Against Satanic Panics > Recent scaremongers > Dawn Perlmutter > "Dark" subcultures

Dawn Perlmutter's claims about various "dark" subcultures

(Goth, Vampire, Fetish, BDSM, Body Art)

by Diane Vera

Copyright © 2006 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.

  1. Perlmutter and the "dark" subcultures:  brief introduction
  2. Overview and background on "The Sacrificial Aesthetic"
  3. Detailed comments on "The Sacrificial Aesthetic"
  4. Claims about the Vampire scene in "The Forensics of Sacrifice"

  1. Perlmutter and the "dark" subcultures:  brief introduction
  2. My main concern about Dawn Perlmutter is her claims about Satanism. I've addressed these on the following pages, which review papers of hers that were published in the online academic journal Anthropoetics:

    But her attitude toward Satanism is just one part of a much larger problem she seems to have with "dark" subcultures in general, including the Goth, Vampire, Fetish, BDSM, and Body Art scenes, about which she wrote before she wrote her Anthropoetics papers about Satanism. So, let's look now at her Fall 1999 Anthropoetics paper The Sacrificial Aesthetic: Blood Rituals from Art to Murder. We'll then look at the stuff she says about Vampires in her Fall 2003 Anthropoetics paper The Forensics of Sacrifice: A Symbolic Analysis of Ritualistic Crime.

    Perlmutter claims that the "dark" subcultures, especially the BDSM, fetish, and Vampire scenes, are in what she calls a "perpetual state of sacrificial crisis," implying that these subcultures inherently and inevitably impel their members to commit "ritual murder." As I will explain in detail on this page, she makes this claim on the basis of a fundamental misunderstanding of the social dynamics of these subcultures. She also applies, erroneously, the theories of a Roman Catholic philosopher named René Girard.

    Her claims are not just false but extremely dangerous - far more dangerous than the subcultures she denounces. Her "expert" claims will likely result in the arrest and possibly even the conviction of at least a few innocent members of the "dark" subcultures for alleged "ritual crimes." Even worse, claims like hers, if sufficently publicized on TV, will in all likelihood convince at least a few isolated young, suggestible "dabblers" that they are inescapably destined to become murderers, thereby making her claims a self-fulfilling prophecy for those hopefully not very many kids. In contrast, the subcultures themselves are, for the most part, a civilizing influence upon the stigmatized minorities whom they serve. Therefore, it's important that her claims be refuted and discredited.

  3. Overview and background on "The Sacrificial Aesthetic"
  4. Her 1999 paper The Sacrificial Aesthetic: Blood Rituals from Art to Murder is full of jargon that may look, at first glance, like just a bunch of gobbledygook. Luckily I was able to figure out the meaning of most of the jargon by looking around on the Anthropoetics website plus some Googling. I'll now try to explain some of it. Please bear with me. It will be necessary to understand these concepts in order to debunk Dawn Perlmutter's claim of being an "expert" on "ritual violence."

    First off, what's a "sacrificial aesthetic"? An "aesthetic," according to the American Heritage Dictionary as quoted on, is either "A guiding principle in matters of artistic beauty and taste; artistic sensibility" or "An underlying principle, a set of principles, or a view often manifested by outward appearances or style of behavior." Both senses of the word seem applicable to Perlmutter's article. A "sacrificial aesthetic," as that term is used on the Anthropoetics site, is apparently an aesthetic which promotes some form of "human sacrifice."

    To followers of René Girard, "human sacrifice" is a much broader concept than you might think at first glance. In much the same way that Marxists see "class struggle" everywhere, Girardians see "human sacrifice" everywhere. They believe that "human sacrifice" is the foundation of all human culture, but their ideal is for civilization to outgrow the need for "human sacrifice." (For more about this, see my page about René Girard, "sacred violence," Christianity, and "anthropology":  Dawn Perlmutter's philosophical background, as best I can figure it out.)

    Perlmutter begins her paper on The Sacrificial Aesthetic by referring us to Chronicle No. 184: Sacrificing Culture by Eric Gans. Gans uses the term "sacrificial esthetic" to refer to any and all art with a good-guys-vs.-bad-guys theme, scapegoating (and thereby sacrificing) the alleged "bad guys." (For my comments on other aspects of Gans's Chronicle, e.g. his implied claims about Christianity vs. pre-Christian religions, see René Girard, "sacred violence," Christianity, and "anthropology":  Dawn Perlmutter's philosophical background, as best I can figure it out.)

    In the writings of René Girard as summarized in various web articles I've looked at, "human sacrifice" typically involves a community ganging up on one person who may or may not be perceived as a villain. According to Girard, human sacrifice can restore order to a society otherwise in danger of breaking down into a "war of all against all."

    Another form of "human sacrifice" - very different from the above, but also related to the good-guys-vs.-bad-guys theme - involves encouraging people to become self-sacrificing martyrs or heroes. (See The Soldier as Sacrificial Victim: Awakening from the Nightmare of History by Richard Koenigsberg.)

    Eric Gans believes that modern Western society is no longer nearly as "sacrificial" as most past societies. Regarding the good-guys-vs.-bad-guys theme in popular culture, he writes in his Chronicle No. 184:

    Esthetic form remains sacrificial, but sacrifice is no longer understood as a necessary feature of social organization; it is merely a "psychological" element of the human condition. Just as we retain physiological drives, such as the appetite for sugar, that have become counterproductive in modern society, so we retain the cultural drive toward sacrifice that determines the structure of the esthetic work. And just as we feel no compunction about substituting saccharine or aspartame for sugar, so we need feel no compunction about replacing the naively sacrificial forms of the past by ironic versions of these forms that we no longer consider as models of ethical relations. The wisecracking superheroes of the comics and their movie adaptations typify this attitude. We no longer really believe in good guys and bad guys, but we need the dichotomy in order to enjoy the narration and the catharsis it effects. Like the molecules of aspartame that fool our tastebuds into thinking they are sugar, the staged contrast between good and evil fools our cultural instincts, not "us."

    Other Girardians, apparently including Dawn Perlmutter, are not as optimistic about the modern Western world as Eric Gans seems to be. In the above-quoted Chronicle, Gans seems happy to see that modern art, including both "high" art and pop culture, has been liberated from "the ethical end of justifying sacrifice." On the other hand, as we shall see later, Perlmutter is worried about what she sees as "the consequence" of "the sacrificial aesthetic freed from ethical responsibility to society." But, for whatever reason, Dawn Perlmutter is much more worried about "unconventional forms of the sacred" in avant-garde art and in nonmainstream subcultures than she is about the sacrificial aesthetic in mainstream popular culture.

