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The beast inside: The psychology of animal torture

A few days ago, I was interviewed by the Irish newspaper The Journal about someone deliberately trying to poison a dog by throwing three rat poison-stuffed chorizo sausages into Linda O’Byrne’s garden. But what typically possesses anyone to inflict such acts of intentional animal torture and cruelty (IATC)? In this particular case it may have been done as an act of revenge or as a way to shock O’Byrne to the amusement of the person who did it.

In addition to these reasons, rhere are many types of IATC including individuals that do it (i) as a religious ritual sacrifice, (ii) as an ‘artistic’ sacrifice (e.g., killing animals in films such as the controversial Cannibal Holocaust), (iii) because they have psychological disorders (such as anti-social/psychopathic personality disorders and engage in deliberate acts of zoosadism), and/or (iv) because they have sexually paraphilic disorders (such as crush fetishism in which small animals are crushed for sexual pleasure). Additionally, there is some research showing that in some circumstances, IATC is sometimes used to coerce, control and intimidate women and/or children to be silent about domestic abuse within the home. Although any animal torture is shocking, arguably the most disturbing type of IATC is that which occurs amongst those with anti-social personality disorders.

When the science of behavioural profiling began to emerge in the 1970s, one of the most consistent findings reported by the FBI profiling unit was that childhood IATC appeared to be a common behaviour among serial murderers and rapists (i.e., those with psychopathic traits characterized by impulsivity, selfishness, and lack of remorse). Many notorious serial killers – such as Jeffrey Dahmer – began by torturing and killing animals in their childhood. Dahmer also collected animal roadkill, dissected the remains, and masturbated over the animals he had cut up. Other killers known to have engaged in childhood IATC include child murderer Mary Bell (who throttled pigeons), Jamie Bulger’s murderer Robert Thompson who (who was cruel to household pets), and Moors murderer Ian Brady (who abused animals).

IATC is one of the three adolescent behaviours in what is often referred to the ‘Homicidal Triad’ (the other two being persistent bedwetting and obsessive fire-setting). Some criminologists and psychologists believe that the combination of two or more of these three behaviours increases the risk of homicidal behaviour in adult life. However, scientific evidence for this has been mixed. There has also been research into some of the contributory factors as to why a minority of children engage in IATC. Research has shown that the behaviours in the ‘Homicidal Triad’ (including IATC) are often associated with parental abuse, parental brutality (and witnessing domestic violence), and/or parental neglect.

A number of criminological studies have shown that around a third to a half of all sexual murderers have abused animals during childhood and/or adolescence (although I ought to add that sample sizes in most of these published studies are usually relatively small). However, most research has reported that one of the most important ‘warning signs’ and risk factors (specifically relating to the propensity for sex offending), is animal cruelty if accompanied by a sexual interest in animals. Other researchers have speculated that the zoosadistic acts among male adolescents may be connected to problems of puberty and proving virility.

Another ‘triad’ of psychological factors that have been associated with IATC are three specific characteristics of personality – Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy (the so-called ‘Dark Triad’). Studies carried out by Dr. Phillip Kavanagh and his colleagues have examined the relationship between the three Dark Triad personality traits and attitudes towards animal abuse and self-reported acts of animal cruelty. They found that the psychopathy trait is related to intentionally hurting or torturing animals, and was also a composite measure of all three Dark Triad traits.

In Germany, there have been an increasing number of violent crimes against horses. This offence of ‘horse ripping’ (i.e., violently cutting, slashing and/or stabbing of horses) has been accepted as a criminal phenomenon in Germany and has led to a number of studies on the topic. Horse ripping has been defined as a destructive act “with the aim to harm a horse or the acceptance of a possible injury of a horse, especially killing, maltreatment, mutilation and sexual abuse in sadomasochistic context”. In 2002, German researchers Dr, Claus Bartmann and Dr. Peter Wohlsein reported a study examining 193 traumatic horse injuries over a four-year period. They reported that at least ten of the injuries (including wounds from knives, spears, and guns) were acts of zoosadism.

There is no easy solution to childhood IATC. Given that most children learn anti-social behaviour from those around them, the best way to prevent it is teaching by example. Here, parents are the key. Pro-social behaviour by parents and other role models towards animals (such as rescuing spiders in the bath, feeding birds, treating pets as a member of the family) has the potential to make a positive lasting impression on children.

Note: A version of this article was first published in The Independent.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Arluke, A., Levin, J., Luke, C., & Ascione, F. (1999). The relationship of animal abuse to violence and other forms of antisocial behavior. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 14(9), 963-975.

Bartmann, C.P. & Wohlsein, P. (2002). Injuries caused by outside violence with forensic importance in horses. Dtsch Tierarztl Wochenschr, 109, 112-115.

Beetz, Andrea (2002). Love, Violence, and Sexuality in Relationships between Humans and Animals. Germany: Shaker Verlag.

Beirne, P. (1999). For a nonspeciesist criminology: Animal abuse as an object of study. Criminology, 37(1), 117-148.

Felthous, A.R. (1980). Aggression against cats, dogs, and people. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 10, 169-177.

Furnham, A., Richards, S. C., & Paulhus, D. L. (2013). The Dark Triad of personality: A 10 year review. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 7(3), 199-216.

Hickey, E. W. (2013). Serial murderers and their victims. Cengage Learning.

James, S., Kavanagh, P. S., Jonason, P. K., Chonody, J. M., & Scrutton, H. E. (2014). The Dark Triad, schadenfreude, and sensational interests: Dark personalities, dark emotions, and dark behaviors. Personality and Individual Differences, 68, 211-216.

Jonason, P. K., & Kavanagh, P. (2010). The dark side of love: Love styles and the Dark Triad. Personality and Individual Differences, 49(6), 606-610.

Kavanagh, P. S., Signal, T. D., & Taylor, N. (2013). The Dark Triad and animal cruelty: Dark personalities, dark attitudes, and dark behaviors. Personality and Individual Differences, 55(6), 666-670.

Macdonald, J.M. (1963). The threat to kill. American Journal of Psychiatry, 120, 125-130.

Patterson‐Kane, E. G., & Piper, H. (2009). Animal abuse as a sentinel for human violence: A critique. Journal of Social Issues, 65(3), 589-614.

Ressler, R., Burgess, A., & Douglas, J. (1988). Sexual homicide: Patterns and motives. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Schedel-Stupperich, A. (2002). [Criminal acts against horses – phenomenology and psychosocial construct]. Dtsch Tierarztl Wochenschr, 109, 116-119.

Wochner, M. & Klosinski, G. (1988). Child and adolescent psychiatry aspects of animal abuse (a comparison with aggressive patients in child and adolescent psychiatry). Schweiz Arch Neurol Psychiatry, 139(3), 59-67.

Animal passions: Why would anyone want to have sex with an animal?

Note: A shortened version of this article was first published in The Independent.

Last month, Denmark passed a law making bestiality a criminal offence from July 1st in a move to tackle animal-sex tourism. Bestiality (also known as zoophilia) is typically defined as relating to recurrent intense sexual fantasies, urges, and sexual activities with non-human animals. At present, there are still a number of countries where zoophilia is legal including Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, Finland, Hungary, and Romania. In the US there is no federal law against zoophilia although most states class it as a felony and/or misdemeanour although in some states it is technically legal (for example, Texas, Kentucky, Nevada, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Wyoming, West Virginia, and New Mexico).

