Truth Through Combat

"Master Butcher"–The Case of Armin Meiwes

We discussed the case briefly last week, at least in a couple of the classes. I will warn you, however: this is not light reading. If you are disgusted by textual descriptions of body mutilation, you may want to stop now.

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Pervscan.com summarizes the case as follows (see http://www.pervscan.com/2003/12/14/the-cannibal-video/):

“‘Slice the thing off now.’ After placing his penis on a kitchen table, computer expert Bernd-Jergen Brandes issued that unthinkable command to German cannibal Armin Meiwes. A home video made by Meiwes, 42, detailed the sickening events that followed on March 10, 2001. The cannibal chopped at the organ, but failed to sever it. Writhing in pain, Brandes, 43, demanded that Meiwes get a sharper knife. He did — and completed the unspeakable act. Meiwes bandaged the wound with towels and Brandes sat upright in a chair, his eyes glazed over. Meiwes began cooking the severed penis — sautéing it with garlic, salt and pepper. Brandes had his rare. ‘We had agreed to eat it half and half, but he was getting faint and couldn’t wait for his half to be cooked through,’ the cannibal said. ‘So he tried to eat it more or less raw and of course, it was too tough. He was furious…’ [Later] Brandes managed to recover some strength. ‘He got out and said, ‘If I survive until the morning, let’s have my testicles for breakfast,’’ Meiwes said. The computer expert did not survive until morning.” — New York Post (US)

PervScan has already featured this case once, but as the trial has progressed an interesting question has emerged: Is cannibalism sexual? Was this particular case of cannibalism sexually motivated? In court, the prosecution is arguing that Miewes is guilty of murder “for sexual satisfaction,” a crime which carries a life sentence. But is the prosecution only arguing this because Germany happens to have no law against cannibalism proper? Or was the act really motivated by sex?

On one hand, since Miewes ate the man’s penis first, you would think it must have had something to do with sex. He could have eaten an ear or a toe just as easily. On the other hand, he did end up eating the ear and the toe and about sixty pounds of flesh which he managed to store in his freezer. How was that sexual? What’s more, there is no claim whatsoever that anybody orgasmed, jerked off, raped a cadaver. What kind of sexual act is it if neither murderer nor victim climaxed?

Miewes, the cannibal, seems pretty articulate in his statements to the court, and he keeps insisting that the cannibalism had nothing to do with sex. To the contrary, he continually portrays the act as one of incredible intimacy: he compares “internalizing” his victim to Communion; the video itself ends on a note of intimacy, with Miewes cradling his victim’s head and apologizing to him; and Miewes also claims that his victim disappointed him by not wanting to get better acquainted before the killing, which amounts to saying that the cannibal wanted a bit of spiritual as well as physical intimacy with his victim.

All of which makes you wonder: was the cannibalism motivated by a perversion not of sex but of love?

Posted on December 14th, 2003 at 8:26 pm
Here are some links:

In April 2005, Meiwes’ conviction on manslaughter charges was overturned. Prosecutors are attempting to re-try him on murder charges.

The central issue here–once we get past the incredibly graphic details–concerns the conflict between personal autonomy and social order. It appears that the acts in question were perfectly consensual: both parties agreed. However, many societies in the past have banned suicide and similar acts of self-mutilation. Therefore, this is a case where personal rights to autonomy and liberty clash with social demands for order.

But what is the nature of that demand for order? Some nations permit euthanasia in the case of individuals who are terminally ill or suffering a degree of pain that interferes with their life plan. Should such laws be extended to cover suicide in itself, even when it doesn’t come as a reaction to pain or illness? To what extent should societies restrict the personal freedom to end one’s life? Isn’t such a freedom central to the life plans of some individuals, and therefore a central element of freedom?

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