Consent and cannibalism

…and other rejected Jane Austen titles.

A man named Armin Meiwes is currently on trial in Germany for killing and eating another man. This isn’t entirely unprecedented behaviour, as cinemagoers everywhere will testify – nice Chianti, anyone? However, the case does have one key unsettling aspect, beyond the obvious.

The consumee, Bernd-Jurgen Brandes, replied to an advert that Mr Meiwes placed on the web (well, where else?) asking for a willing victim to be cooked. The entire killing and eating thing was consensual.

For people with views tending towards the authoritarian, this case is doubtless great evidence that basing morality on consent doesn’t work – and therefore that it’s right to lock people up for their private sexual proclivities, to ban books to stop them from depraving people, to censor the Internet, and so on.

Still, in the absence of a god, consent is one of the very few consistent ways to build a moral system – it’d be a shame to throw it out and return to theocratic and/or facist nastyness. In which case, I guess I ought to be championing the right of people to meet up over the Internet and be cooked. So, err, best of luck Mr Meiwes, hope I never meet you…

Final point – note that the consumee’s first name is Bernd. Hurray for bad puns!

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