Bestiality (or zoophilia) is a paraphilia defined as an affinity, attraction or sexual attraction by a human to non-human animals. Because this topic deals openly about about the nature of bestiality, it is intended for mature audiences only.

While moral and clinical descriptions of bestiality differ, Pet-Abuse.Com takes the position that bestiality is sexual assault of an animal and is always a crime.

Amazingly, there are still several states in which bestiality is legal. In those situations where the prosecutors do not have specific bestiality laws to use in their case, we recommend exploring the cruelty to animals statues: if it can be proved that the animal was made to suffer, you can use those laws where the bestiality laws may be lacking (or missing outright).

The following is reprinted from:
The Animals' Agenda
P.O. Box 25881 Baltimore, MD 21224
(410) 675-4566

The term bestiality actually tells us much more about cultural attitudes toward animals than it does about sex with animals. Concern about bestiality generally focuses on human beings; thus experts tell us it is usually harmless while debating its frequency. If we call it forced sex with animals, we reclaim the animal's perspective as a central concern. It is more prevalent than we can measure and is not harmless; it is always animal abuse.

The American Heritage Dictionary, to cite just one example, defines bestiality as "the quality or condition of being an animal or like an animal; conduct or an action marked by depravity or brutality; or sexual relations between a human being and an animal." Sex with an animal is the last definition of bestiality, while the first two definitions remind us of our culture's general low regard for animals. The multiple meanings for bestiality are part of the problem, implying that bestiality itself is animal behavior. It keeps the "beast" in bestiality. (See sidebar "Acting Like an Animal.") Animals do not have a distinction between public versus private.

Often, people read animals' sexuality as shameless (and inviting) because animals act sexually in "public." They are then viewed as accessible because they have acted in a public manner.

Acting like an Animal

For many centuries negative attitudes toward sexuality have been registered by viewing sex as something that resulted from one's base instincts, that is, as something that reduced a human being to an animal. During the Middle Ages when capital punishment was prescribed for both the animals and the human involved in bestiality many people thought that the serpent in the Garden of Eden had introduced Eve to sex. This belief led to a debate about whether Eve and the serpent had actually had intercourse, and left the strong impression that sexual intercourse itself was bestial. Acting sexually was thus considered acting like an animal. This attitude is evident today when aggressive sexual behavior is referred to as "bringing out the beast in one" or "wolfish behavior" or "animal passions." Indeed, it appears that one reason the missionary position was upheld as the position for intercourse was because it was accomplished face to face rather than face to back, as most animals did it. C.J.A. In its narrowest sense, bestiality involves intercourse, either vaginal or anal, with an animal; but bestiality can also include oral-genital contact of any kind between humans and animals.

The animals who people have access to are the animals who will be sexually used: cats, dogs, sheep, cows, hens, rabbits, goats, ducks, horses, bulls, fishes. Proximity allows for sexual access. This is the primary reason gorillas, chimpanzees, and others are not prevalent sex objects: they are not animals to whom humans have regular access. Many forms of sexual contact between humans and animals are physically destructive to the animals. Few vaginas, especially those of young animals, are large enough to accommodate the penis of a male Homo sapiens. Furthermore, small animals often experience torn rectums and internal bleeding after being sexually assaulted; chickens and rabbits are often killed by the act itself. Sadistic sexual behavior against animals also occurs. Chickens are frequently decapitated because this intensifies the convulsions of the sphincter, thereby increasing the sexual pleasure of the man. Even when it does not involve sadism, bestiality is animal abuse because it is forced sex.

Silence is a major problem. Unlike most forms of sexual contact, in which either partner can report the experience, only one of the participants in bestiality can talk; and because of the stigma surrounding bestiality, that party usually remains silent. Since bestiality is most often something that occurs in private, no one need ever learn about it. So we do not know how widespread it is. Several attempts have been made to uncover an accurate rate of human attempts to have forced sex with animals: by the German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing in the 1880s, in the U.S. by Alfred Kinsey and his colleagues in the late 1940s and, more recently, by sociologists at the University of Chicago in 1994. These studies have variously estimated that the percentage of males who engage in bestiality is between one and 65 percent. This wide range probably reflects less about how often bestiality occurs than it does about how bestiality is defined and measured as well as different levels of confidence in answers given by respondents when interviewed either in person or in anonymous questionnaires. In short, we can say almost nothing about the percentage of the population that engages in bestiality.

There are three kinds of sex that humans impose on animals: Opportunistic or safety-valve sex, fixated sex, and domineering sex.

Types of sex with Animals

  1. Opportunistic or Safety-Valve sex: "I need a sexual release... they're available... there are no human partners around... I'll get it with an animal."

  2. Fixated Sex: Animals become love objects and are the exclusive sexual "partners" for a human.
  3. Domineering sex: When batterers, rapists and pornographers force sex between a human and an animal for purposes of humiliation, sexual exploitation, dominance and control. C.J.A. Safety-valve sex is often seen as a casual act of the curious young, as sexual exploration rather than deviancy.

