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March 26, 2010 10:42 AM   Subscribe

And scientific researchers appear to be slowly conceding that zoophilia may be a genuine human sexual orientation. Scientific American's Jesse Bering research into zoophiles, prompted by a "an unusually erudite reader ... a self-professed zoophile" leads to more questions than answers: Are zoophiles attracted only to sexually mature animals—and if not, does this make them “zoopedophiles”? Do zoophiles find particular members of their preferred species more “attractive” than other individuals from those species, and, if so, are they seduced by standard beauty cues, such as facial symmetry in horses? What is the percentage of homosexual zoophiles (those who prefer animal partners of the same sex) over heterosexual zoophiles?
posted by geoff. (254 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ah, Scientific American. How far you have fallen.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:44 AM on March 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


ok. the horse's ass picture made me spit my coffee all over my screen.
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:46 AM on March 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Can we get a NSFW on that photo; that hot, hot photo?
posted by Pollomacho at 10:49 AM on March 26, 2010 [19 favorites]


um
posted by grubi at 10:51 AM on March 26, 2010


"genuine human sexual orientation"

Some peoples' brains are wired such that they get aroused by killing people, cannibalism, or drowning small children. Genuinely, their brain is wired this way.

This doesn't mean we consider these behaviors legitimized or in any way comparable to sexual activities performed by consenting adults.
posted by yeloson at 10:51 AM on March 26, 2010 [44 favorites]


Robert Anton Wilson's ghost just stopped haunting James Randi long enough to shit itself laughing.
posted by griphus at 10:52 AM on March 26, 2010 [23 favorites]


Ah, Scientific American. How far you have fallen.

I'm watching these Bodil Joensen tapes in the name of SCIENCE, I tells ya!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:55 AM on March 26, 2010


Thankfully, "genuine" is not necessarily a synonym of "legitimate" or "acceptable".
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:56 AM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I look forward to future thread derails over the word cisspecies.
posted by bondcliff at 10:57 AM on March 26, 2010 [18 favorites]


Articles like this really get my goat.
posted by Floydd at 10:57 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


ew
ew ew ew ew ew ew

I reserve the right to discriminate against people who fuck horses.

And if you don't like that ....

well, I guess you can go fuck a horse.
posted by Sloop John B at 10:57 AM on March 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


Wouldn't that also make animals zoophiles? Especially many dogs. And lets not forget sofaphiles, too. Or even ottomanophiles.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:57 AM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Really, the issue here is this: Animals (like children and unconscious people) can't give informed consent to having sex with an adult human. That is why it's wrong.
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:59 AM on March 26, 2010 [30 favorites]


Or even ottomanophiles.

FTFY
posted by griphus at 11:00 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah seriously, for all of the fascinating work that can be done investigating zoophilia and pedophilia, nothing overcomes the fact that it is NOT between consenting adults.

The only caveat I'd throw out there comes from Dan Savage, who reminds us that we kill and eat animals, and given a choice, they'd probably not want that.
posted by Theta States at 11:00 AM on March 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


I was genuinely perplexed by that article. It seemed to mix so many assumptions about ontology that I couldn't really get my mind around when something is legitimized by science and when it isn't. I would have thought that people engaging in the behavior already demonstrated that it was a behavior that people engaged in.

The notion that getting a boner while looking at horses measures some sort of "pure" attraction to horses, as opposed to say remnants of the arousal of killing a huge horse, or who knows what else, is one of the reasons I have so much trouble buying into what seems like very mechanistic understandings of human behavior. It isn't that I don't think the brain is involved, but measuring one or two (or even eight) parameters doesn't really do much to tell us how the brain is involved, or what is changing the studied parameters.
posted by OmieWise at 11:01 AM on March 26, 2010


I suppose someone's going to do a doctoral dissertation on Rule 34 next.
posted by Pragmatica at 11:01 AM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


And a thousand dolphin blowhole fetishists rejoiced.
posted by mathowie at 11:02 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Animals (like children and unconscious people) can't give informed consent to having sex with an adult human.

Correct.

That is why it's wrong.

Wait, what? We can kill a sheep and eat its corpse, but sex is right. out.?
posted by DU at 11:02 AM on March 26, 2010 [20 favorites]


Some peoples' brains are wired such that they get aroused by killing people, cannibalism, or drowning small children. Genuinely, their brain is wired this way.

This doesn't mean we consider these behaviors legitimized or in any way comparable to sexual activities performed by consenting adults.


You're absoultely right. Sexual orientation is a completely separate question from whether conduct is moral.
posted by The World Famous at 11:02 AM on March 26, 2010


Oh that otter.
posted by The Whelk at 11:03 AM on March 26, 2010


Some peoples' brains are wired such that they get aroused by killing people, cannibalism, or drowning small children. Genuinely, their brain is wired this way.

This doesn't mean we consider these behaviors legitimized or in any way comparable to sexual activities performed by consenting adults.


I don't think we can automatically assume that sexual activities with a horse, for example, are abusive towards the horse or that the horse is incapable of consent (it could have just kicked him).

Although the subject is fascinating, I found the article itself a little insincere.

this particular man married a (human) woman and had two children with her.

[...] the story of a low-IQ’ed, antisocial, fifty-four-year-old convict who had a strong sexual interest in horses. In fact, this was why he was in prison for the fourth time on related offenses; in the latest incident, he had cruelly killed a mare out of jealousy because he thought she’d been giving eyes to a certain stallion. (You thought you had issues.)

Why the parenthetical snickering in an article that purports to be sensitive towards its subject?
posted by Idle Curiosity at 11:04 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm watching these Bodil Joensen tapes in the name of SCIENCE, I tells ya!

Scientific American, or Scientificest American?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:06 AM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Animals (like children and unconscious people) can't give informed consent to having sex with an adult human.

They can't give informed consent to having sex with another animal either, so if we're gonna get all picky about this stuff, better do away with animal husbandry, stud farms, etc.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:07 AM on March 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


Some peoples' brains are wired such that they get aroused by killing people, cannibalism, or drowning small children. Genuinely, their brain is wired this way.

Genuinely, the brain is not a computer, does not function like a computer, and does not have software. This kind of behavior, like pedophilia, is an expression of some very old psychological and sexual trauma.


Really, the issue here is this: Animals (like children and unconscious people) can't give informed consent to having sex with an adult human. That is why it's wrong.
posted by Jon_Evil at 1:59 PM on March 26


Maybe you're being sarcastic, but in case you aren't, consent has nothing to do with it. Only humans are capable of consent. Animals are not. This is why we get to kill them, sell them, and turn them into shoes and car seats. The reason it is wrong is because it is abusive of the animal (like hitting it would be).
posted by Pastabagel at 11:07 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


ewe
posted by gagglezoomer at 11:08 AM on March 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


In 20 years, when CNN is covering zoophile's rights marches, I will be laughing my face off.

Also, if animals are incapable of giving consent to sexual relationships with humans (all this talk about consenting adults is implying that the "adults" in question be homo sapien), how are they capable of consenting to be people's pets?
posted by Poppa Bear at 11:09 AM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


ewe
ewe ewe ewe ewe ewe ewe


FTFY
posted by tigrefacile at 11:10 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hahahaha, disregard that, I suck fox.
posted by Poppa Bear at 11:11 AM on March 26, 2010 [18 favorites]


The reason it is wrong is because it is abusive of the animal (like hitting it would be).

[citation needed]

You're absoultely right. Sexual orientation is a completely separate question from whether conduct is moral.

I'm not sure whether to reply with "shit just got real yo" or "this will end very very well".
posted by DU at 11:11 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sex with a non-consenting animal is out, but murder of a non-consenting animal is fine...?

I have a nasty feeling there's an impending ask.me about sex with dead animals.
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 11:14 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure whether to reply with "shit just got real yo" or "this will end very very well".

Seriously?
posted by The World Famous at 11:14 AM on March 26, 2010


Really, the issue here is this: Animals (like children and unconscious people) can't give informed consent to having sex with an adult human. That is why it's wrong.

Whether the moral conclusion is defensible or not, at least acknowledging its premise would point to a general societal shift, or the start of one, towards thinking about sexual freedom as a negotiation between consenting adults. So if there's anything useful to take away from this article, this might be a good start.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:15 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously?

Well, it sounded like the opening salvo in a "sure gays 'can't help it' but that still doesn't make it right" argument.
posted by DU at 11:18 AM on March 26, 2010


Somewhere, Rick Santorum is nodding his head knowingly.
posted by briank at 11:20 AM on March 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


No sir, I don't like it.
posted by The Mouthchew at 11:21 AM on March 26, 2010 [20 favorites]


Well, it sounded like the opening salvo in a "sure gays 'can't help it' but that still doesn't make it right" argument.

Sorry. That's not the argument I intended to lead to.
posted by The World Famous at 11:23 AM on March 26, 2010


Holy crap. The conservative wackjobs were right, same sex marriage will lead to people getting married to pets and inanimate objects.
posted by XMLicious at 11:26 AM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


having had an orangutan rudely thrust his penis into my ear

I'll bet there isn't enough whiskey in the world to wash that memory out of one's head.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:28 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hahahaha, disregard that, I suck fox.
posted by Poppa Bear


You cannot put the words I suck fox in a thread about zoophilia and just expect it to slide.
posted by Babblesort at 11:29 AM on March 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


So what is the exact problem with zoophilia? I've seen consent brought up and shot down and that is what I had always assumed was the primary reason. Or is the argument that we shouldn't be killing and eating animals either?
posted by charred husk at 11:30 AM on March 26, 2010


"I like turtles!"
posted by symbioid at 11:31 AM on March 26, 2010


I like turtles too, but I don't like them like them.
posted by electroboy at 11:36 AM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


posted by sodium lights the horizon I have a nasty feeling there's an impending ask.me about sex with dead animals.

I have a nasty feeling Tom Green will answer it.
posted by mattdidthat at 11:37 AM on March 26, 2010


So what is the exact problem with zoophilia?
Frothing homophobes seem to think homosexuals also fuck animals and/or children, and this does nothing to change their minds.

Then again the only thing that really would change their minds is a really good gay fuck. From those gay goats. Who are probably underage.
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:37 AM on March 26, 2010


mathowie: "And a thousand dolphin blowhole fetishists rejoiced."

*squeeksqueeksqueek* *squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek*
posted by symbioid at 11:38 AM on March 26, 2010


Animal Passions is a great BBC documentary about this.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 11:40 AM on March 26, 2010


Animal Passions is a great BBC documentary about this.

For those definitions of "great" that include animal-fucking, I suppose.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:42 AM on March 26, 2010


You really have no idea how pervasive this sort of thing is. The other day, I saw a woman out in public who had put her dog on a leash and was parading it around. There was another man that I saw in broad daylight who was giving his dog commands to get down on all fours and beg. There's a couple that I know who will regularly lock their parrots in cages for hours at a time. I've regularly seen horses swatted with riding crops.

Hardcore BDSM is widespread in the pet-owning world, and I'm frankly disgusted by it.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 11:43 AM on March 26, 2010 [43 favorites]


So what is the exact problem with zoophilia? I've seen consent brought up and shot down and that is what I had always assumed was the primary reason. Or is the argument that we shouldn't be killing and eating animals either?

It's still about consent (and, well, there are public health issues as well, with increased interspecies congress creating an obvious potential for increase in the risk of cross-species infection), from where I sit. Animals, by the popular view, can't consent period.

The fact that we kill and eat animals without their consent is no less unethical just because we've decided, collectively, to recognize that it would be even more awful to fuck them first.

You're right to point out that we're inconsistent on this point, but your conclusion (that it isn't about consent) doesn't follow. We probably should all be vegetarians on strictly ethical grounds. But the fact that many of us aren't doesn't imply we should be animal-fuckers, instead.

(But maybe that would be a winning angle for the PETA folks: Which side are you on? Vegetarian or Animal fucker?)
posted by saulgoodman at 11:46 AM on March 26, 2010 [16 favorites]


Forget the closet, I'm coming out of the stable!
posted by dr_dank at 11:55 AM on March 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


This kind of behavior, like pedophilia, is an expression of some very old psychological and sexual trauma.

That's a very specific and interesting factual claim. And you're basing it on ...?
posted by grumblebee at 11:56 AM on March 26, 2010


Why does everyone think animals, especially dogs, can't consent? I had a pet dog growing up and it was very very clear many of the things that she liked and didn't like. Likes included going for a walk, rawhide bones, and chewing up my homework. Dislikes included the vacuum cleaner, getting her toenails clipped, and thunder.

Obviously the first time a dog is going to have sex with a human it doesn't really know what it is getting into, (but in that regard, neither does a human), and at every point after that a conscientious human engaging in a relationships with a dog should be able to figure out if the dog is consenting or would rather not do it again. I'm guessing most of the other higher mammals that humans might be interested in sexually (horses, goats, etc.) can also communicate to attentive humans whether they are enjoying the sex or not.
posted by andoatnp at 11:57 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


when CNN is covering zoophile's rights marches

... the human rights branches of all governments will legally require churches to enlarge their entrances to expediate marriage ceremonies between man and rhinoceros.

Your octopus spouse will be required to fill out a census form.

Boa constrictors will co-sign mortgages.

Polygamists will claim in divorce court that they couldn't stop their feline husbands from spraying in the corners.

(My afternoon is now lost in a Hammy the Hamster thought-cloud of matrimonial musical chairs)
posted by CynicalKnight at 11:57 AM on March 26, 2010


This kind of behavior, like pedophilia, is an expression of some very old psychological and sexual trauma.

And homosexuality used to be classified as a disease and society insisted that it be cured. And people still try to float the old trope that it's caused by having a distant father and overbearing mother, or whatever.

Understanding non-standard sexual attraction is not something which anyone who does not have a lot of empathy and is willing to explore the Other honestly from their point of view should even approach.

Dismissing people who are attracted to members of the same sex, or children, or animals, or buildings, or cars, or whatever... as being some kind of sexual trauma in their past is a sign of one's own incapacity to accept the Other as having a legitimate mindset and existence.

