The Science of Zoophilia

Scientific research on human sexuality is a relatively new field. The Kinsey Reports, published in 1948 (men) and 1953 (women) (link), were the first attempt to gather data on human sexual behaviour. These were informally updated by Playboy in the 1970s (link), back when it retained some literary relevance, in an attempt to understand the changes brought about by the sexual revolution, and—of course—to provide some salacious reading material.

It took until the early 1980s for researchers to confirm that homosexuality is largely set at birth (ref). This work, controversial at the time, contradicted the prevailing wisdom that male homosexuality came about due to feminization of a male child, caused by an overbearing mother and distant father (the reverse supposedly applied for lesbians). This conclusion was simple enough to make: researchers interviewed a large number of people, asking about their childhood and sexual preference, then looked for correlations. (They found none.) And yet such simple data gathering took more than 30 years after Kinsey to be published.

The science of zoophilia is much less mature. Kinsey asked questions and gathered data (as did Playboy) however the first serious attempt to understand zoophilia was published more than 50 years later, by Dr Hani Milestki in 1999. Miletski’s book suggested that zoophilia may be a legitimate sexual preference: one defined by love, not sex.

Miletski’s book was followed by research from two long-time specialists in the field—Drs Williams (wikipedia profile) & Weinberg (wikipedia profile), who started their careers studying homosexuality in the 1960s. (Weinberg, literally, wrote the book—in 1981—that showed that homosexuality was set at birth.) The two are highly respected in their field, and their results agreed with Miletski when they published in 2003. Research into zoophilia has increased since then.

(The works of Miletski—Understanding Bestiality and Zoophiliaand Williams & Weinberg—Zoophilia in Menare available in full for free, and are barnstorming reads. They are both recommended, Miletski in particular, although you’ll want to gird your loins for some vivid language.)

The two works are notable for going beyond analysis and discussion of statistics: the authors clearly became sympathetic towards the zoophiles during the course of their research. This sympathy isn’t evident in the results, but it is evident in their discussion of the zoophile lifestyle. They note that the zoophiles face unusual personal and ethical challenges as a result of their taboo sexuality. Williams & Weinberg make a direct comparison with the subjects of their early work, homosexual groups in a less tolerant era:

They reminded us of some of the early gay groups we studied in the 1960s and 1970s, especially when they engaged in banter about sex (in this case, it was not just sex with men).

 

Homosexuals in that era were seen as dangerous sexual deviants, similar to the way that zoophiles are seen today. However it is very clear from the results presented in Miletski and Williams & Weinberg that the relationship between a zoophile and his/her animal partner is based on love, where sex is an expression of that love.

This brings about a special problem faced by zoophiles: if you are in love with a non-human animal, where do you find human contact?

This is clearly a significant personal challenge for the zoophiles, especially given that they must hide their taboo sexuality from most people. Many zoophiles displayed a tendency to anthropomorphize their animals (ref Williams & Weinberg):

When asked “Is being in love with an animal different than with a human?” approximately three quarters answered positively. The features the men mentioned were anthropomorphic in that they described ideal human love relationships. Ironically, humans were often seen as less able than animals to provide those ideal human characteristics.

 

This is a special kind of misanthopy, one where human emotions are projected upon an animal to create an ideal that cannot be met by a real human. This false creation of a perfect, or near-perfect, oxymoronical hyper-human non-human is only going make it more difficult for a zoophile to find real human contact.

Humans are social beings. We have evolved to need one another’s company, and we communicate in subtle ways that meet our social needs. A relationship between a human and a non-human will always be one-sided, regardless of the perception of mutual love.

The zoophiles can end up with an unhealthy misanthropic perspective, a perspective I would compare with that felt by depressed people:

I find the company of animals more pleasing than that of humans – there’s less stress, fighting… Love with an animal is how love should be – a lot less complicated with no strings attached. (Williams & Weinberg)

 

I can identify with dogs a lot more than I can identify with humans. I am thinking a lot like dogs, and therefore I can understand dogs better than humans. (Miletski)

 

I felt I could only trust animals. They didn’t gossip, they didn’t laugh at me, they were available most any time. (Miletski)

 

In these comments you can hear the reflected neuroses of the zoophiles. They feel that humans cannot possibly live up to their expectations, or that they themselves will fail to ‘fit in’ with society, so they regress and find reasons to avoid people altogether.