The notion of bestiality as a safety valve that operates until the (usually young) men are ready for women leads one to ask whether the women to whom these young men graduate are not safety valves, too. Moreover, this form of bestiality is not a harmless aberration. Animals are harmed in safety-valve bestiality, and humans learn that it is okay to treat others as safety valves. In the second kind of bestiality, fixated sex, an animal becomes the exclusive focus of a human's sexual desires. Although many medical terms have been applied to a fixation on sex with animals, those who engage in this kind of sex prefer to be known as "zoophiles," a word borrowed, ironically, from the animal protection community. The zoophile's worldview is similar to the rapist's and child sexual abuser's. They all view the sex they have with their victims as consensual, and they believe it benefits their sexual "partners" as well as themselves.

Just as pedophiles differentiate between those who abuse children and those who love children placing themselves, of course, in the latter group zoophiles distinguish between animal sexual abusers (bestialists) and those who love animals (zoophiles). In each of these cases the distinctions are only self-justifications.

Whatever the frequency of bestiality, it has its own newsgroup on the Internet (, which provides chilling examples of the bestialist's world. One person described having sex with stray dogs and then dropping them off at animal shelters. Another reported episodes of bestiality that occurred while dog sitting for a friend. A third described having sex with his half-Percheron horse.

One cannot talk very long about sex with animals without noticing the gender issues: Men are more likely to do it. Women are more likely to be depicted or to be forced into doing it. This type of bestiality, domineering sex, has long been used by batterers to degrade their partners. Battered women's shelters around the country receive reports from women who were forced to have sex with animals. One woman reported that her husband would tie her up and force her to have intercourse with their family dog. Then he would try to have intercourse with the dog while he forced the dog inside his wife. Forced sex with trained dogs was a form of torturing Jewish women in Nazi Germany; it was recently used against female political prisoners in Chile. Bestiality involving women occupies an entire genre in pornography.

Bears, snakes, dogs, and insects to name just a few species of animals have been photographed or videotaped in a variety of sexual and sexualized positions with women. sex "clubs" around the globe offer live scenes of sex between women and animals. Some towns along the U.S./Mexican border feature shows "starring" women and donkeys. Women of color are often depicted with animals as a way of enforcing the racist notion that women of color are insatiable. Through pornography, dogs, snakes, and other animals, help a man picture himself in the scene. What the pornography consumer claims to be fantasy, we must regard as documentation of harm: a real woman must have a real snake inside her for a photograph of a snake inside her to exist, a real woman must give oral sex to a real bear in order for a photograph of a woman giving oral sex to a bear to exist.

In addition to being used as a means of degrading women, bestiality figures in racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and of course, attitudes toward animals. The imputation of bestiality has been used to portray a specific group of people as "others," to distance them from those making the charges. Sometimes miscegenation (the mixing of races) is referred to as bestiality. One group of American white supremacists believes that Jews are descended from Cain, himself the offspring of Eve's coupling with the snake, while Christians are descended from Abel, the child of Eve and Adam. European colonizers and American slave owners believed that African women enjoyed intercourse with apes. European women charged with being witches were accused of sexual congress with animals, and they and their animal companions were killed.

During the Middle Ages, Christians viewed intercourse with Jews as a form of bestiality. Earlier this year, an Israeli judicial official compared homosexuality to bestiality. This comparison occurred, most probably, because homosexuality and bestiality are listed together in Leviticus 18:23 and 20:15-16. Like masturbation, homosexuality and bestiality are forms of non-procreative sex. During a time when childbearing was central to a people's survival, all forms of non-procreative sex would be condemned. Bestiality also violated the order of creation by mixing categories human and animal that were meant to be separate and distinct.

Recent views of bestiality as fairly benign have replaced these earlier reactions, but no matter what the prevailing view of bestiality, it does not consider the animals' perspectives at all. It is always animal abuse. Relationships of unequal power cannot be consensual. In human-animal relationships, the human being has control of many if not all of the aspects of an animals' well being. Sexual relationships should occur between peers where consent is possible.

Consent is when one can say no, and that no is accepted. Clearly animals cannot do that. Bestiality is the model case of circumventing consent on the one hand, while confusing affection for consent on the other. Despite the omnipresence of animals in pornographic pictures and videos, the animal protection community has yet to identify bestiality as an animal abuse issue.

Bestiality has been studiously avoided by those who should be discussing it animal rights activists, veterinarians, anti-cruelty law enforcement agents, and feminists.

Carol J. Adams Carol J. Adams, author of The sexual Politics of Meat , is the co-editor with Josephine Donovan of Beyond Animals Rights: A Feminist Caring Ethic for the Treatment of Animals (Continuum 1996) and Animals and Women: Feminist Theoretical Explorations (Duke 1995). Copyright 1995 by Carol J. Adams The Animals' Agenda INVESTIGATIVE Reporting Fund

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