Yes, not all expressions of Otherness are considered equally valid as means of expression in our culture. But don't label people sick just because they don't think like you.
posted by hippybear at 11:58 AM on March 26, 2010 [17 favorites]


Why does everyone think animals, especially dogs, can't consent?

Because we're not using "consent" in the everyday sense here. We're using it in the legal-speak sense, where it's exclusively a human concept that applies to humans. It's also why Fido can't sign contracts.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:59 AM on March 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Jeeeezus, people. Here's the simple rule:

You don't eat your own species; you don't fuck other species. Other way 'round, FINE.

There.
posted by grubi at 11:59 AM on March 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


Holden: The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over. But it can't. Not without your help. But you're not helping.

Leon: What do you mean, I'm not helping?

Holden: I mean you're not helping! Why is that, Leon?

Leon: Because... I'm too busy fucking it?

Holden: What.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:07 PM on March 26, 2010 [50 favorites]


well, it's not like killing people is OK if we have their informed consent...
posted by Jon_Evil at 12:08 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have a nasty feeling there's an impending ask.me about sex with dead animals.

Try the veal.

....I'll be here the whole week. Tip your waitress. You've been a great audience goodnight everybody....
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:09 PM on March 26, 2010


I suppose someone's going to do a doctoral dissertation on Rule 34 next.

I was going to, but it really just devolved into an 80,000-word Shakespeare/Marlowe slashfic.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 12:12 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


You don't eat your own species; you don't fuck other species.

Reminds me of grue/bleen.
posted by DU at 12:15 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why does everyone think animals, especially dogs, can't consent? I had a pet dog growing up and it was very very clear many of the things that she liked and didn't like. Likes included going for a walk, rawhide bones, and chewing up my homework. Dislikes included the vacuum cleaner, getting her toenails clipped, and thunder.

I am able to discern the likes and dislikes of very young children. Those very young children, though capable of expressing likes and dislikes, are not capable of consenting to sexual activity. Do you see the different between preferences and consent?
posted by bunnycup at 12:15 PM on March 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


Neigh means neigh!
posted by LordSludge at 12:16 PM on March 26, 2010 [16 favorites]


So what is the exact problem with zoophilia?

You'll end up in the gutter drinking Woolite.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:17 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


vagina---dog vagina that is.

*shudders*
posted by stormpooper at 12:18 PM on March 26, 2010


Some people like pussy. Some people like pussy.
posted by grubi at 12:19 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really don't care if people want to have sex with animals, as long as they're not concurrently torturing them. I find it puzzling, but ethically neutral.

I do know (of?) one guy who considered himself married to a horse. That kicks it up to another level of delusion. Again, I find it puzzling, but I have a hard time mustering more than a shrug.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:23 PM on March 26, 2010


Zoophilia was the first U2 album I really mostly disliked. I just thought it galloped headlong down a trail I didn't much care for. I mean, Achtung Baby was bad enough what with "Zoo Station," "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses," and "The Fly," but once the whole Zoo TV tour started... well enough, already. We get it. You dig the petting zoos. Move on, already.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:23 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]




I can't believe Scientific American is ripping off Edward Albee.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:38 PM on March 26, 2010


“Sexual orientation is a completely separate question from whether conduct is moral”

So, having sex with an animal is immoral because it’s non-consenting, but killing it …
By no means am I defending sex with tasty animals. I’m curious why it’s immoral in that regard. And considered abuse.
I mean – (as PeterMcDermott sez) – why isn’t it abuse when we forcibly mate them on a stud farm or breed them (dogs especially) to our particular desires. We’ve pretty much tailor made dog species. That’s a far greater show of dominance (and a better case for abuse) over an animal’s sexuality than a human mating with them.

I don’t know that anyone comes up with “because it’s bad for you” much. I would think that it is. I can only imagine being a pedophile is pretty corrosive. Zoophile though - you know as much as my knee jerk reaction is “ugh, yuck,” I really haven’t thought about it too deeply.
…course there’s probably a reason for that. Not that I consider revulsion self-justifying of course.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:39 PM on March 26, 2010


Maybe in seventy years I'll be sitting surrounded by my grandchildren and they'll ask me "Granny, is it true people used to be prejudiced against humans having sex with animals?" and I'll sigh and admit that it was. Maybe Zoophilia will be the next great civil rights battle.

But I highly doubt it, unless there is a scientific breakthrough that allows us to communicate very clearly with animals, and it turns out animals are capable of the rational thought required for consent under the law. Yes, we kill animals to feed ourselves, yes, we keep animals as pets, and yes, we still lock animals up in zoos to be gaped at and boil them alive and shape tanned pieces of them into consumer goods and hang their skins and furs and heads on our walls, and we do all of this without their consent. Why does that mean we should go further and violate them sexually? Why don't we work on fucking them over a little bit less, as we have begun to do by making animal cruelty a crime?
posted by sallybrown at 12:39 PM on March 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


"It was about the time when ol' Jim Bob walked in to see a man romantically entangled with a rainbow trout that he decided things had gotten a bit too strange for him. So he immediately leaped out of context, magically escaping from his comment fable situation and out of the Metafilter browser window, physically appearing on screen for a moment and transmigrating into a completely different Firefox tab.

Only that tab turned out to be 4chan!"
posted by JHarris at 12:40 PM on March 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


“Especially many dogs. And lets not forget sofaphiles, too. Or even ottomanophiles.”
A whole empire based on humping where people put their feet up.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:41 PM on March 26, 2010


The consent argument w/r/t animals is pretty disingenuous. It seems only to be invoked in cases where we feel a behavior is icky; cutting off an animal's balls, enslaving it, or murdering it for bacon somehow don't require consent.

I think that sense of ickiness contributes a lot more to our opinions of right and wrong than anyone is willing to admit. Because I really can't work out a consistent ethical framework that allows one to eat a critter (with the whole litany of cruelties that entails) and not boink it.
posted by a young man in spats at 12:41 PM on March 26, 2010 [12 favorites]


I think consent is only part of the issue. The other part is disgust. And frankly, sex with animals is disgusting. I think that way, most people think that way, and no amount of wishy-washy hippie equivocating will change that.

If you think we should accept zoophiles and not judge them, I'd like you to take a minute, walk away from the computer, look in the mirror, and realize that YOU ARE WHY CONSERVATIVES HATE US.

Sex between consenting adults is okay. Sex with anything else is fucked up and disgusting. Never mind right or wrong.

If I found out that someone liked to fuck animals, I would judge them, whether I wanted to or not. And I wouldn't necessarily feel bad about that. If you fuck animals, somewhere along the line your mind took a wrong turn at Alberquerque. Bottom line? Don't let me know about it. There are some things -- a lot of things -- I'd rather not know.

(and for gods sake, do not compare this with homosexuality. gay people love other people and want to have sex with them. that's something that 99% of the human race can/should be able to get on-board with)
posted by Sloop John B at 12:43 PM on March 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


I have to say, the jokes in this thread are sterling.
posted by oddman at 12:45 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter has more then a normal amount of experience with necrophiliac poultrophiles
posted by The Whelk at 12:48 PM on March 26, 2010


"You don't eat your own species; you don't fuck other species. Other way 'round, FINE."
posted by grubi at 1:59 PM


Wait, so girls can get FUCKED BY other species, or dudes who like being bottom can be FUCKED BY other species, but straight males or girls with dildoes can't fuck animals? (actually, I guess that's a compromise that allows the animal to be the one to choose to fuck)

That said, I have a morally grey area on the whole animals consenting thing, and I think saulgoodman has it correct when we're talking about the right to address grievances from a legal standpoint.

Animals don't have a way to communicate to a court that they were in fact violated and didn't actually consent, despite what the perpetrator of the act may have thought based upon physical reaction of the (non-human) animal.

I'm really on the fence here, and I hate even bringing it up because it's so taboo. And I've also pondered consensual (brother/sister) incest and what would be "valid" for that using our current rules on the "squick" factor. Topics like these are so hard to broach at times. Is this what it used to be like to discuss homosexuality back pre-Stonewall (and even in some places, up to now)... But I mean... It's so strange to me to think that the word "homosexual" brings up feelings in some people along the lines that "pedophile" does to most of us nowadays...
posted by symbioid at 12:49 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


posted by oddman I have to say, the jokes in this thread are sterling.

Thank God we don't have the img tag.
posted by mattdidthat at 12:51 PM on March 26, 2010


If animals didn’t want us to have sex with them, they wouldn’t walk around naked.
(SINA">Join SINA!)
posted by Smedleyman at 12:51 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


... the human rights branches of all governments will legally require churches to enlarge their entrances to expediate marriage ceremonies between man and rhinoceros.

OMG, is that the epilogue of Fellini's "And the Ship Sailed On" ?
posted by RichardS at 12:52 PM on March 26, 2010


This thread is pretty much the chief argument for why we don't have the img tag.
posted by The Whelk at 12:52 PM on March 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


posted by symbioid I'm really on the fence here

Sir, the fence is there for a reason. Please don't hump it or whatever's on the wrong side of it.
posted by mattdidthat at 12:54 PM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


saulgoodman: "It's still about consent (and, well, there are public health issues as well, with increased interspecies congress creating an obvious potential for increase in the risk of cross-species infection), from where I sit. Animals, by the popular view, can't consent period.

The fact that we kill and eat animals without their consent is no less unethical just because we've decided, collectively, to recognize that it would be even more awful to fuck them first.
"

Is it about consent, or about being awful? As the article said, "Words like “pervert” and “unnatural” have all the theoretical depth of a thimble." You may think it's "awful" to fuck animals, but I bet I can find a dozen people who think gays, christians, foreigners, or what-have-you are just as awful.

My point being, you don't really think it's about consent. You think it's awful. If you didn't think it was awful, the consent wouldn't bother you.
posted by rebent at 12:55 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


why isn’t it abuse when we forcibly mate them on a stud farm or breed them (dogs especially) to our particular desires

Some people do consider it abuse, though. Right now society mostly draws a line between animal torture and cruelty and other uses of animals--so that Vick-style dogfighting is bad but greyhound racing is ok. Animal rights activists want to push the line forward to prohibit more (how much obviously varies), and it seems to me like zoophiles want to push the line backward to allow more, specifically to allow them to sexually engage with animals.

I don't think the fact that we still allow the Kentucky Derby means we admit that an animal's consent is always immaterial; I would argue it's just that we've decided horse racing is (or looks) harmless enough for a horse, and is valuable enough to us collectively, that we have chosen not to care about the desires of the horses involved. Animal rights activists who are anti-horse racing disagree with that analysis, just like zoophiles disagree with society's current cost-benefit analysis of human-animal sex.

The tougher question is why animal killing isn't considered more morally troublesome. I think it's because society's desire for meat overwhelmingly outweighs any concern we have for animals. When animals are tortured, the torturer and people who enjoy extreme suffering get pleasure and the rest of us get nothing, so we're all focused on the cost to the animal; when a cow gets turned into a steak, anyone who would eat it potentially benefits, and since most of us would eat it, most of us focus on our own benefits rather than the cost to the animal. I think zoophiles have more in common with animal torturers, in that (I think) the vast majority of us get no pleasure from engaging in or watching sex between animals and humans--we're not going to be waiting our turn, focusing on our own potential pleasure; we're going to be focusing on the cost to the (as always, unable to consent) animal, and it's because of this that I suspect zoophiles aren't going to get very far.
posted by sallybrown at 12:59 PM on March 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'm really on the fence here, and I hate even bringing it up because it's so taboo

I feel the same way. But here goes...

I am totally against causing animals to suffer, so if "sex" means, say, holding an animal down while it howls (in what seems very much like pain) or in a way that even makes me suspect the animal is uncomfortable, then there's no black and white for me. It's just wrong.

But [gross imagery following] what if my dog walks over to me, and I start gently rubbing his penis? What if, as I do this, I don't restrain him and he doesn't move away. Maybe he seems to like it; maybe he's bored by it. But the point is, at all times, he's free to walk away.

How is this different -- FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF THE DOG'S WELFARE -- from me petting his head?

The all caps is important, because, to me, it IS different, because petting his head doesn't disgust me while jerking him off does. But I'm talking about the dog and his well-being.

We do all sorts of things to animals. Some of them are "for their own good," such as fencing them in so that they don't run out into traffic. But we also put silly clothes on them and use them as puppets to make funny youtube videos of them playing the piano. In general, they don't seem to mind these things (we should stop if they do). So why is sexual stuff different?

I can also see why we might want laws to stop people from doing stuff like that. The law can't take into account each individual case. So we need to protect animals from real abuse. And if we just give license to people to do sexual things to animals and to judge for themselves whether or not those things are hurtful or not, many animals will be hurt, because people are self-interested. So maybe it's prudent to just say NO SEX WITH ANIMALS!

But from a purely moral/animal-health perspective, what's wrong with gently rubbing a dog's penis?

And, THAT folks, is the weirdest sentence I've ever written on Metafilter! But I stand by it, as a question.
posted by grumblebee at 1:01 PM on March 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


Sloop John B, you do realize that your argument that "we all think it's gross" is PRECISELY what they said about being gay. You're saying we shouldn't compare the two, but historically there is the point that being gay WAS considered a perversion by society (and the shit we did to gay people until fairly recently) was wretched, and mostly? It's because they were grossed out by buttsex. (ok, that's simplifying it, but grossness is not a valid reason to make something illegal or wrong).

Do you propose shit-fetishists not be allowed to shit on each other? Because that's kinda gross. Are you saying that we shouldn't compare them to being gay? (Yes, we can then argue about the minutiae of choice/fetish/nature/nurture and what is it to have a paraphilia) which goes right back to the point where we say that the whole point of this exercise was to look at the historical context and see that the "ick" factor is one of the things that did contribute to society's anti-gay stance for a long time.

So in that regards, it IS valid to make a comparison. I understand you are leery of making such a comparison, because that is what the bigots do (soon everyone will be fucking dogs and marrying llamas!) But I would argue it's *precisely* this reason that we try to look at it from this perspective to show that it is possible to separate "ick" factor from social rules.

