Zoophilia and Bestiality

What is Zoophilia?

Zoophilia describes the feelings of sexual arousal or sexual preference for non-human animals. This form of sexual arousal is considered a paraphilia, or a condition characterized by atypical sexual desires. The actual act of engaging in sexual intercourse with animals is known as bestiality, thus an individual can be a zoophile without engaging in bestiality, such as through fantasizing or other sexual acts. Zoophilia is generally considered non-consensual sex because animals are not capable of giving affirmative consent, which is necessary in all sexual situations. Sexual acts with animals can lead to various risks, mainly physical, to both the animal and participant. Due to the information above, bestiality is considered a form of animal cruelty and is illegal in many parts of the world.

 

Terminology

As mentioned above, Zoophilia is defined as a paraphilia involving a sexual fixation on non-human animals. Bestiality is defined as cross-species sexual activity between human and non-human animals. The terms are often used interchangeably; however, many argue that the distinction is important given that zoophilia is defined by attraction whereas bestiality is defined by the act itself.4 ‘Zoophile’ is the term used to describe those with a sexual fetish towards animals, and these individuals can also identify as ‘zoophiles’ or ‘zoosexuals’. ‘Zoosexual’ was introduced by Hani Miletski as a more value-neutral term than zoophile.5 ‘Zoosexuality’ is often the vernacular used by self-identified zoophiles in support groups and internet forums.5 Within the zoophilia community, there is a further distinction between a ‘bestiosexual’, those who rape or abuse animals for their own pleasure and gratification, and zoophiles, who value the welfare and pleasure of the animal.6 The term ‘zoophilia’ was first coined by Krafft-Ebing in Psychopathia Sexulias (1886) to describe the violation of animals.7 The term is derived from the Greek words ‘zoion’, meaning animals, and ‘philia’, meaning love. 

Frequency

Sex with animals is not as rare as one would think. A study done in the 1940s found that nearly 50% of boys raised on a farm in America experienced at least one sexual encounter with an animal, and 17% of those interactions led to orgasm. Within this study, zoophilia was significantly less prevalent among females, with only 3.6% of the subjects recalling zoophilic encounters.² It is important to state that zoophilic disorders are only diagnosed if a sexual attraction or sexual relations with animals persists until after adolescence. This is a standard requirement in the DSM-V for diagnosing paraphilic disorders.¹ The statistics presented above are prone to error, given the lack of research and surveying into bestiality. This lack of data can be attributed to the stigmatized nature of zoophilia in addition to a lack of laws that require entities such as animal control agencies, veterinarians, and law enforcement to report statistics on criminal acts involving animals.

Reasons for Engaging in Bestiality

Individuals may engage in bestiality because they have difficulty forming healthy sexual relationships with humans. Many of those who engage in bestiality lose, or have never had, a desire to have sex with humans. Alternatively, the animal may be used like a sex toy because it provides sensations similar to human sexual stimulation. In this instance, the animal is not viewed as a loving partner but as an object that can be used for sexual gratification.

However, zoophiles experience genuine feelings of affection toward animals that are symptomatic of interpersonal sexuality. For example, one study using penile plethysmography found that one man experienced his strongest sexual arousing while viewing images of horses. For this study, researches attached a special device to the man’s penis which allowed them to track the volume of blood in his penis. Then, they showed him a series of images and used the blood volume data to evaluate his degree of physiological arousal in response to each image. His arousal for images of horses was even stronger than it was for humans. Another zoosexual stated in a first-person account that feelings of romantic intimacy, not just physical pleasure, were an important part of his zoophilia.² 

In the majority of cases, bestiality is not a complete representation of one’s sexual activity and is usually a phase or isolated incident experienced as an adolescent. These encounters can typically be explained by curiosity or inexperience. Distinct from zoophilia and bestiality is faunoiphilia, a paraphilia which is described as feelings of sexual arousal when viewing animals mating. According to research, faunoiphilia is believed to be an indicator of latent zoophilia and voyeuristic zoophilia.8 Sexual fantasies regarding zoophilic behavior can occur in people who have no desire to experience these fantasies in real life. Fantasizing about a sexual experience with animals is not always a direct indicator of zoophilia, as the fantasy itself may merely be an escape from cultural expectations, restrictions, judgments about sex, or an attempt at adding novelty into one’s sexual fantasies. In fact, several studies have found that people with vaginas show stronger vaginal responses to videos showing bonobo’s mating than to non-sexual stimuli.9