    Another important concept we'll run into in Perlmutter's paper is what René Girard calls a "sacrificial crisis." According to Girard's theory, a "sacrificial crisis" is reached when "mimetic rivalry" (competition over things that are desired solely because other people desire them too) and its associated "cycle of revenge" have turned into a "war of all against all." A "sacrificial crisis" is then said to lead to "human sacrifice" when the "war of all against all" turns into a "war of all against one," due to people imitating each other's violence against one particular person.

    Dawn Perlmutter claims that the "dark" subcultures, especially the BDSM, fetish, and Vampire communities, are in a "perpetual state of sacrificial crisis." This, in turn, is the main basis of her claim that these subcultures predispose people toward "ritual murder." As I will explain on this page, it is simply not true at all that the BDSM, fetish, and Vampire communities are in a perpetual state of "sacrificial crisis."

    Unfortunately, Girard's theory has in it a bit of a catch-22, which is the idea that sacrificial cultures are typically unaware of what they are doing and why. Therefore, in the eyes of an overly dogmatic Girardian, if you claim that something you're involved in is not "sacrificial," well, that only proves that it really is "sacrificial"; you're just in denial about it.

    But such a guilty-until-proven-innocent attitude toward all things allegedly "sacrificial" (and especially toward allegations of full-fledged sacrificial crimes such as ritual murder or "Satanic ritual abuse") is itself a "sacrificial" attitude, leading inevitably to scapegoating and quite possibly to the imprisonment of many innocent people. Ironically, this very paradox of a "sacrificial" attitude which is motivated by a too-dogmatic or too-simplistic desire to be "anti-sacrificial" is discussed briefly in the above-quoted Chronicle No. 184 by Eric Gans. Significantly, Dawn Perlmutter doesn't seem to have paid any attention to that aspect of Gans's Chronicle.

    As one Girardian, Andrew Marr, has said on a page titled Violence and the Kingdom of God: Introducing the Anthropology of René Girard:

    When we are presented with a victim, he [Girard] says, we must ask the question, are the accusations true? Yes or No. Girard often brings up the infamous Dreyfus Case to prove his point. The imbroglio of that affair confronted the people of Girard’s native France with the question of truth over against the falsehood of mimetic contagion.

    So, if you, dear reader, happen to be a fan of René Girard, I ask that you apply Girard's observations about scapegoating. I ask that you delve seriously into the question of whether or not any given allegation is true. Don't just assume that any and all skepticism about a given allegation can be dismissed a priori on the mere grounds that you think the skeptic must be "in denial." When exploring the question of whether or not a given phenomenon is "sacrificial," I ask that you focus primarily on facts and evidence rather than primarily on Girardian abstractions, to avoid being too quick to apply Girardian theory to situations where, in fact, it might not be applicable. Don't just assume that something must be "sacrificial" on the mere grounds that the threat of "sacred violence" looms everywhere.

  5. Detailed comments on "The Sacrificial Aesthetic"
  6. Back to Dawn Perlmutter's paper on The Sacrificial Aesthetic: Blood Rituals from Art to Murder. In the second and third paragraphs, she says:

    Throughout the history of art we have encountered images of blood, from the representations of wounded animals in the cave paintings of Lascaux through century after century of brutal Biblical images, through history paintings depicting scenes of war, up through the many films of war, horror, and violence. Blood is now off the canvas, off the screen and sometimes literally in your face. It is no coincidence that this substance has intrigued artists throughout history. Blood is fascinating; it simultaneously represents purity and impurity, the sacred and the profane, life and death.

    There are many expressions of the aesthetic that manifests itself in blood and flesh. The most familiar examples are evident in the current popularity of tattooing, piercing, branding and body modifications. These comprise the basic prerequisites for entry into the worlds of Modern Primitives, Vampire Culture, and The Fetish Scene. These highly ritualized subcultures evolved out of various aesthetic genres such as: Happenings, Body Art, Performance Art, Ritual Art, the Gothic Movement, and Hollywood. Originally the goal of these artists was personal transformation and attempts to reclaim the spiritual. The result was unconventional forms of the sacred manifested in art that attacked fundamental values of Western culture, provoking censorship on many levels of society. The culture war began. In this essay it will be argued that aesthetics now ideologically freed from ethical responsibility to society has evolved into an authentic sacrificial culture inclusive of ritual murder.

    As we will see later, that last sentence is completely wrong.

    She then spends a little over one third of her paper describing an assortment of performance artists with various gruesome acts, in most cases subjecting themselves to some sort of torture onstage.

    In a section titled "The Blood," Perlmutter gives her understanding of the relationship between blood and René Girard's ideas about human sacrifice. She quotes Girard's book Violence and the Sacred as saying, "The function of ritual is to 'purify' violence; that is, to 'trick' violence into spending itself on victims whose death will provoke no reprisals." Perlmutter then paraphrases Girard as saying, "Blood rituals are necessary to redirect violence onto inconsequential victims in order to purify the community of the terror of uncontrolled killing," and quotes Girard as saying, "Only blood itself, blood whose purity has been guaranteed by the performance of appropriate rites--the blood in short, of sacrificial victims--can accomplish this feat."

    These are interesting ideas, but I don't think they have anything to do with the reasons why people attend shows by avant-garde performance artists. More about this later.

    Perlmutter then talks about still more performance artists. I personally knew one of them, Bob Flanagan. Back in the early 1980's, I became fairly close friends with his partner and onstage torturer, Sheree Rose; she and I used to have quite a few long phone conversations. Unfortunately, she and I drifted apart and we're no longer in touch. (Sheree, if by any chance you happen to see this, I'd love to hear from you again.) I first met them in spring 1982 here in New York, at a meeting of the Eulenspiegel Society, a nonprofit social and educational organization for people into BDSM.

    The mere presence of pain or blood in a public performance - even a performance with spiritual, mystical, or religious overtones - does not make that performance a sacrifice, or an attempt at sacrifice, either in the Girardian sense or in any other common-accepted sense of the word "sacrifice."

    If the performers are enjoying themselves - which indeed they are, if they are heavy-pain masochists like Bob Flanagan - then the performance is not a sacrifice. Furthermore, in Flanagan's performances, if I recall correctly, there was no good-guys-vs.-bad-guys theme anywhere in sight; his performances did not involve either vilification or martyrdom. Nor did they have anything to do with scapegoating, hatred, or ganging up. Nor did they involve propitiation of a deity or propitiation of any abstract entity such as the body politic. At most, Flanagan's performances could perhaps be said to have been "sacrificial" in the sense of giving himself to Sheree Rose, his beloved. They certainly were not "sacrificial" in any sense relevant to a sacrificial ritual on behalf of a community.

    I would suspect that most of Bob Flanagan's fans were either (1) BDSM people themselves or (2) motivated by sheer morbid curiosity. In either case, their motives are completely unrelated to Girard's ideas about sacrifice.