Of course, the bigger question boils down to consent and how much autonomy a person has, and what, precisely a person is. From there, all else proceeds.
posted by symbioid at 1:03 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


How is this different -- FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF THE DOG'S WELFARE -- from me petting his head?

But what about the welfare about the people who hear about it? I mean GROSS!

I mean, I don't really think the animals care that much. But it is really disgusting.
posted by delmoi at 1:06 PM on March 26, 2010


Yes, we kill animals to feed ourselves, yes, we keep animals as pets, and yes, we still lock animals up in zoos to be gaped at and boil them alive and shape tanned pieces of them into consumer goods and hang their skins and furs and heads on our walls, and we do all of this without their consent. Why does that mean we should go further and violate them sexually?

How is having sex with them (and let's assume it's not painful or traumatic for the sake of argument) worse, or further than skinning them, killing them, keeping them in a cage where they can't move for their entire life, forcibly impregnating them then taking their offspring away from them as soon as possible, etc? Realistically, a horse that is well-fed, well-treated, and also has neutral or possibly pleasant sex with a human is far better off than the vast majority of livestock in this country.

It is silly to be outraged about something that is astonishingly rare, simply because it does not benefit us like all of the common torments to which we happily subject animals (and other humans).
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:07 PM on March 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Man, this is exactly what Fox News said would happen if we let the gays marry.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:09 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because I really can't work out a consistent ethical framework that allows one to eat a critter (with the whole litany of cruelties that entails) and not boink it.

That's probably because there isn't one. But law =/= ethics. Lots of unethical things are legal. And it's not a simply binary question; there are degrees of ethical behavior. Eating animals (especially in light of more recent science on just how emotionally sensitive and intelligent animals actually seem to be by any metric we apply to humans) is legal, but not necessarily ethical. In many places, making the beast with the two backs--erm, that is, making the beast with the two backs with beasts, is not.

Again, don't underestimate the very real concerns about public health. AIDS, remember, began as a disease among primates and as far as anyone can tell, crossed over to humans through the consumption of tainted meat, so even choosing to eat exotic foods isn't a decision without some potential ethical consequences.

Here in Florida where I reside, animal boinking isn't illegal yet, although there are efforts now and forever underway to remedy that legal oversight.

One of the main arguments (good-faith or not) from proponents on the banning side is that animal-scrogging is a form of animal cruelty.

But I have to admit, this is one case where the repugnance of the topic itself makes a pretty powerful case. I just don't happen to think there's any good justification for leaving it there, since I doubt there's any shortage of people in the world who are just as genuinely, viscerally and immediately repulsed by homosexuality, without any rational basis for that impulse. Besides, what happens if, 50 years down the road, people just aren't repulsed by animal fucking anymore? What then? Suddenly, it's okay then?
posted by saulgoodman at 1:11 PM on March 26, 2010


Sloop John B, you do realize that your argument that "we all think it's gross" is PRECISELY what they said about being gay.

Wow, you must be an gymnast, because you just executed several impressive backflips JUST TO MISS MY POINT ENTIRELY.

Gay people have sex with other people. The desire to have sex with other people is one of the most universal things in human nature. The desire to have sex with an animal is just so completely outside the realm of what is acceptable - and so completely disturbing to think about - that you really can't hold it against someone for being disgusted and wanting to walk away slowly. (or quickly)
posted by Sloop John B at 1:11 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is silly to be outraged about something that is astonishingly rare, simply because it does not benefit us like all of the common torments to which we happily subject animals (and other humans).

What? Cannibal rape murders are astonishingly rare. Would it be silly for me to be outraged about them when they do happen?

Animal fucking may be different, because the harm caused by the behavior becoming widespread isn't as clear cut as the harm caused by cannibal-rape-murder, but it doesn't make sense to say we can't/shouldn't be outraged about ethical breaches that are astonishingly rare simply because there are much more common ethical breaches happening in the world.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:15 PM on March 26, 2010


Hmm, ok. Let's look at this another way.

Let's take the grumblebee argument that says that it's no different from petting the dog's head, and if the dog likes it, then what's wrong with it.

We remove the moral judgement from it, and let it stand on it's merits of a pleasure maxim. The dog doesn't mind, you're not coercing yourself on it.

Now, let's imagine a severely mentally challenged individual. This person doesn't understand the social rules regarding sex. They know what feels good and what doesn't. Maybe they have problems communicating to the outside world precisely what they consent to or don't (aside from, says, kicking, biting and scratching).

Now, a non-developmentally disabled person approaches this person and, say, stimulates them? What if they didn't ask them first? What if the developmentally challenged person starts to rub up and try to get the "normal" person to pleasure them.

Would that be ok? I think most of us would argue that based on social rules, the line of consent says "no" because the mental capacity for understanding that it's "wrong" isn't there. But yet, how is this different from the animal case? (please note, I absolutely do not mean to degrade people with developmental disabilities by comparing them to animals) (Jesus how can we discuss this without being politically incorrect???)

So to those who may support an animal's right to "consent", are these cases different? If so, how, if not, then would you say people have a moral right to sexually stimulate mentally challenged individuals below a certain capacity? (moral != legal, let me make that clear -- I am not asking if you think it should be legal or that someone SHOULD do something, merely that there is a right there).

Conversely -- if an individual who is mentally challenged wants to enjoy sexual pleasure from someone who is "normal", should they not have that right? How do we define this consent?

I don't have any answers, and I'm just digging more holes for y'all. But I'm genuinely curious on all these. Anyone know of any books regarding such moral quandaries? I'm sure there must be some sort of book on ethics of consent in sexual practice among humans... (IANAP)
posted by symbioid at 1:18 PM on March 26, 2010


How is having sex with them (and let's assume it's not painful or traumatic for the sake of argument) worse, or further than skinning them, killing them, keeping them in a cage where they can't move for their entire life, forcibly impregnating them then taking their offspring away from them as soon as possible, etc?

I hope this isn't obnoxious, but I'm going to quote myself from above, since the thread is moving fast and it's central to your question:

I think it's because society's desire for meat overwhelmingly outweighs any concern we have for animals. When animals are tortured, the torturer and people who enjoy extreme suffering get pleasure and the rest of us get nothing, so we're all focused on the cost to the animal; when a cow gets turned into a steak, anyone who would eat it potentially benefits, and since most of us would eat it, most of us focus on our own benefits rather than the cost to the animal. I think zoophiles have more in common with animal torturers, in that (I think) the vast majority of us get no pleasure from engaging in or watching sex between animals and humans--we're not going to be waiting our turn, focusing on our own potential pleasure; we're going to be focusing on the cost to the (as always, unable to consent) animal, and it's because of this that I suspect zoophiles aren't going to get very far.

This isn't a moral argument about what I personally think is bad or good; it goes to how we as a society weight interactions between animals and people. When animal rights activists film the disgusting practices of factory farms, it's to try and get us to look at a luscious piece of fried chicken and focus on the costs to the chicken rather than the benefits we're about to get from biting into it. This is hard to accomplish because many many many of us love fried chicken, and we're wired to put our own self-interest first. It is working at least a little, though--I have almost fully stopped eating fast food since reading Fast Food Nation, even though my mouth still waters at the thought of McDonald's fries. Do I still buy leather shoes? Yes. But I do feel a little worse about it, so my personal balance is tilting, however slowly.

It's much easier to turn most people against zoophilia. I personally will get no pleasure from allowing people to have sex with animals. Doing that or watching it doesn't benefit me in any way. And when I imagine it, all I can see are costs. I think it's cruel because the animals can't consent, so I worry about that. I am disgusted by it due to the mores of the society I was raised in. Both of those make it look like a net harm from my point of view, so I am actively against it. I think the majority of people are going to see it this same way.
posted by sallybrown at 1:21 PM on March 26, 2010


What? My dog really LIKES peanut butter.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:21 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I really hate that homosexuality is being used as a point of comparison in the debate about whether society should permit people to have sex with animals.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 1:23 PM on March 26, 2010 [16 favorites]




I really hate that homosexuality is being used as a point of comparison in the debate about whether society should permit people to have sex with animals.

Me too, and I kind of hate that this whole topic (not the FPP necessarily, but the research itself) almost seems specifically intended to lead to speculation in that direction. Is somebody trying to give us a wedgie* here or what?

(I.e., stirring up a wedge issue.)</small?
posted by saulgoodman at 1:32 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]




sallybrown: "I think it's cruel because the animals can't consent, so I worry about that. I am disgusted by it due to the mores of the society I was raised in. Both of those make it look like a net harm from my point of view, so I am actively against it. I think the majority of people are going to see it this same way."

1) Social mores have no relation to whether or not something is harmful; my personal disgust with an activity has nothing to do with whether or not it is harmful; someone else's disgust with an activity has nothing to do with whether or not it is harmful. If you see your disgust as evidence that something is or might be harmful, I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

2) Doing something to an animal is not cruel just because the animal is an animal. Your argument (and the arguments of others in this thread) strongly implies that doing anything at all to an animal is cruel.

3) To summarize your point, you are okay with us imposing our will on non-consenting animals when it is convenient for you (and society). That's fine. I still think it's silly to act like your decision to be against bestiality is predicated in any way on the actual amount of cruelty visited upon the animal.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:39 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think the people who are so against this on the basis of consent are completely unaware how modern animal husbandry is conducted.

For example, to breed a horse you get it mount a mare, then you take the mare away and finish up jacking the horse off into a semen bag.

It is the most disgusting thing in you could ever witness. No one asks for the horse's permission.

But geoff you might ask, how is a bull bred? Surely you're not going to dismount a bull in the middle of getting it on. Of course not! You use an ejaculator! Each ejaculator kit comes with a Pulsator IV that you shove up a bull's ass and turn it on until the bull ejaculates.

So there. What zoophiles do is a lovenest compared to the S&M dungeon of a modern farm.

NB If a friend ever gives you a tour of their horse farm and proudly tells you that they are going to pay off student loans by putting out a horse to stud, don't ask jokingly if they put the horses in a cheesy horse bachelor pad with a $3,000 sound system and black leather couch. That just gives them the opportunity to "show you" and lead you to the barn where an old guy and a big chew is putting on these elbow length leather gloves. Oh, I assume, they'll extract the semen through a syringe after putting the horse to sleep. Nope. Brings out a mare, gets the horse started and then he finishes up the deed.
posted by geoff. at 1:40 PM on March 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


saulgoodman: "What? Cannibal rape murders are astonishingly rare. Would it be silly for me to be outraged about them when they do happen?"

It would be silly if you were completely fine with millions of murders and then outraged about the one specific kind of murder that freaked you out.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:40 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


So there. What zoophiles do is a lovenest compared to the S&M dungeon of a modern farm.

That doesn't mean both aren't unethical. Not in the slightest.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:41 PM on March 26, 2010


A human, Real Doll, or even a carved out watermelon isn't good enough for some people. Pfft.
posted by stormpooper at 1:43 PM on March 26, 2010


That doesn't mean both aren't unethical. Not in the slightest.

Of course not. But you can't say one is ethical while the other is not. To the animal the act is the same.
posted by geoff. at 1:45 PM on March 26, 2010


Would that be ok? I think most of us would argue that based on social rules, the line of consent says "no" [Emphasis added.]

That doesn't really add anything. Of course social rules forbid this. And they also forbid stimulating a dog, even if it doesn't hurt anybody (including the dog).

I'm not saying social rules aren't important, but is there any other problem with doing this gross stuff, ASIDE from social rules?

It's important to bring that up, because, as many people here have pointed out, there were once (and still are in many places) social rules against two men kissing. So when should we follow social rules and when should be break them?

I'm sorry that the homosexual comparison offends people, and I can see why it does, but it's really the only clear way I can think of to pinpoint the crux of the issue.

The crux, as I see it, is this: if we have a rule that isn't based on health or well-being (or some other practical concern), but, instead, is based on social custom, should we feel bound by that rule? This, to me, is very hard to answer. I am not willing to say, "No! Never!" because peoples sensibilities are important. Sensibilities are part of what makes humans human. On the other hand, all sorts of horrible things have been done because they were in line with the sensibilities of the majority at the time.

I pretty much think there's no answer to this question. There's just a description of how the world works: most people will kowtow to popular sentiment. Sometimes that will lead to good outcomes; other times it will lead to bad (or mixed) outcomes. If the outcome oppresses a portion of the population, that portion will speak out as best they can. And there's a chance that, over time, their voices will be heard. Meanwhile, they will suffer.
posted by grumblebee at 1:46 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm bi-curious, I have queer tendencies, I like to doll up sometimes. My arguments in this thread re: homosexuality has nothing to do with anti-gay bias (though I can certainly understand why, with the right-wing lumping together, plus my privilege of being mostly straight means I can't really have a voice in that regards)...

I hope that's not how you're reading it. Again, I think it's more to do with the arguments that something makes someone feel "icky" and why that makes it wrong (or not).

I can see why that can come across as somehow leading to the illogical stance that gay = bestiality (or at least some people unsympathetic to gay rights might see that, and that in itself is an understandable issue) but gay doesn't equal animal fucking anymore than say... being a heterosexual male attracted to blondes is related to being gay OR bestiality.

I guess - this is why I wanted to focus on the consent issue. We can drop the gay thing entirely - I only pursued it because some people were saying it was "icky" which isn't necessarily a valid basis for making something legal or illegal or a moral issue (and thus why, even though gay sex makes some people feel "icky" doesn't mean it shouldn't be legal).

That is all on that subject and I will shut up.

So can we focus on the consent issue since the other issue is leading towards potentially negative interactions?
posted by symbioid at 1:47 PM on March 26, 2010


This is a fascinating discussion, but I'll be damned if I'm going to be the first one to favorite this.
posted by rainbaby at 1:47 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


So divorce homosexuality as a point of comparison. Remove it as the subject of the form of the argument or change it - some societies have had similar forms of argument concerning masterbation.
Indeed the Victorians had some very serious things to say about masterbation (prostitutes and homosexuals as well, but). And it did take those kinds of forms. That is – it’s ‘disgusting’ and ‘unnatural’ and ‘unacceptable’ socially. (Hell they made things that would electrocute kids if they touched themselves.)

