Why Zoophilia is a Furry Issue

Zoophilia is fairly visible within furry.

Most obviously, so-called ‘feral’ art is ubiquitous, and some animal characters—the cast of The Lion King comes to mind—seem to be minor sex symbols in some circles. More personally, furries sometimes actively denote themselves as zoophiles in social media, perhaps on their Fur Affinity page.

Klisoura’s Furry Survey, which at its peak received over 9000 annual voluntary responses from furries worldwide, shows that 13-18% of furries self-identify as zoophiles. This does not mean that all these furries have had sexual contact with a non-human animal; these furries are probably just reporting sexual attraction. However this is significantly higher than the general population.

Little research has been performed on zoophiles. Serious attempts to study the phenomenon are limited to the last ten years or so, at a level that academics compare to analyses of homosexuality in the 1960s (ref). All of these newer studies rely, in part, on Kinsey’s landmark 1948 study, Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male (link) for data on the incidence of zoophilia.

Kinsey estimated that 6% of American men have sexual contact with a non-human animal during early adolescence. The overwhelming majority of these cases were in rural areas. Such contact later in life quickly becomes vanishingly rare.

(There have been other studies, but none of any consequence. Notoriously, Alvarez & Frienhar—ref—in 1991 reported rates of bestiality within the general population of 10% to 15% however this was based on a pitiful sample size of 20, all psychiatric staff.)

Kinsey attributes cases of sexual contact with non-human animals to young men lacking an available human partner. This is known as ‘situational sexual behaviour’: sexual behaviour that takes place because of a dearth of otherwise preferred options. Such situational sexual behaviour is not limited to zoophilia. There are many other examples, gay sex in prison probably being the most obvious.

Like prison, situational homosexuality is common in gender-segregated communities. Gay sex is endemic in the armed forces of countries that have compulsory military service, Iran and Saudi Arabia in particular (ref). (The Singaporeans have a particularly unusual way of managing homosexuals in their National Service: openly gay men are given restricted duties that depend on whether they are ‘effeminate’ or ‘non-effeminate’. Straight but effeminate men, or otherwise nonconforming men, are also given special duties. I like to imagine that there are whole platoons of drag queens in the Singaporean army, possibly defending Orchard Road from last season’s shoe fashions.) Homosexual behaviour between young heterosexual men is also widespread in Muslim East African nations (notably Sudan) and single-sex boarding schools (notably England).

Situational homosexuality occurs inside the male-dominated furry community too. I’ve written a full article looking at the availability of men (and unavailability of women) within furry—It’s Raining Men—detailing the plight of the heterosexual male furry. Suffice to say that their options are limited. Furry is an open environment that fosters intimate friendships (regardless of sexual preference), so it’s not surprising that many heterosexual young furries will engage in mutually enjoyable sexual contact with male friends. The blunt categories of ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ are not strictly applied in the furry world (like they are in general society), so a heterosexual can engage in same-sex behaviour without risking the ire of his peers, or provoking an unresolvable identity crisis.

Situational bestiality also occurs within furry, partly due to furry zoophiles making their animals available for sexual contact. And, as Kinsey showed, it’s common for young men with access to non-human animals to sexually experiment during adolescence. Further: frank depictions of zoophilic activity are easy to find in the furry community, as is frank discussion on the topic. Given this availability, it’s inevitable that some young male furries will explore this side of their sexuality.

Kinsey’s estimate of the numbers of adolescent men having sexual contact with non-human animals (6%) was published in 1948. This was widely considered to be out of date by the mid-1970s (ref) and is even less relevant today. The reason for this is simple: we live in better connected and more sexually liberated society. The sexual revolution significantly improved the availability of women (and men) for young men; the proportion of people living in rural areas has declined; the spread of television provided a homogenizing influence on moral behaviour; the internet has significantly improved the connectedness of rural communities. The preferred mode of sexual contact is more available to more people, so situational zoophilia is much less common (ref).

Zoophiles today are different from Kinsey’s farm boys. Those people engaging in sexual contact with non-human animals are much more likely to be pursuing it as a sexual preference. The number of zoophiles is small, and so congregation via the internet is common. The influence of the internet is the biggest difference between Kinsey’s sample and today’s zoophiles: the farm boys may have been influenced by a culture where sex with non-human animals was common, however this did not define the community (ref). Today’s zoophiles congregate on the basis that their sexual orientation is an important part of their identity (ref).

