By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
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Meghan enters the courtyard after her shower and lights up a cigarette. She has Bettie Pagestyle black bangs and pigtails, and she's wearing an all-black art student version of hillbilly chic. "I was chubby in high school and none of the guys wanted to look at me," she says. Neither masturbation nor sex worked for her until her twenties. She explored BDSM, but it wasn't until she saw the Muki's Kitchen website this past January that it all clicked. "Bondage, submission, gagging, humiliation, exhibitionism, objectificationit was all there!" She immediately offered to star in a Muki portfolio based on her hillbilly cannibal comic book, Little Red Roundbottom. Since her first shoot in August, Meghan has become something of a cann-fetish celebrity, and the photo shoots promote sales of her art on the CannToon website. "For me, it's all about being the centerpiece, the center of attention," she says. "It's the same attention you give the turkey on Thanksgiving. Everybody is just obsessed with that turkey. Ooooooh, the turkey the turkey the turkey. When is the turkey going to be done? It's so exciting!"
While Mr. and Mrs. Muki's home sex life involves simple light bondage and lots of oral sex ("Cannibals give good head!" says Mr. Muki), Meghan's meatgirl lifestyle is a more elaborate affair. She tells me that her home dungeona small room in her house where she, her partner, and friends playnow has a homemade rotisserie and an electric fireplace that crackles realistically. "When I get home, I'll ask my partner to hog-tie me the same way we did in the shoot, because it will be the hottest position for a while," she says. "When I'm trussed up like that, I like to have a lot of ass play. I even squeal like a pig!" However, Meghan never is really dead in her fantasies. "It's like being drugged yet still aware," she says. "Like when your body is paralyzed but your mind is still awake. I like to think I'm inanimate, without a conscience. There's a feeling of transcendence when I'm being transformed."
Even though individual photos in the Muki's Kitchen portfolios can come across as scary, cruel, or demeaning, the models are obviously alive and even happy. "I want my customers not to feel like freaks to have these fantasies," Mr. Muki says, "and humor is what keeps it feeling fun and sane." Too much humor, though, breaks the tension . . .and arousal is all about keeping up the tension. To help both male and female customers feel comfortable, Mr. Muki also pretends that the Kitchen is a mom-and-pop operation, although Mrs. Muki's only real task is to keep an eye on the tone of the website. Mr. Muki's own fantasies might occasionally involve beheading and dismemberment, but that will never get into the images. Instead, he gets the necessary jolt from props that inspire visceral, vicarious responses. "For me, the money shot is the close-up of the thermometer in the butt with the needle registering on 'pork.' "
That evening the Mukis, Meghan, and I drive to Bahooka, a historic tiki-themed restaurant in Rosemead, a neighborhood in eastern Los Angeles, to meet a few more cannibals: Gurgurant, a collector of jungle cannibal gag cartoons and lifelong fan of the stew-pot girl fantasy; Canntoon, an ambitious twentysomething promoting his own cannibal website; and Andy, a TV producer so terrified of being identified that he avoided me completely. Most of these people have never met each other in person before, and it takes several rounds of Zombies to bring the conversation around to their favorite topic. They laugh about the anti-meat ads produced by PETAphotos of naked female models shrink-wrapped into huge supermarket meat trays. Gurgurant asks, "Do they know how much those turn us on?"
My dining companionsall incredibly ordinaryshare a preference for the gentler side of cannibalism. "Some cannibals complain that Muki's is too 'Muki-esque,' " Mr. Muki says. "They mean this fluffy, soft, fantasy cannibalism without any of the messy stuff, the blood and the guts. So be it!" Muki's may be losing business to websites like Necrobabes and Rue Morgue, which emphasize death and torture rather than Muki's sex and aesthetics. (It's a belief in the porn world that the way to avoid prosecution is to choose between sex and violenceMuki's chose sex, the others chose violence.) Unlike Muki's, these sites have no penetration and no "pink," and the cinema vérité style suggests documentary rather than fantasy. The main difference between Necrobabes and a slasher flick is that the movies have better effects. While Mr. Muki makes only what he himself wants to see, Necrobabes does market research and produces what will sell. When I tell Mr. Muki that Peter Cohen, co-owner of necrobabes.com, necrobabes.org, and 10 other fetish sites, claims to have 6,000 members, half of whom return month after month to pay $40, he is dumbfounded. Violence sells better than sex.
Clearly, both Muki's and Necrobabes are trying to present an image they feel will bring the most customers; Muki's wants everything to seem safe, while the others play up the freakish and the extreme. It comes as no surprise then that while other sites tease that "it's more real than you think," the Mukis insist that rumors of genuine cannibalism are invoked to ramp up sexually desirable anxiety. Gurgurant argues that almost every person who claims to want to go through with it is just a poseur. "When you troll these boards there will always be somebody who will say, 'I'm looking to do this for real,' " he says. "Most of the community just ignores them." They're enjoying the pretense, butlike the men Meiwes let go in earlier encountersthey run when the butcher knife comes out.