“The tougher question is why animal killing isn't considered more morally troublesome. I think it's because society's desire for meat overwhelmingly outweighs any concern we have for animals.”

I can see that yeah. I’ve always found it odd that society is mostly ok with commercially produced meat while hunters (who I’ve personally found overwhelmingly respectful – though I’m aware there are idiots) are reviled in some quarters. Probably for the same enjoyment thing. It’s easy not to think about where the burger came from if it’s already cooked and boxed in a nice package.
I think the ‘squink’ factor enters into the cost/benefit thing as well (most people wouldn’t want to dress out a deer, for example).

“But from a purely moral/animal-health perspective, what's wrong with gently rubbing a dog's penis?”

Yeah, that’s why I think the focus should be on the human. In that the power dynamic is such that there could be abuse but your (hypothetical your) own sensibilities wouldn’t detect it. Projection all that. It’s not for a potential abuser to say what abuse is (on preview – symbioid touches on that … er … broaches the subject). But I don’t think there’s anything harmful to an animal in terms of genital stimulation.
I’m pretty sure horse/bull/etc. breeders do that quite a bit.

So where does the actual difference lie? Well, the breeder is doing it to get sperm for a business, etc. And the zoophile is doing it for personal pleasure. If we eliminate all our repugnance for the latter (and shouldn’t we (for sake of this argument)? given other people jerk off animals for business?) – the only real difference is in concern for the welfare of the human. Who might be subject to (at the least) their own delusions and go further and harm an animal or ignore hygiene or safety issues.

At least that’s as far as my reasoning takes me.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:47 PM on March 26, 2010


It would be silly if you were completely fine with millions of murders and then outraged about the one specific kind of murder that freaked you out.

Who said anyone had to be completely fine with the millions of murders though?

(FWIW, I'm a vegetarian for ethical reasons--well, I'm not 100% there yet, but I would be if I had the willpower. I haven't eaten pork, red meat or seafood in decades, and am actively cultivating the self-discipline I need to finally cut out chicken and turkey.)

It's not a problem that can be reduced to simple binary statements either.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:49 PM on March 26, 2010


Of course not. But you can't say one is ethical while the other is not

And I didn't, did I? But fair enough, if that's your general point. It's not one you need to make to me though.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:50 PM on March 26, 2010


That's fine. I still think it's silly to act like your decision to be against bestiality is predicated in any way on the actual amount of cruelty visited upon the animal.

My anti-bestiality stance is predicted on a lack of consent (which is inherent to being an animal in our world, where humans can't fully communicate with animals).

I said above that my anti-zoophilia attitude sprung from two things: the inability of an animal to communicate and/or give consent, and my personal disgust. But I wouldn't really have a problem with zoophilia if someone could conclusively prove to me that animals can think rationally, consent to have sex, and clearly communicate that consent to have sex. If I knew that all that was true and I was confident that zoophilists respected that--that the far majority of them didn't try to engage in sex without that consent--then even though I would still be disgusted, I would probably not be against zoophilia. I can't justify making something illegal based on my personal disgust--which is why I have never been swayed by the arguments against gay rights, which are based not on consent but on disgust alone. This situation is fundamentally different from the fight over gay rights. Not just because of the species thing (really, that should be enough), but because the consent problem present in zoophilia (and pedophilia) is not present in homosexual or heterosexual sex.

Am I confident that we'll ever sufficiently know when an animal consents? No, because for me it's not enough that someone's dog gets an erection from a human stroking it. That doesn't tell me anything about what or even how the animal thinks. This is similar to why I could never support pedophilia--because biologically, we know that a child cannot give rational, informed consent to sex.
posted by sallybrown at 1:55 PM on March 26, 2010


I really hate that homosexuality is being used as a point of comparison in the debate about whether society should permit people to have sex with animals.

For myself, it is the perfect touchstone for this issue. Homosexuality until very recently was regarded as a perversion of nature, something classifiably sick and worthy of attempting to cure. As we have moved forward in our understanding of how sexuality works within the human psyche, we have come to understand that it is inborn, should not be cured, and is allowable within our framework of social relationships.

Zoophilia may, in fact, be the same thing.

This FPP is in no way about "whether society should permit people to have sex with animals". Instead, it is an examination of the sexual attraction which some humans seem to have toward other species. In that way, it is EXACTLY like homosexuality, being a non-standard (some would say deviant, a word formerly often applied to Teh Gay) form of attraction.

Reading this post to say that we are arguing that people should be allowed to have sex with animals is like saying that a post about explorers who encountered cannibals and sampled the meat and found it tasty is condoning cannibalism.

Way back in the early days of the internet, I used to hang out a lot on #gblf, the GayBisexualLesbianFriends channel on what was once The IRC Server.

I met a lot of very interesting people there. One of them went under the name of Manimal. He was a really delightful man, very intense to talk to. We discussed a lot of things -- gay rights, sexual practices, societal attitudes... Then one day he told me about his St Bernard. And his relationship with his dog.

I really didn't know what to think. I raised a lot of the same issues that I have seen in this thread. "How can the animal consent?" "Are you doing harm?" "How do you know you're even attracted to animals and not just acting out early sexual trauma?" Etc, etc. I won't say that I reached an understanding about any of it, but I certainly don't think that Manimal was trespassing in any way upon his dog, based on what he shared with me during those years of online chat.

I'm not saying that I, personally, condone such practices, but the conversation was enlightening. How do you know you're attracted to something? You are. How do you know you're straight, or gay, or like redheads, or whatever? It's not something you choose, being attracted to X and not to Y. Despite our cultural attempts to program us toward finding heroin chic, rail-thin women as attractive, many people are drawn toward the more full-figured human frame. Despite constant messages that George Clooney is überhandsome, some prefer John Goodman. There is nothing you can do about what makes you go "ping".

THAT is what this study is about. It's not about whether we should allow or condone such practices. It is simply an examination of sexual attraction, and is using some rather outlying subjects to explore its points.

It is distressing, perhaps, to see this comparison because of all the right-wing rhetoric about how allowing gays to marry will lead to people wanting to marry their horses, or whatever. But that rhetoric is based more in the need to dehumanize gays, to compare them to animals, to make them into a lower life form so hatred directed toward them is acceptable. This was practiced in Germany in the 30s toward Jews -- there are examples of political cartoons where the Jews are drawn as dogs or some other animal species, and the slur "Judische Hund" (Jewish Dog) was rather common during those days of hatred.

If you see a study like this as somehow saying that we, as a society, should allow people to engage in such behavior, that is actually a rather startling leap of understanding. You have gone from scientific examination of a topic which says that zoophilia may be inborn to a realization that inborn behaviors cannot be changed and therefore should be tolerated. In that way, you are to be commended for your bravery in the face of societal pressures. But I think that, overall, we are a long way from fully understanding human/animal sexual interaction to any measure of fullness which will allow a full-scale acceptance of this behavior. For many of the reasons outlined above, including the consent rule.

I do wonder, however, about the implications this has for the neighbor's chihuahua who won't stop humping my leg every time I go to visit.
posted by hippybear at 1:56 PM on March 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


It is the most disgusting thing in you could ever witness. No one asks for the horse's permission

I'm not arguing that this kind of insemination of horses is good, or that we shouldn't care about a horse's consent in that situation while we should care about it in a bestiality situation. I'm arguing that bestiality is fundamentally different from insemination in our current society because insemination provides sufficient benefits to "us" (whether you want to say everyone or people in control of the law or people involved in the industry, etc) to overcome the cost that is the lack of the horse's consent. Insemination benefits people on a large scale, right? If it doesn't, most people, when informed of the issue, would probably want to stop it.

Bestiality provides no benefits to the majority of people--there is nothing that makes allowing bestiality better for our society than not allowing bestiality, and the consent issue, the cost of both bestiality and insemination, is still present. That makes not allowing bestiality better for our society than allowing bestiality. Am I overlooking large-scale benefits of allowing bestiality that could tip the scales back the other way?
posted by sallybrown at 1:56 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think a whole huge lot of this issue comes down to the (arguably artifical) categoritcal boundary constructed between humans and other animals. I mean, animal husbandry, meat eating, veal, etc. all aside, we as a society view animals entirely differently than we do people, even in what I'm sure the most committed PETA member would consider benign. I mean, consider symboid's thoughts above-- there's a question that he doesn't address, probably because it's such a fundamental assumption of what is considered normal behavior, but-- why is it okay to pat a dog on the head? You wouldn't consider it okay to pat a stranger on the head if he was standing on the corner waiting for the light to change.

I'm not making any specific argument, really, but I feel like a lot of the ways that people tend to talk about this and related issues sort of skirt around the way in which our society regards animals and fundamentally without personhood. This isn't the same as deciding that they don't have rights, or that it's fine to torture them or anything, but I think that this idea of a lack of personhood may be close to the heart of the ick-factor.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:56 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Okay, the militant vegans in this thread need to get a fucking grip.

"BACON IS WORSE THAN PIG RAPE!" Seriously? Do you need an explanation why you're out of your mind if you believe this?

Let's swap the animals for plants. Is it perfectly okay for me to fuck a gourd (and have a continued fetish regarding that) or does that indicate some sort of issue I might have? And if I make a salad afterwards, am I being ethically consistent?

Hooooow about we agree that such a thing as CONTEXT exists?
posted by grubi at 1:56 PM on March 26, 2010


Here's an idea:

There's a lion. If we see a lion eating a gazelle, is he behaving unethically? If not, why?

If we see a lion FUCKING a gazelle... well, shit, you tell me.
posted by grubi at 2:02 PM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


rainbaby: "I'll be damned if I'm going to be the first one to favorite this."

I will, because I'm leaving for the day and need a bookmark.
Let it be recorded that I have favorited the zoophilia thread.
posted by charred husk at 2:02 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Basically, the only thing we can do is stop eating and having sex.

Man, it's just like High School.
posted by The Whelk at 2:03 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is just going to give the right wingers more ammunition for the stupid fucking "If a man can marry a man, what's to stop people from marrying penguins!?" argument.

Granted, the argument is still bunk. Humans can give consent to a marriage (and sex), while animals cannot. But while we're on the topic, animals also don't give consent for us to eat them and put them in factory farms.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:05 PM on March 26, 2010


But while we're on the topic, animals also don't give consent for us to eat them and put them in factory farms.

THANK GOD YOU'VE MADE THIS POINT. NO-ONE ELSE HAD.
posted by grubi at 2:07 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wait, are there people who are concerned about the treatment animals receive in the factory farming system?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:13 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sometimes the willingness of some people to come up with sophistical arguments in favor of even the most indefensible positions is really amazing, as if they were in constant practice for arguing their way out of anything so that they might never have to yield an inch, even in discussions where they are clearly and demonstrably wrong.

Our society has usually agreed that sexual relationships may not be exclusively about reproduction, and that they may not even be about anything so laudable as love or bonding or intimacy, but at the very least they should occur between persons that are of a sufficient age and mental power that they may fully understand and deal with the physical, social and emotional consequences of satisfying this primal urge with another. When someone elects to have sex with a child or a person with mental disability, we find it offensive in part because they are violating the very reasonable standard that the sex act be done only with those who can comprehend exactly the sort of relationship they're involved with. And when someone enters into a sexual relationship with an animal, that person is doing something heinous, for even if the act might be less outrageous in not taking a human victim, it is more perverse for engaging in coitus with something in a way that doesn't even remotely resemble an appropriate sexual relationship. These people are using a lower life form as a sexual prop in their deranged pursuit of sexual satisfaction. Not only is the evident lack of informed consent an issue here, but the fact that an animal is entirely incapable of any sort of higher expression or understanding of its situation. Bestiality is an act of domineering sexuality between a person who eschews sexual contact with his or her natural peers in favor of sexual contact with a creature that cannot so much as excuse itself to go to the bathroom.

As for the article, it makes extraordinary claims without providing any sort of convincing evidence. Merely being aroused by something unusual doesn't make the case for a "genuine orientation". Arousal is easily conditioned, and it's not unlikely that someone out there has fetishized jelly doughnuts. The testimony of people who claim early sexual preferences for animals are next to meaningless, too. Uncritically using anecdotes to trace the roots of specific behaviors to an early age does not make a more plausible case for them being normal. What's going on with the editors over at Scientific American?
posted by millions at 2:13 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


My anti-bestiality stance is predicted on a lack of consent

I suspect (and you can correct me if I'm wrong) that it's based on that AND something else, which is a belief that sex is in a special category of activities (I don't know if anything else is in that category).

Presumably, you don't think it's wrong to pet a dog without its consent, as long as the dog doesn't appear to mind. Or at least it's not AS wrong. So consent itself can't be the only issue. It has to be that you specifically think it's wrong to subject an animal to SEX acts without consent.

If those are your instincts, mine are in accord. We know how horribly humans tend to be affected when sexual stuff is done to them against their will, so it's not a huge leap to assume the same is true with animals. Or at least it's not surprising that anyone would make that leap.

But I think it's worth spelling out as fully as we can, just to try to clarify what exactly is upsetting us. I always feel confused by my own feelings of sexual unease, because I can't pry apart how much of them are dealt to me by nature and how many of them are dealt to me by nurture (e.g. societal conventions).

For instance, I don't like the idea of a stranger touching me sexually, even if that touching doesn't hurt. Now, the idea that I should feel protective of my body isn't odd at all. But what's interesting is that I'm MORE offended by a stranger touching my ass than my arm (sorry about the imagery). Why is that? Is that because I've been brought up to view sex as special? Or would I think of sex in that way even if I grew up in a culture that was extremely sexually liberated?

Sex obviously IS special, from a biological point of view, so it makes sense that we would have evolved hard-coded instincts about it. But we also know that, over the centuries, different cultures have varied widely about what they consider appropriate and not-okay.

In general, I don't think this matters. Who cares whether I don't want a stranger groping me because of the way I was brought up or because of my genes? The only thing that matters is that I feel violated.

