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Turn on the Eater

A beginner’s guide to vorarephilia

Earlier today in Germany, a 55-year-old man confessed to killing a 59-year old man from Hanover who—according to Dresden police chief Dieter Kroll—had "since his youth fantasized about being murdered and eaten." The two men met online at a sex fetish site. Sexual fetishes involving cannibalistic fantasies are very rare but are not unknown. Vorarephilia—usually shortened to vore—is a sexual paraphilia in which people are sexually aroused by the idea of being eaten, eating another person, or observing this process for sexual gratification. Since the behaviour is unlikely to actually be carried out by the vorarephiliac, the behaviour is more likely to be fantasy-based via different media (e.g., fictional stories, fantasy art, fantasy videos, and bespoke video games). The behaviour doesn’t necessarily involve digestion and/or pain. Probably because it is both rare and fantasy-based, it doesn’t appear in any psychiatric manuals such as the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

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Vorarephilia can sometimes co-exist with other fetishistic behaviour such as masochism (sexual arousal from receiving pain), hypoxyphilia (sexual arousal from suffocation and oxygen restriction), and ‘snuff’ fetishes (sexual arousal from seeing someone die). In some cases vorarephilia has been argued to be a variant of macrophilia (i.e., sexual fascination and/or fantasy relating to giants). Most of the fantasies of vorarephiles involve the person being the ones being eaten (i.e., the ‘prey’, although a few like to be the ‘pred’ taken from the word ‘predator’). Some vorarephiles are known to derive pleasure— sometimes sexual —from watching some animals (e.g., snakes) eating other animals whole.

There have been many different types of vorarephilia documented including ‘hard vore’ and ‘soft vore’. Being primarily fantasy-based, almost any orifice or body part can be capable of vore (e.g., ‘vaginal vore’, ‘anal vore’ and ‘cock vore’). Very briefly:

• Hard vore (sometimes simply called ‘gore’) is where the person is often subjected to horrific injuries and involves lots of blood because of the ripping, cutting, biting, tearing and/or chewing of flesh. It is not typically thought of as either sensually or sexually motivated.

• Soft vore is where the person (that may not necessarily be a willing victim) is consumed alive and whole and is typically unharmed before reaching the stomach but then may be asphyxiated and/or digested. Compared to ‘hard vore’, soft vore is usually seen as more sensual and sexually oriented because of its relatively non-violent nature.

• Female genital vore (vaginal vore) is where the person is consumed by the vagina and taken into the womb (and often referred to as ‘unbirthing’ or a ‘reverse birth’).

• Male genital vore (cock vore) is where the person is consumed by the urethral opening of the penis and taken into the scrotum, prostate, or bladder.

• Anal vore is where the person is consumed by the anus and taken into the rectum, colon, or stomach.

• Breast vore is where the person is consumed by the nipples and taken into the breast.

Here’s a confessional piece I found on a psychology forum discussion group:

“I'm almost 17 now. But since I was really young, I've been a phagophile (with a specific interest in being swallowed whole). I've had a few girlfriends now, but my present one is by far the most engaging and interesting person I have ever met. She's the only one I've engaged in any real sexual contact with. After meeting her, my interests expanded somewhat; she's the only person I've ever been interested in eating. Fortunately this was impossible, for obvious reasons: I was still thinking in terms of "soft vore", in which no damage is done to either party. This is where things get difficult. We've been together a while now and within the past few weeks, I've begun to shift towards "hard vore". This includes cannibalism: I've been attracted especially to biting at her neck, hands, and nose. I feel that I've done a good job at communicating this to her, so I haven't crossed any lines because I've controlled myself.”

The motivational driving force underlying vorarephilia is some ways appears to resemble that of sadomasochism from a dominance and submission perspective. Devouring someone could be viewed as the ultimate act of dominance by a predator, and the ultimate act of submission by the prey. Paradoxically, most vorarephiles have no real interest in cannibalism, although a few do. Possible vorarephiles include the Japanese man (Issei Sagawa) who in 1981 killed and then ate a Dutch woman (Renée Hartevelt), and the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer who killed 17 men and boys and engaged in both cannibalistic and necrophilic acts with his many victims between 1978 and 1991.

Armin Miewes (The Rotenburg Cannibal)

However, the most infamous vorarephiliac is arguably the German Armin Meiwes. His case was referred to at length in a 2008 essay in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, by Dr Friedemann Pfafflin (a forensic psychotherapist at Ulm University, Germany). Meiwes, a computer technician, gained worldwide media attention as the ‘Rotenburg Cannibal’ for killing and eating a fellow German male victim (also a computer technician). Meiwes had allegedly been fantasizing about cannibalism since his childhood and frequented cannibal fetish websites and posted around 60 advertisements asking if anyone would like to be eaten by him. Meiwes claimed around 200 men responded to his request but only one finally met face-to-face.