Over the last few years I have written articles on the psychology of many different types of zoophilia including those who have engaged in sexual activities with dogs (cynophilia), cats (aelurophilia), horses (equinophilia), pigs (porcinophilia), birds (ornithophilia), dolphins (delphinophilia), lizards (herpetophilia), worms (vermiphilia), and insects (formicophilia). Dr. Alfred Kinsey shocked the US back in the 1950s when his infamous ‘Kinsey Reports’ claimed that 8% of males and 4% females had at least one sexual experience with an animal. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was a much higher prevalence for zoophilic acts among people that who worked on farms (for instance, 17% males had experienced an orgasmic episode involving animals). According to Kinsey, the most frequent sexual acts that humans engaged in with animals comprised calves, sheep, donkeys, large fowl (ducks, geese), dogs and cats.

In the 1970s, world renowned sexologist Professor John Money claimed that zoophilic behaviours were usually transitory occurring when there is no other sexual outlet available. However, research carried out in the 2000s shows this not be the case. Up until the advent of the internet, almost every scientific or clinical study reported on zoophilia were case reports of individuals that has sought treatment for their unusual sexual preference. However, the internet brought many like-minded people together and there are dozens of websites where zoophiles chat to each other online and share their videos including the Beast Forum, the largest online zoophile community in the world with tens of thousands of members.

Almost all of the recently published studies have collected their data online from non-clinical samples. All of these studies report that the overwhelming majority of self-identified male and female zoophiles do not have sex with animals because there is no other sexual outlet but do so because it is their sexual preference. The most common reasons for engaging in zoophilic relationships were attraction to animals out of either a desire for affection, and a sexual attraction toward and/or a love for animals.

For instance, a study by Dr. Hani Miletski surveyed 93 zoophiles (82 males and 11 females). Only 12% of her sample said they engaged in sex with animals because there were no human partners 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%), had love and affection for the animal (67%) and/or because they said the animal wanted sex with them (67%). Most of Miletski’s 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. Unlike case study reports of zoophilia published prior to 2000, the studies published over the last 15 years using non-clinical samples report the vast majority of zoophiles do not appear to be suffering any significant clinical significant distress or impairment as a consequence of their behaviour.

In 2011, Dr Anil Aggrawal published a comprehensive typology of zoophilia in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. Dr. Aggrawal’s claimed there were ten different types of zoophile based on both the scientific and clinical literature, as well as some theoretical speculation. For instance:

  • Humananimal role-players – those who never have sex with animals but become sexually aroused through wanting to have sex with humans who pretend to be animals.
  • Romantic zoophiles – those who keeps animals as pets as a way to get psychosexually stimulated without actually having any kind of sexual contact with them.
  • Zoophilic fantasizers – those who fantasize about having sexual intercourse with animals but never actually do.
  • Tactile zoophiles – those who get sexual excitement from touching, stroking or fondling animals or their genitals but do not actually have sexual intercourse with animals.
  • Fetishistic zoophiles – those who keep various animal parts (especially fur) that are used as erotic stimuli as a crucial part of their sexual activity (typically masturbation). (See my previous blog on the use of an animal part as a masturbatory aid)
  • Sadistic bestials – those who derive sexual arousal from the torturing of animals (known as zoosadism but does not involve sexual intercourse with the animal.
  • Opportunistic zoosexuals – those who have normal sexual encounters but would have sexual intercourse with animals if the opportunity arose.
  • Regular zoosexuals – those who prefer sex with animals than sex with humans (but are capable of having sex with both). Such zoophiles will engage in a wide range of sexual activities with animals and love animals on an emotional level.
  • Homicidal bestials – those who need to kill animals in order to have sex with them. Although capable of having sex with living animals, there is an insatiable desire to have sex with dead animals.
  • Exclusive zoosexuals – those who only have sex with animals to the exclusion of human sexual partners.

Personally, I don’t view human-animal role players as zoophiles as this would include those in the Furry Fandom (individuals that dress up and interact socially as animals). There is no official definition of what a ‘furry’ actually is although most furries would agree that they share an interest in fictional anthromorphic animal characters that have human characteristics and personalities and/or mythological or imaginary creatures that possess human and/or superhuman capabilities. The furry fandom has also developed its own vocabulary including words such as ‘fursona’ (furry persona), ‘plushie’ (person who has sex with cuddly toys), and ‘yiff’ (furry pornography). A study by David J. Rust of 360 members of the furry community suggested less than 1% were plushophiles and that 2% were zoophiles.

Many zoophiles believe that in years to come, their sexual preference will be seen as no different to being gay or straight. This is not a view I adhere to especially because animals cannot give consent (although many zoophiles claim the animals they have sexual relationships with do give ‘consent’). The one thing we do know is that the internet has revolutionised the way we carry out our research and get access to ‘hard to reach’ groups. Thanks to online research, zoophilia is just one of many sexually atypical behaviours that we now know more about both behaviourally and psychologically.

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

Further reading

Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18, 73-78.

Beetz, Andrea (2002). Love, Violence, and Sexuality in Relationships between Humans and Animals. Germany: Shaker Verlag.

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.

R.J. Maratea (2011). Screwing the pooch: Legitimizing accounts in a zoophilia on-line community. Deviant Behavior, 32, 918-943.

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.

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

Going to the dogs: A brief look at cynophilia

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am not averse to looking at various types of human zoophilic behaviour. So far, I have written articles on zoophilia in general, zoophilia classification, zoosadism (sexual pleasure from being sadistic to animals), necrobestiality (sex with dead animals), and very specific forms of zoophilia including delphinophilia (sex with dolphins), porcinophilia (sex with pigs), equinophilia (sex with horses), herpetophilia (sex with lizards), ophidiophilia (sex with snakes), ornithophilia (sex with birds including avisodomy), musophilia (sexual stimulation from mice including felching), formicophilia (sexual stimulation from insects), and melissophilia (sexual stimulation from bees and bee stings). Today’s blog takes a brief look at cynophilia (sex with dogs).

In 2006, Dr. Lisa Shaffer and Dr. Julie Penn developed a comprehensive paraphilia classification system and published it as a book chapter in Dr. William Hickey’s book Sex Crimes and Paraphilia. Within this they included a list of various types of zoophilia and reported that cynophilia referred to sexual arousal from having sex with dogs (and that canophilia was sexual arousal from dogs, which I am assuming means that the person being aroused may not have had actual sexual contact with a dog).

Last year in Florida (USA), the Tampa Bay Times reported the case of Eric Atunes, a 29-year old man who was accused of having oral sex with a dog. As it turned out, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office “declined to pursue a charge of animal cruelty under the state’s new bestiality law” but it was confirmed that Atunes (an employee at the Pinellas County Humane Society) had six photographs on his mobile phone of himself performing sexual acts with his girlfriend’s three-legged dog, Ruby. The case was dropped because there is no law in Florida forbidding people having oral sex with animals. The newspaper reported that:

“Assistant State Attorney Beverly Andringa said her office declined to prosecute Antunes for bestiality because, out of the six photographs found on his cellphone, only one would meet the strict criteria of the statute. Officials also aren’t certain when all the photos were taken. Some might have predated the new law”.

In Georgia (USA), a 19-year-old man Bernard Archer was arrested after being caught on camera having sexual intercourse with pit bull dogs and charged with two counts of bestiality. A newspaper report said that:

“Dispatch advised [that] home owners witnessed a young black male having sexual intercourse with two dogs. WGCL-TV reports that Archer was hired to clean the cages of several pit bulls by Dr. Cathryn Lafayette, a local resident who owned the dogs. [On] Saturday [March 3], Lafayette was woken up from a nap by the Newton County police, who informed her of Archer’s crimes against her animals. Though initially skeptical of the claims, she was convinced when authorities showed her video evidence”.

