Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Cannibalism: The Ancient Taboo in Modern Times

Sexual Cannibalism

Sexual cannibalism is considered to be a psychosexual disorder, which involves a person sexualizing the consumption of another person's flesh. This does not necessarily suggest that the cannibal achieves sexual gratification only in the act of consuming human flesh, but also may release sexual frustration or pent up anger. Sexual cannibalism is considered to be a form of sexual sadism and is often associated with the act of necrophilia (sex with corpses). There have been several high profile cases, which have involved sexual cannibalism, including that of Andrei Chikatilo, Edward Gein, Albert Fish, Armin Mewes and Jeffrey Dahmer.

Albert Fish under arrest
Albert Fish under arrest

During the 1920's Americans were confronted with the horrors of Albert Fish who was said to have raped, murdered and eaten a number of children. Fish was a sexual cannibal in the truest sense of the term and claimed to have experienced enormous sexual pleasure when he imagined eating a person or when he actually indulged his fantasies.

Andrei Chikatilo
Andrei Chikatilo

Andrei Chikatilo, a Russian serial killer, was responsible for the murders of scores of young boys and girls. During most of his life, Chikalito suffered from impotency and was only able to achieve sexual gratification from the torture and murder of other people. He would often mutilate and then consume the flesh of his victims, including the breasts, genitalia and internal sex organs, as well as other body parts. It is possible that he also achieved sexual gratification when cannibalizing. Chikatilo claimed that he was disgusted by the "loose morals" of many of his victims, who served as painful reminders of his own sexual incompetence. Moira Martingale writes in Cannibal Killers that many of the murders Chikatilo committed came after viewing sexually explicit or violent videos.

Ed Gein
Ed Gein

Edward Gein, a farmer from Plainfield, Wisconsin was as believed to have killed at least three people including his brother, a bar keeper named Mary Hogan and the owner of the local hardware store, Bernice Worden. In 1957, police searched Gein's home and found the body of Worden along with the remains of over fifteen other women. A majority of the remains found at the crime scene were robbed from a nearby cemetery. Gein was believed to have had sexual contact with the corpses.

He was also an admitted transvestite, who found delight in dismembering the bodies and peeling away the skin of the corpses so that he could wear them around the house. Gein was known to have cannibalized some of the bodies, including Worden's whose heart was in a pan on the stove at the time police conducted their search of the house. Whether Gein sexualized the consumption of his victims was unclear. However, there was a strong relationship between his necrophilia and cannibalistic behavior.

Jeffrey Dahmer
Jeffrey Dahmer

Intriguingly, some people that claim to be cannibals have admitted to feeling a sense of euphoria and/or intense sexual stimulation when consuming human flesh. In an article written by Clara Bruce titled Chew On This: You're What's for Dinner, anthropophagists compared eating human flesh with having an orgasm. The experience was further believed to cause an out-of-body-experience causing effects comparable to taking mescaline.

According to Lesley Hensel, author of Cannibalism as a Sexual Disorder, eating human flesh can cause an increase in levels of vitamin A and amino acids, which can cause a chemical effect on the blood and in the brain. This chemical reaction could possibly lead to the altered states that some cannibals have claimed to have experienced. However, this theory has not been substantiated by scientific evidence.

In Fascination with Cannibalism has Sexual Roots, Josh Cannon writes about psychologist Steven Scher and his team who conducted one of the only known studies on sex and cannibalism at Eastern Illinois University in 2002. The study surveyed several groups of people who were asked questions pertaining to cannibalism and sexual interests. The results of the study found that people were more likely to eat someone that they were sexually attracted to than not. This suggests that there might be a significant sexual component in the practice of cannibalism.

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