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Some coverage on another blog and some chatter on Twitter had me thinking about the “cannibal cop” case this week.

For those that don’t know of it, the name is misleading — no one involved actually committed any cannibalism, though the defendant was (formerly) an NYPD officer.

Succinctly, that officer was charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping on the basis of internet chatlogs in which he described fantasies of kidnapping, killing, and eating his wife and several female acquaintances. He was found guilty last week.

There’s a lot we can unpack there if we want to — the difference between fantasizing and laying real-world plans, the balance between preventing crimes and protecting civil liberties; all sorts of messy issues. The MA101 blog I link to in the first paragraph looks at some of those.

For my part, though, I think there’s one important takeaway that hasn’t been covered elsewhere:

If you take part in text-based erotic roleplay of any kind, use the third person.

Seriously!

I will admit to some authorial bias here; I hate two-person (or more) roleplaying in which every participant is using “I.” It so clearly makes the emphasis selfish — everyone is interested in what he or she is fantasizing about, not about the scene as a seamless whole.

But to hell with that reasoning. Take a lesson from “cannibal cop” (not actually either of those things, anymore) Gilberto Valle, and stay away from the first person so that you stay out of prison.

The jury that convicted Mr. Valle was presented with chatlogs of RP driven by phrases like “I would” and “I will.” The New York Times described one example that the prosecution used to drive their case home:

“When I see her Sunday my mouth will be watering,” Mr. Valle wrote three days before the brunch [with a female friend], adding that he would be “eyeing her from head to toe” and longed “for the day I cram a chloroform-soaked rag in her face.”

Someone who does a lot of text-based RP, erotic or otherwise, would probably not read that as conspiracy to commit kidnapping, even if they personally found the fetish creepy or even alarming. But someone who has literally never had the experience of describing a fictional action in the first person — “I cast Magic Missile at the dragon,” etc. — might well see it as a real-life plan for real-life actions.

Avoid the issue. Use the third person.

“When Cannibal Mike sees her, his mouth waters. He’s eyeing her from head to toe, longing for the day he crams a chloroform-soaked rag in her face.”

Creepy? Yes.

Potentially mistakable for conspiracy to commit a crime? No.

Use the third person. Stay out of prison. You heard it here first!