This article discusses themes of sexual abuse and assault.
January 2021 has been rife with alarming happenings. Beginning with Trump's insurrection of a violent riot on Washingtons Capitol and ending with a scandal that very few of us saw coming: Armie Hammer's cannibalism kink leaked DMs.
For those who are unaware of what has transpired: in January an Instagram account entitled @houseofeffie began to post unverified screenshots that contained loaded messages from Armie Hammer. At first these depicted a lurid BDSM entanglement with the individual on the other end of the messages. When the first few screenshots were leaked, talk of a cannibalism kink was thrown around by Hammer, such as messages like “I am 100% a cannibal" and "I want to eat you. Fuck. That’s scary to admit. I’ve never admitted that before.” And while the recipient seemed to receive such talk consensually initially, it was only a matter of time before the messages grew darker - and with it, the idea that the exchange was between two fully consenting individuals appeared further and further away.
While the Internet promptly blew up with horrified reactions that the Call Me By Your Name star might be hungry for flesh - including memes referring to the scandal, and Tik Tok's dubbed with Ke$ha's Cannibal single - something much darker was happening: people once again weren't taking the word of an assault victim seriously.
The conversation at hand is significantly nuanced, particularly because in the case of the victim, Hammer is not simply facing accusations of having a deeply rooted cannibalism kink, but also accusations of being a predator and an abuser. It suggests the lines between safe BDSM play have been blurred, violated, and once again categorised as dangerous and sadistic.
Unfortunately, it would appear that Armie Hammer has swiftly and singlehandedly undone the years of work that the kink community put in to rebuild its reputation from the disaster that was the 50 Shades of Grey series through not playing by the rules of BDSM, most of which are built on the blocks of consent, safewords, and aftercare.
In multiple screenshots, Hammer appears to completely disregard signals of consent violation, by allegedly claiming it was "funner" without safewords, responding "yes" when the recipient expressed having a belt clasped around her neck during sex was "too much". The victim also claimed Hammer "clasped it anyway" in the same story, and that she “did truly want to stop for most of the time” during one of their encounters.
The above allegations are the dark underbelly of what predatory behaviour disguised as BDSM looks like. The question is not whether or not Hammer is an actual cannibal (which is highly unlikely), it is whether or not these encounters are a clear breach of boundaries that never initially seemed welcome, a scenario that should never be synonymous with kink, no matter how dark one's fetishes may be.
“I don’t think there’s a typical way you enact a cannibalism scene because the ultimate act itself is extremely unrealistic.” Empress Wu, a professional dominatrix with a cannibalism fetish told Rolling Stone Magazine. As a domme, “the power or pleasure is derived from the knowledge that they’re willing to give part of themselves for my pleasure or nourishment,” she says. If it's looked at from the submissive's side, “for me, there are a lot of different instances where it represents closeness,” she says. “When you really think about it, desire is about the craving to assimilate into another. When you are so fucking into that person you need to have them or be owned by them or be entangled in a specific way, cannibalism as a fetish really highlights or fulfils this sense of wanting to be close to someone and the futility that it’ll never fully happen.”
This, as Wu explains, is key to separating the act of literal cannibalism, to the idea of cannibalism as it applies to the BDSM and fetish community. In the instances of those who have accused Hammer, however, they are not condemning cannibalism fetishes at-large as the media has so readily adopted, but the allegation that he abused and assaulted them far beyond the bounds of BDSM.
With all of the satire surrounding the entire scandal, alongside the shock factor it appears to have generated, one thing remains fairly unspoken: assault victims of powerful and charming celebrities are still not being believed or taken seriously, especially if they claim to have been romantically entangled with their abusers.
In this instance, we can even reference the words of Jessica Ciencin Henriquez, a writer who was linked to Hammer in September, who tweeted, "If you are still questioning whether or not those Armie Hammer DMs are real (and they are) maybe you should start questioning why we live in a culture willing to give abusers the benefit of the doubt instead of victims."
We can understand the initial apprehension of unverified screenshots via anonymous accounts going viral with accusations of rape and abuse. After all, Harvey Weinstein's case against him - and ultimately the beginning of the #metoo movement- took years to build. The trust that New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey built with their audience over time made the accusations against him feel undeniably legitimate. However, there is one thing that people always seem to forget in these instances: coming forward about sexual assault can often be as re-traumatising and unsafe as the events themselves. And the risk of speaking out often outweighs the ridiculous claims of survivors 'gaining' anything other than a glimmer of justice.
Perhaps it is harder for us to wrap our heads around the scenario and turn to humour as a coping mechanism, due to the fact that the allegations surrounding him are bound up with the conversation around BDSM - a line that, for people unfamiliar with kink and fetish, can seem blurry and fickle. If there is one thing to take away from what has transpired, is that the line should neither be blurry or fickle, rather clear cut. The issue with the narrative around Armie Hammer's cannibalism kink isn't that he has one, it's that he's been accused of assault.