Yes, There’s a Safe Way to Have a Cannibalism Fetish. The Armie Hammer Story’s Not It

A few weeks ago, screenshots of messages allegedly sent by Armie Hammer were posted to the Instagram account @houseofeffie. In the messages, which have not been verified, Hammer purportedly professes a desire to bite women and claims to be “100% a cannibal.” The woman who posted the screenshots has also claimed that Hammer assaulted her and showed videos of bruising on her neck, which she claimed were a result of her experience of Hammer.

Since then, more stories about Hammer have emerged, painting a picture of alleged patterns of abusive conduct. In a statement, he has called these claims “bullshit.” A lawyer for Hammer stated: “The stories being perpetuated in the media are a misguided attempt to present a one-sided narrative with the goal of tarnishing Mr Hammer’s reputation, and communications from the individuals involved prove that.”

But most stories and commentary have remained focused on the sensationalism of his supposed cannibalism fetish and have ignored the real issue: that the foundation of true BDSM relationships is consent. We spoke to Jet Setting Jasmine, a master fetish educator, licensed clinical psychotherapist, and co-owner of Royal Fetish Films, to discuss why this is so damaging. This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Here’s what I’ve been seeing people get wrong in the conversation around Armie Hammer and the abuse allegations against him: His alleged cannibalism fetish itself isn’t the problem. The problem is, if the allegations are true, whether he used his power to groom these women into participating in a lifestyle they had truly not consented to.

A cannibalism fetish, or vorarephilia, is characterized by a person who fantasizes about consuming someone or being consumed. The key word there is “fantasy.” The fetish never goes so far as actually eating or killing someone, of course—that’d be illegal. Just having the conversation around eating someone, and being sexually stimulated by that, is considered a cannibalism fetish.

Once the allegations against Hammer blew up the internet, all the media attention zeroed in on the word “cannibalism.” We were totally titillated by the taboo. But I’d like to offer a different framework, one where we understand Hammer’s alleged behavior as troubled, but not necessarily because of the C-word. Well, because of the potential absence of another C-word. Consent.

We cannot actually consider something true BDSM if there isn’t consent involved.

Any form of grooming into a lifestyle without consent is a violation. Consent is the difference between BDSM and non-BSDM encounters. We cannot actually consider an encounter true BDSM if there isn’t consent involved. The minute that a hookup does not have clear consent, it has already fallen out of BDSM and into an inappropriate interaction. In the rumored messages reported on social media, for example, Hammer allegedly says he wants to have sex with the woman he’s texting with a belt around her neck. She says no, and he pushes, saying he won’t clasp it.

The woman alleges that he did, in fact, clasp it during their next session. If this is true, it would be a clear violation of consent.

So what does consent look like in real BDSM relationships? It’s a conversation and an agreement between the folks who are going to be engaging in any style of play—whether it’s straight-up vanilla, P-in-V sex in a bed or some type of sexy session involving handcuffs and a sex swing. There are clear boundaries about where the play starts, what the expectations are, and the limitations of everyone involved. That includes the giver, or the “top,” as it’s known in BDSM circles, and the “bottom,” the receiver. (That slang isn’t just for same-sex couples, FYI.) There are clear expectations and boundaries for both about what will happen after play as well as the desired outcome for each person.

A *consensual* form of BDSM play featuring a cannibalism fetish would go something like this: Someone might say, “I know I can’t actually eat your hand off, but I can suck your fingers until you tell me to stop or nibble on you.” Blood play is another fetish called hematolagnia. And that can present as someone being turned on by any form of blood during sex from menstrual blood to needle play to biting until there is blood or spanking until there is blood.

In any BDSM play, what has not been agreed to cannot happen. If it does, it is considered a violation. So “I don’t know” or “I didn’t ask” or “I didn’t understand” is a violation of consent. Oftentimes, those without experience in BDSM or those who don’t educate themselves on the lifestyle will share their preferences and jump into roles as “top“ or “bottom” without having these discussions about what that should look like. And that’s usually a red flag.

Obviously, we don’t know whether Hammer sent those texts or what was going on in his head if he did, but the reports and allegations suggest he was using his position of celebrity status—as well as the societal power of just being a man—to lure people into his sexual proclivities. And when they were not interested or they showed any type of resistance, he would make them feel bad about it. In the alleged leaked DMs, I saw a sense of manipulation and dishonesty with phrases like, “I’ve never admitted that before” and “I can’t even imagine having another slave,” when the social media post claims he was having these conversations with multiple women.

All of the important issues around consent and boundaries were overshadowed by the sensationalism of the cannibalism fetish. But there were so many other transgressions. Those on the receiving end of the alleged messages would say things like, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore” or “This makes me feel uncomfortable,” and the texter would keep pushing those boundaries. That is a clear violation of that person’s rights—just like biting someone until they bruise or participating in knife play without consent.

It’s an opportunity for us to not shame people’s fetishes, but to teach them to share the interest in a way that doesn’t harm people.

The Armie Hammer stories bum me out so much not only because the alleged abuse is painful to read but also because they contribute to our society’s already distorted understanding of fetishes. Anything outside of vanilla sex is seen as predatory. Someone with an “intense” kink is considered disturbed and disordered. There are few, if any, mainstream examples of how these different sexual proclivities are respectfully communicated and shared. Instead, they’re often presented in a very disordered fashion, like with these allegations against Hammer.

Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely think anyone who engaged in abusive behavior should be held accountable for their actions after a proper investigation. And in the meantime, I’d like to put some distance between the alleged behavior and the BDSM community. We, as a society, need to increase our education beyond vanilla sex. Instead of shaming people’s fetishes, we should be teaching them to share their interest in a way that doesn’t harm others. But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that the topic of consent got lost in the tabloid shuffle—it’s not something that people outside of BDSM are very good at.

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