Marcel Proust, as ever, intuited this, framing depressive misanthropy as a reaction to a need to be part of (an untrusted) society. The following quote is from the second volume of In Search Of Lost Time:

In a recluse, the most irrevocable, lifelong rejection of the world often has as its basis an uncontrolled passion for the crowd, of such force that, finding when he does go out that he cannot win the admiration of a concierge, passers-by or even the coachman halted at the corner, he prefers to spend his life out of their sight, and gives up all activities which would make it necessary to leave the house.

 

The sad irony is that those who have the least social contact are the ones most in need of social contact.

The other issue is, of course, the ethics of sexual contact with a non-human animal. Animal sexual abuse can sometimes be a problem (ref), and such behaviour is commonly assumed to be the act of a zoophile.

According to the researchers, making a connection between zoophilia and animal abuse is wrong. The zoophiles were defined by their love for the animals. Miletski states:

The majority of my subjects love their animal-partner. Some see them as a spouse and will do anything for them. Sexual relations with the animal is an expression of love for them, and if the animal tells them, with its body language, that it is not in the mood for love-making, the majority of my subjects will leave the animal alone. In fact, many of them are members of the Humane Society and other organizations that are taking care of animals.

 

The ethical issues associated with zoophilia are important however I don’t intend to explore them in detail here. This is difficult ground because of the strong moral reaction people often have to zoophilic acts (very comparable to the strong moral reaction some people have to homosexual acts). In general, researchers and ethicists on the topic (notably Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation, ref) agree that the issue is whether the animal is harmed, and that the sexual aspects are irrelevant. This may be the subject of a future article (although, given my recent article on Why Zoophilia is a Furry Issue I’m a bit concerned about turning [a][s] into Zoophilia Weekly).

There is a small zoophile subculture growing on the internet. Zoophiles are expected to continue to congregate online, due to their small numbers and the benefits of anonymity. Many of them, including some who participated in Miletski’s study, have engaged with the furry community. This makes sense: furry provides what is important to zoophiles, namely a largely online-based culture with strong social connections, an emphasis on intimate friendships, and a safe environment for people of unusual sexual or gender orientations.

It’s no accident that the researchers compare zoophiles today with the GLBT community of 50 years ago. Gay relationships were seen as an exercise in immoral sexual behaviour, however this has changed as homosexual relationships are now largely perceived to be about love. The zoophiles have not reached this stage, but they may find that the furry community provides a social environment where their love is tolerated as unusual but acceptable. If zoophiles can be open within furry, they can provide good role models for the ‘zoo-curious’, helping young people manage and accept an otherwise complex and difficult sexual orientation.

I expect the level of conversation within the furry community to improve over time as the number (although perhaps not the proportion) of zoophiles increases. We will see more intelligent, respected, well-adjusted zoophiles be open about their orientation within furry. Dismissive and offensive language will become marginalized, just like homophobic language has declined in general society in recent years. And conversation topics, online and offline, will move away from the presumption of abuse, and towards the real ethical and emotional challenges of being a zoophile.

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.

Before posting a comment, please read our Code of Conduct

27 thoughts on “The Science of Zoophilia

  1. Hmm. I kept quiet last week, but I’ll add a comment now.

    I’ve (rather accidentally, I think) had long discussions with a number of self-proclaimed zoophiles over the web, as well as having met one back in the 1970s who was open about his history.

    I think the label is too broadly applied, so that it lumps together a number of very disparate groups with different issues and directions. There do appear to be some who really are in love with an animal to the point of sexual contact, though I don’t know what to say about the animal’s response to that. There are others who are quite platonic about it and seem horrified at the idea of such a physical expression. Still others appear to me to be simply abusing their power over some poor beast(s) for their own gratification and sometimes profit. And yet another group really seem to think of “zoophile” as simply meaning that they love animals. The latter group harbor no sexual thoughts at all about the relationship, but are analogizing “zoophile” with words like “audiophile” or “bibliophile,” which certainly imply nothing sexual.

    Given that fuzzy an application of the vocabulary, I question the validity of most of the statistics gathered about zoophiles among the furry community. Survey questions need to be worded much more explicitly in order to make sure they are interpreted in a consistent manner.

