Fowl play: A brief overview of avian bestiality
I don’t normally write blogs on request, but one of my friends and colleagues here in my department, Dr. Belinda Winder, asked me if I knew anything about sexual paraphilias involving birds. Dr. Winder – no stranger to sexual paraphilias as they feature quite a lot in a new book she’s just co-edited [A Psychologist’s Casebook of Crime: From Arson to Voyeurism] – did pique (or should that be ‘beak’) my interest into the topic so I thought I would have a quick look at what has been done academically.
As it turned out, not a lot but enough to write a blog. In his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India) noted that bestial acts involving birds are commonplace in mythology and folklore. For instance, the Greek god Zeus was said to assume the shape of various animals as part of his seduction technique. He transformed into a swan to order to seduce Leda (the mother of Troy), and became an eagle to carry off a young Ganymede. In a separate part of his book, Aggrawal writes about Rome where the practice of bestiality was also commonplace. Examples cited by Aggrawal include bestial acts with chickens. He also noted that professional people supplied animals specifically for bestial purposes. For instance, the Belluari supplied dogs and monkeys, the Caprarii supplied female goats, and the Anserarii supplied geese.
An online essay by Cameron King noted that in the 13th century, the bestiality laws were different between having sex with a mammal and with a chicken. Avian sex was seen as a much less serious offence because fowl were less costly to replace than farm animals. However, King did add that “eating the bird after making love to it was frowned upon and could land you with two or three years of fasting”.
The Marquis de Sade (whose name of course gave rise to sexual sadism) wrote about avian sex in a Parisian brothel where they employed a turkey. de Sade claimed: “The girl holds the bird’s neck locked between her thighs, you have her ass straight ahead of you for prospect, and she cuts the bird’s throat the same moment you discharge”.
Academically, Richard von Krafft-Ebing was arguably the first person to write about bestial acts with birds in his 1886 book Psychopathia Sexualis. In a chapter on zoosadism, Krafft-Ebing wrote of a male poet who “became powerfully excited sexually whenever he saw cows slaughtered” and another male who “committed sodomy with geese, and cut their necks off, tempore ejaculationis!” This latter practice is called avisodomy and is listed as one of the many acts of zoophilia in Dr. Aggrawal’s new classification typology in a 2011 issue of the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. The practice typically involves breaking the neck of a bird and then penetrating it. In the 2001 book Sexual Relations of Mankind, Mantegazza claimed that: “the Chinese are famous for their love affairs with geese. Just when they are at the point of ejaculation they wring off the birds’ necks in order that they may get the pleasure of the last spasms of the anal sphincters of the dying geese”.
A similar account of avisodomy is also described in The Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices by Dr. Brenda Love. Here it is referred to as the “the ancient practice of having sex with a bird. As the man is about to orgasm he breaks the neck of the bird, causing the bird’s cloaca sphincter to constrict and spasm, thus creating pleasurable sensations for the man”. (In zoological anatomy, a cloaca is the posterior orifice that serves as the only opening for the urinary, intestinal and reproductive activities in some animal species). Zoosadistic sexual elements involving birds have been reported in case studies of high profile serial killers – the most notorious being Jeffrey Dahmer (that I briefly covered in a previous blog).
In Dr. Alfred Kinsey’s groundbreaking studies on human sexual behaviour in the late 1940s and early 1950s, he reported that 8% of the males and almost 4% of the females had experienced a bestial act with animals at some point in their lives. The frequency of such behaviour among males was highest for those raised on farms (with 17% of these men reported experiencing orgasm as a result of animal contact). Although the animals most frequently involved were calves, sheep, donkeys, dogs, and cats, a significant minority of bestial acts involved large fowl (i.e., ducks and geese). Such acts are not unknown in contemporary societies and include the recent case reported in the Daily Mirror of a 23-year old man who hanged himself after his wife came home and found him having sex with a chicken.
One of the most infamous accounts of bestial activity was reported by porn publisher Larry Flynt in his autobiography (An Unseemly Man). Flynt claimed that he had sex with a chicken before his tenth birthday. He was told by older boys that having sex with a chicken was as good as having sex with a girl. He wrote:
“I caught one of my grandmother’s hens out behind the barn, managed to insert my penis into its egg-bag, and thrust away. When I let the chicken go it started towards the main house, staggering, squawking and bleeding. Fearing that my grandmother would see what had happened, I caught it, wrung its neck and threw it in the creek”.
Ornithophilia is a sub-class of zoophilia and specifically refers to those individuals who are sexually aroused by the thought and/or the act of having sex with birds. As far as I have been able to establish, there are no specific case studies in the literature that refer to the condition, and the only specific mention of ‘ornithophilia’ I have come across in the academic literature it is in the writings of Aggrawal (including his most recent 2011 paper mentioned earlier). Other others such as Helen Munro (writing in a 2006 editorial of The Veterinary Journal) have noted that sexual contact with birds exists, but none of these provide any kind of validated case study.
However, I did come across a recent case reported in the journal Romanian Neurosurgery that 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.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18, 73-78.
Ene, S., A. Sasaran, A. (2011). Zoophilic behavior in a patient with posterior cerebral arterial aneurysm. Romanian Neurosurgery, 18, 349-355.
King, C. (2010). The A to Z of sexual history: A – Avisodomy: The act of a human engaging in sexual activity involving a bird. Located at: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/the-a-to-z-of-sexual-history-a-avisodomy-the-act-of-a-human-engaging-in-sexual-activity-involving-a-bird
Krafft-Ebing, R. von (1886). Psychopathia Sexualis. Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis.
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
Mantegazza, P. (2001). The Sexual Relations of Mankind. Honolulu, Hawaii: University Press of the Pacific.
Munro, H.M.C. (2006). Animal sexual abuse: A veterinary taboo? The Veterinary Journal, 172, 195-197.
Shaffer, L. & Penn J. (2006). A comprehensive paraphilia classification system. In E.W. Hickey (Ed.), Sex Crimes and Paraphilia (pp.69-93). Pearson, Prentice Hall, New Jersey.
Posted on May 18, 2012, in Case Studies, Compulsion, Crime, Obsession, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Paraphilia, Psychiatry, Psychology, Sex, Sex addiction and tagged Avian sex, Avisodomy, Bestiality, Larry Flynt, Ornithophilia, Zoophilia. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.