Classifying Zoophilia

Zoophilia can be difficult to classify in relation to other paraphilias because there is very little research available. There are a number of reasons for this lack of research. To begin with, the relative rarity of zoophiles and the social stigmatization surrounding them make it difficult for researchers to find willing participants in their studies. Perhaps a more immediate obstacle, however, is the mainstream sociological trend of overlooking zoophilia. In the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), zoophilia is classified under the general category of “Other Specified Paraphilic Disorder”. ¹ The term is left vague, with no specification in the diagnostic criteria regarding the purpose, circumstances, or sexual acts of zoophilic behavior. The Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine is more specific with their classification of zoophilia, claiming that there are several kinds of zoophiles including: human-animal role-players, romantic zoophiles, zoophilic fantasizers, tactile zoophiles, fetishistic zoophiles, sadistic zoophiles, opportunistic zoophiles, regular zoophiles, and exclusive zoophiles. According to the journal, romantic zoophiles, zoophilic fantasizers, and regular zoophiles are the most common while sadistic and opportunistic zoophiles are the least common.10 

Legality

Although acts of bestiality are frowned upon by most cultures, it is interesting to note that there is no federal law against bestiality within the United States. Instead, this legal matter is considered a state’s right. As of 2017, bestiality is illegal in 45 states. A majority of the laws that rule against bestiality are often enacted after specific trigger incidents.11 For example, Washington State only outlawed the practice in 2005 after a 45-year-old man died from injuries he sustained while having sex with a stallion. Five years later, the court used this newly enacted law against a man who had kept four stallions and seven male dogs for sexual purposes. He received three years of imprisonment, and an acquaintance of his who had committed bestiality at the same location received three months.²  

Within the EU, Finland, Hungary, and Romania are the only countries where zoophilia remains legal. Across other parts of the world, specifically Northern Africa and East and Southeast Asia, the legality of bestiality remains unclear or unaddressed. This legal grey space surrounding zoophilia is incredibly common, and most laws that address zoophilia employ vague terms such as ‘sodomy’ or ‘bestiality’ with no specific reference to what these legal terms entail. Currently, the countries outside of the EU in which bestiality is legal are Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Mexico, Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, Russia, and Turkey.11 

Zoophilic Pornography

Pornography involving sex with animals is widely illegal in most countries today. The legality of pornography can be further dissected into three categories: the production, the sale and transportation, and the ownership of said pornography.12 In general, the production and creation of zoophilic pornography is legal as long as zoophilia is legal in the place of origin. Laws regarding the sale, transportation, and ownership of zoophilic pornography vary greatly across countries. Within the United States, pornography depicting animals is not considered illegal under federal or state law unless it meets the criteria as listed by the Miller Test, which determines whether obscene material has artistic value. Thus, the production and possession of animal pornography appear to be legal under US federal law. Today, pornography containing bestiality is widely distributed through the internet. Before wide access to online pornography, magazines such as Playboy were responsible for selling anonymous publications depicting sex with animals. Today, a majority of zoophilic material is produced in Hungary given its laws in regard to bestiality. In Japan, animal pornography is often used to bypass censorship laws; because of this, there exist large quantities of zoophilic material, specifically of female models performing fellatio on animals.12 The United Kingdom is home to some of the strictest legislation regarding animal pornography. According to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act of 2008, the possession of realistic pornographic images—including fake ones—depicting sex with animals is illegal. Those that violate this law can face up to two years in prison. 

Physical Risks of Beastility

Many physical risks and consequences are associated with the act of bestiality. These risks are dependent on many factors including the species of the animal. One risk associated with bestiality is the contraction of zoonoses, which are infections that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Zoonoses can be exposed to humans through contact with semen, vaginal fluids, urine, feces, blood, and saliva. Examples of prominent zoonoses include toxocariasis and Q fever. In addition to this, there have been some cases of allergic reactions to animal semen resulting in anaphylaxis. Perhaps the most common consequence of bestiality is the risk of physical trauma such as biting or trampling by the animal as well as associated trauma from penetration. In 2005, a 45-year-old Seattle man discussed above as well was admitted to a hospital and declared dead after his colon was perforated while engaging in sexual intercourse with a horse.13 

It is important that the physical risks of bestiality for humans are not the only risks considered. Bestiality poses very real physical risks to participating animals as well, including death. Sexual contact with humans, especially penetration, can cause animals internal injury, infection, friction wounds, tearing, and general wounds or injury on their body. Animals may also suffer from behavioral harm which can impact their functioning after the sexual occurrence. 

