Good enough to eat

Arch Sex Behav. 2008 Apr;37(2):286-93. doi: 10.1007/s10508-007-9227-7. Epub 2007 Aug 7.


In mythology, religion, and literature, there are many examples of cannibalism that have been passed down over the centuries and which do not strike us as shocking as long as they remain fixed in a symbolic context. Things only become problematic when cannibalistic impulses are taken literally and put into practice. Apart from situations of extreme emergency in which this rare phenomenon might enjoy a certain sympathy, it also occurs within the context of serious sexual offences. Recently, in Germany, there was the case of a man who used the internet to find a person who wanted to have himself eaten. The victim's consent unsettled not only the public at large, but also the judiciary, which at first did not know how the case was legally to be appropriately assessed. In a first trial in January 2004, the man was sentenced to a comparatively short prison term of only a few years, a sentence that was lifted by the Federal Supreme Court. In a fresh trial in May 2006, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder. In this essay, I discuss to what extent mythological, religious, and artistic models of cannibalism express something fundamentally anthropological and how concrete examples should be assessed against this background.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cannibalism / ethnology
  • Cannibalism / psychology*
  • Child
  • Criminal Law
  • Fantasy*
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Homicide / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Homicide / psychology
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Mythology
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*