Gilberto Valle: Cannibalism, Sexual Sadism, Fantasy and Criminal Intent

The trial of Gilberto Valle, the “Cannibal Cop” began in Manhattan this week. The New York Police Officer is charged with Federal kidnapping conspiracy. The charge sheet can be found here. The evidence consists largely of e-mails and instant messages in which Officer Valle was “discussing plans to kidnap, rape, torture, kill, cook and eat body parts of a number of women.”

His defence team is arguing that this was just a sexual fantasy and that Valle had no intention of carrying out any of these crimes.

Cannibalism of this nature is at the extreme end of sexually sadistic fantasies. The fetish has a specific name – gynophagia. It is unknown for such offences to be committed in the UK and there are no statistics available for the USA at the current time. These fantasies have a specific label – Dolcett Fantasies, named after an anonymous comic’s fetish artist from Toronto, Canada, who became famous thanks to the Internet. Dolcett, who first became active in the late twentieth century, draws scenes of bondage, extreme torture including impalement, cannibalism, rape and murder of women, often representing these acts as consensual. His mostly black and white drawings have a distinctive style that makes them immediately recognizable. It is a ‘Stepford Wives’ scenario taken beyond the taboo. Needless to say he has quite a cult following on the Internet.

So, yes, this man could have some rather extreme sexual fantasies.

However, sexual fantasies by their nature become something else when they are shared. Most of us have had sexual fantasies of one kind or another at some time in our lives. Some of us have been brave enough, and lucky enough, to have found a willing partner with which to mutually explore these fantasies in a fully informed and consensual manner with full empathy for the other person. They stop becoming a fantasy and become a shared journey. In other words, the “it’s only a fantasy” defence only has credibility when it is a solo secret in one’s own mind.

The moment that you share an idea or concept with another person you are deemed to have “published” it — in law. It is a very broad brush — for example, if I show you a picture I have obtained via the internet then I have “published” that picture to you — regardless of where it came from. If you and I discuss a method of carrying out an activity then, unless both parties are clear (and can prove) that the discussion was purely academic hypothesis, then that constitutes conspiracy. If, by carrying out the action, a law would be broken then it becomes “criminal conspiracy.”

Valle not only discussed the idea of murdering, cooking and eating his female alive; he discussed the methodology, the equipment needed and had started to establish a blueprint on how he would carry out his crime.

From the evidence shown so far, I would conclude that by doing the above he has already crossed the line between fantasy and criminal intent.

I await with interest the psychological reports which will hopefully give us insights into the mind of Valle and establish if he is criminally insane or not.

Note: I have a background in sexual psychology and spent 15 years working with alternative sexualities. A lot of my experience during this time was in helping people realise their fantasies in a safe and consensual manner.  Additional help for this article was provided by a great friend and mentor who is a criminal psychologist who has worked in the UK Penal system with sex offenders. He wishes to remain nameless at this time.

23 comments

  • Nicola, I am so glad you took on the NYPD “Cannibal Cop” and put this fascinating lifestyle in a context we could try to comprehend. I appreciate you helping us learn where the bright lines are drawn and what is done and what should not be done — unless you want trouble with the law!

    This is outstanding analysis and research and I thank you for putting it all together for us!

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  • I needed to understand as well and thanks to my friend I was able to break it down into reasoned debate rather than a knee jerk shock horror reaction which is the path that a lot of the commentary has taken.

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    • That’s why you were perfect for this article! I would have taken an entirely different approach — and likely a wrong approach — getting sucked into the blood and body parts.

      You directed us to the important matter here — where you can and cannot go in the expression and repression of your fantasies. Fascinating!

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  • It would have been tempting to go that route – we could have had a Dexter fest !

    The case for the defence led me to an angle I could work from – leaving out the body parts.

    It is also useful to me to see the differences between UK law and USA law both in process and in technicalities.

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    • It is certainly an interesting case — with lots of scary “boogeyman” features like eating people and murder and drinking blood — and the fact that the defense is making the case this is just a “lifestyle choice” is intriguing on the surface, because you tend to agree if you only hear their side of the story. When you fill out the reality of the law and its application, as you have done for us, the whole scenario changes to danger.

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  • The “lifestyle choice” angle is very very difficult to achieve because of the extreme nature of the fantasy – there is no way that this can be enacted in a consensual fantasy role play situation. There are elements that can be “played” with in isolation from each other but are impossible to totally unite.
    Quite simply being dead is not a lifestyle !

