felt inclined to put my own ‘experience’ out there to understand why these people are so fascinated with dining on other human beings.
“I have been having these thoughts for some time now. I’m too afraid to share with friends and family because I know they won’t understand… I share similar thoughts to others about having someone eat me and I need help in understand why or where these thoughts have come from. I’m only a teen but I get so much pleasure out of these thoughts.”
Within minutes I had various responses from users giving me their input. One girl tells me: “Sometimes an event in our life can cause us to have different thoughts, just as I have had other thoughts that I can’t share with my family because they involve them, and you have thoughts of cannibalism, I’m guessing.” They later went on to give me an in depth account of how they lay in bed every night and fantasize about dismembering their family members, shortly followed by “don’t worry, I won’t act on it though, too worried about the consequences.” No shit.
A few other responses included: “If you made a regular habit of eating people, I’d call you a cannibal. But only then.”, “I hear human flesh tastes good” and “We all are [cannibals], if pushed to the limits. That’s our nature, to survive even if survival means eating each other”. Yes, it has been proven that as far back as the 16th century that cannibalism was acted upon as a means as a survival as well as for medicinal uses. There have also been cases in more recent history where conditions in Nazi concentration camps were so depressing, Romeo Tiberiade people were forced to eat their own children – but modern times aren’t so dire, you've probably got a Sainsbury's just around the corner, and it’s clear that these urges aren’t at all natural, they’re psychological.
One user was especially keen to help me explore these feelings, and so began my short but meaningful cannibal romance:
“Does the thought of fattening someone you know up to eat, or maybe fattening yourself up to be eaten, turn you on?” I reluctantly responded yes. “That’s actually good. You can turn these thoughts into great pleasure by starting to gain weight now. Imagine your arms and legs getting soft and fat and how they will taste! Let me know if you want to fatten up, I can help you.”
I continued our conversation in hopes to get an answer. I learnt that my fellow cannibal (let’s call him Alan) was a ‘feeder’. The feeder fetish generally involves overweight women smothering men with their entirety as part of a submissive sexual fantasy, but it also includes enjoying the process of fattening their partner and watching them pack on the pounds. In fact, the fetish, though strange, is quite innocent, but little does the sex industry know that cannibals have taken a specific warming to it. Alan asked me if I was skinny or chubby –“You are not the only cannibal here, I bet you will be really tasty, hehe!” – and I shivered when telling Alan I was pretty thin, in hopes of giving myself a bit more of a lifespan, which excited him further by telling me he will take great pleasure in putting more flesh on my bones.
I thought to myself, just because Alan enjoys fattening people up doesn’t exactly make him a cannibal – he hasn’t eaten anyone yet. We exchanged conversation daily and I told him I was slowly but surely gaining weight and that I’d replaced my milk with cream and eating as many carbs and sugar as possible. “Wow… this is great progress. I am so pleased. I bet you’re beginning to look good enough to eat.”
Just as I thought I was about to make progress and connect to Alan on a deeper level to try to understand his urges, he began to press me for photos of my weight gain and grew suspicious, and so our cannibal romance was cut short by him. I had just been cyber-dumped by a cannibal.
All I had so far were a few people telling me that I’m "fresh meat" and that humans taste good. Then I met my next user, where the conversation escalated quickly. He told me exactly how they wished to prepare my body, going into detail of how they would season my flesh among other organs, before courteously asking me if I had any preferences. When asking them why my opinion would matter, he simply replied: “I wouldn’t want to insult you by cooking you the wrong way.” At least cannibals have manners.
Maybe cannibals are just entertaining themselves online because they’re simply not getting any action in real life and turn to adverse fantasies in retaliation? I found that a few were desperate to arrange a meeting with fellow cannibals to bring their fantasies to life, but I’m not sure they would genuinely act on it. So far, it seemed to me that this realm of alternative make-believe was farcical and entirely superficial – none of my conversations emitted real human emotion, whether those were feelings of desire, oppression or longing. I assumed at this point a small fraction of these users were journalists posing like me.
