NEW YORK — In Internet chats as breezy as they were bizarre, a police officer accused of plotting to kidnap and eat as many as 100 women was once cautioned not to be wasteful when cooking a victim because ‘‘there is nearly 75 pounds of food there.’’
But no one was ever actually harmed in Gilberto Valle’s alleged plot, let alone eaten. And a defense attorney says the officer was merely engaging in harmless Internet fantasy.
Where exactly the line is drawn between bizarre talk and a true plot has emerged as the key question in a case that has shocked even the most jaded New Yorkers.
Indeed, experts say many people have a compulsion to create horrific scenarios about cannibalism, and that the Internet allows them to indulge in their dark side anonymously and — usually — safely.
‘‘There is a big difference between discussing, and even fantasizing, about this type of activity and actually carrying it out,’’ said Jeffrey Parsons, a psychologist at Hunter College. ‘‘Not all the people who fantasize about it will go on to carry it out.’’
One website called ‘‘Devoured’’ — devoted to a fetish called ‘‘vore”— is almost comical in its approach, saying it’s ‘‘where everyone’s on the menu.’’
The site defines ‘‘vore’’ as a sexual interest that ‘‘occurs from the idea of being eaten whole and alive, eating another alive, or watching this process.’’
A chat room named ‘‘Yum Chat’’ spells out strict rules for participation: ‘‘In-character taunting between predator and prey that’s all in good fun as part a role play is just fine, but player to player attacks’’ aren’t allowed.
The online banter attributed to Valle is not characteristic of a sexual disorder, but more indicative of some type of psychotic behavior or a personality disorder, Parsons said.
‘‘Certainly, there are people who are going to sort of address a disorder or problem by letting it out, by venting,’’ he said. ‘‘They think, ‘If I can express, let it out in an e-mail, or a chat, that’s satisfying enough, I don’t have to go out and engage in that behavior.’ ’’
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly declined to comment Friday on a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan.
Valle is a six-year NYPD veteran, a college graduate, and father of an infant child.
At a bail hearing on Thursday, defense attorney Julia Gatto argued that he never posed a threat. Charges of kidnapping with the intent to murder are overblown, she said.
Her client ‘‘at worst is someone who has sexual fantasies about people he knows and he talks about it on the Internet, but not act on it,’’ she said.