Wednesday, April 17, 2013

In the land of make believe ...

.... you're mine tonight
... although you are far away

I fell in love with Dusty Springfield thanks to Jennifer Crusie's Welcome to Temptation, one of the shiniest example of screwball romantic comedies in print. A woman forced to make soft porn in a small town and fell in love with the mayor who's fighting against an anti-pornography law? Classic. I love to belt along to Dusty (singing badly, I will admit) as I tool down the highway in my cute compact. But this post is more than just a rec of my favourite author and 60's singer, but an examination of how badly you can screw up your life if you are unable to get out of the land of make believe.

Fantasies are one of the most amazing creative forces that shape human existence. Our lives are enriched by it; either we enjoy the escapism of our own day dreams or we enjoy the artistic output of other fantastic minds (Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, etc.). Fantasies can help us cope with traumatic events by providing a happy ending (that didn't happen) or softening the blow (the Nile ain't just a river). There are those who scoff at people who fantasises or daydreams, thinking that keeping your feet firmly on the ground is the only way to live. But hey, different strokes for different folks, aye? Being a killjoy ain't gonna make your virtuousness any more palatable when you shove 'em down other people's throats.

But there is a dark side to fantasies as well, they're not just unicorns and enchanted gardens. Some of us entertain thoughts and ideas that are contrary to normative values of the society we live in (not to mention stuff that would get you either stuffed into a straight jacket and drop-kicked into a maximum security prison). No matter how perverted or twisted your fantasies are, so long as they remain just that, fantasies that is, it shouldn't be a problem.

Or would it?

Armin Meiwes was born in the wrong country and time. If he were a native of Papua New Guinea prior to the 20th century, human meat would have been available on the menu to satisfy his palate (perhaps without the cordon bleu pretensions). Unlike many who would simply visit fetish sites to get their kicks, Herr Meiwes actually advertised for a human to be eaten and apparently had a few responses. Needless to say Herr Meiwes did not get away with consuming his victim; although the act was consensual (if someone doped to the gills with painkillers and liquor after chopping off his manly bits can give proper consent), Herr Meiwes is now serving a life sentence.

Recently we heard about Gilberto Valle, a police officer in New York who has been found guilty of "conspiracy to kidnap and illegal use of law enforcement computer databases to research potential targets," thanks to his cannibalism fantasy. He toyed with the idea of stalking, killing and eating his wife and a few women of his acquaintance. It wouldn't have been bad had he stopped there, but he was caught accessing law enforcement database to feed this fantasy. 

Surely this baby-faced dude couldn't want to roast and eat me?

The trial unearthed his gruesome porn habit and his chat and email records showed stalker-y tendencies that would make any sane woman shudder. Although none of his "victims" were actually harmed, but he is now considered to be a danger to society, thanks to evidence that his fantasies have bled into some actions in real life. No, he did not buy any duct tape or chloroform. But he took pictures of women of his acquaintance and shared it with like-minded cyber pals with ideas of what he would like to do to these women. His persistent queries over his wife's running route took on a sinister cast when it was discovered that he was preparing a menu featuring her as the main course.

So where do we draw the line between what we can safely fantasise and becoming a real threat to society? Minority Report, much?

If you fantasise too much, Tom Cruise will come and get you. A real horror for non Tom fans.

The revelation of child sexual abuse by the clergy and in orphanage or juvenile delinquent institutions the world over as well more reports daily about children sexually abused by their family members have gotten people up in arms and paranoid about child molesters. In the Western countries, there are sexual predators lists made available to the public and websites where you can check if you got sex offenders (particularly those who prey on children) in your neighbourhood.

Law enforcement take sexual predators of children very seriously. Many have a specific group working to identify and capture paedophiles. It is admirable and heartbreaking work as there are many children who are still injured despite their efforts. But should Lolita fantasists be penalised for their fantasy? Rachel Aviv reported the slippery slope that landed John, a military veteran unable to connect with women of his age who sought refuge in fantasising about sex with young girls, in prison.

His addiction to hardcore pornography featuring young girls being abused has led him to a sting operation that exposed him as a possible sexual offender. I found it disturbing that he could look at those pictures and get aroused, not seeing them as victims or empathising with their pain and trauma. Most child pornography are created illicitly by the abusers, unlike mainstream(?) porn featuring adults who consent (mostly) to the acts that are committed on celluloid (or digitised in these days). This dissociativeness is not unusual among hardcore porn consumers; the images are just pictures, not real people to them. Porn rewires your neural pathways for gratification; it keeps consumers going for greater kinkiness because they can no longer get off with plain vanilla sex.

Many would say that if the law enforcers did not entrap him, John is highly unlikely to act on his fantasies. After all, the man still knows right from wrong and is aware that his fetish is illegal. He had not abused any girls; most of his sexual encounters were with prostitutes.  But would his fantasies have just remained on his desktop computer and not getting him to purchase an airline ticket to a holiday destination that is known to offer child sex workers? We will never know.

It is a great leap from watching porn to actually committing the acts you watch, true. Just like millions who play Grand Theft Auto never go on shooting sprees. The Internet is a wonderful tool to connect with other people who share similar ideas and engage them in role-plays and fantasies. However, it is incredibly sad that a man who had served in the military, considered a competent man in his area of expertise but was so crippled by his poor social skills that he attempted to find a sense of belonging among such a dastardly community.

Therefore, when the fodder of your fantasy tends to be the kind that WILL land you in prison, you have to be extra careful about committing acts that can be construed as turning your fantasies into reality. Or you could be like John, behind bars for the better part of twelve years without even living out his fantasy.


catharsis said...

i remember reading about the NY cop in NYT the day he was charged. my roommate and i were discussing the legal implications - that troublesome mens rea and actus reus. then bile bace squint betui betui found that they could not charge him with those crimes but they charged him for things he really did - like accessing database and i cant remember what else but like things he really did..was it stalking ke ape..lupe the facts. funny thing is those charges were infused the gravity with the details with what he did - so macam lagi berat but they wish it could be berater. oh dear god there goes my england. nantilah we talk bout this. ttyl!

Snuze said...

Yeah, he hasn't acted out any of his fantasies except surfing federal database for info on the women he dreamed of eating (and not in a good way either!).

Basically, he did that for personal reasons and not for his job. And it's worth his life in prison.

He just had lost control of what's real and what's not. As much as it would be nice to let it slide, there have been studies that pointed out all molesters start out with fantasies, seeking out opportunities to come close to their objects of fantasy (which he had done, like paedophiles who took jobs that brought the in contact with children) and then with opportunity for contact, many crossed the line into acting out what they dreamed so much.