One advert led me through to an online seedy portal of unmistakably the darkest side the internet I have ever ventured to, the Dark Fetish Network. When arriving on the site you’re greeted by the following message:
“Welcome to the social network where you won’t feel yourself like an outcast cause of your ‘dark’ fetish. Why? Because this is created by people like you, FOR people like you! :) So, feel free to look around, meet some crazy (in a good way!) people and become the part of our growing ADULTS ONLY (18+) community. We assure you that you’ll have a pleasant stay ;) Please also remember that THIS PLACE IS ABOUT FANTASIES ONLY, so play safe!”
The smiley faces were a nice touch, but there you have the bullshit introduction to cover them legally. DFN then encourages you to create a membership to "make the most of your stay". Considering the site is accessible via Google within thirty seconds, it worries me how easily the site can be accessed by anybody, anywhere, of any age. Even more worrying was the fact you can sign up in less than five minutes – the application form was mind-numbingly simple and showed no interest or objection to your mental health. For anyone out there feeling vulnerable and lonely, creating a membership to be accepted into a part of community has been proven to have a huge influence on a person’s way of perceiving something they once opposed. Psychologists state that a high percentage of people who engage in paedophilia, psychopathic or cannibalistic behaviour long a sense of belonging within our society, which may seem stupidly obvious, but these websites give them a platform for just that in a matter of seconds.
Once you register, the network boasts over 80,000 like-minded members providing disturbingly surreal content like snuff films, asphyxiation, consensual hanging, assisted suicide, rape fantasies, crucifixion, female meat markets, massacres and more.
Admittedly I felt ashamed to support their steady incline in the name of journalism, but again, I was immediately welcomed by other users: “Hey! Welcome to DFN, what are your thoughts on beheading?” Quite frankly, I’ve not thought about beheading since studying Henry VIII at secondary school, but I told him I’d be up for it regardless, so I asked why he chose me: “Because I’d love to see the life leave you as your head is torn from your shoulders.”. Aww.
Your average DFN conversation will involve someone telling you how they’d love to get off to you choking to death or watching you commit suicide. And you can forget BDSM too, unless you like the idea of being skinned alive in front of a group of horny onlookers. However, one guy did ask if I’d like to arrange to meet for a posh meal and a drink before cutting my head off. I’ve noticed courtesy and manners have been running themes throughout my experience which I guess was a bit of a silver lining.
DFN also serves as a further meeting point to keeping the online cannibal community alive, with graphic photos of severed bodies, alongside fan artwork being shared in the site’s chat rooms which are also accessible within seconds. People sent me forms to sign myself up to donating my body for arranged cannibal parties to see if I would fit their criteria. I also found people begging to be to hanged and shot, and when you ask them why they'd want you to kill them, it’s simply because it turns them on, despite the site activity being ‘policed’ and ‘moderated’.
Surprisingly, there aren’t many laws on cannibalism or the consumption of human flesh. The majority of cannibals sentenced are charged for murder, necrophilia or desecration of corpses – not cannibalism itself. Often it’s found that the meetings arranged online lead to the victim giving consent to the act and it’s actually difficult to find a charge. Recently, German cannibal Miewes is serving a life sentence after his victim responded to an internet advert, like the ones found on DFN and Experience Project. Miewes stated “he tasted of pork” after laying on an elaborate spread of human steak in green pepper sauce with sprouts and croquettes. Miewes also stated during his trial in 2006 that “he had always dreamt of a younger brother, someone to be part of him” and his fascination of cannibalism helped to fill that void. After chatting to over 400 men online, he found the victim who best ticked his checklist.
Throughout my experience, it became very clear to me that these online networks aren’t just a form of escapism and sexual curiosity – having strangers asking me to send pictures of myself engaging in self mutilation left me feeling devastated that people are encouraging such behaviour for their own satisfaction. These subcultures are, in fact, densely populated and incredibly immediate – not just physically – but psychologically. I thought joining these sites would leave me with a better understanding of the underlying issues these people are dealing with, but it didn’t. It simply spiked my awareness for the fucked up shit that’s going on in these corners of the internet and made me realize that the language used people in the community was synthetic, forced and peripheral, which brings the heavy realization that these people are entirely detached from society, reality and emotionality – and, in turn, are meeting up with people and acting on their words.
Should I go ever missing and someone finds my laptop history, someone is going to have a really fun time. Blame my estranged cannibal lover, Alan. I’m still heartbroken.
Words by Courtney Axford