I mention these recent cases just by way of establishing that sexual contact by human beings with dogs not only occurs but is reported on a fairly regular basis (i.e., both of these cases were from the last twelve months in the same country). There are also cases of what Dr. Anil Aggrawal would class as ‘cynophilia by proxy’ (based on a paper he had published in a recent issue of the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine,) where one person forces another (typically a man forcing his wife or partner) to have sex with a dog. Dr Aggrawal explains:

“This happened in R v Bourne (1952) 36 Cr App R 125 (CCA), in which the husband forced his wife to submit to a dog inserting its penis into her vagina. The husband was convicted of aiding and abetting his wife to commit buggery and sentenced to eight years in prison. The wife was not punished, since she acted under duress. In R v. Tierney (1990) 12 Cr. App. R(S) 216, the defendant took photographs of his wife having intercourse with his Alsatian dog for his own continuing satisfaction. In this case, three monthsimprisonment was given to the accused, but not to his wife, because she consented to perform the act in desperation in order to retain her husbands affections”.

Dr. Aggrawal also noted that in ancient. Rome, the practice of canine bestiality was so common that professional people (the Belluri) supplied dogs specifically for this purpose. Much more recently, academic studies of zoophilia have typically collected their data online from non-clinical samples. These zoophiles typically have a preference for zoophilic sex and rarely seek treatment as they are happy and content with their sexual orientation. In a 2001 issue of the Journal of Small Animal Practice, Dr. H. Munro and Dr. M. Thrusfield (2001) reported that they had collected data on animal abuse from over 400 British vets. They reported that 6% of their cases involved sexual abuse based on their observations of injuries in the animals’ genital and anal areas. Of these, 21 cases referred to dogs and three to cats. Dr Andrea Beetz reported that among the 32 male zoophiles she surveyed, 78% had had sex with dogs. Dr Hani Miletski reported that among the 93 zoophiles she surveyed that most of her sample preferred sex with dogs (87% males; 100% females).

I have come across very few articles (academic or non-academic) purely on the topic of cynophilia. One of the most detailed (written by a zoophile) is at the Vivid Random Existence (VRE) website (an online essay on Cynosexuality (or cynophilia): the sexual attraction to dogs’). I do not endorse any of the (anonymous) author’s comments and the essay is written from a pro-zoophilia standpoint. The author of the essay notes that:

“Among all possible variants of zoosexuality, cynosexuality is one of the most common because the zoosexual size comparison rule — the fact is that there are many dog breeds, such as the Great Dane, which are physically capable of having sex with humans (without abuse occurring). This is why cynosexuality is fairly common among zoosexuals”.

The author then provides numerous quotes from many different cynophiles to highlight the commonility of this particular sub-type of zoophilia. Here are a just a few of the many examples cited taken from online zoophile forums such as the Beast Forum. (Please be warned that these are sexually explicit and you may find what is said offensive):

  • Extract 1: “I’ve only had experience with my one dog, but it is quite an amazing sensation, hot, tight, and slippery. A dog’s body temperature is a few degrees higher than a human’s, and with the extremely sensitive flesh of the human penis, makes for quite a pleasurable combination” (Neverfox)
  • Extract 2: “I have been with both species [humans and dogs] and my preference would have to be [the dog]; tighter, warmer and always wet” (St Benard)
  • Extract 3: “My male dog used to tell me that he was interested in sex or wants it…He would sniff at my crotch and paw at me. He only does this when he wants sex. This is Consent, both by me and by him. Any Zoo knows that animals if they want it, it may ask a human for sex. Zoos know that animals consent. There is no question about it!” (Anonymous)
  • Extract 4: “I have had sex with a female dog and it is wonderful! They never turn you down, are always horny… so why the hell not! Why deprive a dog of a sex life? Best of all, you can’t get pregnant and can’t get a STD from them!” (Dglover)
  • Extract 5: “Take it from me you will be addicted once you have a dog’s cock entering your [anus], but be careful the first time as his knot can really hurt if you have never had anything inside you before” (Oscarsbitch)

The author of the VRE essay uses these quotes to make a number of distinct points. The first point made is that the quotes indicate that some zoophiles prefer sex with dogs to sex with humans (and that zoophilic activity does not have to occur where there is an absence of a human sexual partner). This has already been confirmed in the empirical studies of academic researchers like Dr. Beetz and Dr. Miletski. The essay author also say the quotes “prove that most zoosexual people are devoted to their animals and treat them with respect, kindness and compassion; these kinds of people would never harm an animal…Additionally, it would appear as though dogs don’t mind having sex with people; in fact, some of them apparently like it!” The zoophiles may well be kind and respect the dogs concerned, but as I argued in previous blogs on both herpetophilia and delpinophilia, the animals cannot give informed consent, so therefore such sexual activity is (in my view) morally wrong.

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

Further reading

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.

Beetz, A. M. (2004). Bestiality/zoophilia: A scarcely investigated phenomenon between crime, paraphilia, and love. Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice, 4, 1-36.

CBS Atlanta (2012). Cops: teen caught having sex with dogs on camera. March 7. Located at:

Jamison, P. & Morel, L.C. (2012). Man who had sex with dog won’t be charged because of unusual reason. Tampa Bay Times, June 20. Located at:

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.

Munro, H.M.C., & Thrusfield, M.V. (2001). “Battered pets”: Sexual abuse. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 42, 333-337.

Shaffer, L. & Penn, J. (2006). A comprehensive paraphilia classification system. In E.W. Hickey (Ed.), Sex crimes and paraphilia. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Vivid Random Existence (2010). Cynosexuality (or cynophilia): the sexual attraction to dogs. November 14. Located at:

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

Creature comforts: How do zoophiles justify their behaviour?

Regular readers of my blog will know that I don’t shy away from talking about behaviours that some people find abhorrent and/or morally repugnant. I’ve now published around a dozen blogs on zoophilia-related topics and in the process have received some fairly abusive emails from zoophiles who “loathe” and “detest” the articles that I have posted on my blog. Well, here’s a blog that’s also likely to enrage.

I recently came across an interesting zoophilia paper published in a 2011 issue of the journal Deviant Behavior. The paper was entitled Screwing the pooch: Legitimizing accounts in a zoophilia on-line community and written by Dr. R.J. Maratea (New Mexico State University, USA). The paper examined how deviant individuals use Internet technology to communicate accounts that neutralize hostile labels associated with their behaviors”. The data were collected from a zoophilia message board with 550,000 users referred to by a pseudonym (i.e., Zoo Board) throughout the paper. (Having visited a lot of online zoophilia forums in my own research, I could take a fairly educated guess at which forum Dr Maratea collected his data from, but as he took a lot of time in his paper to guarantee the forum’s anonymity I’ll leave it be). Dr. Maratea’s decision to study Zoo Board was threefold. As he argued:

“The decision to use Zoo Board was predicated by three factors: (1) message threads were regularly created and updated, indicating that members are actively involved in the Zoo Board community; (2) the vast membership on Zoo Board meant that a large number of users could potentially post or respond to posted accounts at any given time; and (3) the archival capacity of the message board allows for the cultivation of accounts over an extended period of time. The final research sample was comprised of 87 discussion threads containing 4983 individual posts, which dated back as far as March 4, 2004”.

Dr. Maretea claimed that his data suggest that zoophiles routinely justify their actions through four particular types of argument: (i) denial of injury, (ii) justification by comparison, (iii) claims of benefit, and (iv) condemning of condemners. He also asserts that zoophiles produce what is termed “neutralizing accounts”. More specifically, these three types were categorized as (i) appeals to enlightenment, (ii) claims of cultural diffusion, and (iii) neutralization by comparison.

Denial of injury: This refers to an assertion by zoophiles that their actions are permissible because they did not harm or cause injury to the animals involved.