    It is perfectly natural for people in our society to have morbid curiosity, given how sanitized our present-day world is. As I mentioned earlier, during almost the entire time that there have been humans on this Earth, most people killed their own animals for food. Only now, within the past hundred years or so, are the animals we eat killed out of our view. For people to be so disconnected from the realities of life is quite an anomoly, historically speaking. No wonder it feels unnatural to some of us, and no wonder horror movies are so popular.

    At the end of a section titled "The Pain," Perlmutter comments:

    According to Bataille’s concept of eroticism, the violent masochistic acts performed by Genesis P-Orridge, Bob Flanagan, Ron Athey, and Orlan are means of achieving spiritual ecstasy through the mutilation of the flesh precisely because these violent actions are prohibited in Christian doctrine. Taboos shape transgressions and the fluctuation between the two give rise to religious phenomena.

    Obviously Perlmutter hasn't talked to very many heavy-pain masochists, if any. Taboo-breaking may well be part of how some heavy-pain masochists achieve spiritual ecstasy, but there's much more to it than that. The main factor, as far as I can tell, is their ability to put themselves into altered states of consciousness, aided in part by an endorphin high.

    She then says:

    There is no reason to doubt an artist’s claim that acts of self-mutilation and violence in their work provide a personal transformation for them. What becomes questionable is the decision to practice these violent rituals in the context of performance art, which is then further complicated when the intention is to redeem or transform the audience.

    Next comes a section titled "The Crisis," in which Perlmutter all but admits that "violent" performance art doesn't really have a "sacrificial aesthetic" after all. She gives us a bunch of reasons why it "fails" as a sacrificial ritual. Well, of course it "fails" as a sacrificial ritual. At least in Bob Flanagan's case, and probably in most other cases too, it wasn't even trying to be a sacrificial ritual in the first place.

    Some of the other performance artists, according to Perlmutter, did use words like "sacrifice." What they might have meant by it, I don't know, since I've never seen their performances. So, I can't really comment. But Perlmutter admits that even their performances "failed" as sacrificial ritual.

    Mixed in with her admission that the performance artists' shows "fail" as sacrificial ritual, she talks about the alleged dreadful dangers of "ritual failure." For example, she writes:

    René Girard proposes a concept he calls "the sacrificial crisis" which occurs when the entire sacrificial structure fails. ... An example of ritual failure occurred in a performance by Ron Athey. Athey pierced himself with needles, then carved designs into an assistant’s flesh, afterward hanging paper towels blotted with HIV-soaked blood above the audience, which caused a commotion in which members of the audience fled from the auditorium in panic. This exemplifies Girard’s concept of a sacrificial crisis: when the blood rite goes wrong it only serves to set off a chain reaction of uncontrollable violence.

    Does Perlmutter really believe that the above-mentioned commotion was in any way typical of audience reaction during or after shows by most of the performance artists she talks about?

    What caused the commotion was not the mere fact of the audience having witnessed a "blood ritual," "failed" or otherwise. Rather, the problem was a perceived danger to the health of the people in the audience themselves. They had paid to watch a show, not to be given a disease. (Of course, just how much danger the performers were actually causing for the people in the audience would depend on, among other factors, (1) whether the paper towels were sufficiently soaked to be in any danger of dripping, and (2) how securely the paper towels were attached to whatever was holding them above the audience. Perhaps the performers meant to make a point about popular panic?)

    There is simply no reason why shows by most of the performers Perlmutter has told us about would cause what Girard calls a "sacrificial crisis." The consensual "violence" of consensual sadomasochism does not, in most cases, have anything to do with any quarrel, let alone any cycle of revenge, let alone any "war of all against all." Nor do the performances have anything to do with any rivalry other than, of course, rivalry amongst the performers themselves for critical acclaim and popular attention - but that is inevitable for performers of any kind, not just the genre Perlmutter is writing about here.

    Perlmutter then gives us a bunch of other alleged reasons why she thinks all the shows she has told us about not only don't work as religious ritual but also, supposedly, represent some sort of huge threat to Western culture. For example, she talks about how the shows are supposedly in violation of some supposedly very crucial Christian taboo, which she somehow connects with "idolatry." She claims, "The principal point is that American art, religion, and culture cannot allow for the use of blood in contemporary art for the same reasons that blood is prohibited in the Bible: it is a threat to the fundamental principles of the Judeo-Christian world view."

    On the above points, I must admit I just don't understand what she's talking about. I tried Googling on strings like "Girard blood idolatry," which didn't help me understand it any better either. So, all I can say is this:

    There certainly is a popular taboo against what these performance artists are doing, but I don't see how this taboo is at all crucial either to contemporary Western culture or to any non-literalist form of Christianity. After all, with only one possible exception (the performer with the HIV-positive blood-soaked paper towels) these performance artists are only doing things to themselves; they aren't infringing upon other people's rights in any way.

    She then says:

    However, the fact remains that artists are increasingly using blood and violence in art and audiences are attending. This art can be referred to as "postmodern mortification" because it represents a spiritual attempt by artists to dismantle personal and societal boundaries through physical sacrifice as a ritual form of purification. Although it was demonstrated that this fails as religious ritual, it is a ritual process nonetheless. What will define the progress of this genre is not so much the artists as the audience. If audience participation begins to take place, participation being defined as religious interaction and communal transformation, performance art will no longer be positioned in the category of the aesthetic but will be designated by society as a new religious movement.

    Next comes a section titled "The Scenes" in which Perlmutter says:

    Ritual participation has been achieved and can be encountered in what is referred to as The Vampire Scene, The Goth Scene, The Fetish Scene, and The Body Art Scene, each of which is fundamentally based in aesthetics. It was the acceptance of the aesthetic use of blood in contemporary art that popularized these movements by sanctioning blood ritual. The significant difference is that ritual participation of audience members is required in the Vampire, Fetish, and Body Art Scenes, producing an authentic form of the sacrificial aesthetic.

    Again Perlmutter makes the mistake of assuming that anything involving blood or pain must be "sacrificial." The Vampire community and the BDSM community do not revolve around either a "sacrificial aesthetic" in Gans's sense or a "sacrifice" in Girard's sense. The blood and the pain have nothing whatsoever to do with scapegoating. No one is being vilified, and no one is being ganged up on. Nor is anyone being a martyr. Nor does a BDSM scene typically involve "sacrifice" in any other commonly-accepted sense of the word either, e.g. propitiation of a deity. The aim is mutual pleasure.

    As for vilification, sometimes a top in BDSM will say things like, "you've been a very bad boy" or "you've been a very bad girl." But (1) such things are generally said in the context of the more playful scenes, not the more "spiritual" scenes, and (2) everyone in the community knows we're not talking about real or serious badness here. So, there's no real vilification or scapegoating here.