And that’s fair enough. Recent research strongly suggests that zoosexuality is a legitimate sexual orientation, a conclusion reached for homosexuality only in the late 20th century. I’ve written an article on this topic here on [adjective][species]—Zoophilia in the Furry Community—so I won’t repeat myself. In short, studies over the last decade show that zoosexuals meet the requirements for a legitimate orientation in terms of sexual preference, fantasy behaviour, and love and affection (ref).

Zoophilia as a sexual preference will apply to some of the 15% (or so) of furries that self-identify as zoophiles. As I mentioned earlier, this question was probably interpreted by most responders as relating to sexual attraction only. This isn’t the common definition outside of furry: non-furry zoophiles tend to differentiate between ‘bestialists’—those who engage with non-human animals for sexual gratification only—and true zoophiles, who are concerned with welfare, perceived consent, and the sexual gratification of the animal (ref). However some of the furry 15% will meet the definition of zoophilia as a sexual orientation, and this number will be significantly higher than the general population, optimistically estimated to be 1% (ref).

Zoophilia is therefore a furry issue because zoophiles are a significant and visible part of our community. Like other unusually prevalent features of our community, as explored here in [adjective][species]—homosexuality, Asperger’s syndrome, fluidity of gender, online relationships—the presence of zoophiles helps create and inform the wider furry culture.

Researchers into zoophilia have also made a connection: furry is included as a subset of zoophilia under a classification system proposed in 2011 (ref). Furries are specifically included as ‘Class I Zoosexuals’, along with other people who engage in psuedo-zoophilic human-animal roleplay (e.g. pony play). Alarmingly, the author suggests that furries might be ‘treated’ through behaviour modification therapy.

Fortunately, doctors and therapists are very accepting of unusual sexual behaviour. Even in the event that the classification of zoophilia formally includes ‘members of the furry fandom’, it’s highly unlikely that any form of treatment would be administered by a halfway-competent doctor or therapist. As things stand today, treatment is not generally recommended for any zoophiles (or other paraphiles). Any furry, or zoophile, seeing a therapist with a different opinion should strongly consider finding a new therapist.

A final disclaimer: I am not a zoophile. I have never had any sexual contact with non-human animals and I’ve never had any desire to. This disclaimer serves two purposes: (1) I don’t want to be subject to the abuse that zoophiles are often subject to; (2) I don’t want this article to be seen as self-justifying. Thanks for reading. It’s not an easy topic.

About JM

JM is a horse-of-all-trades who was introduced to furry in his native Australia by the excellent group known collectively as the Perthfurs. JM now helps run [adjective][species] from London, where he is most commonly spotted holding a pint and talking nonsense.

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26 thoughts on “Why Zoophilia is a Furry Issue

  1. I don’t really think zoophilia would be a “sexual orientation”, because sexual orientation denotes gender of the person you’re attracted to, not the species. It would be an “incomplete” sexual orientation, in any case (meaning heterozoosexual, homozoosexual, bi/poly/panzoosexual, and zooromantic asexual orientations would be needed to clarify).

    1. That’s the term that the scientists use. It’s best summed up in a 2005 article, however unfortunately the link I’ve posted as a reference seems to be temporarily offline. Anyway the full reference is:

      Miletski, Hani, A. M. Beetz, and A. L. Podberscek. “Is zoophilia a sexual orientation? A study.” Bestiality and zoophilia: Sexual relations with animals (2005): 82-97.

  2. You say “There have been other studies, but none of any consequence.” with regards to zoophilia. Are you discounting Hani Miletski’s bestiality and zoophilia study then, do you feel the sample set within the book is also too small? I find it to be rather groundbreaking in the approach it takes to its research and some of the conclusions discovered.

    Secondly, I feel your point of ‘situational bestiality’ concerning actual pet animals within furry is a bit of a red herring. My anecdotal evidence is that a very small percentage of furries self-identifying as zoophiles even have sexually available pets, and fewer still who would share so readily. I have a hard time believing this is even a thing of any statistical significance. More likely seems the other points you raise, that of furry as a sexually permissive environment, depicting and discussing bestiality and zoophilia in a frank way, leading to plenty of curiosity (An essay titled ‘Furry as a gateway drug to bestiality and zoophilia’ would be an interesting one :P ).