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  • Gordon Davidescu

    This is indeed a fascinating case and I am glad you wrote about it! I know quite a bit more thanks to your elucidation!

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  • I will be doing a follow up when there are significant developments

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  • I have a lot on my plate right now — absolutely no pun intended — but if I had the time and bountiful energy, I would’ve written a fictitious piece (e.g. a short story) that explores the irony in the glorification, by many, of oral sex to completion and the repulsion of many to *consensual* sexual cannibalism. Of course, they are not one in the same, but (shock, shock, horror, horror) what if your lover (no matter the sexual orientation in this example), after “going down,” were to express the desire to eat you out (or up) literally?

    Food for thought — blame Will Shakespeare for my punning — how many of us have had a boyfriend or girlfriend (probably not all would-be cannibals and sexual cannibals are male) tease us about how delicious our thigh or leg or [fill in the blank with whatever other body part] would taste? Someone once made such a remark to me, and a cleaver was among the cutlery used to cut veggies in this person’s home. At the time, could I have been in danger, or did the person just have an odd or morbid sense of humor, or was it (the person’s suggestion) my overactive imagination???

    I realize I am digressing from the crux of the OP, and I too am aware of the legal and psychological angles (I studied abnormal psych, sociology, anthropology, etc., and have a legal background), but sometimes too much academic discourse placates instead of getting down to the meat and bones of a situation. In the Valle case, from what us laypersons know thus far, homeboys (i.e. apparently there was to be an accomplice [c.f. SCREAM]) straight-up wanted to hunt-deceive-culinarize (yeah, it’s a word now) and plate unwilling sacrifices.

    Definitely criminal. Absofuckinlutely gory. Insane? Uhhhh, in many cultures (I can cite Belize) male consumption of bulll balls — yah, OK, testicles — is lauded because of the belief that it makes such men more virile. And before any of you whine, “Wellllll, the animal at least was dead” (read: first castrated — oh, pardon, neutered — and then murdered), whaddaya say about folks who slurp down live oysters for that extraordinary aphrodisiacal high? I purposely injected a raw-oyster scene in a recent short fiction to set a foreboding tone because the partner who’s gorging himself on oysters (and becoming engorged) is a wealthy guy. Hence, poking fun at something considered sophisticated and erotic, which at the same time can have sinister implications.

    Oysters Rockefeller, anyone?

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    • Chantal – you went where I chose not to go with the “going down” , eat you out until you fill me up scenario!

      I love I am not the only person to own a meat cleaver – although it has never been used on veggies yet – maybe I will next time I want to sppok someone!

      I think I will have to read some of your short stories !

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  • This is an educational article and I appreciate you writing it. I learned a lot about fantasy and consent and how people go too far. It is hard to read about this guy in the news every day, but reading your article makes it make more sense and your help us cut through the lies of his defense team.

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  • I cannot imagine what this would be like to have in the news every day – do they air it when children can and undoubtedy hear – or do they apply a watershed? Just hiinking of family eating meatballs for tea/dinner and this story on the news on the TV in the background !

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    • If it’s “The News” there’s no censor on it — freedom of the Press and such — so the Cannibal Cop plays all day everywhere on every single channel and in newspaper with nothing muted or hidden. Your ignoring skills are quickly tempered as a USA citizen — which, unfortunately, often leads to apathy.

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  • The UK has a curious double standard here – if it is on the radio or TV during the hours children before and are going to school – or after they leave school and are returning the “News” has to be tempered and possibly a warning has to be given – such as “the following scene may be disturbing to some” similar to the “this report contains flash image photography and may not be suitable for people with epilepsy” warnings. However you are still allowed to read the newspaper at the breakfast table complete with the topless model on page three.

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  • and we wonder why we have become so desensitized to violence.

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  • Very well done! I can tell you looked into this and researched it well.

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  • Gilberto Valle has just been convicted of “a bizarre plot to kidnap, torture, kill and eat women”.

    Ms. Waxman, the prosecutor, told jurors that Mr. Valle had “left the world of fantasy.“He entered the world of reality,” she said, “and, thankfully, he was stopped before he could act.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/nyregion/gilberto-valle-is-found-guilty-in-cannibal-case.html?_r=0

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  • I am now waiting for the late inclusion of “mental illness” so he serves his sentance in a mental institution and not in a prison. I am not over familiar with the US legal system – so I am not quite sure where they should have played that card – or were they so over confident of the fantasy defense that they felt they did not have to?

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