    And, when people watch a scene at a BDSM club, there is nothing even remotely resembling a sense of people ganging up on anyone. The accepted forms of "audience participation" include admiration for the performers' skill and empathy with their pleasure. When a BDSM scene does have spiritual overtones, the spirituality is, in most cases, completely divorced from any Girardian-style notion of "sacrifice."

    I went to BDSM clubs a lot during the early-to-mid-1980's. When I first began exploring the BDSM scene, I was a radical feminist, hyper-sensitive to an almost paranoid degree about anything that looked at all like men ganging up, especially on women. I believed that male bonding (especially when it involves men talking to each other about women in a degrading manner) was a major factor in keeping women down. (Note that by "male bonding" in this context, I do not mean actual, deep friendship between men, which is something I had no problem with even back then. Rather, I mean things like the "locker room atmosphere" that was once considered perfectly acceptable at many mostly-male workplaces.) One of the things that impressed me most about the BDSM world was a distinct absence of the kinds of superficial male bonding that are common out in the straight/vanilla world, and which often do have what I then perceived as a ganging-up aspect. My point here is that, if even I was impressed by an absence of ganging-up, given my beliefs at that time, then there really was an absence of ganging-up.

    In general, the BDSM world doesn't fit Girardian theory very well at all. On my page about René Girard, "sacred violence," Christianity, and "anthropology":  Dawn Perlmutter's philosophical background, as best I can figure it out, I pointed out that BDSM (especially sexual masochism, especially in men) and most forms of sexual fetishism are clear counter-examples to one of Girard's main ideas, "mimetic desire" - the idea that we don't have any spontaneous desires of our own, but that all our desires are acquired tastes resulting from imitating other people's desires. There simply aren't any popular role models for male sexual masochism or for most forms of fetishism. And most people in the BDSM community join it because they already have these desires and are looking for compatible partners and/or likeminded friends; they don't acquire their desires from the scene - at least not initially (although, once involved in the scene, their involvement may cause their desires to change in some ways, usually relatively minor).

    Perlmutter gives the avant garde art scene way too much credit for popularizing the various "dark" subcultures, all of which had other roots and other means of publicizing themselves.

    The fetish and BDSM scenes have been around for a long time as part of a larger kinky sex underground. They naturally grew, gradually, as more and more people with fetishistic or BDSM sexualities found out about them. The fetish and BDSM scenes include many otherwise ordinary folks who would never attend an avant-garde art performance.

    The Vampire scene grew out of the Goth scene plus vampire fiction fandom. Back in the 1970's, there were some nonfiction books published about so-called "real vampires," containing historical accounts of (1) vampire hunts in Eastern Europe and (2) mass murderers who drank the blood of their victims. (One book I remember was True Vampires of History by Donald F. Glut.) These nonfiction books became well known in vampire fiction fandom, and provided an impetus for blood fetishists and other people who already had an attraction to blood to start calling themselves "real vampires" - even though they weren't mass murderers. As is also the case for various other highly unpopular categories of people, the first people in the category to have come to the public's attention are those who have gotten themselves in trouble with the law, subsequently inspiring a more law-abiding subculture to form on the basis of the knowledge that "I am not alone."

    I know about this because I was involved in vampire fiction fandom in the late 1970's and briefly again in the late 1980's. Later, in the late 1990's, I explored the online Vampire community in-depth for at least several months and got to know some of the people in it.

    The Vampire scene has a stronger mimetic component than the BDSM and fetish scenes. Most likely, many people in the Vampire scene are motivated by emulation of the glamorous immortals that some fictional vampires are portrayed as being. Within both the Vampire scene and the Goth scene, there is a common perception that some of the people in the scene are "real" (motivated by authentic desires or felt needs that are truly their own), whereas others are "posers" or "wannabees" (motivated by mimetic desire) - and there are occasional squabbles over who is or isn't "real."

    But Dawn Perlmutter vilifies the Vampire scene - as an alleged "living example of Girardian theory" - primarily on the basis of its overlap with the BDSM and fetish scenes, which revolve around desires that, for the most part, are clearly non-mimetic.

    Further evidence of the essentially non-mimetic nature of the BDSM and fetish scenes is the uniqueness of each person's sexuality. Out in the straight/vanilla world, there are a lot of things that most people take for granted regarding sex and courtship. In the BDSM scene, on the other hand, you really can't take anything for granted. Everything must be negotiated pretty much from scratch with each individual. Participation in the BDSM scene is a good way to get a strong appreciation for human individuality, and is one of the reasons why I'm deeply suspicious of any and all theories about "all people."

    Perlmutter writes:

    Vampire culture like other religions consists of people who have committed themselves to an ideology, maintain ethical tenets within a hierarchical system, participate in rituals specific to their clans and in which aesthetics holds a significant, often magical place of significance within the group--aesthetic being broadly defined as symbolism, style, language, religion, art, presentation of self, appearance, and other cultural expressions. The Vampire Scene evolved from a combination of cultural myths, legends and the romanticized Hollywood image. Modern Vampyres signify themselves by spelling vampire with a "y," which distinguishes them from Hollywood, mythological, and fictional references. The "Vampyre Scene" refers to individuals, groups organizations, events, businesses, and so on, who all share an interest in the Vampyre lifestyle.

    She vastly oversimplifies here. The Vampire community consists of several distinct though overlapping categories of people:

    • Blood-drinkers - people with a desire or felt need to ingest blood, for whatever reason. (Reasons vary.)
    • Blood fetishists - people who find blood to be an erotic turn-on. (Not all blood fetishists are blood-drinkers. And quite a few blood drinkers are not blood fetishists but have a nonsexual desire or felt need.)
    • Psychic vampires - people with a felt need to consume "energy."
    • Vampyre lifestylers - members of groups, formal or informal, that are modeled on the social organization of vampires in some fiction and role-playing games, primarily Vampire: the Masquerade. Basically this is a way of creating an alternative extended family.
    • The Vampyre music scene - an outgrowth of the Goth scene.
    • Vampire religions - religious groups with vampire themes. Exactly what the themes are, and how they are used, vary wildly from one group to another.

    Perlmutter has assumed here that everyone in the Vampire community is both a Vampyre lifestyler and an adherent of one of the Vampire religions. Many are neither. When I was exploring the online Vampire scene back in the late 1990's, some of the blood-drinkers - who led basically very ordinary lives apart from their desire for blood - looked down upon lifestylers as "wannabees." (But they became more accepting toward lifestylers during the time I was there.) Also, only a minority of people in the Vampire scene at that time were adherents of Vampire religions. Many other religions were represented in the Vampire scene too, including Satanists, Pagans, and even quite a few Christians. In fact, one of the main leading figures among the blood-drinkers was Christian. Ditto for one of the main leading figures among the "psychic vampires" (though that person ended up converting to Zen Buddhism, if I recall correctly).