    A very thought provoking essay though, as always. And an issue not going away any time soon.

    1. Hi Vendetta. Thanks for the kind words.

      I’m glad you mentioned Miletski’s book. I’ve read it (I think it’s great) and I talk about in some detail in an article following this one, which will be published in a couple of weeks’ time. I talk about some other great references too. Make sure you hang around :)

      Neither Miletski or any other reference, however, provide an estimate of the incidence of zoophilia, which is what I was referring to with that comment. (Reading back, I can see that my wording is a bit vague.) Miletski’s data is a self-selecting group from a Usenet group in the late 90s, alt.sex.bestiality if I recall correctly. She didn’t make any attempt to survey the population at large: so far only Kinsey and Playboy have made anything resembling a reasonable attempt.

      Your point about situational bestiality is a good one and well taken. I don’t have any data other than some totally unscientific anecdotal evidence. I included that in this article because I wanted to reference the idea, as you say, that furry can be a ‘gateway’ to zoophilia (much like it’s sometimes seen as a gateway to homosexuality). I know it goes on, although I have no idea how much, and I don’t want to shy away from controversial topics. After all, that’s one of the things that (hopefully) makes [a][s] interesting.

      Thanks again, and I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on my future follow-up article.

  3. [Just to put this up-front to explain my biases; yes, I am a zoophile, and have been since before I joined the furry community.]

    I think this analysis, while touching on some of the formal studies that have been completed, doesn’t really address the dynamics of zoophiles inside furry. I will agree that there is a heightened tolerance for zoophilia within the furry community deriving from the significant overlap in fictional portrayal of sexual partners, but I don’t think the overlap in the actual underlying orientation is significant.

    There are largely three groups of self-identifying zoophiles within the furry community – firstly, those that are attracted to animals, and want absolutely nothing to do with furry; furry is seen as a convenient, tolerant community from which they can contact other zoophiles, but there’s almost a level of malice towards furries who are not zoos. This group, in my experience, does seem to be dominated by an older demographic who may not have grown up with furry during their teenage years. Secondly, there’s the group who happily straddle both communities; they’re happy being zoos, and happy being part of the furry community. This seems to be the case for the vast majority of the zoophiles in the community.. perhaps 80%, or thereabouts. And, thirdly, there’s the zoo-curious who tend to approach the issue from a furry viewpoint. They often tend to drop out within a few months, although a minority will end up self-identifying as zoophiles.

    Just like it is outside furry, zoophilia is a polarising issue for furs; while the vast majority are at the least tolerant if not accepting, there are still a number who do not want furry to be ‘corrupted’ by the concepts of, and external allegations of zoophilia/bestiality.

    I would argue that largely, zoophilia is not an issue for the furry community; while there is a heightened tolerance and acceptance as compared to the wider community, there is a definite internal segregation between the two communities originating from both extreme ends of the scale. Just as homosexuality going back 10, 15 years was not an “issue” for the furry fandom, I don’t think the mere presence of a greater-than-usual ratio of furries identifying as zoophiles implies that it is suddenly an issue for the furry community. The only possible concern I can see is that of furs worrying about those outside the community conflating the concepts of furry and bestiality, although it does not seem sufficiently prevalent a view to be cause for concern.

    1. “The only possible concern I can see is that of furs worrying about those outside the community conflating the concepts of furry and bestiality, although it does not seem sufficiently prevalent a view to be cause for concern.”

      As long as someone outside the fandom refuses to draw the distinction between zoophilic and zoomorphic attraction, (or, equivalently, as long as furries perceive this to be the case), there will be pressure for furries to figuratively throw zoophiles under the bus.

      Also, in the absence of anthropomorphic animals which aren’t simply figments of the imagination, it’s difficult to actually demonstrate a difference to those who don’t actually pay attention to words.

  4. The ‘feral’ issue deserves closer examination. To me, the essential furry characteristic is increased intelligence. An animal character may be physically ‘feral’ – yet if they are intelligent they are still furry, and arguably sex with them would not be bestiality (or at least, not any more than it would be compared to the average fur).