  • Example: I think a lot of people who have never seen an animal ‘‘ask for sex’’ (and most of us here know, they can and WILL, sometimes very insistently!) assume that we’re performing selfish acts against the animals’ will . . . non-zoos tend to just associate the fact that bestiality is more or less entirely illegal with the assumption that it must horribly hurt the animal, such is life, I’m afraid”.

Justification by comparison: This refers to the justification of zoophilic behaviour by comparison of their behaviour to other worse criminal behaviour (i.e., zoophiles highlight their sense of self-worth by saying that their behaviour is not as bad as other behaviours).

  • Example: I like the way the [media] blatantly link bestiality with pedophilia. I guess what we do is sorta like marijuana, ours is a ‘’gateway’’ type of sexuality. People like to think that zoophilia is a step away from necrophilia, pedophilia, and so on when it’s in no way related”.

Claims of benefit: This refers to zoophiles who claim that not only was the animal not harmed but that their sexual activity with animals was beneficial to the animal and met the animal’s sexual needs.

  • Example: We are all animals at some level, with about the same wants and desires. Your fuzzy friend loves getting his rocks off or her world rocked just as much as you do! This is pretty evident to us, but think about it: very few animals are intelligent enough to have sex for fun! I like to think dogs (maybe horses) are among them most of the time. The drive for sex is seen in all living things”.

Condemning of condemners: This refers to the practice of zoophiles condemning those who vilify their zoophilic behaviour. Here, the accusers are viewed as “unfit to judge” or pass comment on zoophilia because the accusers engage in behaviour that is equally as bad. Zoophiles denounce “conventional society as hypocritical for demonizing zoophilia. Some claimants argue that normals tend to callously abuse the very animals they allegedly seek to protect”.

  • Example: A neighbor of mine crates their dog (puppy), all day in their backyard. Totally neglects the dog. I called animal control as the weather is getting cold. Makes me sad that this happens all the time, everywhere. My amazing dog goes every- where with me. I couldn’t imagine leaving her in the yard in a 3X3 crate with less than 1hr of human contact a day…Some people need to be treated how they treat their pets. Nothing pisses me off like animal/pet neglect. WE chose them, not the other way around”.

Appeals to enlightenment: This refers to zoophiles who try to appeal to enlightenment and justify their zoophilic activity by arguing that “certain behaviors are vilified because larger society is incapable of comprehending the appropriateness of those actions”.

  • Example: You will run into objections such as: it’s against the law; it’s against religion; it’s perverted; and it’s dirty. All of these issues are artificial and belie a fundamental problem with modern society. We as a nation, as a world, exploit animals for everything from food to companionship. Giving animals or admitting that animals are capable of being in mutual loving relationships puts that world view into serious question”.

Neutralization by comparison: This refers to zoophiles that identify similarities between themselves and “other social groups that have overcome a corresponding deviant identity”. Although this is similar to ‘justification by comparison’ (above) the difference here is that individuals are not ‘‘justifying their actions by comparing their crimes to more serious offenses, but rather neutralizing their deviance via comparison to other historically stigmatized acts and behaviors that have achieved some level of mainstream social acceptance”.

  • Example: For years, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexual/transgender people have been fighting a long hard battle for their rights of equality and for the freedom to express their own individual sexuality without the fear of legal prosecution. Personally, I don’t see why practicing zoophiles such as myself and other people here and around the world, [shouldn’t] campaign for the right to legally express our own sexuality too”.

Claims of cultural diffusion: This refers to zoophiles that try to normalize their behaviour through reference to zoophilic acts in popular culture in as a way of showing there is greater mainstream acceptance for their behavior than publicly acknowledged.

  • Example: I think it does seem like more zoo/beasty stuff is popping up in movies and TV lately, usually as jokes on sitcoms and stuff, but still, it puts it out there, exposing people to the idea, making it a bit more familiar. And, slowly, I think the more familiar the idea becomes the more likely it is to become gradually more accepted”.

Although I’m a psychologist, I still appreciate the contribution that sociology can make in the field of sexual paraphilias. As Dr. Maratea argues, traditional sociological theory has examined how those classed as ‘deviants’ manage their day-today identity and stigmatization from non-deviants. However, online communities such as the ones at Zoo Board allow virtual anonymity and facilitate those who were once isolated to meet like-minded individuals (albeit virtually) who validate their own behaviour and experiences. As Dr. Maratea concludes:

“On Zoo Board, accounts are regularly disseminated that normalize zoophilia by constructing alternative dialogues that challenge the mainstream social discourse that defines animal sex as deviant. To this end, the messages and themes contained in neutralizing accounts reveal much about the social organization of the Zoo Board community, and the individual and collective identity work that takes place therein”.

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.

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.

R.J. Maratea (2011). Screwing the pooch: Legitimizing accounts in a zoophilia on-line community. Deviant Behavior, 32, 918-943.

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

Surf emancipation: Using the internet to study zoophilia

I have just had a paper published in the latest issue of the Journal of Behavioral Addictions that outlines the advantages, disadvantages, and other implications of using the Internet to collect data from those people displaying sexually paraphilic behaviour. Up until around 2000, paraphilic behaviour had been relatively little studied outside of published case studies. However, in my new paper I have argued that the internet has provided a new arena in which researchers can collect data from people in much easier ways than prior to the introduction of online technologies. Probably the most used online data collection method for studying paraphilic behaviour is the online questionnaire. Typically in these types of study, online questionnaires are publicized and placed at online paraphilia forums. These forums are a convenient way to communicate information between paraphiliacs.

I argued in my latest paper that the one particular paraphilia where researchers have arguably made the most use of the internet for both recruitment and data collection is that of zoophilia. As Dr. Christopher Earls and Dr. Martin Lalumiere noted in a 2009 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, almost all data on zoophiles since 2000 have come from online recruitment. There have been three notable quantitative studies of zoophilia among non-clinical (i.e., community) samples. This includes studies by Dr. Andrea Beetz (in 2004 with 32 zoophiles), Dr. Colin Williams and Dr. Martin Weinberg (2003; 114 zoophiles), and Dr. Hani Miletski (2004; 93 zoophiles). It could be argued that none of these data sets would have been possible without the advent of the internet, and the internet sites devoted to bestiality and zoophilia. Research into zoophilia via online data collection demonstrated that online samples provided different results to previously reported case studies. Unlike the relatively few published case accounts, online zoophilic studies suggested that there were both men and women who had clear preferences for zoophilic activities and that the behaviour was not a substitute for the absence of other humans in the locality. Online zoophilic studies also showed that far from suffering any kind of mental abnormality or psychiatric condition, that many zoophiles lived both happy and productive lives.

The Internet can also be a rich and complex resource of textual material. As such, it can be invaluable to those researchers interested in specific experiences of particular individuals such as zoophilia. Included in the lived experiences of zoophiles are perceptions, beliefs and feelings, all of which are made sense of by the individual through the process of meaning making. Online forums are often the first port of call for zoophiles to contact and meet other like-minded people. However extreme the sexual behaviour is, the internet arguably provides the best medium in which to facilitate people’s sexual desires. Some of the most interactive and textually rich parts of the Internet are numerous zoophilic forums. Zoophilic forums typically comprise interactive sites where messages can be left or particular topics discussed in real time. These sorts of data are naturalistic and can be collected without identifying oneself as a researcher or even acknowledging a researcher’s presence

In order to understand the nature of the bestiality subculture online, Dr. Robert Jenkins and Dr. Alexander Thomas in their 2004 book Deviance Online: Portrayals of Bestiality on the Internet studied 100 forum websites dedicated to the portrayal of bestiality. The authors claimed that the advent of the internet had facilitated the networking among and marketing to a subculture of participants across time and space. All 100 websites were selected and coded and fell into three main types. These were ‘pornography’ (i.e., sites oriented toward those who enjoyed viewing or participating in bestiality; 80% of the sites), ‘community building’ (i.e., sites oriented toward providing news or encouraging communication among fellow bestiality practitioners and sympathizers; 7%), and ‘exhibitionism’ (sites oriented to showing bestiality for exhibitionist purposes, either as moral judgment or for humour; 9%). The remaining sites were hybrid sites. The authors hypothesized that women would be disproportionately represented on bestiality websites. The study found only one of the 100 websites featured a (human) male in a bestial act (a man receiving fellatio from a goat). They also reported that it was difficult to describe the depictions of women as anything but degrading. They also claim that the:

“The Internet fulfills a similar function as bohemian neighborhoods and red light districts have fulfilled for other (larger) deviant subcultures in the past. By creating a commons for individuals with similar interests and concerns, it is not surprising that a subculture devoted to bestiality has developed”.