    Next is a section titled "The Festivals," which begins:

    Vampyres frequently attend Fetish Scene and Body Scene Clubs, which involve public sadomasochistic activities.

    Although the Vampire scene and the BDSM/Fetish scene do overlap, there are also lots of people in the Vampire scene who are not into any kind of erotic fetishism or BDSM.

    She then talks about several BDSM clubs that she has read about online and compares them to ancient religious festivals where taboo-breaking was temporarily allowed immediately before a sacrificial rite. Obviously she has never actually attended any BDSM clubs, for she then says the following:

    Allowing for the fact that the different "Scene" clubs are analogous to festivals, from a Girardian perspective they still do not resolve the problem of the sacrificial crisis. According to Girard "The fundamental purpose of the festival is to set the stage for a sacrificial act that marks at once the climax and the termination of the festivities."( René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 119.) He also claims that, "Festivals are based on the assumption that there is a direct link between the sacrificial crisis and its resolution."(Girard, 120-121.) The problem of Vampyre culture is that it exists in a perpetual state of sacrificial crisis. Without any reference to a surrogate victim and any predominant ritualistic structure it is the epitome of a failing society that has reverted back to its violent origins. Activities in these Vampyre Havens and Fetish Clubs exemplify the concept of a deritualized festival. Girard states in reference to the festivals of failing societies "Instead of holding violence in check, the ceremonies inaugurate a new cycle of revenge. By a process of inversion that can befall all rites and that we have already had occasion to observe in the case of sacrificial rites, the festival ceases to function as a preventive measure and lends its support to the forces of destruction."(Girard, 125.) Bataille’s philosophy supports this view: "Orgiastic eroticism is by nature a dangerous excess whose explosive contagion is an indiscriminate threat to all sides of life."(Georges Bataille, Eroticism, Death & Sensuality 113.)

    Vampire culture is not "in a perpetual state of sacrificial crisis," nor is it "a failing society that has reverted back to its violent origins."

    Neither is the BDSM subculture. What she calls the "violence" of a BDSM scene is utterly unlike real violence except for the fact that it involves pain and occasionally blood. It is consensual; it is mutually desired; whereas violence, properly speaking, is something that one person does to another against the latter person's will. The "violence" of a BDSM scene has nothing to do with any quarrel, let alone any "cycle of revenge," new or old, let alone any "war of all against all." Therefore, it does not even remotely signify that the BDSM world is in a state of "sacrificial crisis."

    Ditto regarding the blood that is shared in the Vampire scene. It might signify "sacrificial crisis" if, for example, it were common for blood-drinkers to kill each other out of jealousy for the attention of a particular "donor." But, as far as I know, that sort of thing is not commonplace at all. Even Dawn Permutter (at least in the writings of hers that I have read so far) does not cite any examples of rivalrous violence within the Vampire community.

    Perlmutter seems to envision a BDSM club as a place of utter chaos. It's not. In the unlikely event that anyone tries to do anything nonconsensual, the bouncers will quickly put a stop to it.

    As I mentioned earlier, I used to go to BDSM clubs a lot during the early-to-mid-1980's. I always felt profoundly safe there. Genuine acts of violence, e.g. fistfights, are in fact far less likely to break out at a BDSM club than at an ordinary bar.

    Apparently Dawn Perlmutter believes that the mere fact of a bunch of people breaking popular taboos necessarily leads to chaos and hence to a "sacrificial crisis." That idea is simply not true, at least not here in modern Western society, at least provided that the taboo-breaking occurs in the context of a subculture which (1) has its own well-established rules that people still do observe and (2) does not revolve around law-breaking, as distinct from taboo-breaking. Modern Western culture manages to function quite well, for the most part, despite diversity of religion, lifestyle, etc. Therefore, it is not threatened in any truly fundamental way by subcultures that break mainstream taboos, as long as people avoid infringing on each other's rights. Cultural conservatives may feel threatened, but, in most cases, the threat is almost entirely illusory.

    On what conceivable basis could one reasonably conclude that a given subculture is in a state of "sacrificial crisis"? For whatever reason, Perlmutter does not even consider the one issue that would seem to me to be most relevant to this question, namely the amount and kinds of infighting that go on within the subculture. But then, to consider that question would require a much more in-depth exploration of the "dark" subcultures than Perlmutter has evidently taken the time to do. It would require her to do some real anthropology (in the social science sense), complete with field work.

    The BDSM world does have its share of (nonphysical) quarrels and infighting, but no more so than most other groups of people. If anything, I observed less infighting in the BDSM world than in most other social milieus I've been involved in.

    My impression - which may be inaccurate and out-of-date - is that the Vampire commumity has significantly more infighting than the BDSM community, but still not of a kind likely to escalate into physical violence very often - especially not among the blood-drinkers.

    The worst infighting I observed in the Vampire community was among self-described "psychic vampires" who claimed the ability to form psychic links with people whom they knew only online. Every now and then, in Vampire chatrooms, someone would get accused of doing nasty psychic things to other people in the chatroom. Obviously this kind of quarrel is potentially very "sacrificial" in a Girardian sense; it could potentially lead to a full-fledged witchhunt in the most literal sense, complete with reliance upon spectral evidence. Fortunately, the customary remedy for psychic attacks wasn't murder but just ostracism plus the cutting of psychic "threads" plus the beefing up of psychic shields. Anyhow, what's noteworthy is that this sort of squabble occurred among the psi vamps, not among the blood vamps, who tended to be skeptical. So, it lends absolutely no support whatsoever to the idea of "failed blood rituals" leading to a "sacrificial crisis," let alone to ritual murder.

    Another kind of infighting I've observed in the Vampire community is rivalry between "Vampire religions." For example, the Temple of the Vampire is big on insisting that it is the one and only "true" Vampire religion, whatever that means. As far as I'm aware, though, other people in the Vampire scene just laugh at them.

    Based on her totally erroneous impression that the BDSM community is in a state of perpetual "sacrificial crisis," Perlmutter then says, in a section titled "The Sacrifice":

    Unfortunately, the violence that occurs in these clubs will only continue to escalate until ritual meaning is restored. The logical resolution of the sacrificial crisis as manifested in the various "Scenes" is the sacrifice of an original victim in order to reestablish meaning to future surrogate victims. It is at this point that the line of demarcation between performance and reality collapses and ritual violence erupts into what is designated occult murder.

