Animal passions: The strange world of zoophilia

Of all the sexual paraphilias, arguably the two most repelling are necrophilia (covered in a previous blog) and zoophilia. Zoophilia (also more commonly know as bestiality) is typically defined as relating to recurrent intense sexual fantasies, urges and sexual activities with non-human animals.

The Kinsey Reports (of 1948 and 1953) arguably shocked its readers when it reported that 8% of males and 4% females had at least one sexual experience with an animal. As with necrophiliacs who are often employed in jobs that provide regular contact with dead people, the Kinsey Reports provided much higher prevalence for zoophilic acts among those who worked on farms (for instance, 17% males had experienced an orgasmic episode involving animals). The most frequent sexual acts engaged in with animals comprised calves, sheep, donkeys, large fowl (ducks, geese), dogs and cats. Males were most likely to engage in penile-vaginal intercourse or to have their genitals orally stimulated by the animals. Female zoophilia was most likely to involve household pets licking genitals. Less commonly, women have trained dogs to mount them and engage in intercourse. The sexologist Professor John Money asserted that zoophilic behaviours were usually transitory occurring when there is no other sexual outlet available.

The most recent studies of zoophilia since 2000 have typically collected their data online from non-clinical samples. This has included studies by Dr Andrea Beetz (University of Erlangen, Germany; 32 zoophiles), Dr Colin Williams and Dr Martin Weinberg (of Indiana University, USA; 114 zoophiles), and Dr Hani Miletski (Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, San Francisco, USA; 93 zoophiles). For instance, Hani Miletski used the internet to find zoophiles, and recruited them via advertisements in a zoophile magazine (i.e., Wild Animal Review). These studies all reported that both male and female self-identified zoophiles were attracted to animals out of either a desire for affection, a sexual attraction toward, and/or a love for animals. Many of the zoophiles in these three studies had a preference for sex with non-human animals.

Miletski’s study comprised 82 male and 11 female zoophiles. The most reported sexual fantasies of the sample were having sex with animals (76 % males and 45% females) and watching other humans have sex with animals (35% males and 40% females). The reasons that men said they engaged in sex with animals was sexual attraction to the animal (91%), love and affection for the animal (74%), the animals being accepting and easy to please (67%). Only 12% said it was because no human partners were available, and only 7% said it was because they were too shy to have sex with humans. For the females, the main reasons for having sex with animals was because they were sexually attracted to the animal (100%), love and affection for the animal (67%) and because they said the animal wanted it (67%). Most of the sample preferred sex with dogs (87% males; 100% females) and/or horses (81% males; 73% females). Only 8% of males wanted to stop having sex with animals and none of the females.

Hani Miletski went as far as to claim that zoophilia could perhaps be considered as an alternative sexual orientation. Interestingly, Miletski’s study – which I should add has never been published in a peer reviewed academic journal – noted that her participants differentiated themselves from the bestialists who used animals as sex objects without emotional attachment.

Andrea Beetz’ study comprised 32 male zoophiles. Sex had occurred with dogs (78%), horses (53%), cats (13%) and farm animals (19%). Over half (56%) had never been in therapy. Many of the zoophiles had a very close emotional attachment to their animals and reported that they love their animal partner as others love their human partner (and are devastated when their animal partner dies). They also claimed they cared about the sexual pleasure of their animal partner as well as their own. Beetz also examined how the interest in zoophilia began. She reported:

“Some have always been interested in their preferred animal and only later developed sexual fantasies about them, some read in books/magazines about zoophilia (e.g. the Sex Atlas), some found it very exciting to watch animal matings on TV (especially on the Discovery Channel in the US) and fantasized about that. Others started to touch the genitals of their pet-dog out of curiosity, in some cases the dog came up and licked the person`s genitals. Others did not remember when their fantasies started, but the behavior often started with nonsexual cuddling with the animal and then became sexual. So we see that there are a lot of ways that can lead up to the first sexual experience with an animal”

In all three studies, the most commonly preferred animals were either dogs or horses. However, it must be noted that these three studies, while extensive compared to the case reports published since Alfred Kinsey’s pioneering studies, collected data from non-clinical samples. Therefore, and unlike case study reports, the participants did not appear to be suffering any significant clinical significant distress or impairment as a consequence of their behaviour.

There may, of course, be other more idiosyncratic explanations for zoophilic behaviour. There are several medical conditions accounting for zoophilic behaviour (e.g., cerebral tumors located in the frontal lobe or in the lymbic system or hypothalamus). A very recent case reported in the journal Romanian Neurosurgery described the late onset of zoophilia in a 42-year old man who suddenly started engaging in zoophilic behaviour following an aneurysm in the posterior cerebral artery. More specifically, he developed a sexual interest towards the hens in his garden, and his wife found him several times having sex with the hens. Unfortunately, the man died a few weeks later following a rupture of the aneurysm. Another report published in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy highlighted the case of a 74-year old man who developed zoophilic tendencies five days after the start of his dopaminergic therapy for his Parkinson’s Disease.