    Of course, it can be hard to tell the level of intelligence from a picture, especially as it may decrease the ability of the character to use certain tools, or even speak (especially if they are muzzled).

    Perhaps also worth considering is how furries look to feral/anthro pairings as a convenient expression of bondage/domination/submission fantasies. Many tools have been created to keep animals under control, and might be applied to intelligent, non-anthro furries.

    1. I think Green Reaper has a good point.

      Certainly one of the issues involves ability to give informed consent. Given that there is a legitimate issue with regard to underage being unable to give informed consent, it is hard to argue that non-human animals can give informed consent above that of an underage human.

      An anthropomorphic animal, however, could easily be seen to have that intelligence even if they have a feral body.

      1. Hi Keito. I think GR is spot on, thanks for adding your voice.

        I just want to challenge the issue of informed consent. The issue isn’t informed consent; the issue is harm. Children who are sexually abused are often harmed, because they are unable to go through normal sexual development during adolescence. It’s not correct to apply the same standard to non-human animals. Consider that pets are often neutered.

        1. Oh I agree that pets and non-human animals have a number of things done to them without giving informed consent, not just neutering, but being eaten. WIth regard to harm, I had mentioned that before in another thread so was no bringing it up here.

          My understanding is that one of the legal issue is consent which is why someone can be charged with statutory rape for having sex with a minor (including someone who is 16 or 17) even if that minor agreed to it and shows no obvious harm.

          Some of the people opposed to sex with non-human animals would say that they would be the equivalent of an underage child emotionally and intelligently and so could not appropriately give consent (and many of these individuals might also be opposed to eating animals, or conducting research on them, etc. and so may be consistent in this argument).

          My major point was though, an anthropomorphic animal can be seen as having intelligence/emotional level of an underage child or of an adult human. If the latter is the case, then the argument about consent loses ground.

      2. Consent is a really strange concept. Most people would consider it important but when I’ve had debates about it on-line, with regard to bestiality, it’s been taken outside of what would normally be required. For example I’ve had people say there must be verbal consent and so animals couldn’t consent but then seemingly ignoring that most couples will not ask “Do you want to have sex?” but initiate through physical contact. Words just aren’t needed. I’ve also found in research bioethics that consent can sometimes be a bit blurry as well.

        Anyway the point I really wanted to make is that there’s another way of understanding consent which only requires that the being consenting doesn’t have reduced mental abilities. This way you could get full consent from a non-human animal in terms of what it could understand even if it’s only child level. A child though has reduced mental abilities because as it grows up it’s abilities are still going to increase. This also makes sense when you consider consent and human intelligence, humans now are far smarter than the humans from 1000 years ago.

        1. That can certainly make sense.

          I do want to stress, however, that I am not arguing for or against applying the concept of consent to bestiality. Rather I am saying that IF you do believe consent should be the standard, then you need to take into consideration that anthropomorphic animals are often considered to be at adult human levels even if they are physically feral and therefore they would pass the consent test.

    2. Yes, that’s pretty much what I was thinking through this. Many of the “feral” furry characters out there are still very *anthropomorphic,* in the most canonical sense. If the wolf is physically a normal wolf but has human intelligence and the power of speech, then she’s just as much of a fantasy character as the wolf girl who looks like a fashion model. If making out with the latter wouldn’t be bestiality if she really existed, I don’t think I could conclude that it would be any more so with the former.

      …and that may raise a uniquely furry question about the issue, namely, just how furries who identify as zoophiles interpret the term. I have met more than one furry fan who would find a feral attractive but would be adamantly opposed to bestiality.

    3. Hi GR, thanks for the comment. In hindsight, I completely agree, and the feral example I use—unfortunately at the very beginning of the article—isn’t as relevant as I’ve implied. Thanks for pointing that out, and thanks for applying your usual intelligence and insight.

  5. The funny thing is that a lot of the zoophilic art I’ve seen is that of a person being turned into the animal and then copulating (often being forced to) with an animal of the same species. I think it often overlaps into the bondage and TF community because they see the lack of consent as a turn-on and so want to have that taken away from them. They want to be the animal that can’t say yes or no, but is used whenever the initiator is able to catch them. For them it’s the prey fetish, which is a very different phenomenon from the zoos who are attracted to genuine animals, but ties into them because they’re still having sex with an animal, just that the one unable to sign consent is them.

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