    As we have seen, the pain in BDSM and the blood consumed by some people in the Vampire community have nothing to do with any "sacrificial crisis," nor does these communities' breaking of certain popular taboos put these communities in a state of "sacrificial crisis" either. Therefore, there is no need for these things to escalate into "occult murder."

    Perlmutter then cites a widely-sensationalized "vampire murder" which occurred in Kentucky in 1996.

    No doubt there are at least a few murderers in the Vampire scene. Statistically, it is likely that just about any sufficiently large set of people will include at least a few murderers. But the Vampire community itself does not, in any way, especially predispose people to commit murder.

    If indeed it has more than its statistical share of murderers, the most likely main reasons are (1) that the Vampire community has more than its share of young people (the majority of violent criminals of any kind tend to be young), and (2) that the very few (and very nonrepresentative) murderers on the fringes of the Vampire community have gotten a vastly disproportionate share of the community's publicity. As I noted earlier, the latter has been the case for "real vampires" from the very beginning, even before the subculture was founded. And, as long as the few criminals get the lion's share of the publicity, they serve as bad public role models for "real vampires" who aren't yet involved in the Vampire community itself. Other highly stigmatized subcultures have had a similar problem, e.g. the gay community before the gay rights movement began to accomplish significant victories. In the case of both the Vampire community today and the gay community of several decades ago, the problem of bad public role models should not be blamed on the community itself, which is/was, if anything, a civilizing influence upon people in the stigmatized minority whom the community serves (civilizing, that is, without reliance upon sacrifice to create a bond).

    I would add that the problem of bad public role models for "dabblers" (and hence any resulting "mimetic violence" as Girard would call it) is greatly exacerbated by people who, like Dawm Perlmutter herself, insist on portraying the Vampire community as a whole as an especially murder-prone bunch. If too many young, isolated "real vampires" hear her "expert" pronouncement that "blood rituals" must inherently and inevitably lead to "ritual murder," this claim may well become a self-fulfilling prophecy for at least a few. So, if she's worried about cultural phenomena which may influence impressionable young people to commit "ritual murder," she should look in the mirror. She herself is likely to be an uncivilizing influence upon any naive young "dabblers" who might happen to read her work or see her on a TV show, whereas the Vampire community itself is, for the most part, a civilizing influence upon its members.

    Perlmutter then quotes a book about the above-mentioned Kentucky murder case, The Vampire Killers by Clifford L. Linedecker (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998):

    And although he explained the rules of vampire conduct to Rod, the witness said, his protégé violated those principles when he organized his own band of followers . . . [ellipsis by Dawn Perlmutter, apparently] The Wendorf Murders were not vampiric, Murphy explained, because Rod didn’t bleed the bodies. "There was no bloodletting. He did not take from them."

    Note the ellipsis - which means that she has apparently deleted some text between the above two sentence, which means that those two sentences may not be as connected as Perlmutter has made them appear by juxtaposing them. Perlmutter herself goes on to say:

    This contradicted his earlier testimony that vampires don’t kill and are expected to show the highest admiration for life. If vampires do not kill there would not be any knowledge of a distinctive vampiric modus operandi.

    There is a "distinctive vampiric modus operandi" in vampire fiction and in the 1970's "real vampire" books I mentioned earlier. Since most fictional vampires feed solely on blood, they need to consume it in large quantities, often large enough to kill their victims. On the other hand, the vast majority of real-life blood-drinkers are satisfied with much smaller quantities. In fact, the human digestive system can't handle a large quantity of undiluted fresh blood.

    Since Perlmutter has removed the context of Murphy's statement via her ellipsis, and since I haven't yet read the book myself, I don't yet know exactly what his point was. Offhand, I would guess his point was that there is no reason to call the murders "vampiric" even in a fictional sense, let alone in any sense mandated either by the Vampire scene as a whole or by his own teachings. In that case, he wasn't contradicing himself at all.

    Perlmutter then says:

    This case is just one of many that entail blood rituals and murder. It is simpler to relegate these crimes to aberrant behavior than to imagine that we are living in a sacrificial climate.

    American society as a whole is indeed, at least to some extent, "living in a sacrificial climate" (in Gans's and Girard's sense of the word "sacrificial"). Too many people - notably including Dawn Perlmutter herself - are way too quick to assume the guilt of people accused of crimes. (See my Comments on "The Forensics of Sacrifice: A Symbolic Analysis of Ritualistic Crime" (Fall 2003).) However, the BDSM and Vampire scenes are not more "sacrificial" than the rest of society. If anything, they are less so - especically the BDSM scene.

    If Perlmutter really wants to see a "living example of Girardian theory," she should take a close look at the "Satanic ritual abuse" scare itself - and the larger child sex abuse panic, of which the SRA scare was a part. Apparently she has given no serious consideration to the possibility that many probably-innocent people were sent to prison and that the accused themselves were the true "sacrificial" victims in this whole episode. (See my pages on "Satanism" scares and their debunking and The "Satanic Ritual Abuse" scare of the 1980's and early 1990's.)

    The SRA scare arose from a confluence of (1) anti-Satanism scaremongering by evangelical Christian hucksters, (2) the "recovered memory" fad, and (3) the excesses of the "child abuse survivors" movement, an outgrowth of the feminist movement. And, if there was ever a good example of a modern Western subculture in a perpetual state of something closely resembling "sacrificial crisis," the feminist movement of the 1970's was most definitely it. The levels of infighting, paranoia, and all-around malevolence were unbelievable. And indeed it resulted in plenty of "human sacrifice," albeit in the form of "trashing" (character assassination) rather than actual murder. (See Trashing: The Dark Side of Sisterhood by Jo Freeman (originally writing as "Joreen" in 1976), and The Tyranny of Structurelessness, also by Jo Freeman, in Classic Feminist Writings on the website of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union Herstory Project.) So, it should be no surprise that the feminist movement gave birth to another social movement which, in turn, helped to put hundreds of probably-innocent people in jail. It brings tears to my eyes to write this, for I myself was an ardent feminist back in the late 1970's and early 1980's. (I'm still a feminist, though feminism hasn't been one of my top priorities for a long time now, and I've become very skeptical of the many overgeneralizations made by many feminists. I still feel that the feminist movement has accomplished a great deal of good, though it has accomplished some great evils as well.)

    However, even the 1970's feminist movement wasn't in quite what René Girard would call a state of "sacrificial crisis," because feminists weren't actually, physically murdering each other. Here in the modern West, the only truly murderous subcultures are those founded on organized law-breaking - not just taboo-breaking. An example of a truly murderous subculture would be the world of drug gangs, which routinely murder their rivals because they have no better way to settle business disputes; they can't take each other to court, obviously. On the other hand, feminist publishers can sue each other for copyright infringement, and BDSM toymakers can sue each other for trademark or patent infringement. Likewise, law-abiding people in all taboo-breaking subcultures, including feminists, gays, BDSM people, Vampyres, and Satanists, can sue each other for libel if need be. Hence, in modern Western society, there is simply no reason why the breaking of cultural taboos should lead to outright murderous feuding within the subculture - although it might lead to lynching by bigoted outsiders.

