Via Violet Blue comes this fascinating article at Scientific American about zoophilia, a.k.a. bestiality. Jesse Bering examines the evidence that zoophilia is a "legitimate sexual orientation." If you're not interested in feeling any sympathy for zoophiles—or recognizing their humanity (zoomanity?)—don't read Bering's piece.
But the stereotypical portrait of the zoophile as a woman-deprived, down-on-the-farm, and poorly educated male is presently being challenged by some contemporary findings. The most fascinating of these, in my opinion, is a set of two case studies published by University of Montreal psychologist Christopher Earls and his colleague Martin Lalumière, of the University of Lethbridge. The first case study appeared in 2002 in the journal Sexual Abuse and documented the story of a low-IQ’ed, antisocial, fifty-four-year-old convict who had a strong sexual interest in horses. In fact, this was why he was in prison for the fourth time on related offenses; in the latest incident, he had cruelly killed a mare out of jealousy because he thought she’d been giving eyes to a certain stallion. (You thought you had issues.) The man’s self-reported sexual interest in mares was actually verified by a controlled, phallometric study. When hooked up to a penile plethysmograph and shown nude photos of all varieties and ages of humans, the man was decidedly flaccid. Nothing happening down there either when he looked at slides of cats, dogs, sheep, chickens, or cows. But he certainly wasn’t impotent, as the researchers clearly observed when the subject was shown images of horses.
This case and related anecdotal evidence reported by the authors (including a 1950’s study of a sixteen-year-old “imbecile” who sexually preferred rabbits to women) were important at the time because they suggested that zoophilia may be an extraordinarily rare—but real—type of minority sexual orientation. That is to say, for some people, having sex with their animal “lovers” may amount to more than just substituting human sex with the next best thing. Rather, for them, sex with nonhuman animals is the best thing.
The standard bestiality-is-always-wrong argument—one I've deployed for years—is that animals can't consent, so... you know... fucking animals is wrong. We are not, however, at all concerned with consent when we want to have an animal for dinner or skinning one for a pair of assless chaps. So our sudden concern with consent when it comes to human/animal sex—which most animals survive (and some humans do not)—seems a little convenient and a lot hypocritical. We would all be vegans in canvas shoes if we gave a shit about an animal's consent. (And our chaps would all be made out of rubber.) And where does the consent argument go if the science shows that some animals are orientated towards humans?
And having had an orangutan rudely thrust his penis into my ear, a chimpanzee in estrus forcibly back her swollen anogenital region into my midsection (“Darling,” I said, “not only are you the wrong species, but the wrong sex”), and more dogs than I care to mention mount my leg, I know that it’s not only humans who are at risk of misreading sexual interest in other species. The Arabian stallion that impaled a Seattle man with its erect penis in 2005, fatally perforating the man’s colon, makes one wonder who the victim really was.
And if zoophilia occurs in certain members of our own species, could members of other species be aroused primarily by humans? In Maurice Temerlin’s 1973 book about his chimpanzee “daughter” titled Lucy: Growing up Human (Science and Behavior Books), the author claims that, once she reached sexual maturity, the chimp was only interested sexually in human males. Temerlin, a psychotherapist, even bought Lucy a Playgirl magazine and found her rubbing her genitals on the full-page spread of a naked man.
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