Despite the clear advantages of using online forum data to study zoophilic populations (e.g., ease of data collection, cost-efficiency), the collection of zoophilic data by ‘lurking’ (i.e., observing without making presence known) raises some interesting ethical issues. In online research, the lines have become blurred between ‘public’ and ‘private’ spaces. On some level, cyberspace is always a public domain unless specifically designated as private. However, respecting a person’s right to privacy is viewed as a basic ethical requirement of any social science study. Some may argue that it is the perceptions of the participant that defines the domain as public or private, rather than the physicality of the situation. The issue of privacy may become more complicated if the researcher is involved in online participant observation.

Another online methodology that can be utilized to collect data on paraphilic behaviours is online interviewing. Such a methodology is particularly useful for case study research involving paraphiliacs. Online interviewing of zoophiles is advantageous. As with collecting zoophilic data via online questionnaires, online interviewing of zoophiles involves a considerable saving in time for both researchers and participants as there is no travelling involved for either party. Online interviews can also be carried out synchronously (via an instant messenger system) or asynchronously (via email). Asynchronous online interviews may be attractive and convenient for zoophiles allowing them to respond at their own pace and in their own time. Such detailed accounts can also be used to publish case studies that may have not been highlighted in the literature

One of the main advantages with the collection of case study data onlineis that those being interviewed may be very different from those who seek out medical and professional help for their zoophilic behaviour. As with data collected via online surveys, zoophiles divulging information online may be less psychologically disturbed about their behaviour and may be happy and have incorporated their zoophilic behaviour into their day-to-day lives.

Another informative paper in a 2009 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior was by Dr. Christopher Earls and Dr. Martin Lalumiere (2009) whose recruitment of a zoophile via the internet allowed them to establish the veracity of some of their respondents who contacted them online. For instance, one letter from “Possum” was long and detailed. Earls and Lalumiere noted that embedded within the email was a name. By cross-referencing the name with a number of different data banks (e.g., the Social Sciences Citation Index, Google, and Yahoo), they were able to verify several important demographic aspects of the person who sent the email. Possum soon realized he had inadvertently divulged his identity. Earls and Lalumiere were thus satisfied that the information supplied in the initial email was true and (with the person’s permission) published the case in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

The utilization of a variety of online research methods can be a useful and practical way of examining many different aspects of zoophilic behaviour. As Earls and Lalumiere correctly noted, paraphiliacs recruited via medical treatment centres will tend to show more general pathology. Paraphiliacs recruited from prison samples will tend to have greater criminal histories, and paraphiliacs recruited online will tend to show better adjustment and perhaps better intellectual skills. Basically, compared to psychiatric patients and inmates, those recruited online would be expected to be computer sophisticated and more open to discussing their sexuality.

Zoophiles’ familiarity with Internet technology – particularly as being online is often the best way to meet and communicate with other like-minded people – along with the anonymity of the media, may facilitate and enhance such studies being undertaken. The main disadvantages of online methodologies (such as self-selecting samples, issues concerning reliability and validity) are no different to those encountered in more conventional offline research methodologies.

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

Further reading

Beetz, A. M. (2004). Bestiality/zoophilia: A scarcely investigated phenomenon between crime, paraphilia, and love. Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice, 4, 1-36.

Earls, C.M. & Lalumiere, M.L. (2009). A case study of preferential bestiality Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 605-609.

Griffiths, M. D. (2010). The use of online methodologies in data collection for gambling and gaming addictions. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 8, 8-20.

Griffiths, M.D. (2012). The use of online methodologies in studying paraphilia: A review. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 1, 143-150.

Jenkins, R.E. & Thomas, A.R. (2004). Deviance Online: Portrayals of Bestiality on the Internet. New York: Center for Social Science Research.

Kim, P., & Bailey, M. (1997). Sidestreets on the information superhighway: Paraphilias and sexual variations on the Internet. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 22, 35-43.

Mangan, M. A. & Reips, U. (2007). Sleep, sex, and the Web: Surveying the difficult-to-reach clinical population suffering from sexsomnia. Behavior Research Methods, 39, 233-236.

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

Miletski, H. (2005). Is zoophilia a sexual orientation? A study. In A. M. Beetz & A. L. Podberscek (Eds.), Bestiality and zoophilia: Sexual relations with animals (pp. 82–97). Ashland, IN: Purdue University Press.

Mustanski, B.S. (2001). Getting wired: Exploiting the Internet for the collection of sexually valid data. Journal of Sex Research, 38, 292–301.

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

Wood, R. T. A., & Griffiths, M. D. (2007). Online data collection from gamblers: Methodological issues. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 5, 151–163.

Turtle shell shock: Emysphilia and the paraphilia that never was

Regular readers of my blog will be aware that I have written a number of blogs on zoophilia-related topics. This has included blogs on zoophilia in general, zoophilia classification, zoosadism (sexual pleasure from being sadistic to animals), necrobestiality (sex with dead animals), and very specific forms of zoophilia including delphinophilia (sex with dolphins), herpetophilia (sex with lizards), ophidiophilia (sex with snakes), ornithophilia (sex with birds including avisodomy), musophilia (sexual stimulation from mice including felching), formicophilia (sexual stimulation from insects), and melissophilia (sexual stimulation from bees and bee stings).

There are also loads of specific types of zoophilia that I have yet to devote a whole blog to. Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices list of zoophilia subtypes also includes (in alphabetical order) aelurophilia (sex with cats), arachnephilia (sexual arousal from spiders), batrachophilia (sexual arousal from frogs), cynophilia (sex with dogs), and phthiriophilia (sexual arousal from lice). However, while I was idly researching another blog, I came across a Wikipedia reference to emysphilia. I repeat it here in full:

“Emysphilia (or Turtle Fetish) is a rare sexual fetish in which the practitioner experiences sexual arousal from visual and tactile stimuli relating to turtles and tortoises. It was first discovered by Dr. Daniel Schechner of the University of Hawaii in 1959. Dr. Schechner dedicated a brief portion of his monograph The Varieties of Sexual Experience to this fetish. In the book, he mentions a native Hawaiian islander, known to the reader as ‘Mr. Gor’ who confesses ‘a strong sexual attraction to creatures belonging to the order Testudines’ (2 Schechner 387). Dr. Schechner’s encounter with ‘Mr. Gor’ also finds a brief place in his autobiography No Dull Flesh (1 Schechner 261). Since Dr. Schechner’s discovery, little research has been done on this disorder. As of yet, the American Psychiatric Association, which publishes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), has not recognized the turtle fetish as a legitimate disorder. References: Schechner, Daniel, M.D. No Dull Flesh. Honolulu: UH Press, 1974. Schechner, Daniel, M.D. The Varieties of Sexual Experience. Honolulu: UH Press, 1959. This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article “Emysphilia”. This Link may die if entry is finally removed or merged”.