But I feel less sure of this when it comes to a dog. Again, why is petting a dog's head okay (even without his consent) but petting it's penis not okay? Because the two acts are somehow fundamentally different to the dog or because I'm more prudish about the latter than the former? I don't think there's any easy way to answer that.

And we don't have to answer it. We can go with our gut. But I was imagining a friend admitting that he likes jacking off dogs, and how I'd explain to him why I thought that was wrong. If I try to totally eliminate my (irrational?) feelings about sex, I don't really have an explanation. Not if the dog doesn't seem to be suffering.
posted by grumblebee at 2:17 PM on March 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


sloop john B : Gay people have sex with other people. The desire to have sex with other people is one of the most universal things in human nature. The desire to have sex with an animal is just so completely outside the realm of what is acceptable - and so completely disturbing to think about - that you really can't hold it against someone for being disgusted and wanting to walk away slowly. (or quickly)

But that's not any more valid.

"Men have sex with women. The desire to have sex with the opposite sex is one of the most universal things in human nature. The desire to have sex with someone of the same sex is just so completely outside the realm of what is acceptable - and so completely disturbing to think about - that you really can't hold it against someone for being disgusted and wanting to walk away slowly. (or quickly)."

The point is that this is exactly what people used to argue. Personal disgust is not in itself a valid reason to ban a behaviour. I'm disgusted by coprophilia and would not be able to avoid judging someone who I knew engaged in it, and there are also very real health risks associated with it. But I don't think it should be illegal.
posted by Drexen at 2:17 PM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Let's just debate the crux of the issue: should bestiality be illegal? Having sex with gourds and other paraphilias are just fine, so long as you do it in private and with consent from adult partners (at least in most states). The issue here is that we have animals, who can't give consent, but who we are culturally okay with using to satisfy our desires (such as for food, companionship, clothing, etc). Is bestiality okay, if one is careful to not cause the animal pain? Or does that count as animal abuse, regardless of pain?

I vote that it's still abuse, as the animal is bound to be very confused,. Eating an animal is different, as we at least try (through laws and slaughterhouse procedure) to ensure that animals go through as little pain as possible before it dies. We fall very short of that, but if you ask most consumers, they'll agree that they don't want their food to suffer.

And that's my argument as a relatively normal person (who eats meat), without breaking down to language like "interspecies sex is awful and gross!" Maybe it's rationalization based on my disgust, but the reasons feel sound to me. And best of all, it doesn't go after consenting adults with interests outside the norm.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:18 PM on March 26, 2010


One may find it anywhere from sad to annoying that homosexuality is brought up as an operational metaphor with regards to zoophilia, but it isn't by accident. Look at the whole "Morality of Disgust" stance from the various far-right apologists, which is somehow giving license to "It squicks me out and is therefore ethically wrong."

Humans conflate ewwww with "bad." It's not a huge shock that the systems probably share some wiring. Spoiled food has gone "bad," we say. And, given human nature, people have the visceral reaction first, then try to find a way to make their internal reaction rational, and from there attempt to elevate that rationalization into a universal principle. It probably works in the other direction, as well.

This is why I genuinely believe that desensitization to things you once found distasteful (another overloaded term) or grody might in turn make you more objective in evaluating situations and principles in whatever you would like to call morality or ethics.
posted by adipocere at 2:18 PM on March 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


I feel like my arguments above were missing this piece: because I think the lack of animal consent is the cost that turns zoophilia from net neutral to net cost, zoophilists could get my support (and the support of others like me) by demonstrating adequate animal consent and/or demonstrating that zoophilia (like mechanical insemination of horses, like the Kentucky Derby, like killing animals for food, like keeping animals as pets) provides enough benefits to society that allowing it is net beneficial, even despite the lack of animal consent. I can't imagine what benefits zoophilia would provide to society, though.

Obviously, there are many people out there who think their personal disgust (which I share) should be a reason to stop zoophilia (which I don't agree with), and even an argument that zoophilia is net beneficial for society may not work with them.

I suspect (and you can correct me if I'm wrong) that it's based on that AND something else

In a larger sense, it's based on lack of consent and lack of any benefit to society that would outweigh that lack of consent. Perhaps in a smaller sense, because it's lack of consent for sex and not lack of consent for playing "get the chew toy," I would want to see a larger benefit to society to outweigh that lack of consent. BUT a lot of the things we do to animals without their consent are very personal--breeding and killing, for example. I don't think the fact that zoophilia involves sex makes it unique.
posted by sallybrown at 2:22 PM on March 26, 2010


Adipocere, you make a good point, but that would make people who browse /b/ the most objective people on Earth. And somehow they're vehemently anti-furry.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:23 PM on March 26, 2010


My name's Porky the Pig and I'm here to recruit you!
posted by geoff. at 2:26 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Y'all sound like a bunch of beanplaters. The cognitive dissonance with the consent argument goes away when you stop eating animals.
posted by Skwirl at 2:31 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's because most b-tards don't reject furries on the basis of disgust. It is primarily because 1) a given furry will never be a seven foot tall fox-like humanoid with blue fur and foot-long eyebrows, and 2) the lengths to which furries will go to insulate themselves from this truth. It's not just the humorous enactment of "A Day in the Life of Axle." Having a fetish which technology might be able to fulfill a couple of centuries hence seems a trifle ... I am not sure if a word even exists for it. It's like someone telling me that they can only find fulfillment on a hoverboard, after they had a formative experience during Back to the Future 2. It's not gonna happen any time soon, and it is sad you won't get to have that, but ... let it go.

And, if I'm being honest, 3) really crap furry art showing up on /b/. I have saved some of the more ridiculous examples. I think my personal favorite involves something like a leopard with a set of wings, reclining on a large bed as it rains ejaculate down as if it were manna from heaven. Next, imagine a ten year old drawing this. It's that bad.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to see if my render of shards of glass reassembling themselves into a cup and sailing into the air, to gracefully land on a table has finished. It's Friday, and I gotta get my freak on.
posted by adipocere at 2:37 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The cognitive dissonance with the consent argument goes away when you stop eating animals.

How is it contradictory to say that eating animal meat provides enough benefits to society to outweigh the cost of no animal consent, while zoophilia does not provide enough benefits to society to do so?

If you say that lack of animal consent is something that can never be overcome, and thus people who eat animals but are against zoophilia due to lack of animal consent are being contradictory, that makes sense. But I'm not sure where you're getting the argument that doing something without an animal's consent can never be justified.
posted by sallybrown at 2:40 PM on March 26, 2010


millions: "Sometimes the willingness of some people to come up with sophistical arguments in favor of even the most indefensible positions is really amazing, as if they were in constant practice for arguing their way out of anything so that they might never have to yield an inch, even in discussions where they are clearly and demonstrably wrong.

Obviously anyone who disagrees with you does so because they are A Bad Person, not because they care about honesty, science, freedom, or equality.
posted by rebent at 2:40 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I haven't eaten pork, red meat or seafood in decades, and am actively cultivating the self-discipline I need to finally cut out chicken and turkey.

I haven't fucked a pig, a cow or a fish in decades, and am actively cultivating the self-discipline I need to finally stop fucking poultry.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:42 PM on March 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


Sometimes the willingness of some people to come up with sophistical arguments in favor of even the most indefensible positions is really amazing, as if they were in constant practice for arguing their way out of anything so that they might never have to yield an inch, even in discussions where they are clearly and demonstrably wrong.[...]When someone elects to have sex with a child or a person with mental disability, we find it offensive in part because they are violating the very reasonable standard that the sex act be done only with those who can comprehend exactly the sort of relationship they're involved with.

You're begging the question. Animals are different from people. We accord them profoundly different status in moral arguments. One can argue that we should not, but that argument is only supported if one also argues that slaughtering* them for food is wrong. As long as we treat animals differently from people for the purposes of moral reasoning, it does not follow that lack of consent from a person and lack of consent from an animal should be understood to be the same in regards to sex.

I'm pretty skeptical of those who argue that this is a consent issue, or primarily a consent issue. I haven't yet read an argument that both allows for eating animals and has coherently argued that we should grant animals the right of consent for sexual purposes. We know that many animals do not relish captivity, and yet we keep them as pets and beasts of burden without consent. It must be that sex, and only sex, changes the rules for how we treat animals. That may be, but no one here has really convincingly argued why that is.

I'm also struck that it seems as if no one has ever seen a nature film. Animal sex often appears to have no element of consent, even among animals.

*I actually think that our use of the word slaughter, at least in English, is relatively revealing in this regard. When we talk about humans killing humans, slaughter is invested with a force that exceeds even murder. The valence of the word is precisely that the killed person was not treated as a person even as they were being killed. Butcher is also like this. The phrase actually suggests that there are nuances of disrespect, even when one human kills another. Yet, it's the term of art for killing an animal for food.
posted by OmieWise at 2:42 PM on March 26, 2010


I'm on the fence about this, too... but only because the gate was locked.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 2:45 PM on March 26, 2010


I used to be a sadomasochistic necrophiliac zoophile.

Then I realised I was just flogging a dead horse.
posted by idiomatika at 2:46 PM on March 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


How about, aside from consent, we don't have sex with animals because they're a completely different species?

Just an idea I had.
posted by grubi at 2:48 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Gonzo's fascination with chickens is seeming more sinister now. It's fishy, fishy, fishy.
posted by XMLicious at 2:51 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


A shame the Neantherthals are not around....just don't ask, don't tell.
posted by Postroad at 2:53 PM on March 26, 2010


I haven't yet read an argument that both allows for eating animals and has coherently argued that we should grant animals the right of consent for sexual purposes.

I feel like I'm repeating myself endlessly, but you didn't address this argument: that eating animals (who do not consent) provides substantial benefits to society; fucking animals (who do not consent) does not. You can care about the lack of animal consent and still eat meat, if its benefits (your survival, your health, whatever) outweigh its cost (lack of animal consent). As you said, lack of consent from an animal and lack of consent from a person aren't equivalent, so that cost hurdle is not really a high one. But does zoophilia benefit society in any way that would overcome even this low hurdle?
posted by sallybrown at 2:56 PM on March 26, 2010


This is why I genuinely believe that desensitization to things you once found distasteful (another overloaded term) or grody might in turn make you more objective in evaluating situations and principles in whatever you would like to call morality or ethics

Except that making people feel "Ewww" is itself an ethical act.

For example, would it be ethical for me to put a frog down my sister's blouse because I know she holds an irrational fear of frogs? No, it's unethical precisely because it causes the "Ewww" reaction--which is a form of suffering.

Sometimes we have to reexamine our natural ick-reactions because those reactions may cause others to suffer in ways that are needless and profound.

However, it shouldn't be ignored in any ethical calculation that when people are icked out by something, whether their responses are socially conditioned or a result of some more universal biological impulse, feeling icky, too, is a form of suffering.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:56 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I haven't fucked a pig, a cow or a fish in decades, and am actively cultivating the self-discipline I need to finally stop fucking poultry.

Well, good, at least that's a small improvement.

I've managed to abstain from fucking all those things, too. Thanks for encouraging me!
posted by saulgoodman at 2:57 PM on March 26, 2010


adipocere on furries: It's not gonna happen any time soon, and it is sad you won't get to have that, but ... let it go.

Eh, people have all kinds of fetishes that could never actually happen, no matter the technology -- nothing inherently wrong with it, and no reason not to let them get on with imagining it if they're not hurting anyone. No reason to take any and all publically-accessible expression of it as some kind of affront/crime to be stamped out either. Even if the 'target' is some kind of delusional and/or overly-defensive person who acts in a particularly 'drama-enticing' way, it doesn't make it much less of a dick move to spend time mocking and baiting them about it. That's just bullying.

Of course, I know I'm not going to persuade /b/ or SA to stop mocking people by telling them it's a dick move, nor would I particularly want to make them stop even if I could (although some of the harassment they pull is another matter). It's all just people being themselves, and sometimes they're pretty funny. It just irks me when the more erudite /b/ types try to rationalize what they do as part of some tough-love crusade against the harmful and the weird.
posted by Drexen at 2:58 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or in other words, I guess I'd better not stop murdering people until I can manage to avoid the temptation to cheat on my taxes, since doing one without the other would just make me a hypocrite (and god knows, there's no wiggle-room between the extremes of perfect ethical being and abject hypocritical moral reprobate anymore).
posted by saulgoodman at 2:59 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


“Let's just debate the crux of the issue: should bestiality be illegal?”
Well, unquestionably. If the person perpetrating has lost some self-control and could be a danger to themselves or an animal. Almost the only way the police would find out is if it's too open.
And I think that transcends the social mores disgust thing. Sex of any kind is illegal in, say, a grocery store. If you’re fucking/being fucked in the isle, it’s going to be a problem whether it’s homo or heterosexual, masturbation or whatever.

“The cognitive dissonance with the consent argument goes away when you stop eating animals.”
Destroying their habitats, rewriting their genetic codes, asymmetric dependency, still basically ok.
If animals don’t have consent, then how can they have moral standing equivalent to a human?

I’d argue it’s because we’re interdependent – it’s because we have a responsibility to them – that sex with them is immoral. Our dependence on them (for food sometimes) demands a reciprocal level of responsibility from us. Otherwise (at the least) we harm ourselves.
Some species of cattle (dairy animals) wouldn’t be able to survive without the artificial environment we provide.
Whatever their status concerning moral standing – we do have it and I think we violate a sort of implied consent we have from other humans and ourselves in terms of guardianship over an animal.
Because it’s for something beyond base pleasure. By ‘base’ I don’t mean cruel or common, but on the animal level.
Why don’t animals have sex with us without our consent? Kind of silly to ask. But wouldn’t they (given the attraction)?
They certainly do eat us without moral quandary. So the difference is accepting the nasty brutish and short law of the jungle or restraint beyond one’s own base desire that recognizes power must be bounded by at least some responsibility and justification.
I can see justifying having to eat an animal. Having sex with it? Tough one.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:02 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


(example of moral standing & animals)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:05 PM on March 26, 2010


dear sallybrown: we get it. you're a utilitarian.
posted by symbioid at 3:08 PM on March 26, 2010


I feel like I'm repeating myself endlessly, but you didn't address this argument: that eating animals (who do not consent) provides substantial benefits to society; fucking animals (who do not consent) does not.