    Interestingly, in a 2003 Religion News Service story (Spiritual sleuth studies violent religions to fight crime by Sharon Schlegel, on the Baptist Standard site, November 7, 2003), Perlmutter said that her career as a police consultant began when she correctly advised a cop friend-of-a-friend to look into the possibility that a certain murder had been committed by a criminal gang. (See my comments on this news story here.) Assuming she's telling the truth about this, it does seem plausible to me that her academic background might indeed have given her some real insights into the world of criminal gangs. Because the world of criminal gangs is indeed violent and outside the law, it seems to me that Girardian theory would be much more applicable to criminal gangs than to the "dark" subcultures.

    Now for the closing paragraph of Perlmutter's paper on "The Sacrificial Aesthetic: Blood Rituals from Art to Murder":

    Occult groups that practice ritual murder have an authentic understanding of the sacred nature of violence. You do not have to convince Vampyres or Satanists that humans are violent by nature; as living examples of Girardian theory, they fundamentally comprehend this.

    The vast majority of Vampyres and Satanists not only comprehend that humans are violent by nature, but also comprehend the role of law in restraining violence.

    This provides an explanation as to why the Elders and High Priests of these groups show no remorse for their killings. The reason why many of their followers recant is that they have been re-indoctrinated into mainstream ideology and subsequently view their actions as crimes as opposed to sacrifice.

    Which "many of their followers" is Dawn Perlmutter talking about here? Recovered memory therapy clients? Dawn Perlmutter seems to have bought into the entire "Satanic Ritual Abuse" scare without much if any question. (See my Comments on "The Forensics of Sacrifice: A Symbolic Analysis of Ritualistic Crime" (Fall 2003), and see also my collection of links about the SRA scare.) Therefore, any generalizations she might make about either "the Elders and High Priests of these groups" or "many of their followers" are highly questionable.

    It is dangerous to view occult criminal actions from a strictly psychological perspective that tends to categorize them as psychopathologies; this relative assumption gives the false impression that these are not logical, rational choices. It perpetuates the denial of occult crime and relegates the offender to the only socially comprehensible category, "the irrational other." Contemporary acts of inexplicable sacred violence are more effectively understood in what I refer to as "ritual anachronisms," which are violent actions that are inappropriate to, or not adapted to, the value system that they are enacted in. No matter how bizarre a murder may appear, it can always be situated as acceptable in some historical era or distant culture.

    Perhaps indeed "occult murders" (if/when they actually do occur) should be considered "ritual anachronisms." But this doesn't mean that they are anywhere nearly as common in today's society as Perlmutter believes. Nor does it mean that people who commit such crimes (in today's society) don't have something seriously wrong with them.

    Occult crimes are the natural result of the escalation of violent aesthetics that dispute moral values. Blood Art, Vampyre Culture, The Fetish Scene literally set the ritual stage for sacrifice.

    Her claim was that they "set the ritual stage for sacrifice" by instigating a "sacrificial crisis." As we have seen, the "dark" subcultures are not in a state of "sacrificial crisis."

    Ritual murder is the epitome of the sacrificial aesthetic freed from ethical responsibility to society.

    As we have seen, what she calls "violent aesthetics" is by no means necessarily the same thing as "the sacrificial aesthetic."

    Furthermore, the "dark" subcultures are by no means completely "freed from ethical responsibility to society." Although they are, at least to some extent, free to break mainstream cultural taboos, they nevertheless are still governed by the same laws as everyone else. Furthermore, as even Dawn Perlmutter has acknowledged, groups within the "dark" subcultures do have their own codes of what they consider to be responsible, ethical behavior.

    What begins as artists experimenting with the use of blood and mutilation as a form of personal transformation escalates to an entire culture founded on the principles of a dark mythology manifested in orgiastic ritual.

    As we have seen, the artists did not create the subcultures. They may well have helped, but they were only one factor.

    Once blood rituals turn participatory and ideologically justify sacrifice, idolatry is achieved.

    As far as I can tell so far, "idolatry" in Girardian theory means the worship of gods that demand either human or animal sacrifice. Nope, the vast majority of people in the "dark" subcultures do not worship gods that demand sacrifice. On the other hand, by what I understand to be Girard's definition, the majority of Christians do count as "idolators," given their sacrificial understanding of the Gospels.

  7. Claims about the Vampire scene in "The Forensics of Sacrifice"
  8. In addition to her Fall 1999 paper on The Sacrificial Aesthetic: Blood Rituals from Art to Murder, which I reviewed in detail above, Dawn Perlmutter also commented a bit on the Vampire scene again in her Fall 2003 paper The Forensics of Sacrifice: A Symbolic Analysis of Ritualistic Crime, though this latter paper is more about Satanism. (Regarding what the latter paper says about Satanism, see my comments here.)

    In her paper on ritualistic crime, the section on "Vampirism" begins with the sentence, "Vampirism, like other religions, consists of people who have committed themselves to an ideology, maintain ethical tenets within a hierarchical system, and participate in rituals specific to their clans."

    As mentioned earlier, there are many people in the Vampire community who do NOT belong to any of the Vampire religions. So, the Vampire scene as a whole is definitely not a religion with a specific ideology or hierarchical system. And only Vampyre lifestylers belong to "clans."

    She then writes: "Currently, there is a prevailing phenomenon of Modern Vampires whose serious commitment to their beliefs, community, and culture meet the criteria to be designated a contemporary new religious movement."

    Since not everyone in the Vampire scene belongs to one of the Vampire religions, I would call it a "social movement" rather than a "religious movement."

    She also writes, "There are many facets to Vampire culture, and members range from dabblers such as participants in role-playing games to the extremely devoted, who are referred to as "Real Vampires" within the Vampire community."

    Although some people in the Vampire scene are also into role-playing games, people who play role-playing games like Vampire: The Masquerade aren't necessarily involved in the Vampire community at all. Also, what makes a person a "Real Vampire" isn't devotion to anything. Different people in the Vampire scene will define "Real Vampire" differently, but usually it means a person with a craving to consume either blood or "energy" or both. However, please note her reference to "ethical tenets" - more about this later.

    Perlmutter then goes on to describe various groups briefly. She provides a bunch of URL's, including the URL of a code of ethics accepted by some groups, The Black Veil. Although Perlmutter doesn't bother to point this out, the "Black Veil" says things like, "If you engage in blood-letting, put safety and caution above all other things," and that "donors" should be respected and never mistreated.

