For those who can look past the creepy and salacious details of the case of New York Officer Gilberto Valle, on trial right now for allegedly plotting to kidnap and eat women, there's a question that may prove to be fundamentally unanswerable: Did he really mean it?
The Associated Press reports from the trial today:
Cheerful written exchanges between a police officer and women from his past appeared in a sinister new light when an FBI agent described at the officer's criminal trial how he talked on the Internet about killing and eating the women.
"I'm dying to taste some girl meat," Agent Corey Walsh testified Tuesday that New York Police Officer Gilberto Valle told one of the online friends he met who shared an appetite for human flesh.
The testimony came on the second day of testimony in federal court in Manhattan for the 28-year-old Queens resident charged with conspiring to kidnap women and illegally accessing a government database to research potential victims. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
Valle's defense was that he had absolutely no intent to actually kidnap or eat any women. This was all online fetish role-playing. Very, very thorough role-playing that involved offering to kidnap and deliver a particular woman to an alleged co-conspirator so that he could rape and kill her.
Is it possible to even answer the question of whether Valle intending to follow through with any of his crazy plans? My own prediction is that the allegations of illegally accessing the database to research victims, if it's true, will be what puts it over the edge for Valle.
Over at The Daily Beast, reporter Michael Daly practically hyperventilates at the thought of creepsters with crazy sexual fetishes on the Internet:
Mere cyber porn is only in the depersonalizing shallows of this repository of hate that is at once heated with twisted desires and chilled by icy indifference. Valle plunged to depths most of us cannot even imagine, via an Internet portal called Dark Fetish Network.
Even as Valle sat in court this week, the 364 various groups on DFN included one called Cannibalism, Snuff with 835 members. Those Valle met with during his many hours on DFN included men who were even sicker than himself, among them an individual from England with the screen names Moody Blues and Meatmarketman.
I already used a Chicago reference recently, but I can't read those paragraphs without hearing Christine Baranski's voice narrating in my head.
I think Daly underestimates our imaginations. Or perhaps I'm just jaded by being an early adopter of the Internet. I went ahead and visited Dark Fetish Network (which I won't link to, and it should go without saying is not safe for work unless part of your job allows you to research porn for journalistic purposes). After a few minutes of looking at the page, full of references to sex, death, and sadomasochism, I simply shrugged. This stuff is all over the Internet. If Valle is particularly unique, it's in the possibility that he may have been working to make his fantasy a reality. The fantasy itself is not a new thing. It even has an entry in the Urban Dictionary under "vore." And like every other off-kilter sexual fetish, you can find representations of it in Japanese manga should you care to look.
Not unlike the hand-wringing over video game violence, there's not a lot of evidence that the online expression of dangerous or predatory sexual fantasies is an indication of real world intent. We should certainly be concerned that Valle may have been abusing his position to track women in real life as an expression of his fetish, but we should also be concerned that somebody could be convicted for the contents of his fantasies, as wretched as they may be.