That's because it's a specious argument. You've decided to count as a benefit things we all know that we can get without killing animals. We could live vegan lives, we choose not to. Aside from that, your argument doesn't address the moral standing issue at all. One the one hand you're arguing about utility, on the other you're suggesting that the morality of consent is the most important thing. Utilitarian arguments wouldn't be concerned with the ability of an animal to consent.
posted by OmieWise at 3:11 PM on March 26, 2010


I haven't fucked a pig, a cow or a fish in decades, and am actively cultivating the self-discipline I need to finally stop fucking poultry.

Maybe if certain admins wouldn't post certain provocative pictures...
posted by graventy at 3:11 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Except utilitarians usually argue the other way, i.e., Peter Singer's "Heavy Petting".
posted by Pyry at 3:11 PM on March 26, 2010


dear sallybrown: we get it. you're a utilitarian.

Not really. Moral consent isn't a utilitarian argument.
posted by OmieWise at 3:11 PM on March 26, 2010


HAY YOU GUYZ! THE BIBLE SAYS WE SHOULD NOT LIE WITH BEASTS OF THE FIELD IT IS AN ABOMINATION UNTO THE LORD!!! THERE IS OUR ANSWER! DEUTERONOMY FTW!
posted by symbioid at 3:12 PM on March 26, 2010


I thought utilitarian logic had to do with the "greater good"? She was using the "greater good" argument (whether it is specious (no pun intended) or not fully logical isn't the point).

Or perhaps my understanding of Utilitarianism is flawed?
posted by symbioid at 3:14 PM on March 26, 2010


sallybrown : But does zoophilia benefit society in any way that would overcome even this low hurdle?

This seems like the wrong way of looking at it -- I don't think rights should be vetted based on whether we can determine that they have a 'benefit' to society. All kinds of things we're allowed to do would be hard to describe in terms of such a benefit, but we don't disallow them unless there is a reason to do so. Placing restrictions on people both constrains them, and potentially causes the trouble of having to punish/imprison them, along with increasing stigmatisation. Removing restrictions -- if it is determined that there isn't enough reason for it to be there -- is surely the goal of democracy.

In more concrete terms, if zoophilia were legal then zoophiles would get the 'benefit' of not being imprisoned (or whatever other punishment), and society would get the benefit of their contribution as citizens.
posted by Drexen at 3:14 PM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Okay, let's drop the bullshit abstracts here.

How would you feel if one of your friends confided in you that they liked to fuck animals? One of your best friends? A coworker? A sibling? A parent? A sex partner?

You would be disgusted. And you would wish they hadn't told you. You'd probably judge them, even if your sophistic moral relativism BS prevents you from admitting such in this thread.
posted by Sloop John B at 3:17 PM on March 26, 2010


Whether or not an animal can consent to a sexual act with a human is beside the point. There is no way to positively determine that an animal can consent, because animals do not speak human language. Therefore it's much safer, ethically, to assume that they cannot consent.
posted by desjardins at 3:18 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


She was using the "greater good" argument (whether it is specious (no pun intended) or not fully logical isn't the point).

She's using a hybrid argument, where consent matters, but only when benefits (as defined by her) don't "outweigh" the inability to grant it.
posted by OmieWise at 3:20 PM on March 26, 2010


rebent: Obviously anyone who disagrees with you does so because they are A Bad Person, not because they care about honesty, science, freedom, or equality.

Oh, you're implying that a person who disagrees with my specific position on how bestiality is wrong is doing so in the service of honesty, science, freedom, or equality? When you're done grandstanding in defense of people who have sex with creatures without the capacity for higher reason, I am ready to hear these honest, scientific, egalitarian arguments. They haven't shown up so far.
posted by millions at 3:22 PM on March 26, 2010


"BACON IS WORSE THAN PIG RAPE!" Seriously? Do you need an explanation why you're out of your mind if you believe this?

Ummm.... well, yes, because I also believe it. I personally would rather be raped than cooked and eaten, don't know about the rest of you.

I've never had a sexual feeling toward an animal in my life - I wasn't comfortable with animals until I was an adult, in fact - and though I certainly consider the idea of having sex with animals extremely yucky, I fail to see why it's worse than torturing, killing and eating them.

sallybrown's argument makes zero sense to me; you're basically saying, "I like meat so it's OK". To argue that it benefits humanity is a boondoggle - you could get a lot more food for less work if you produced vegetables, so it's a less effective way to get fed; the reason people want meat is because it tastes good, not because they'll starve without it.(*)

Zoos think sex with animals is good. Meat-eaters consider killing and eating an animal to be good; and they seem to have no problem with the fact that that animal is generally treated horrifically from each moment of birth to death (when it would only cost a few extra pennies a pound to treat the animal well).

I frankly don't see either of these - and I particularly think the torture/kill/eat crowd has zero business feeling morally superior to the romance crowd.

(* - yes, I am wearing leather shoes. yes, I do believe that humans do get to use animals for their own purposes.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:23 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Reading this post to say that we are arguing that people should be allowed to have sex with animals is like saying that a post about explorers who encountered cannibals and sampled the meat and found it tasty is condoning cannibalism.

Man, talk about awkward! Imagine, "Hey, this is seriously great! How do you make it? Hey, Jim! Jim! You gotta come and try this stew, man!

…Jim? Where'dya go, man? Quit joking around, you're gonna miss supper!"
posted by five fresh fish at 3:25 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The moral and ethical questions are interesting, but ultimately up to personal interpretaions. The real reason to avoid having sex with animals is that they're simply not very good at it. See also, virgins.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:27 PM on March 26, 2010


Is it perfectly okay for me to fuck a gourd (and have a continued fetish regarding that) or does that indicate some sort of issue I might have? And if I make a salad afterwards, am I being ethically consistent?

Note to self: skip the fresh fruit salads at grubi's place.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:29 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


You would be disgusted. And you would wish they hadn't told you. You'd probably judge them, even if your sophistic moral relativism BS prevents you from admitting such in this thread.

There are a wide range of behaviors that I feel this way about, that I also do not feel should be illegal. The law is not and should not be based on our feeling squicked out; it should be based on the reduction of harm.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 3:31 PM on March 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


Moral consent isn't a utilitarian argument.

You can fit consent into a rule utilitarian framework, on the argument that laws based on consent help maximize utility by limiting the opportunities for people to abuse their power over others, based on the assumption that people are generally more knowledgeable about their own preferences than the preferences of others.

For example, even if I were in agonizing pain it would be assault and battery for you to forcefully give me a shot of morphine against my wishes, because the alternative (that adults could force other adults to do things if they thought it were in their best interest) invites abuse. The notion of consent is a shorthand for the idea that all adults are (generally) on an equal footing in terms of making decisions, and so each individual should be left to make his/her own decisions. For children and animals we believe (rightly or not) that they have a diminished capacity to make decisions in their own interest, and that therefore we can make them for them.

Since consent does not apply to animals and children, the standard reverts to harm. Sex with children is wrong because it is overwhelmingly likely to cause serious psychological harm. I don't know if the same can be said of animals.
posted by Pyry at 3:36 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]




I'm agreement that sex is a special category. There are actually a lot of things we regularly do to humans without and even against their consent -- making them pay taxes, get driver's licenses, go to school, drafting them into armies, etc. Saying that a comparison can be made between one kind of action we take with animals and another misses the point that sex (for humans, anyway) isn't *just* about getting off. There are social, emotional, legal and other consequences to having a sexual relationship, and it is because of *those* that we consider the ability to provide informed consent a part of our ethics regarding sexual behavior.

The fact is, we don't know if animals have sex for the reason reasons we do, or if the same emotional, social and other consequences occur for them, because they can't, as of yet, tell us about any of that. We have to guess.

And there is a power dynamic involved. Universities, for example, frown upon professors having sex with their students for precisely this reason -- we consider the question of consent to be too unclear in situations like these, because it's possible that the professor, even unwittingly, might be bringing his/her social standing or political power to bear as a persuasive device.

To put it another way, one of the ethics we maintain is that individuals ought to be free to freely choose their sexual partners. It is that freedom that allows for mutuality in the decision to have sex, and we hold that mutuality to be one of the defining special characteristics of healthy adult sexual behavior.

I personally don't think animals are capable of expressing that mutuality, and they may not be capable of feeling it.
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:38 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I feel like I'm repeating myself endlessly, but you didn't address this argument: that eating animals (who do not consent) provides substantial benefits to society; fucking animals (who do not consent) does not.

I think this article is meant to be claiming that it does, though - that some people are "genuinely" oriented that way means that they have unfulfilled sexual lives until they are allowed to be out of the closet and be with the ones they truly want to be with. So it is as at least as beneficial to them to be able to fuck animals as it is to others to be able to eat animals. EAting animals also causes various downsides to society and is much more widespread, so if it is about the cost/benefit analysis, it seems like eating meat would be the bigger issue.

For me the "ick" feeling stems mostly from the fact that it is impossible to have any confirmed communication with the animal. You can guess what an animal means, but you can't discuss anything with it, and you can never get to know it better. I'm all for body language and understanding beyond speech, but I would think it creepy if someone only wanted to have sex with people who could not speak his language. This takes it a step further - creatures that can't speak our language, and generally have the mental intelligence of a human infant. It seems like a powerful rejection of any awareness of the two-sided component of a relationship - like having a relationship with a love-doll, except involving an actual living thing.

I'm sure there's a plain ol' squick-factor too, but really I think it's a combination of how I feel about eating meat (I can deal with it, but I don't do it myself because it makes me sad) and how I feel about people marrying their love pillows or whatever (people are messed up).
posted by mdn at 3:40 PM on March 26, 2010


Two more things:

There are a whole lot of animals who engage in rape, not only of their mate, but of other species. We've seen on MeFi the necrophiliac duck, the dog screwing a raccoon, the chicken getting fucked by a rabbit, etceteras. The animal world is filled choc-a-bloc with non-consensual acts. In short, there's no such thing as consent in the animal kingdom, and it is foolish to try to apply those rules here.

Secondly, I am repulsed by the arguments that have attempted to use homosexuality as a basis for argument, and really disappointed that it wasn't shot down hard the first time it was suggested. I thought MeFi was one helluva lot better about homosexuality. That people are deliberately conflating and comparing the issues disgusts me.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:42 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


sallybrown's argument makes zero sense to me; you're basically saying, "I like meat so it's OK". To argue that it benefits humanity is a boondoggle - you could get a lot more food for less work if you produced vegetables, so it's a less effective way to get fed; the reason people want meat is because it tastes good, not because they'll starve without it.

She's using a hybrid argument, where consent matters, but only when benefits (as defined by her) don't "outweigh" the inability to grant it.


Sorry, just want to clarify--I'm not trying to make a moral argument about what's "good." I'm trying to say all the individuals in our culture have cost-benefit calculations about things, and because so many of us think the benefits (which are personal and so different for different people, whether they be "because it tastes good" or "I need the protein" or "I don't like vegetables" or anything else you and everyone, not just I, can think of) of eating meat outweigh the costs, we live in a society which doesn't make eating meat illegal. Whereas there are very few of us who see any benefits (again, not just defined by me, but defined by the individuals who make up the society) in zoophilia. If 75% of the country woke up tomorrow with a strong sexual attraction to animals, then maybe (probably) zoophilia would soon be considered acceptable, because people's cost-benefit analyses would shift, because of mpn's point: that some people are "genuinely" oriented that way means that they have unfulfilled sexual lives until they are allowed to be out of the closet and be with the ones they truly want to be with. So it is as at least as beneficial to them to be able to fuck animals as it is to others to be able to eat animals.

I realize now that my larger argument is problematic, but I just wanted to clarify that I'm not trying to be the arbiter of what is "good" for society; I'm trying to point out that something that is popular and widely accepted is probably seen by most people as having benefits that outweigh its costs.

From Wikipedia: Utilitarianism is the idea that the moral worth of an action is determined solely by its utility in providing happiness or pleasure as summed among all sentient beings.

I'm not really being utilitarian, at least as defined here. I'm arguing that the likelihood of zoophilia becoming legal will depend on how many people see its benefits as outweighing its costs and I'm guessing at why people see it as unacceptable behavior even if it has the same costs as eating meat, which most people see as acceptable.

And I'm really not trying to drown you all in a deluge of specious argument, I swear.
posted by sallybrown at 3:44 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sloop John B: "Okay, let's drop the bullshit abstracts here.

How would you feel if one of your friends confided in you that they liked to fuck animals? One of your best friends? A coworker? A sibling? A parent? A sex partner?

You would be disgusted. And you would wish they hadn't told you. You'd probably judge them, even if your sophistic moral relativism BS prevents you from admitting such in this thread.
"

My guess: I would be irritated at my sex partner if they were currently fucking animals (also angry because where the hell were they getting animals? were they going to work? where were they finding the time? WTF?), worried for my friend, massively confused that any of the other folks were telling me about their sexual preferences (and worried).

Maybe I would judge them or be disgusted, who knows. That doesn't mean I'm going to tell them about it, turn them in to the police, consider them horrible people, reject them, or whatever. My feelings aren't so important that they trump my ability to control myself and be reasonably polite and kind.

I'm irritated that you seem to be calling me a moral relativist and a sophist. Moral relativism isn't my thing, and accusing people of sophistry is just a lazy way of saying "your argument is better than mine, and it makes me mad".
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:58 PM on March 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


Anyone else read through this thread and think of Connie Willis's "All My Darling Daughters"? No?
posted by sobell at 4:01 PM on March 26, 2010


I find pedophilia revolting, but the consent issue is bullshit. One can easily imagine scenarios in which the animal consents and no harm is done, where the animal is not traumatized and enjoys it. You think it's gross and I think it's gross, but that doesn't make it immoral.