In March 2002, Bernd Jürgen Armando Brande responded to Meiwes’ advertisement on the Internet. At their one and only meeting at Meiwes’ house, their first cannabilistic act was for Meiwes to bite off Brande’s penis and then jointly cook and eat it. Brande then drank lots of alcohol, cough syrup, and took sleeping pills, and was stabbed to death by Meiwes in his bath (and videotaped). The body was then stored and over time, Meiwes ate large amounts of it (about 20 kg). The one aspect that shocked most people was not the fact that Meiwes ate a lot of Brande’s body but that Brande appeared to consent to being eaten. Email exchanges between Meiwes and Brande were later shared in the court case:

Brande: “Thanks for your mail. You really turn me on…Winter with the temperature at around 5 to 15 degrees below freezing is good weather for slaughter. Great to be naked and tied in weather like that and to be driven to the slaughter. Where you then stun me and I collapse. You then hang me up, jerking, and cut my carotid artery. Warm blood flows. Everything goes routinely. I don’t have any chance to escape my slaughter at the last moment. It’s a real turn-on, the feeling of being at your mercy being in your possession. Having to give up my flesh”

Meiwes: “It’ll be awesome, anyway. Your tasty body on show like that. Spicing it…Tying you up will be no problem, I’ve got rope and some cuffs for your hands and feet. I’ll really enjoy the bit with the needles. I’ll see if I can get hold of some really long ones. I can’t wait for you to be here”

Bernd Jürgen Brande - his sexual desire was to be eaten

It wasn’t until about 18 months after Brande had been killed that the German police started to investigate Meiwes. An Austrian student had seen Meiwes boasting that he had successfully killed and eaten another man. The police then arrested Meiwes and found human body parts in the freezer and the videotape of the killing. In court, Brande’s consent to being killed was accepted by the jury and Meiwes was given an eight and a half year prison sentence for manslaughter. Neither Meiwes or Brande were deemed mentally ill by the court appointed psychiatrists. Dr Klaus Beier (Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine, Free and Humboldt-University of Berlin, Germany) was the expert witness who twice provided forensic expertise on Miewes. He said that:

“Armin suffered neither from a psychosis nor any other mental illness or any personality disorder. Quite the contrary, he had a normal IQ and his social competence was high. To everybody who had private or professional contact with him, Armin seemed to be an open-minded and friendly contemporary man who, in the forming of contacts, appeared pleasant-natured, flexible, and socially competent, even agile. Even extremely experienced police officers, who could not believe what he had done, had to put on record that, if they had not known about the offence, Armin M. never offered anything conspicuous during the entire period of investigation.”

A later paper by Dr Beier in response to Dr Pfafflin noted that:

“Before the age of 11 years [Armin] was preoccupied by the idea of incorporating another male by eating his flesh. This paraphilia caused him to seek unsolicited partners who pretended to mirror his desire insofar that they should have the wish of being incorporated. It took him years to find such a counterpart using the frighteningly developed subculture on the internet for that purpose, where people with this special inclination can encourage each other.”

Dr Pfafflin outlined some other cases of German cannibalism including cases he was personally involved in. he said that:

“From my intensive knowledge of both these case histories just referred to, I have no doubt that every form of cannibalism, excepting at most those which happen in times of extreme hunger and whose only purpose is to secure survival, has a pathological, perverse background.”

Little is known about how prevalent this type of behavior is although Meiwes claimed that based on his internet activity on cannibal fetish websites that there were at least 800 Germans that shared his passion for wanting to eat another person. The number of people that have a desire to be eaten and actually go through with it is likely to be incredibly small—but the internet helped Meiwes locate a willing victim.

References and further reading

Adams, C. (2004). Eat or be eaten: Is cannibalism a pathology as listed in the DSM-IV? The Straight Dope, July 2. Located at: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2515/eat-or-be-eaten 

Beier, K. (2008). Comment on Pfafflin’s (2008) “Good enough to eat”. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 164-165 

Pfafflin, F. (2008). Good enough to eat. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 286-293.

Pfafflin, F. (2009). Reply to Beier (2009). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 166-167.

Sky News (2013). Germany: 'Cannibal Cop' Buried Victim In Garden. November 29. Located at: http://news.sky.com/story/1175532/germany-cannibal-cop-buried-vic...

Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit in the Psychology Division at Nottingham Trent University (UK).

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