You may have heard the news about the actor who seems to have fantasies of chomping on his sex partners’ flesh, one Armie Hammer. He allegedly described himself as “100 per cent a cannibal” in a message to a woman; to a girlfriend, he reportedly said that he wanted to “break” her rib and “barbecue and eat it.” The story has been an absolute gold rush for tabloids—the New York Post published no fewer than 16 dispatches on the subject, including inventive listicles like “5 Armie Hammer movie moments that are even creepier amid DM scandal.” Still more disturbing headlines emerged this week.
At some point, you may have thought: This is really not the news cycle I wanted. Well, let me tell you: The world’s ethical human cannibal fetishists don’t want it either.
“It’s so easy to shut down and say, ‘That’s not an acceptable fetish, and you need to see a psychiatrist and be behind bars,’ ” a lifelong cannibal fetishist who goes by the pseudonym Mr. Muki told me. He sort of felt this way growing up, too. “I was concerned that maybe I was nuts, borderline pyscho.” Then, in the ’90s, when the internet began connecting people of all sorts of predilections, he realized he wasn’t alone. There were other cannibal types gathering in forums and photoshopping photos of models into giant pots. A photographer himself, Muki thought he could do better, and set up a website called Muki’s Kitchen, which he filled with shots of women “preparing” other women to be eaten. “I’ve always approached the website as a safety valve,” he said—a fun way to explore the fetish without offering anything remotely like instructions for, you know, killing and eating someone. Anthropologist Katharine Gates described visiting Muki’s set to watch a shoot in an informative 2005 Village Voice piece: The scene is a woman on a giant serving platter, going into a giant fake oven. A corn cob and a meat thermometer are shoved places.
“For me, cannibalism is the ultimate taboo,” said Regina Watts, an erotica writer. (Watts is a pen name, and the author photo on her website is a deepfake). She drew inspiration from the photos on Muki’s Kitchen for a series called Dottie for You, in which a billionaire CEO with an eating-bodies fetish falls for his secretary, who happens to be “a demi-immortal woman who returns in a new body whenever she’s killed,” thus allowing the pair to play out the entire fetish more literally, without anyone dying (permanently). Sample subtitles from the series include Dottie Can’t Die, Dottie’s Bodies, and Dottie Is Delicious. For Watts, exploring the fetish is a way to push the boundaries of what’s possible as a writer. Her cannibal CEO “represents anyone who has sexual shame that they’re interested in but they can’t practice because it might hurt someone.” Cannibalism is also a symbol of intimacy, she said. In essence, desiring to eat someone is saying “I want you inside me, forever.” Dottie’s flesh in particular happens to function as a psychedelic. (Watts has timed a paperback release of the series for Valentine’s Day.)
In other words, the people told me, cannibal fetishism isn’t offering an actual serving of a body on a plate, and they are not necessarily interested in eating an actual bite of human (which, even with explicit consent, can get you sent to prison—and sometimes it doesn’t even take that much). In the accounts of Hammer’s purported fetish, two things are happening: the fetish itself and the allegations of abuse. The conflation of the two—and the breathlessness of the coverage—is what rankles people who have been doing this particular dance for a long time.
In my interviews, cannibal fetishists drew a bright line between their activities and the allegations against Hammer, but also seemed a little protective of him, insofar as he should have a right to desire human flesh in peace.
“Outing someone specifically for having a fetish isn’t very acceptable,” Watts said, calling it “kink shaming.” She said the abuse allegations were a separate issue.
“I think that the more shocking thing about Armie Hammer is that he was not really respecting wishes of some of his partners. He was forcing things a bit,” Muki told me. “The problem here is that everyone is focusing on his cannibal fantasy, but some of what he admitted was not respecting a partner’s wishes.” (Hammer has denied or not commented on the individual allegations, calling them “bullshit.”)
Muki added, “The cannibal fetish was really just a side story.”
If only. For his part, Muki was clear: He said that if he considers really, truly, cutting up a human—the mess, the drab little bits of flesh on a paper plate—“all of the sexiness goes out of it.” He pointed out that it’s important for his website to show entire, intact humans—not just because it clearly separates a violent, criminal act and a fantasy, but because it’s an important part of the fantasy itself. “If I had a picture of a steak [made of human] on a plate, people would say, ‘That’s just a steak on a plate,’ ” he said. When I asked Watts about actually eating a person, she recalled a Reddit thread wherein a man describes making a meal out of his own amputated foot. “I don’t think a lot of people who are into consensual cannibalism would have a foot taco,” she said.
Cannibals—who are nice, from what I gathered speaking to Watts and Muki—can instead be awful in a more generic way. “One time I had a reader, instead of a dick pic, send me a picture with an apple in their mouth,” Watts said. “It was terrifying.”
Along those lines, the advice on having cannibal sex, should you be wondering, is basically the same advice for having any kind of sex. Going into a discussion with a potential cannibal partner, “it’s great to have a list of things that you like and things that you don’t,” said Allison Moon, the author of Getting It, a book about having “shame-free sex” in general. Say you want to marinate yourself a little bit—Muki’s FAQ page recommends coconut oil specifically for this purpose—and have sex on the kitchen island, but a giant prop oven sounds gross. Cataloging those desires can help you create “a menu” (so to speak) of what to bring up with partners, Moon said. What’s most important for a cannibal is finding someone who has overlapping interests or a willingness to explore them. “Be really choosy about your partners,” Moon advised, especially if you’re going to be giving them power over you. That is, if you want to be “eaten,” find a cannibal you can trust.
If this all strikes you in some kind of way, don’t panic. “Because cannibalism sounds so out there, a lot of people will have a squick response,” Moon said. “A squick response is just information. Sometimes a squick response comes from you touching on something that is very exciting to you.”
While the world isn’t overflowing with cannibals, there may be more out there than you’d think. “It’s definitely a niche fetish,” said Muki, who explained that he makes a modest living solely from selling portfolios on his website: “I can’t put numbers to it, but obviously enough to support me.” Muki has some famous clients, too. He would not tell me who they are, but after talking to him, I can’t help but hope one of them will speak up voluntarily and put a kinder face on the cannibals, sans abusive and potentially criminal behavior. May our next cannibalism sex news cycle be a little less stomach-churning.