Plenty of male dogs will fuck anything. If you're a woman who lets a dog fuck you, are you doing something immoral? Because the dog isn't consenting?! Absurd.
posted by callmejay at 4:05 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


“Sex with children is wrong because it is overwhelmingly likely to cause serious psychological harm. I don't know if the same can be said of animals.”
Does sex with children harm the pedophile? I don’t know that it does. But I would think so. The asymmetry in the relationship.

“You wouldn't consider it okay to pat a stranger on the head if he was standing on the corner waiting for the light to change.”

Awwww-who’sagoodinsurancesalesman? Eh? Whosa-goodwiddleinsurancesalesman? You are! Yes you are! You are! Yes you are! You’reagood insurancesalesman. Oooh, look at your widdle tie! Awww! Whatagood boy you are! Whatagood *leaves without further comment*
posted by Smedleyman at 4:05 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of the years, oh the YEARS it took me to get the "sheep can hear a zipper a mile away" punchline to the "Why do Scotsmen wear kilts?" joke. For most of my life I thought it was kind of funny, yet slightly odd: "Why does a sheep care if he hears the Scotsman peeing?"

Oh, it was an innocent time. Until that one day when I suddenly GOT IT.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:07 PM on March 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


And I'm really not trying to drown you all in a deluge of specious argument, I swear.

No, I understand that you're arguing in good faith, as am I. We just don't agree, that's all.
posted by OmieWise at 4:09 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hate to be the one to mention the elephant in the room here, but: People are animals! We're all animal fuckers! And we probably don't really understand enough about what we're doing to "consent" either.

So let's just keep thing simple and posit the existence of some kind of external, super-rational being who isn't a lowly, easily-spooked animal like us to sort out all these tricky ethical questions for us...

/kidding aside

A few more random thoughts on the subject:

1) Animals really do carry lots of diseases that are potentially transmissible to people. So before you poke that pig, just take a few minutes to think about where you're putting that thing and what else might have been in there first.

2) Simply being sexually aroused by a thing does not mean that you are entitled to have sex with it. In human society, we generally determine whether or not we are entitled to have sex with something by asking it. Sometimes, the answer is inherent, as in the case of things specifically designed for sexual function (for example, sex dolls and vibrators are obviously asking for it); other times, the answers are less clear (what about that zucchini over there? what about the watermelon with the hole in it?). But in every case, we have to ask the question first. The precise form of the question isn't always all that relevant, but the question and the answer have to be clear.

3) It isn't even possible to ask an animal, in any meaningful sense, whether or not it wants to have sex. It's even harder for an animal to answer. Getting in the habit of permitting any group of people to have sex in any form without regard for consent--especially in the case of including sexual partners who might actually want to withhold consent but who not only cannot but who enjoy no legal standing even if they could--could have unintended social consequences by potentially desensitizing individuals to the idea of engaging in sex acts with un-consenting partners.

4) If we confirmed beyond a doubt that certain people are naturally sexually attracted only to Kylie Minogue, surely that wouldn't imply that we have an ethical obligation to accommodate Minoguists in some way, nor would it mean that Minogue herself is obligated to make herself sexually available to individuals with this particular sexual orientation. Therefore, it makes no sense to say that because some people are "naturally" (or "unnaturally," for that matter) attracted to animals, they should be entitled to fuck them. No one in our society is entitled to fuck someone/thing else just because they want to. The fucked always gets to have a say, too, on principle. Consent is a good, sound governing principle for sexual ethics, and we shouldn't carve out exceptions to it just for the benefit of a handful of people.

Plenty of male dogs will fuck anything. If you're a woman who lets a dog fuck you, are you doing something immoral? Because the dog isn't consenting?! Absurd.

That's the whole point. Animals can't "consent" in the same way people do. But consent--in the sense that people mean that word--is an integral part of how we view sex in the human realm. It's not in the animal realm. An animal doing something is not "consenting"--they're just doing what they do. When we have sex as people, we require consent of our partners. That's a human standard. We obviously can't hold animals to it, so it makes no sense to have sex with animals.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:17 PM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Does sex with children harm the pedophile? I don’t know that it does. But I would think so. The asymmetry in the relationship.

If zoophilia only harms the zoophile, then it can join the long list of self-destructive activities we, as a society, allow on the principle of autonomy.
posted by Pyry at 4:20 PM on March 26, 2010


MeTa
posted by Afroblanco at 4:20 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


When we have sex as people, we require consent of our partners. That's a human standard. We obviously can't hold animals to it, so it makes no sense to have sex with animals.

I don't think this argument works structurally. Consider:

When we as Freemasons shake hands with other Freemasons, we require the secret handshake to be used. That's a Freemason standard. We obviously can't hold non-Freemasons to this standard, so it makes no sense to shake hands with non-Freemasons.
posted by Pyry at 4:33 PM on March 26, 2010


But it does, if you parse it the right way:

When we Freemasons use the secret handshake, we require the thumbs to be pressed firmly against the palm.

Octopuses do not have thumbs. So it makes no sense to talk about Octopuses using the Freemason's secret handshake.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:36 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Morals for humans are different than from morals for animals. To treat an animal without regard to our own morality I think fails there.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:39 PM on March 26, 2010


I can definitely see the "there are far more people want pork or cow than people who want to pork a cow" argument - certainly it'll be a long time before you could drop "my horse and sexual partner" into a conversation in the same way you could drop "my boyfriend" now (if you were male).

I have to say that zoophilic rights are very very low on my agenda - as in, not at all - I might drop money into a donation can (I think I saw one at Petco the other day?)

I'd be much happier if people had a more enlightened view on the use of animals including their use as meat. I really don't see anything wrong with humans using animals for their own purpose - I and nearly all the people here are alive and healthy because of experiments performed on animals that would be described as "fiendish" if performed on humans and I feel no guilt about that - they'd do it to us if they could, and if my child were dying, I'd (regretfully) dispense with any number of kitties and puppies to save it.

However, our food animals are literally performing the ultimate sacrifice for us - it's unconscionable that we spend no effort whatsoever on their comfort and happiness before we kill them, particularly since the cost of better treatment would be extremely small on a per meal basis.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:48 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Speaking of non-consensual sex... slipping a mickey to oneself?

it's unconscionable that we spend no effort whatsoever on their comfort and happiness before we kill them

Temple Grandin?
posted by five fresh fish at 5:04 PM on March 26, 2010


fff caught me out. Pretty good for an NT!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:09 PM on March 26, 2010




Agree or not, laws against assisted suicide demonstrate that in most jurisdictions, killing another human being is wrong even with consent. And, of course, there are still several cultures where certain consenting sexual practices are still forbidden, but its a (nearly?) universal moral principle that consent from both parties is required for licit sexual activity, and in the absence of consent, non-consent should be assumed. Suggesting the horse should have kicked him if it didn't want to have sex sounds to me a lot like suggesting the girl shouldn't have worn the short skirt.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 5:16 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, I'd be interested to see how the debate on assisted suicide would go if we weren't talking about the terminally ill and suffering, but people who simply wanted to exercise a free choice to end their lives with the assistance of others. We might suggest that due to mental distress, the person is incapable of rendering consent.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 5:19 PM on March 26, 2010


This reminds of a Scottish joke. Stop me if you've heard this before!

Cameron is hanging around across the street from the pub, when his friend asks him why doesn't he come in for a beer. But Cam says, "No, I can't go in there. I'd be with McTavish the butcher. And Dougall the gas station attendant, and Riley the grocer."

So his friend says, "So? They all sound like normal folks..."

Cam shakes his head and says, "Aye, but you fuck one sheep..."
posted by sneebler at 5:20 PM on March 26, 2010


NT? Northern Trout?

Unconscionable that we have factory farming of the sort we do, yes. But there are plenty of small farmers who are quite nice to their animals, even though they do end up eating them. And there are ever more alternatives to factory meat, milk, and eggs, at least out where I live.

I am rather surprised PetCo has a Save the Zoophiles fund-raising tin.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:21 PM on March 26, 2010


We might suggest that due to mental distress, the person is incapable of rendering consent.

This is indeed the argument against consenting to "suicide."
posted by OmieWise at 5:22 PM on March 26, 2010


Suggesting the horse should have kicked him if it didn't want to have sex sounds to me a lot like suggesting the girl shouldn't have worn the short skirt.

[blinks] And just when I thought it couldn't get weirder.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:24 PM on March 26, 2010


NT.

I was also joking about the PetCo "Mothers March For Meat Molesters" donation can.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:27 PM on March 26, 2010


This is Barnyard Madness!
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 5:31 PM on March 26, 2010


What does consent have to do with? In what other issue involving animals would the animals being unable to consent be even the faintest figment of an issue?

Would a cat or dog consent to being neutered, or sent to the pound and put down simply because you were allergic? (And I think everyone should neuter their pets, and if someone had acute allergies and was unable to find a good home for their pet, well, I'd be very understanding either way it turned out... if some friend of mine had to do this I'd say, "Well, you cannot destroy your life for an animal.")

Humans require consent for many activities, including sex. Animals do not require consent for anything.

Saying that zoophilia is bad because it hurts animals is a good argument; because the animal cannot consent, is not.

I confess - I have a lot of trouble taking this all very seriously. I keep thinking of Gene Wilder drinking Woolite...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:35 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


OIC. I may be impaired.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:38 PM on March 26, 2010


Some animals are more equal than others.
posted by digitalprimate at 5:50 PM on March 26, 2010


Consent is important, because without it most of the arguments turn into fluff and blow away. It's a really easy way to explain away the icky feelings. It's perfectly fine for Ms. Lovelace to have her best friend's balls cut off, but put some booties on him and point his cock at her snatch, and all of a sudden it's not consensual. Somehow.

So why shouldn't zoofuckers be allowed to indulge in their passion? I dunno. "Because it's disgusting" works just fine for me: there are so many other inequities that I'd rather give priority. Full human equality rights, for starters.

I don't think the zooies are getting executed or life imprisonment or, really, even very much jail time at all, if any. If they're smart and keep it on the qt, it doesn't have to become a problem that demands priority resolution.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:53 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Because it's disgusting" works just fine for me

I believe that we have established that I'm not being rude to say: an awful lot of people think Teh Gay is disgusting, but that doesn't make it wrong.

I forgot to mention the other reason I keep laughing when I'm trying to be all-encompassing and compassionate in this thread...

So I think everyone's basically in agreement here!

1. having sex with animals is yucky.
2. on the scale of sins, if it is a sin at all, it's minor.
3. we wish "they" would go away, though.
4. failing that, we're glad that there isn't some terrible miscarriage of justice that we'd have make some decision about and that we can continue to ignore this issue.
5. I think I need a beer.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:05 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


So why shouldn't zoofuckers be allowed to indulge in their passion? I dunno. "Because it's disgusting" works just fine for me: there are so many other inequities that I'd rather give priority. Full human equality rights, for starters.

Disgust is a useful thing to think about on its own, apart from whether the zoophiliacs have their day. It's not like we've stopped being disgusted by other things of questionable harm. Consensual incest, maybe?

Tolerance isn't well served by giving in to our gut instincts about any group. The ones not worth tolerating usually have plenty of other things going against them.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:14 PM on March 26, 2010


How cocky does a guy need to be to think he can sexually gratify a horse?

ǝʇınb :ɐ
posted by Sys Rq at 6:19 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


It is arbitrary to say sex with animals is bad, but morality really has to be confined to an "us" to make any kind of coherent sense; if killing is universally wrong, then nature itself is evil, which is a result I cannot accept. Us is defined as humans, or being that is capable of interacting with us socially, and thus be a part of our society. All non-human animals we know of seem to be incapable of doing this, and thus incapable of consenting to anything in a moral sense. Sexual behavior without consent is wrong, therefore sexual behavior with species that do not have the intelligence to interact with us socially as equals is wrong.

Yes morality is arbitrary and us vs. them. But we're humans and that seems to be the most inclusive "us" you can get without morality starting to become insensible.
posted by Zalzidrax at 6:20 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Most people I've talked to about the subject (ahem: animal morality) agree that the concept simply does not apply. Until the example comes up of a cat toying with a live mouse...
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:28 PM on March 26, 2010


I feel very strongly eww squick yuck wrong, but I can't deny I get sensual - not sexual - pleasure from my pets and feel we have a relationship - that I would know what they were thinking, in terms of consent. It seems to me like zoophilia is a negative deviation, but a relatively standard one. You trust your horse, you live with your horse, you work together, gee, ok, you might easily come to desire your horse. I feel one thing (it is wrong!) but I can't bring a logical justification to the argument. Except the disgust should be trusted thing - don't fuck what you might eat, it might bring disease, etc.
posted by rainbaby at 6:39 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sexual behavior without consent is wrong when humans are involved, therefore sexual behavior with species that do not have the intelligence to interact with us socially as equals is wrong.

That'll work for me.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:46 PM on March 26, 2010


You trust your horse, you live with your horse, you work together, gee, ok, you might easily come to desire your horse.

And yet could you say the same of a sheep or chicken? As weird as it is, I can almost "get" the idea wrt a horse: it's big, powerful, attractive as such things go, etc. But a chicken?!? Yet sure enough, there are chicken-fuckers out there.

The scope of humanity is simultaneously awe-inspiring and disgusting.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:49 PM on March 26, 2010


Saying that zoophilia is bad because it hurts animals is a good argument; because the animal cannot consent, is not.

Honestly I think the former and the latter arguments are connected because only the latter is something we are capable of knowing--we can't communicate clearly with most animals (unless a real-life Dr. Doolittle is walking around) and thus we can't always know when they're hurt and we also know they can't consent (because they can't tell us). Yes, a horse could kick you, or an animal could cry out in pain, but we have no other real way to know when an animal is "hurt" in the way the victim of non-consensual sex is hurt--if in fact animals can even be harmed in that same way. So then we have the argument that sex is inherently harmful when forced on a non-consensual partner, which leads to the argument that because animals cannot consent, zoophilia necessarily hurts animals. And then I can't help thinking whether animal suffering is even anything like what we think "suffering" to be, so I turn to David Foster Wallace's "Consider the Lobster":

Still, after all the abstract intellection, there remain the facts of the frantically clanking lid, the pathetic clinging to the edge of the pot. Standing at the stove, it is hard to deny in any meaningful way that this is a living creature experiencing pain and wishing to avoid/escape the painful experience. To my lay mind, the lobster’s behavior in the kettle appears to be the expression of a preference; and it may well be that an ability to form preferences is the decisive criterion for real suffering....