Finally, it’s worth noting that there have also been papers and editorials published in the Veterinary Journal (VJ) about the violent sexual abuse of female calves. Vets – who often have to deal with the animals that have been sexually abused by humans – do not like the term ‘zoophilia’ as it tends to focus on the human perpetrator, with no attention being paid to the harm that might result for the animal. A 2006 editorial in the VJ claimed that the sexual abuse of animals is almost a last taboo – even to the veterinary profession. As Piers Beirne (University of Sothern Maine, USA) argues, the sexual abuse of an animal should be understood as sexual assault because: (i) human–animal sexual relations almost always involve coercion; (ii) such practices often cause pain and even death to the animal; and (iii) animals are unable either to communicate consent to us in a form that we can readily understand, or to speak out about their cause.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Beetz, A.M. (2000, June). Human sexual contact with animals: New insights from current research. Paper presented at the 5th Congress of the European Federation of Sexology, Berlin.

Beirne, P., 1997. Rethinking bestiality: towards a concept of interspecies sexual assault. Theoretical Criminology, 1, 317–340.

Ene, S., A. Sasaran, A. (2011). Zoophilic behavior in a patient with posterior cerebral arterial aneurysm. Romanian Neurosurgery, 18, 349-355.

Hvozdık, A., Bugarsky, A., Kottferova, J., Vargova, M., Ondrasovicova, O., Ondrasovic, M., & Sasakova , N. (2006). Ethological, psychological and legal aspects of animal sexual abuse. The Veterinary Journal, 172, 374-376.

Jimenez-Jimenez F.J., Sayed Y., Garcia-Soldevilla M.A. & Barcenilla B. (2002). Possible zoophilia associated with dopaminergic therapy in Parkinson disease. Annals of Pharmacotherapy, 36, 1178-1179.

Kafka, M.P. (2010). The DSM Diagnostic Criteria for Paraphilia Not Otherwise Specified. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 373-376.

Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C.E., Gebhard, P.H. (1953). Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Company.

Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C.E., (1948). Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Company.

Miletski, H. (2000). Bestiality and zoophilia: An exploratory study. Scandinavian Journal of Sexology, 3, 149–150.

Miletski, H. (2001). Zoophilia – implications for therapy. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 26, 85–89.

Miletski, H. (2002). Understanding bestiality and zoophilia. Germantown, MD: Ima Tek Inc.

Munro, H.M.C. (2006). Animal sexual abuse: A veterinary taboo? The Veterinary Journal, 172, 195-197.

Williams, C. J., & Weinberg, M. S. (2003). Zoophilia in men: A study of sexual interest in animals. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32, 523–535.

About drmarkgriffiths

Professor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA, AcSS. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Professor of Behavioural Addiction at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. He is internationally known for his work into gambling and gaming addictions and has won many awards including the American 1994 John Rosecrance Research Prize for “outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of gambling research”, the 1998 European CELEJ Prize for best paper on gambling, the 2003 Canadian International Excellence Award for “outstanding contributions to the prevention of problem gambling and the practice of responsible gambling” and a North American 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award For Contributions To The Field Of Youth Gambling “in recognition of his dedication, leadership, and pioneering contributions to the field of youth gambling”. His most recent award is the 2013 Lifetime Research Award from the US National Council on Problem Gambling. He has published over 600 research papers, four books, over 130 book chapters, and over 1000 other articles. He has served on numerous national and international committees (e.g. BPS Council, BPS Social Psychology Section, Society for the Study of Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous General Services Board, National Council on Gambling etc.) and is a former National Chair of Gamcare. He also does a lot of freelance journalism and has appeared on over 2000 radio and television programmes since 1988. In 2004 he was awarded the Joseph Lister Prize for Social Sciences by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for being one of the UK’s “outstanding scientific communicators”. His awards also include the 2006 Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology Award by the British Psychological Society and the British Psychological Society Fellowship Award for “exceptional contributions to psychology”.

Posted on January 26, 2012, in Compulsion, Paraphilia, Psychology, Sex and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Poor calves! What do you think about zoophilla? Do you think it is acceptable?
    I think it’s magical that people can develop emotions (even sexual emotions) with their pets. And it isn’t a new thing for different animals to mate, see alpacas? And we even have a fairy tale called Beauty and the Beast! I think it’s okay as long as the owner and the pet enjoy it.

    • i think the romantic zoophiles are OK but, the ones who engage in a sexual act with an animal are wrong. i mean the consent it’s dubious.

  2. Miletski’s study – which I should add has never been published in a peer reviewed academic journal

    It was her PhD thesis…

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