It all sounded very convincing including hyperlinks to the author and his university. However, when I tried to examine this particular paraphilia more closely, I soon discovered that there was no such paraphilia as emysphilia and that it’s existence had been faked. I then read a really interesting article on the topic written by June Torbati in a 2007 issue of the Yale Daily News. She provided the background to the fake paraphilia and tied it to a story about student “dependence” on Wikipedia.

Torbati tracked down the author – Johan Behan – of the Wikipedia entry on emysphilia who admitted it was “totally absolutely fake”. The names of the people in the article were his college room-mates (Dan Schechner and Ankit Gor). Behan claimed to have invented the word ‘emysphilia’ (allegedly basing it on the Greek word for turtle, although I checked this out and that doesn’t seem to be the case although the suffix ‘emys’ does appear in many turtle names such as ‘Chubutemys’, ‘Hangaiemys’ and ‘Judithemys’). Torbarti also reported that:

“Behan said he has created many fake articles for Wikipedia, the most successful of which was the entry on emysphilia. To ensure others would find the article believable, Behan said, he had to do more than just write one entry on ‘emysphilia’ including creating several others relating to the fake fetish. ‘It’s an art of creating a web of phoniness’ he said. Additionally, striking an academic tone was important to creating an air of legitimacy. ‘You need to write it in a way that makes it sounds like it’s something possible’ Behan said. “If you write it like an authoritative pronouncement it tends to work better”.

Torbati claimed that Wikipedia’s editorial system (or rather lack of it) had American professors “concerned that students are citing incorrect information in their academic work”. Torbati interviewed a Yale history professor – Michael Gasper – who had banned the use of Wikipedia as a source of information for his students’ essays.

Any of my regular blog readers will know that I often use Wikipedia as a source of information (although I typically quote verbatim from it and allow readers to make there own judgment about the veracity of any claims made). Personally, I think Wikipedia is a great starting place but wherever possible I like to cite from academically published journal papers. It’s also worth noting that what starts off as a joke may take on legitimate academic currency. For instance, ‘Internet Addiction Disorder’ was originally proposed as a psychiatric disorder by Dr. Ivan Goldberg in the mid-1990s. However, his original online article was a satirical hoax.

I was one of the academics who cited Goldberg’s hoax criteria in a paper I published in Clinical Psychology Forum back in 1996. I was criticized for this by Dr. Susan Hansen in a paper she published in a 2001 issue of the Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy. However, in my reply to her paper, I did point out that I had been writing about internet addiction a year before Goldberg published his hoax criteria, and that the hoax criteria had created a lot of academic debate which subsequently led to a lot of research in the area. I have absolutely no idea if ‘emysphilia’ will ever gain academic or clinical legitimacy, but based on the case of Ivan Goldberg’s hoax, you never know.

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

Further reading

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.

Griffiths, M.D. (1996). Internet addiction: An issue for clinical psychology? Clinical Psychology Forum, 97, 32-36.

Griffiths, M.D. (2001). The pathologification of excessive internet use: A reply to Hansen. Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy, 1, 85-90.

Torbati, J. (2007). Profs question students’ Wikipedia dependency. Yale Daily News,February 27. Located at:

Wikidumper (2006). Emysphilia. December 29. Located at:

Dead creature feature: A brief look at necrobestiality

Back in October 2006, many American papers reported the case of Ronald Kuch, a 44-year old man from Michegan who was jailed for having sex with a dead dog. The incident was seen by a number of people included staff members of a nearby day care centre and the police. A summarized account of the incident at the Pet Abuse website reported that:

Kuch was arrested after police searched the area of Midland and Carter roads on Oct 20 for a man who ran away from a Bay County Animal Control officer. The entire incident was within view of a nearby day care center…Kuch is charged with crimes against nature and assaulting a law enforcement officer. Troopers said a woman from the day care center called for animal control because there was a dead dog near the property that had been hit by a car several days earlier. Before officers could arrive, the man showed up and began engaging in sexual acts with the dog, police said. The animal control officer also reported seeing Kuch involved in the sex act and as he approached him, Kuch shoved him away and ran off… [Police officers] later learned that the dog, a black Labrador retriever, belonged to [Kuch’s] girlfriend. The dog had been dead for four or five days”.

Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices defines necrobestialism as referring to those individuals who derive sexual arousal and pleasure from having sex with dead animals. According to Dr. Love, this may include ‘bestial sadists’ who kill before or during the torture of animals, as well as those who choose to have sex with animals that they already find dead. A 2011 paper (that I examined in a previous blog on different types of necrophilia) by Dr Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India) in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine proposed a new classification of zoophilia including those individuals who had sex with dead animals. One of the ten sub-types (so called ‘Class IX zoosexuals’) comprises ‘homicidal bestials’ who need to kill animals in order to have sex with them (i.e., necrozoophiles). Dr. Aggrawal reports that although capable of having sex with living animals, there is an insatiable desire among Class IX zoosexuals to have sex with dead animals.

The act of humans having sex with dead animals appears to be incredibly rare. What’s more, the reason for engaging in such acts may not even be sexually motivated. For instance, Brenda Love’s entry on necrobestiality in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices noted that:

“The Suaheli and Arabian fishermen along the coast of Africa until a hundred years ago believed that unless they had anal sex with the sea cows that they netted or that had washed up dead they would be dragged out to sea the next day and drowned by the sea cow’s dead sister. Many locals would therefore make these fishermen swear by the Koran that they did not have sex with the sea cow they were selling at the local market”.

There was no reference in Love’s book as to where the evidence was for this practice but given the thorough job she did on most entries in her encyclopedia, I have no reason to think this practice was untrue.

There are more recent examples of humans having sex with sea animals. One British tabloid newspaper reported that a 46-year old man (Andrew Dymond) was caught with a picture of a man having sex with a dead squid along with pictures of child pornography and other zoophilic pornographic acts (including humans having sex with dogs and horses). After Dymond’s home computer had been seized by police, they found a large amount of “grossly offensive” pornography on it including someone “performing an act of intercourse with a dead animal, namely an octopus/squid, which was grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character”. 

In a 2006 book chapter on paraphilic crime signatures, Dr. William Hickey reported that the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer collected animal roadkill, dissected the remains, and masturbated over the animals he had cut up, because he “found the glistening viscera of animals sexually arousing”. In Dr. Louis Schlesinger’s book on sexual murder, it was reported that: “Dahmer dissected roadkill, butchered small animals, nailed cats and frogs to trees behind his house, and once put a dog’s head on a stick”. Aggrawal also reported the case of 20-year old Bryan Hathaway from Superior, Wisconsin (USA) who in 2006 was arrested for having sex with a dead deer. Hathaway’s case is arguably the most notorious case of necrobestiality in recent times as the case was reported by the worldwide mass media. The case also raised lots of legal, moral and ethical questions over whether a dead animal was really an animal.

Hathaway was charged with ‘sexual gratification with an animal’, but his legal team argued that the deer carcass wasn’t an animal and that the legal statutes do not prohibit an individual from having sex with a carcass. One of Hathaway’s legal team, Fredric Anderson, said that “If you try to include corpses in the category of ‘animals’, then ‘you really go down a slippery slope with absurd results”. For instance, would the picked-over skeletal remains of a dead animal still meet the definition of an animal? Mr. Anderson said that if the carcass was defined as an animal, it would therefore be illegal to have sex with frozen meat or a roast turkey. The state prosecutor James Broughner argued that a deer carcass was still an animal because in Hathaway’s own personal statement he had admitted to having sexual relations with a ‘dead deer’ indicating that Hathaway still thought of it as an animal. He also added that pet owners still call their deceased pets animals after death. In March 2007, Hathaway was given probation rather than a prison sentence However, it was then revealed that Hathaway was given a 9-month prison sentence for killing a horse so that he could have sex with it.