    True zoophilia, of the first type mentioned above, is quite rare. Situational zoophilia is (or was) more frequent if we are to believe Kinsey. Given that most furries from developed countries today seem to hail from urban or suburban environments, situational zoophilia is probably much less common than it was on Kinsey’s statistics.

    I strongly suspect that many of the respondents who called themselves “zoophiles” or “plushophiles” did not mean the word to be applied in any but my last sense, the one analogous to “bibliophile.”

  2. I get a little confused with the statement that a legitimate sexual preference is only one defined by love not sex. Since the term is -sexual- preference, why can that not apply to someone who is sexually attracted to a group (whether male humans, female humans, non-human animals, etc.)? Shouldn’t the issue of love be a separate thing (I thought the one poll used the suffix “amory” for that)?

    1. Hi Keito. I’m using ‘sexual preference’ in the way it’s defined and used by the sociologists. Specifically, this is (1) feelings of love and affection, (2) sexual fantasies, (3) sexually attraction. The legitimacy of zoophilia as a sexual preference has been researched by Miletski, article here (http://www.cabdirect.org/abstracts/20053199842.html)—the abstract answers your question.

      1. Thank you for the reply. Is there a term that covers someone who just has sexual fantasies and attraction? It seems what you had mentioned earlier about some pedophiles would fall in that category since they are harming children.

  3. I have known a few zoos over the years, and they were quite all quite normal. I remember being in a car with one and it strikes me as sort of humourous how he’d slow the car down and look at a mare and murr like a man who had just spotted a hot looking woman. It amazed me how he knew the sex of the horse before I did… maybe I need glasses?

    I’ve been a Furry for some time, and have mostly met gay furries, but yes, there is a zoo crossover, the two fit in neatly together.

    I was chatting to a friend (who wasn’t zoo) and they said that they didn’t agree with it because there was no consent, but it struck me as odd that while she felt consent was required for sex, that de-sexing a bull calf and raising it till the age of three, for meat, was quite acceptable.

    Did the bull calf agree to this?

    Wolfie!

    1. Hi Wolfie, thanks for the comment. You’ve hit on what I think is a really important point, that would be the key to any article reviewing the ethics of zoophilia. I’m not sure if I’ll actually write such an article, at least not in the near future, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that our excellent commenters here on [a][s] are already miles ahead of level of conversation elsewhere.

  4. I like your optimism about the level of conversation. I’ve tried having those discussions a number of times, putting forwards the ethical and scientific reasons why I’m okay with zoophilia, including books and scientific articles, but got very little other than aggression. Not only that but, safe in the majority, I could seldom get any opponent to even justify or provide evidence for their position. Things were better on some sites but the FurAffinity forums were particularly notable for their lack of critical thinking and love of invective posts.

    Looking at my “in-progress” file I had an 8 000 word essay on the topic which I was meaning to rewrite, improve and add many more references. I no longer have time or energy but if you’re interested in continuing the work I could probably see where my original is and some of my later notes and share them with you.

    1. Hi Rakuen, thanks for the comment. I’ll admit that I’m an optimist by nature, and it’s nice to hear that you’re hopeful that things are improving too. I think we’re pretty lucky here on [a][s], our commenters are a pretty thoughtful and moderate bunch, even when they disagree. Such thoughtfulness is rare on the internet… and, I suspect, especially rare on forums.

      I’d love to have a read through your essay, if only for curiosity. I’ve written on the topic twice this year already (and once last year), so I don’t want to overdo it. But I’m always interested to learn more – you can fire it to jm@furrynet.com. Thanks!

  5. Another interesting article, though like you say, you are in danger of become zoophile weekly ;). Some interesting conclusions, observations, predictions. It is interesting to see that repeated phenomenon where a researcher becomes sympathetic to zoophilia and zoophiles once they study it in depth. I wonder if this happens as often with other taboo and widely illegal sexual practices?

    Your article touches on the difficulty and isolation of being a zoophile, but while avoiding the moral question, doesn’t address the legal question either. Sex with animals is illegal in an ever increasing number of places. Homosexuality itself used to be illegal in many places as well, and the pressures that brings to bear on the psyche and how one lives one’s life are potentially tremendously damaging. Imagine living your whole life waiting for the day the police finally catch up with you, ruining your reputation, ending your career. Imagine how many times you mentally rehearse conversations with your nearest and dearest should the truth ever come out. But worse than being caught as a homosexual, you have your life and liberty stripped away, but also your loved ones, your animals, likely to be killed or mutilated. Something to think about.