The Morality Debate

There has been much debate regarding the morality and ethics surrounding bestiality. The dominant view in society is one of animal welfare. Most people follow the notion that bestiality is harmful to animals because animals are unable to give consent. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) believes that all sexual activity between humans and animals is inherently abusive, even in cases where the animal is not physically harmed. HSUS states that in order for affirmative consent to occur, all participants need to be conscious, fully informed and positive in their desires, which is unable to be communicated between humans and animals.14

On the other hand, defenders of bestiality claim that consent is subjective when it comes to animal welfare, given that there are many legal practices such as slaughtering, laboratory testing, artificial insemination and others, which do not require the consent of animals.15 Those who support bestiality argue that as long as there is no physical harm to the animal, bestiality can be beneficial to both involved parties. Others in support of bestiality claim that animals are capable of sexual consent given that many animals initiate sexual encounters with humans, such as dogs humping the leg of their owner. According to one survey, a majority of zoophiles believe that bestiality is not abusive–  many zoophiles even consider themselves to be animal welfare advocates.16 

Treatment for Zoophilia

Treatment for zoophilia should be sought out if one’s desires, fantasies, and lifestyle cause distress to the individual or affect aspects of their life such as interpersonal relationships. As mentioned previously, fantasizing about sexual encounters with animals is common and not always an indicator of a disorder. 

 Zoophilia is often associated with a variety of other paraphilias. Therefore, the treatment for zoophilia is similar to that of other paraphilias. Much of the treatment for zoophilia is adopted from sex offender literature given the lack of information regarding the zoophile population.2 Treatment options include cognitive therapy, aversion therapy, and drug regimens such as Lupron or hormonal treatment.²  Because of the lack of research and knowledge on zoophilia, more research should be done in order to properly diagnose and treat zoophiles in a helpful, ethical, and well-understood manner. 

Concluding Remarks

Zoophilia is a paraphilia in which an individual receives sexual arousal when fantasizing about or feels desires to engage in the act of having sex with animals. A form of zoophilia that defines the actual act of sexual intercourse or sexual activity with an animal is called bestiality. Despite being a highly stigmatized fetish, there are a number of people who have reported engaging in this behavior, yet the statistics regarding the exact population of zoophiles or those who engage in bestiality is unknown. There are laws in place, however, the majority of legality regarding bestiality and zoophilia is difficult to uncover or understand in clear, legal terms. The morality of zoophilia and bestiality is highly debated amongst the world and the community itself. Given the associated physical, social, and behavioral risks, zoophiles may seek treatment. If a person is experiencing distress from zoophilic fantasies or behaviors, it is encouraged to seek help or advice from a mental health professional. 

References

  1. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. 5th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2013. Print.
  2. LeVay, Simon, Janice I. Baldwin, and John D. Baldwin. Discovering Human Sexuality. 2nd ed. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 2012. Print.
  3. WHO. “International Classification of Diseases (ICD).” WHO. World Health Organization, 2010. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.
  4. Ranger, R.; Fedoroff, P.. “Commentary: Zoophilia and the Law”Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online. 2014.
  5. Beetz, Andrea M. “Beastiality and Zoophilia: A Discussion of Sexual Contact With Animals”. In Ascione, Frank (ed.). The International Handbook of Animal Abuse and Cruelty: Theory, Research, and Application. 2010.
  6. Melinda Roth “All Opposed, Say Neigh”Riverfront Times. 1991.
  7. Richard von Krafft-Ebing: “Psychopathia Sexualis”. 1857.
  8. Aggrawal, Anil. F’orensic and medico-legal aspects of sexual crimes and unusual sexual practices. CRC Press, 2008.
  9. Chivers, Meredith L.; Seto, Michael C.; Blanchard, Ray  “Gender and sexual orientation differences in sexual response to sexual activities versus gender of actors in sexual films”Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2007.
  10. Aggrawal, Anil (2011). “A new classification of zoophilia”. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine.2011.
  11. “Table of State Animal Sexual Assault Laws | Animal Legal & Historical Center”Animallaw.info. 2016.
  12. Langman, L. “Grotesque Degradation: Globalization, Carnivalization, and Cyberporn”. Readings on Sex, Pornography, and the Internet. 2014
  13. Man dies after sex with horse“. News24, July 2005.
  14. “The First Strike Campaign: ANIMAL SEXUAL ABUSE FACT SHEET”NManimalControl.com. 2007
  15. Lucas, Wachob “Column: In defense of chicken ‘lovers’ – The Breeze: Columnists”. 2011
  16. Bering,. “Animal Lovers: Zoophiles Make Scientists Rethink Human Sexuality | Bering in Mind, Scientific American Blog Network”Scientific American. 2010.

Last updated: 3 June 2020.