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

Further reading

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.

Coles, J. (2010). Perv ‘had pics of sex with squid’. The Sun, March 4. Located at:

Hickey, E.W (2006). Paraphilia and signatures in crime scene investigation. In Hickey, E.W. (Ed.), Sex crimes and Paraphilia (pp.95-107). New Jersey: Pearson.

Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.

Pet Abuse (2007). Sex with dead dog, assaulting an ACO Freeland, MI (US). Located at:

Schlesinger, L. (2004). Sexual Murder. New York: CRC Press.

Metro (2006). Man has sex with dead deer. Located at:

The Smoking Gun (2006). Can you get dear with a dead deer? November 16. Located at:

Steel, K. (2006). 101 uses for a dead deer. In The Middle, November 16. Located at:

Steel, K. (2007). 101 uses for a dead dog. In The Middle, February 27. Located at:

Verbruggen, R. (2006). Lawyer: necrophilia and animal bestiality are two different things. Minnesota News, November 16. Located at:

The fin crowd: A brief look at delphinophilia

Of all the books about zoophilic activity, one of the strangest is Wet Goddess, a novel by Malcolm Brenner based on his nine-month sexual relationship with a dolphin living at the Floridaland amusement park. Back in 1970, while studying at New College of Florida (Sarasota), Brenner had a relationship with a dolphin called Dolly. Brenner claims the dolphin made the first moves in their relationship. I have to admit that when it comes to dolphins and human sex, the only thing that came to mind before researching this article is the phrase waxing the dolphin one of the many euphemisms for male masturbation.

In a 2011 interview with the Huffington Post, Brenner said that Dolly became “more and more aggressive. She would thrust herself against me. I found that extraordinarily erotic. It’s like being with a tiger or a bear. This is an animal that could kill you in two seconds if it wanted to”. Brenner claimed the relationship ended when Dolly was moved to an oceanarium following the closure of the amusement park in Florida where Dolly was housed. In his interview he further added:

“I had every intention of going to visit the dolphin when I got back to the South, but it didn’t work out that way. I learned the hard way that dolphins are chattel, and much more emotionally vulnerable than I had ever imagined…Some people find it hard to imagine that I wasn’t abusing the animal. They didn’t see me interacting with the dolphin. They weren’t there. These creatures basically have free will. What is repulsive about a relationship where both partners feel and express love for each other? I know what I’m talking about here because after we made love, the dolphin put her snout on my shoulder, embraced me with her flippers and we stared into each other’s eyes for about a minute. This was not some dog trying to hump my leg, okay. This was a 400-lb. wild-born female dolphin. She was an awesome creature…As self-aware mammals, dolphins are capable of making profound emotional attachments to other dolphins and, apparently, to selected humans as well. A dolphin can die of loneliness, of a broken heart, of separation anxiety.”

Brenner’s story may be not as unique as one might first imagine. In 1991, a 38-year old British man, Alan Cooper, was accused of masturbating a tamed dolphin (called Freddie) in front of a number of swimmers in Northumbria (England), and charged with performing a “lewd act”. At Cooper’s trial, expert witnesses testified that male dolphins use their penile erections socially as well as sexually. As a consequence, Cooper was acquitted as it couldn’t be proved that the act was sexual. However, there are a range of websites that give practical advice on how to have sex with a dolphin, and how to tell if they want sex (such as the Sexwork website) as well as websites devoted totally to dolphin lovers (such as the Delphinophile website). There are also dozens of online confessions about either having sex (or wanting to have sex) with dolphins on the Beast Forum (be warned, these are very sexually explicit and all involve zoophilic activity). A recent online essay also examined the case of ‘Dragon-wolfe’, a self-confessed delphinophile who reported that:

“[Dolphins] enjoy the company of humans, and if a relationship develops between a human and a dolphin, as has happened with me, they will, on occasion, wish to express their trust and affection for you in the most direct way; through mating, or sex-play…One thing to note. Whether you masturbate or mate a fin, male or female, always spend time with them afterwards. Cuddle them, rub them, talk to them and most importantly show them you love them. This is essential, as it helps to strengthen the bond between you. Like a way of saying that this wasn’t just a one night fling. The dolphins appreciate it and they will want your company more the next time you visit them”.

So what do academics have to say about delphinophilia? 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). In all three studies, the most commonly preferred animals were either dogs or horses. However, sex with dolphins was not unheard of in these samples. For instance, the study of 114 zoophiles by Williams and Weinberg notes that one of the zoophiles had engaged in delphinophilia. Similarly, the study by Beetz also found one person whose preferred animal to have sex with was a dolphin. She also reported that when it came to animals favoured in masturbation fantasies, a total of two people (7%) favoured dolphins. In a interview with seven erotic dancers, Tim Keefe interviewed the ‘Manx Minx’ who as part of her interview admitted that:

“Currently, my favorite non-human fantasy has to do with going to Marine World and getting a job as an underwater mermaid and having the dolphins try to get me when I go in to feed them after the place closes. I majorly want to have sex with a dolphin, and I don’t know if I will ever get the chance. That’s my big quirk fantasy for the moment. They’re so smart, they must be good lovers, you know”.

If you really want to read about examples of human-dolphin sex, then check out an article on delphinophilia at the Vivid Random Existence website. There is a long online essay collating human’s experiences of having sex with dolphins. The author – a self-admitted zoophile – makes the following observations (ones which I feel duty bound to point out that I don’t personally agree with):

“There is nothing wrong with having sex with dolphins, so long as the dolphin consents to sex. As discussed in other posts, animals can consent to sex by using body language; they do not need to speak a human language to communicate what they want and don’t want. In addition, it is very clear when a dolphin does and does not want to have sex. And according to Internet sources, people have personally experienced dolphins becoming aroused at the sight of a human…People have had sex with dolphins, and from what these people described, both participants (the human and the dolphin) were satisfied by their blissful interactions…Additionally, remember that dolphins themselves are often sexually attracted to humans, in a phenomenon known as ‘reverse bestiality’. They have been known to demonstrate their attraction by making their bodies turn a pinkish color, and through certain behaviors. Of course, due to the taboo associated with bestiality and zoophilia, the ‘reverse bestiality’ dolphin fact will probably never be discussed by the mainstream media”.

My own brief look at delphinophilia certainly comes to the conclusion that it exists among a small minority of zoophiles, and that this has been confirmed by academic researchers in the zoophilia field. However, as I wrote in a my previous blog on herpetophilia (i.e., zoophilic activity between humans and lizards), the animals cannot give informed consent, so therefore such sexual activity is morally wrong. I am in agreement with Dr. Denise Herzing (of the Wild Dolphin Project in the US) who was reported as saying:

“Glorifying human sexual interactions with other species is inappropriate for the health and well being of any animal. It puts the dolphin’s own health and social behavioral settings at risk.”

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

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Beetz, Andrea (2002). Love, Violence, and Sexuality in Relationships between Humans and Animals. Germany: Shaker Verlag.

Brenner, M. (2009). Wet Goddess. Eyes Wide Open.

Farrier, D. (2011). Dolphin man Malcolm Brenner follow-up Q&A. 3 News, September 23. Located at:

Goebel, J. (2012). Zoophilia: Thinking through trans-species sexuality. A Geology of Borders, March 30. Located at:

Keefe, T. (2005). Some of my best friends are naked: Interviews with seven erotic dancers. In R. Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong (pp.191-205).  New York: The Disinformation Company.