    I appreciate your optimistic tone, although I feel as if you too are nailing your colours to the wall a bit with this one. The presumption the tone of debate will improve, that dismissive and offensive language will become marginalised, that topics will move away from the presumption of abuse… These are not neutral sentiments, though they are very much appreciated.

    1. Hi Vendetta, apologies for the delayed response. You’ve raised some very interesting points.

      Williams and Weinberg, certainly, become sympathetic towards the zoophiles in much the same way that they become sympathetic towards gay groups in the early 1960s. Miletski has subsequently written a book on mother-son incest (I haven’t read it), and it would be interesting to see if she responds in a similar fashion.

      Curiously, the illegalization of bestiality is a very recent phenomenon in many parts of the world. Such legislation spread throughout the United States in the late 1990s and early 2000s based on a letter-writing campaign from a so-called “ex zoophile”. A ‘reformed’ zoophile named Mike Rolland formed a group called ASAIRS (Animal Sexual Abuse Information and Resource Site) which is responsible for anti-bestiality laws in many US states from about 2001. Rolland was deeply involved in zoophile communities online before being diagnosed with several mental disorders. He decided that the zoophile community was responsible for his issues (the same issues reflected in my article) and identifies as an anti-zoo, perhaps analogous to the Burned Furs who were active around the same time.

      (For comparison, Miletski spoke with the American Humane Society in 1996 and was told ““Why should we have literature about people having sex with animals? They don’t harm the animals.””.)

      I wish I’d known about Rolland when I wrote my article “The Haters” (http://www.adjectivespecies.com/2012/05/07/the-haters/). He would have been a perfect example.

      But yes, I appreciate that zoophiles face some difficult challenges. I do think things are improving though, within and without the furry community. I’m not sure what you mean by “nailing [my] colours to the wall”: I’m not a zoophile, as I mentioned in my previous article. I am, however, more than happy to state that I don’t think that there is anything wrong with being a zoophile. It is, after all, not something that one can choose.

      1. Well this is even more of a delayed response, but time got away from me. The whole Mike Rolland story is pretty sad. Shows how little it takes to strip freedoms away. I didn’t know that fact about the American Humans Society though – is it referenced in her book? I havn’t read it as closely as I should.

        But yes, by nailing your colours to the wall I did mean that you effectively condone and support zoophilia (by not saying there’s anything wrong with being a zoophile). Which is pretty cool, but of course does expose you to potentially negative attention. Which Hani Miletski found, even just trying to gather original survey responses.

        1. I’m happy to say that I haven’t received any negative attention. My first (of three) articles on the topic was one of my first on [a][s], and I heard the same prediction then. That was over a year ago.

          I think the comparison between zoophiles today and homosexuals in the early 1960s applies: there is a large group of tolerant but silent people out there.

          The Humane Society comment is in the Epilogue of Miletski’s book, possibly only in the second edition (?). Anyway, the full quote is as follows:

          As previously discussed in the literature review, the Humane Society of the United States, in 1998, launched a First Strike Campaign against animal cruelty. The Humane Society considers sexual contact with
          animals as animal abuse and often an overlooked form of animal cruelty. The campaign addresses the connection between animal cruelty and human violence by promoting strong legislation dealing with animal
          cruelty, providing information and resources to communities, and encouraging the public to treat animal cruelty as a serious crime. What’s interesting is that when I started researching bestiality and zoophilia, in 1996, I called the Humane Society and asked if they had any literature about it. The person who answered my call was puzzled at my request and said: “ Why should we have literature about people having sex with animals? They don’t harm the animals.” I understood this to be a reflection of the philosophy of the Humane Society, and unfortunately, I did not record this person’s name.

      2. The Mike Rolland thing is much more sinister than all that.
        Actually, that’s not even his real name. He made that one up because he worked on organs. (Roland is a brand)

        It’s been a long time…. but as I remember, his real name is Randal Pepe. He went by COUNTLESS names, including Zoobuster, if that tells you anything. ASAIRS was probably far less of a group then was portrayed.
        He eventually tangled with a satanist website called something like Thoughtshop(?) enough to provoke them to investigate him, and offering his criminal history as public record to others. Exposed, he went permanently quiet, though he may not have ceased his crusade completely.

