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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 zoosadismhttps://drmarkgriffiths.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/stuff-love-a-beginners-guide-to-plushophilia/) 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.

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: http://www.3news.co.nz/Dolphin-man-Malcolm-Brenner-follow-up-QA/tabid/1072/articleID/227046/Default.aspx

Goebel, J. (2012). Zoophilia: Thinking through trans-species sexuality. A Geology of Borders, March 30. Located at: http://ageologyofborders.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/zoophilia-thinking-through-trans-species-sexuality/

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: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/23/malcolm-brenner-dolphin_n_974764.html

Vivid Random Existence (2010). Delphinic zoosexuality (or zoophilia): The sexual attraction to dolphins. December 5. Located at: http://vividrandomexistence.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/delphinic-zoosexuality-or-zoophilia-the-sexual-attraction-to-dolphins/

Wikipedia (2012). Zoophilia and the law. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoophilia_and_the_law

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 herpy.net (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 nerve.com 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: http://www.utilitarian.net/singer/by/2001—-.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: http://vividrandomexistence.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/zoosexuality-should-it-be-considered-acceptable-or-not/

Vivid Random Existence (2011). Crocodilian zoosexuality (or zoophilia): The sexual attraction to alligators and crocodiles. December 5. Located at: http://vividrandomexistence.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/crocodilian-zoosexuality-or-zoophilia-the-sexual-attraction-to-alligators-and-crocodiles/

Vivid Random Existence (2012). Lizard zoosexuality (or zoophilia): The sexual attraction to lizards. January 13. Located at: http://vividrandomexistence.wordpress.com/2012/01/13/lizard-zoosexuality-or-zoophilia-the-sexual-attraction-to-lizards/