McCormack, S. (2011). Malcolm Brenner Chronicles his sexual relationship with dolphin in ‘Wet Goddess’. Huffington Post, September 29. Located at:

Vivid Random Existence (2010). Delphinic zoosexuality (or zoophilia): The sexual attraction to dolphins. December 5. Located at:

Wikipedia (2012). Zoophilia and the law. Located at:

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

See you later alligator: A beginner’s guide to herpetophilia

In previous blogs I have examined various sub-types of zoophilia including ornithophilia (sexual attraction to birds) and formicophilia (sexual attraction to insects). It wasn’t until very recently, that I came across an article on herpetophilia that according to the online Urban Dictionary is “the sexual attraction to reptiles, commonly dinosaurs or anthropomorphic lizards”. There is a fairly active online community of herpetophiles including (with lots of discussion topics such as “How to please a reptile”). The dinosaur-loving herpetophiles can be found interacting with each other on sites like Lava Dome Five where there is an overt crossover between herpetophilia and macrophilia (i.e., sexual arousal from giants – in this case giant lizards in the form of dinosaurs).

One 2012 online essay I read on the Vivid Random Existence (VRE) website claimed that there was a new emergent form of zoosexuality – human sexual attraction towards lizards (and in particular, monitor lizards) – a subcategory of herpetophilia. It was claimed by VRE that the “lizards of choice” for herpetophilic zoophiles were either the Varanus Salvator (a water monitor lizard) and the Nile Monitor. So you can get an idea of the person putting forward these views, the unnamed VRE author is a 20-year old man who describes himself as the following:

“I am bisexual and zoosexual – I am sexually attracted to multiple genders and multiple species (in other words, I am sexually attracted to male humans, female humans, male non-human animals and female non-human animals). When it comes to sexual attraction, the creature’s gender and species are irrelevant to me. However, I am only attracted to a few species (maybe about 7 or 8)”.

The VRE essay then goes on to talk about the sexual ethics of lizard relationships. VRE claims that lizards do not pair bond in the way that many mammals do and asks the very specific question:

“Is it ethical for a human to have sex with a monitor lizard, even if that lizard only ‘tolerates’ the sex and neither enjoys nor dislikes it? From a utilitarian perspective (a perspective adopted by philosophers such as Peter Singer), there is nothing wrong with having sex with a monitor lizard, so long as no harm occurs…With large animals like horses, such human-horse sexual interactions are clearly acceptable under this philosophy – for example, even if a horse has a neutral opinion regarding sexual encounter with a human, the fact that the horse is larger than the human automatically means that physical ‘abuse’ is less likely to occur to the horse”.

The VRE website also claimed in a previous 2010 online essay (Zoosexuality: Should it be considered acceptable?) that the smaller the animal is, the less ethical the activity becomes. VRE then goes on to say that Nile monitor lizards and Komodo dragons are big enough to accommodate human genitalia but that humans having sex with smaller lizards would be unethical due to anatomical incompatibility. A 2011 VRE essay also claims that there are a sub-group of zoophiles that are sexually attracted to alligators and crocodiles, and that some owners of pet alligators or crocodiles have active sexual relationships with them. The “proof” of this claim was based on a video circulating among online zoophile forums (but I’ve not seen it myself). VRE describes the film’s contents:

“The human in the video is male, and the alligator in the video is also male. The human male is seen anally penetrating the male alligator, who is flipped upside down; the fact that the gator has an erection (and the fact that the gator is not tearing the man to pieces) suggests that the alligator is tolerant of (or possibly even enjoys) the sexual relationship with the human”

The issue of whether it is ethically wrong to have sex with a crocodile is again raised (along with the issue of how dangerous the activity is to start with. In the 2012 essay, VRE then says:

“Many have claimed that zoosexuality is wrong on the grounds that it is physically abusive. Although sex with animals can be abusive depending on the size of the animal, it can also not involve any abuse. In other words, it all depends on the size of the animal, and whether or not it is compatible with a human…When considering other species, it is important to realize that some species are too small for humans to engage in sex with”.

The article also quotes from philosopher Peter Singer’s online essay Heavy Petting (published on the website) in which Singer (Princeton University, US) reviews Midas Dekkers’ Dearest Pet. Singer wrote that:

“Some men use hens as a sexual object, inserting their penis into the cloaca, an all-purpose channel for wastes and for the passage of the egg. This is usually fatal to the hen, and in some cases she will be deliberately decapitated just before ejaculation in order to intensify the convulsions of its sphincter. This is cruelty, clear and simple…But sex with animals does not always involve cruelty. Who has not been at a social occasion disrupted by the household dog gripping the legs of a visitor and vigorously rubbing its penis against them? The host usually discourages such activities, but in private not everyone objects to being used by her or his dog in this way, and occasionally mutually satisfying activities may develop”

I can’t say I agree with any of these arguments, as my own view is that sex should always be consensual and inter-species sexual activity is always non-consensual. Being “cruelty-free” does not make sexual activity with animals an acceptable activity. Singer’s arguments suggest that some animals (e.g., dogs) can engage in cruelty-free sex with humans and that no party is harmed. I can think of (admittedly extreme) scenarios where sex between humans could take place where neither party is harmed but it doesn’t mean it is morally acceptable. For instance, a human who has sex with a deceased person (i.e., a necrophile) technically does no harm to either party but that doesn’t make it acceptable. There is also the scenario that appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill where men had sex with Uma Thurman’s character while she was in a coma. Again, this might be perceived by some as “cruelty-free”, but the common denominator in both these extreme situations is that the sex was non-consensual.

Another related paraphilia to herpetophilia, and sub-category of zoophilia, is that of ophidiophilia that is defined in Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices as a sexual attraction to snakes). There are some really quite bizarre snake sexuality websites including those where there is a crossover with vorarephilia (i.e.. sexual arousal from the idea of being eaten, eating another person, or observing this process for sexual gratification). This seems a logical crossover given that snakes swallow their prey whole (check out the Snake Eats website if you don’t believe me).

An act often associated with ophidiophilia is ophidicism. This is where women voluntarily insert snakes (and sometimes eels) tail first into their vagina to get sexual pleasure as it wriggles free. There are also stories of both men and women allegedly receiving sexual pleasure from snakes wriggling free following anal insertion. Acts of ophidicism have been documented going back to Ancient Greek times. Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices also says the practice was prevalent in Roman times except the women put snakes into their vaginas head first. There are more recent references to the activity in the psychological literature including a case study reported in a 1964 issue of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis by Austrian psychoanalyst Dr. Melitta Sperling.

VRE claims that in the case of animals like snakes, only certain sexual acts with them would be considered abusive. VRE asserts that ophidicism is unethical, and that penile penetration of snakes that are physically incompatible with humans (in terms of size) is animal abuse. However, there are some acts that VRE believes could still be ethical involving snakes (e.g., oral sex – although it wasn’t clear whether that was a human performing oral sex on a snake, vice-versa, or either).

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

Further reading

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.

Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.

Singer, P. (2001). Heavy petting. Located at:—-.htm

Sperling, M. (1964). A case of ophidiophilia: A clinical contribution to snake symbolism. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 45, 227-233.

Vivid Random Existence (2010). Zoosexuality: Should it be considered acceptable? July 20. Located at:

Vivid Random Existence (2011). Crocodilian zoosexuality (or zoophilia): The sexual attraction to alligators and crocodiles. December 5. Located at:

Vivid Random Existence (2012). Lizard zoosexuality (or zoophilia): The sexual attraction to lizards. January 13. Located at:

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

Further reading

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:

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.