        But what really put his ‘reformed’ status into play was massive rejection by his zoo piers after he produced a confession of bringing in a stray dog, trying to kill him by beating him in the head with a hammer, and finally resorting to carbon-monoxide poisoning. I might even still have a copy of his confession in one of my archives.

        THIS is the person that manipulated so many others into creating pointlessly redundant laws meant only to oppress his enemies.

        Again, it’s been a while. Corrections are welcome!

        1. Ah. I should have read to the bottom BEFORE I posted. CrossSpecies offered thorough info on this already. Feel free to delete my crappy post :-P

          1. Heh, no need for that, I appreciate the engagement and the willingness to talk about this sort of thing. I haven’t written much more on this topic since this article went up, but it’s still on my mind to do so. At the very least, your comment is a friendly reminder to me that it’s an important topic and that there is a lot more to talk about.

            As an aside, I was presenting at a furry convention last weekend (essentially an [adjective][species] TED talk), and talked frankly about zoophilia and why it’s a furry issue, in front of a general audience. I can tell you that it went down well: people were polite and engaged and interested.

          2. The presentation was at Confuzzled, the big UK furry convention (just over 1000 attendees this year). It’s an 18+ con, which makes it a lot more reasonable to talk about this kind of stuff.

            There is no transcript and unfortunately it wasn’t filmed. I have a few sparse notes that helped guide me through it all, but nothing beyond that. It’s all stuff you’ll have seen here on [a][s] anyway: there wasn’t anything new.

  6. First and foremost thank you Jim. Thanks also to other zoos like cross who speak up. I myself have been a gay zoo from birth.
    Many of my earliest memories are of that subject matter. Instead of re-wording similar arguments or concepts of consent or legality, pros or cons, I choice to simply state the fact that my entire life was completely and utterly destroyed. Much like pepe did to all those others.
    While I was not one of his victims, I can tell you all that no one has the capacity to begin to understand that concept. My only option to prevent my death was to flee. Leaving everything and everyone but my husband, my dog, behind in a wake of tears and sorrow. So, to those who would argue or rationalize that being passionately in love; both emotionally and physically with a “non-human” to be a choice sickens me. Who, I ask you, who would go through the absolute hell I have and emerge on the other side with nothing left of their former life and still make the conscious choice to be hated and hunted. My answer is no one. Because it’s not something I have a choice in. I am a zoo. Until they finally kill me. I’m a zoo. Let my story serve as a warning to others who think this is some kind of taboo or fun or interesting thing to dabble in.
    It isn’t, asking a “real” zoo what it’s like is likened to someone expecting an astronaut to explain what it feels like to be in space, or a man asking a women what it’s like to give birth.
    How are we ever expected to covey how we feel or what makes us tick.
    I digress, thanks again to all who contribute to this cause of understanding and acceptance. Too bad it was too late to save me and my family.

    1. Hi John, thanks for the comment. I’m sorry, but not surprised, to hear about your challenges. I hope that things will improve with time.

  7. I have seen the way the furry community reacts to zoophiles, and it is not nice nor accepting and I do not see the furry community ever being a safe space for zoophiles. One of the reasons being that the furry community does not want to associate with zoophiles because of all the stigma surrounding furries already about being animal-fuckers.

    1. GB, thanks for the comment, and I appreciate your perspective. There is a lot of hate out there, and maybe it is better to say that furry is “safer” (than the non-furry world) rather than “safe”.

      In the couple of years since this article was published, I’ve talked frankly about zoophilia (and other topics) in well-attended panels at Confuzzled, the big UK furry convention. I can report that the topic was treated with respect and curiosity by all attendees, and in general furs seem to have no problem with the topic when approached from a neutral point of view. (I should add that Confuzzled is an 18+ convention.)

      This is a different experience from the norm online, and honestly I think that says more about the way people deport themselves in places like Twitter and Reddit than a reflection of actual opinions. You can read the comments to this article, and the other articles I’ve written on the topic here on [a][s], and you’ll see that they are largely respectful and often positive. I suspect that a few loud voices online make furry seem less tolerant than the reality.

  8. I would like to know the data gathered so far on the Furry Survey you guys were doing last year. What are the percentages looking like? Are we still at 18% or did that drastically rise like rumor has it? I’ve been hearing numbers as high as 25-33% and is this true?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *