Vore is the term for the sexual fetish of cannibalism. Or, at least, the online version of it – not real, actual cannibals (of which there have been very few in modern history). Online, this manifests itself mostly as fanfic and fan art on forums like DeviantArt (all links here NSFW, duh) and more intense genre-specific sites like e621, which is mostly furry erotica. Since these are largely drawings or stories, they often veer into fantasy: anthroporphic furries eating each other, human-sized frogs eating naked women, the cartoon dog from Family Guy eating the mother, and many many many iterations of the characters from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic or Sonic the Hedgehog eating each other.
There's fantastical subgenres as well. For some, the fantasy isn't so much about someone dying per se, but the act of being consumed by another person and living inside their stomach. There's a genre of art where the eatee is shown living inside the transparent stomach of the eater. Or unbirthing, where a female character somehow absorbs someone into her stomach through her vagina. Enjoy that one, fans of Freud.
Max Plenke, a writer for Mic, thinks the vore fetish has a lot to do with people not wanting to address their sexuality.
Plenke recently spoke to three young men who discovered they were vores. They each found out about their proclivity for this differently. One roleplays as a dragon that eats women, while two other guys meet on the chat site Omegle and roleplay eating each other in a college dorm.
"They treat it not just as something they think is cool, it's very much a fetish that they're into on a sexual plane. " Max told us. "They started realized from a younger age – 13, 14 – when they started seeing not necessarily sexual representations of it. One of them saw a video at around 14 of snake eating some other creature and got one his early weird feelings from it. One of those feelings of wow this is really doing it for me and he didn't understand why."
One of the young men he talks to fantasizes about being eaten by other men. "He's really unsure about his own sexuality. He doesn't really know how he feels, and he doesn't what the word for it is," Plenke says. "But with vore, he doesn't have to pick – he's just a dude getting eaten. It doesn't mean anything else to him, which is really comforting for someone who doesn't want to deal with the massive question of what is my sexuality?"
Erin Lee Carr directed the documentary Thought Crimes: The Case of the Cannibal Cop for HBO. Carr thinks it's a harmless fetish like any other.
The documentary tells the story of Gilberto Valle, a former NYC police officer who was arrested and tried for conspiracy to kidnap after his wife found chats on his computer with fellow vore fans where he fantasized about wanting to eat several female acquaintances.
Valle argued that he was only fantasizing and there was never an intent to actually commit any acts of cannibalism. A judge overturned his conviction, but the prosecution appealed and the case is still being litigated.
The website he was meeting other vore fans on was DarkFetishNet. "It is a fetish website that is geared toward dark proclivities. Beheading, BDSM, gunplay, cannibalism," Carr explained to us. "It's about photoshopping images, about finding other likeminded kinksters. This is a place where you get to explore your dark fetishes."
To research for the documentary, Carr created an account and would go on the site herself. "It's hard to watch things happening to women's body like beheading or snuffplay, but it's fantasy," says Carr. Whether Valle's talk of wanting to kill, rape, and eat a college friend was purely fantasy or if he actually was starting to plan to do it is the crux of the legal question, currently still being litigated.
Carr was able to get unparalleled access to film Valle in his home and with his family as he awaited his trial. As for Valle as a person, from what Carr says "he's like a Queens guy. He loves sports, he loves his dog Dudley. He's just a guy."