    Then, at the end of the section on "Vampirism," she writes:

    Vampirism, the most recent manifestation of the occult, has led to many crimes, ranging from vandalism to murder. Vampire culture is relevant to law enforcement because many juveniles and young adults dabbling in the Goth movement are seduced into the more serious level of the subculture, the Vampire and Fetish Scenes, where blood rituals, sexual sadomasochism, and bondage discipline are regular occurrences. The dangers implicit in drinking and exchanging blood and violent sexual activities are more insidious when they are viewed as sacred rituals that are required for initiation, membership, and status in the group. Example of murders committed by juveniles and young adults who embraced a variety of vampire theologies are found in the ritualistic crimes section.

    In "Part 2: Ritualistic Crimes," there's a section on "Animal sacrifice," which begins as follows:

    Animal sacrifice is practiced by believers in Satanism, Santeria, Voodoo, Palo Mayombe, and Vampirism, as well as by young serial killers. The symbolic objects at the crime scene, types of mutilation, and other forensic evidence generally indicate which belief system is practiced.

    In Santeria, Voodoo, and Palo Mayombe, animal sacrifice is a fundamental aspect of the belief system and ritually required as offerings to the gods. For most Satanic and Vampire religions, animal sacrifice is viewed more as an assimilation of power through the torture, pain, and blood of the victim and frequently escalates to larger animals and occasionally humans.

    The above is, most definitely, not true for "most" Satanic or Vampire religions, the vast majority of which want their adherents to be law-abiding. She then says, further down in that section:

    Although animal sacrifice for Santeria and Voodoo is disturbing to persons unfamiliar with these practices, it pales in comparison to animal sacrifice that occurs for particular Satanic and Vampire religions. In syncretic religions animals are sacrificed by either quickly slitting their throats or by snapping their necks; at worst, the heads of pigeons or other birds may be bitten off by the Priest. However, in Satanism animals are slowly tortured and heinously mutilated. In most occult traditions blood is believed to consist of life force energy. For Satanic and Vampire religions bloodletting or imbibing blood from a victim represents the assimilation of raw power. The longer an animal is tortured and the pain is prolonged, the more life energy/power is emitted. Ritual torture is viewed as a powerful form of magic that releases energy that can be directed by the perpetrator and used for specific goals. A basic magical principle is that intense emotion releases energy; in nonviolent groups such as neo-paganism this emotional energy is achieved through sexual magic and in traditional Satanism it is achieved through pain. In many cases traditional Satanic and Vampire practitioners will commit sexually sadistic acts to increase their power by harnessing the energy of their victim.

    She does not produce even a single example whatsoever of Vampires torturing or killing nonhuman animals. The above assertions are completely unsupported regarding Vampires.

    The next section, on "Ritual Homicide," begins: "The most controversial crime committed for religious purposes is human sacrifice. Currently, Palo Mayombe practitioners, Satanists, Vampires, and serial killers have been linked to ritual murders."

    Later in that first paragraph, she writes:

    The following cases of ritual murders are described in the context of the perpetrator’s belief system. Arguments that these crimes were actually the result of disturbed, dysfunctional, or disenfranchised individuals are the result of Western behavioral scientific theories which marginalize the offenders as deviants or "others." This perspective hinders the investigation, prosecution, and prevention of ritualistic crimes and frankly only serves to help its proponents sleep better at night. Understanding the religious beliefs of the perpetrators is essential to analyzing ritualistic crime.

    She then describes several murders committed by people she says are Satanists, and then a couple of murders by people she says are Vampires.

    But she then admits, "In all of the previously mentioned cases the perpetrators’ method of operation is indicative of "dabbling.""

    Thus, she has not produced even a single example of a "Vampire murder" by someone who was not a "dabbler." Yet she has vilified the entire Vampire community based on the actions of a few people who, by her own admission, have had very little connection with that community but have only "dabbled" in it.

    Near the end, she says:

    Human sacrifice involving the killing of humans and/or the use of the flesh, blood, or bones of the human body for ritual purposes has been a widespread and complex phenomenon throughout history. The examples above of juveniles who conducted blood rituals, cannibalism, and ritual murder demonstrate that even dabblers have a fundamental understanding of sacrificial practices. The significant ideology behind sacrificial ritual is that blood consists of life force energy and constitutes the highest offering to the gods or ancestors. In specific occult worship, bloodletting or imbibing blood from a victim represents the assimilation of raw power. Additionally, the longer a victim is tortured and the pain is prolonged, the more life energy/power is emitted. In this manner, ritual torture, cannibalism, and homicide make up a contemporary act of human sacrifice that is for the perpetrator a sacred communion meal in which the power of life is assimilated and regenerated; it is a way of achieving immortality and/or becoming a god by unifying the divine and the mortal.

    Again, no examples or evidence regarding Vampires who aren't "dabblers." She just goes on to say, in that same paragraph, as if she thinks the following somehow proves her point:

    The theology of many contemporary occult groups describes their most sacred rituals in sacrificial terms. For example, The Temple of the Vampire claims that Genuine Vampirism is the exchange of energy between the Living Vampires and the Undead Gods in a holy ritual that the Temple refers to as Vampiric Communion. Through this Communion the person gets closer to the Gods, develops higher levels of Vampiric skills, and ultimately achieves immortality by becoming an Undead God.

    But the above doesn't involve killing, of either humans or nonhuman animals. Nor does it involve any other crimes.

    Insofar as it can be considered "sacrificial" at all, it is "sacrificial" only in a symbolic sense, like the Christian Eucharist. Oops - I forgot - Roman Catholics consider the Mass to be a literal sacrifice, thanks to "Transubstantiation." Be that as it may, using reasoning like Perlmutter's, one could, with as much justification, accuse the vast majority of Christians of being cannibals. Indeed, on exactly such specious grounds, Christians were accused of cannibalism in ancient Rome.

    Elsewhere in her article on "The Forensics of Sacrifice," in "Part 3: Symbolic Analysis," Perlmutter professes concern "that alternative religions that practice legal albeit unfamiliar rituals are not stigmatized as criminal." However, as we have seen, Perlmutter herself has been overwhelmingly eager to stigmatize, as criminal, various mostly law-abiding subcultures which practice "legal albeit unfamiliar rituals" that she personally happens to find spooky. Worse yet, she imagines that her philosophical background has qualified her to "understand" these subcultures, when, in fact, her philosophical background has utterly misled her regarding the social dynamics of the "dark" subcultures. If you want to understand a subculture, there is no substitute for studying the variety of beliefs within it, in much greater depth than Perlmutter has evidently done, or for getting to know a veriety of people in the subculture, on a more than superficial level.

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