In any event, at the Festival, standing by the bubbling tanks outside the World’s Largest Lobster Cooker, watching the fresh-caught lobsters pile over one another, wave their hobbled claws impotently, huddle in the rear corners, or scrabble frantically back from the glass as you approach, it is difficult not to sense that they’re unhappy, or frightened, even if it’s some rudimentary version of these feelings…and, again, why does rudimentariness even enter into it? Why is a primitive, inarticulate form of suffering less urgent or uncomfortable for the person who’s helping to inflict it by paying for the food it results in?...

My own immediate reaction is that such a comparison is hysterical, extreme—and yet the reason it seems extreme to me appears to be that I believe animals are less morally important than human beings; and when it comes to defending such a belief, even to myself, I have to acknowledge that (a) I have an obvious selfish interest in this belief, since I like to eat certain kinds of animals and want to be able to keep doing it, and (b) I have not succeeded in working out any sort of personal ethical system in which the belief is truly defensible instead of just selfishly convenient.

posted by sallybrown at 6:50 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's not like we've stopped being disgusted by other things of questionable harm. Consensual incest, maybe?
We might suggest that due to mental distress, the person is incapable of rendering consent.
This is indeed the argument against consenting to "suicide."


I don't know much about the incest arguments, but I have heard someone argue that he's against even consensual incest, even when both parties are sterile, because he thinks any person who would consent to incest is mentally distressed enough to render his/her consent invalid.

But then it's hard to know whether the disgust reaction leads to after-the-fact rationalization--whether the reason we don't think people can consent to suicide or incest is really because yuck, we don't want them to.
posted by sallybrown at 6:52 PM on March 26, 2010


But it does, if you parse it the right way:

When we Freemasons use the secret handshake, we require the thumbs to be pressed firmly against the palm.

Octopuses do not have thumbs. So it makes no sense to talk about Octopuses using the Freemason's secret handshake.


Sure, but you can't use the descriptive claim [it is conceptually impossible for an octopus to perform the freemason handshake] to get to the moral claim [it is immoral to attempt a freemason handshake (or the closest act resembling one) with an octopus].

It is arbitrary to say sex with animals is bad, but morality really has to be confined to an "us" to make any kind of coherent sense; [...] Sexual behavior without consent is wrong, therefore sexual behavior with species that do not have the intelligence to interact with us socially as equals is wrong.


Animals aren't in the domain of human morality, therefore we should apply our human moral standard (consent) to animals? I'm sorry, but that doesn't make a bit of sense. If animals are simply outside morality, then they have all the moral standing of fruit; is it your position that sex with fruits is also immoral?
posted by Pyry at 6:54 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sexual behavior without consent is wrong when humans are involved, therefore sexual behavior with species that do not have the intelligence to interact with us socially as equals is wrong.

That'll work for me.


Not arguing that sex with animals is immoral, just that forbidding it isn't immoral in the same manner hating gay people is.
posted by Zalzidrax at 6:55 PM on March 26, 2010


Consensual incest, maybe?
We might suggest that due to mental distress, the person is incapable of rendering consent.


Whoah. All kinds of alarm bells should go off if the only you reason you question someone's mental capacity is because they do something you disagree with. That's a dark, dark road to go down (and we've been there before, too). Dressing up disgust in the garb of "mental fitness" does not provide any additional support whatsoever.

I'm particularly perplexed why you would apply this to consensual incest before you would to zoophilia, for that matter. At least the two parties are adult humans.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:03 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Consensual incest, maybe?
We might suggest that due to mental distress, the person is incapable of rendering consent.
This is indeed the argument against consenting to "suicide."


Ahhh! I quoted these but they should be separated by spaces as they are from three different posts. My bad!

I'm particularly perplexed why you would apply this to consensual incest before you would to zoophilia, for that matter. At least the two parties are adult humans.

I was saying that I had heard this argument (which I agree seems pretty nightmarish and justifies all manner of bad practices) in a discussion on legalizing incest. Not sure how the proponant feels about zoophilia.
posted by sallybrown at 7:16 PM on March 26, 2010


Ah, ok. Thanks for clearing that up.

Consensual incest is one of those things, like zoophilia, that in the abstract, I go: well... ok. Then I look at an animal, or my sister, and go: EEWWWWWW.

But, well, I'm not other people, and they shouldn't have to be me.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:18 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Consensual incest is one of those things, like zoophilia, that in the abstract, I go: well... ok. Then I look at an animal, or my sister, and go: EEWWWWWW.

Same here. And then I worry that any rational argument I make against it stems from the disgust, which makes me wonder whether there's such a thing as a "rational" argument against it. And then I decide that I think too much about people whose wet dreams feature sheep.
posted by sallybrown at 7:24 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's wrong to rape a chimp.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:01 PM on March 26, 2010


I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned bulldog testicle tickling.
posted by GammaGoblin at 8:38 PM on March 26, 2010


I have no idea how these people got their cats wedged into their scanners, or why.

Maybe we finally know why.
posted by knave at 9:05 PM on March 26, 2010


Consensual incest also squiffs me out, but really, I don't care what people do with their spare time if everyone's cool with it.

This sort of extends to the zoo issue... if someone's able to successfully have sex with a horse or whatever, I'm sort of not interested in following up, you know what I mean?

I worry about my own income, loves and hates, and aesthetic goals; I worry about justice in my city and country; I worry about the future of the world; if someone porks her brother or someone does his destrier, well, yuck, but I really am not willing to do anything.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:22 PM on March 26, 2010


If animals are simply outside morality, then they have all the moral standing of fruit; is it your position that sex with fruits is also immoral?

No, no--if you're going to get me all wrong, at least do it the right way.

What I'm arguing is that we, as humans, have this idea called "sex." It's not the same thing as reproduction, and it's not the mere physical act of copulation--it's a thing we do for pleasure, a thing we do as an expression of intimacy, an activity that has a meaning within a much broader human social and cultural context. Some animals engage in very similar behaviors, but for the most part (our cousins, the Bonobos, excepted) they don't seem to do it for the same reasons we do. Mainly, there's not a whole lot of evidence they do it for any reasons other than reproduction, especially since most of them have distinct and predictable mating patterns or only mate during particular breeding seasons.

At any rate, it's pretty damn clear the thing we call "sex" is not at all the same thing as what animals do when they do what they do. Sure, there are superficial similarities between what some species do and what we do, but it's not the same thing, except insofar as it serves a similar reproductive function. But then, just watch what a female praying mantis does during coitus and tell me that's the same thing as what humans mean when we talk about "sex."

Sex is also demonstrably a very powerful, potentially dangerous thing capable of evoking such powerful feelings in human beings that it can sometimes provoke them to kill each other and worse.

How many human beings have killed and died over sex? From jealous husbands, to gullible school boys turned suburban assassins, human history is full of examples of people killing other people in bad circumstances in which sex plays a crucial role.

Now, we also have certain ideas about what socially-permissible forms sex can take. And one idea central to nearly all our legal and ethical formulations of socially-permissible sex is another distinctly human concept called "consent." Now I don't want to get into how you define consent, because that part doesn't matter. What matters is that it is a broadly accepted principle that socially-permissible forms of sex depend in a crucial way on that related human concept of "consent." We even have a special word for sex without it ("rape") and a whole body of laws and traditions about how to deal with transgressors. It is a well-established fact of human social convention that sex without consent is never socially permissible.

This issue is certainly not that animals have no moral standing. Severe dementia patients still have moral standing, despite not being able to consent. That's not why animals can't consent. The reason is that our concept of "consent" is a product of the human language game. It's a human concept for describing a human custom. Animals don't have "consent," as far as we know, nor any idea resembling it. They clearly seem to like some experiences and dislike others. But do they believe in free will? Do they think consciously about whether they're consenting or not consenting when presented with a choice? Do they debate the true meaning of consent like we do? I doubt it. But even if they did, they don't have any way to tell us that, and we have no right to infer it (anymore than we have a right to interpret a human "No" as a "Yes but playing hard-to-get").

We're always obligated to play the sex game by the rules that apply to humans because we're humans, not because of anything having to do with animals. Animals aren't held to most of the social conventions that apply to humans. That doesn't mean they don't have moral standing; it just means they aren't human (and so, luckily, they can't sue us).
posted by saulgoodman at 9:49 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I had a friend as a kid who we all thought had engaged in bestiality for a while, after he took a dare from his twin brother to put their dog's weird "third-testicle" in his mouth.

But a while later, after taking the decaying old mutt on a long overdue trip to the vet, we found out it wasn't a third-testicle after all, but a cancerous tumor.

Last time I saw the twins, they were flat broke and had taken their refrigerator apart so they could huff all the freon out of it. Good old days. Etc.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:56 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jeeeezus, people. Here's the simple rule:

You don't eat your own species; you don't fuck other species. Other way 'round, FINE.

There.

posted by grubi at 11:59 AM


You do eat your own species; you do fuck other species.
You don't eat other species; you don't fuck your own species.
You don't eat a sandwich; you don't fuck a meatloaf.
A bag of chips? Yes!

So confused.
posted by fartknocker at 10:11 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


sheesh is it really that hard to understand. He's saying,


You don't eat your own species; you don't fuck other species. You do fuck your own species, you do eat other soecies.
posted by rebent at 10:45 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ligers.

Just sayin'.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:04 PM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


The ironic thing is that I actually subscribe to a web site that posts pictures of naked hirsute men and women eating soecies while riding horses in estrous without saddles.

I am completely incapable of contributing thoughtfully to this thread. So, I will call it a night and go curl up in my hay.
posted by fartknocker at 11:05 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who's consenting here?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:43 AM on March 27, 2010


Although I'm enjoying the raging moral debate going on here, I'm sort of surprised that no one has approached this from a purely biological/evolutionary standpoint. I find myself wondering where the wiring goes wrong when somebody looks at an animal and goes "Now this is something I can get behind". *

Since the article mentions instances of this behaviour in both the nurture and nature study groups, I wonder if there is something deep in the instincts that can cause a human to go for a partner outside our species, like some left-over primal urge from deep in the lizard brain? Or perhaps it's just an accidental bit of code that gets mixed in that could be just as rare as being born with a tail or sixth finger?

* Sorry for that, but my less intelligent comment was going to be about the number of unintentional puns in this thread.
posted by empatterson at 4:45 AM on March 27, 2010


This might have been said already, but isn't the animal's consent a given if the human is the "receiver" (e.g. Mr Hands-style horsie sex, and the example given in the article of the dog humping the girl)?

P.S. when I was about 15 I went to a friend's house and his father was vacuuming the living room carpet. Next thing you know, he says "hey, watch this!" and sucked the family dog's dick with the vacuum cleaner nozzle. We all burst out laughing. The dog seemed to like it. Was that zoophilia? Animal abuse? Good clean fun?
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 5:31 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


sobell: "Anyone else read through this thread and think of Connie Willis's "All My Darling Daughters"? No?"

No, but I did think of Laura Reese's Topping From Below which has pretty explicit dog-on-girl action.

I'm not immediately grossed out by the idea of zoophilia, in fact I once had a very sexy dream in which I had biblical knowledge of a lion. But in real life? Well...claws...bad lion breath...performance issues...etc.

I also think the whole issue of consent is murky. Animals live in the here and now. They don't get traumatized by "rape" in fact, in many cases the normal coupling of animals to perpetuate the species appears to be forced. In cats, at least, it appears very unpleasant and painful for the female. I'm not convinced that all zoophilia is always horrible and bad. However. There is a lot of room for abuse, transmission of diseases, and psychological damage (to the human) which leads me to think that that it should be outlawed.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:52 AM on March 27, 2010


I don't have a dog in this fight, but if I did, that would be immoral. Whereas dogfucking -- as long as Fido seems to be into it and does not have to be restrained and is not injured, and as long as it's your own dog and not your neighbor's, and as long as you're doing it in private and not in the park -- dogfucking -- if we're assuming all of those caveats and cave canem -- well, dogfucking? Dogfucking is probably just weird. If you're a dogfucker, you probably need more human friends.
posted by pracowity at 9:30 AM on March 27, 2010


I said above that my anti-zoophilia attitude sprung from two things: the inability of an animal to communicate and/or give consent, and my personal disgust. But I wouldn't really have a problem with zoophilia if someone could conclusively prove to me that animals can think rationally, consent to have sex, and clearly communicate that consent to have sex.

Okay, I'm going to be brave here and admit this (which I think I've mentioned on metafilter before, anyway?). I'm not a zoophiliac but my cat (male, neutered) frequently tries to rut on me while I'm in bed sleeping. We're talking grabbing the blankets in his mouth and rubbing his pelvis against my feet. And then going into the corner to lick his genitals. People frequently say this kind of behavior is related to animals thinking you're their mother. Which is ridiculous. He's licking his genitals after he does it. This wasn't something I taught him. He just started doing it around the one-year mark.

Anyway, my husband gets annoyed at this behavior, for some reason, but most of the time I just don't care. So, whatever, as long as it doesn't go on too long, Sammy Katz, hump my toes. What do I care? I also don't really feel like depriving a creature who can't have sex anyway of, essentially, masturbating, just like I wouldn't want to be deprived of masturbating by someone else because they think it's icky.

So yeah, my cat initiates sex with me. I can very easily imagine other people, people who find this sexy or whatever, who would take advantage of this and reciprocate, even if I don't. And it sure as hell appears, for all intents and purposes, like the animal is consenting. From what I know about male cats, even when they're actually having intercourse with female cats, consent doesn't figure into it--cat sex is violent and forceful. He seems mildly annoyed if we stop him. Similarly, years ago, my mother had a male parakeet who would try to mate with her fingernails. We're talking about the animals being the sexual initiators here. Way back when dolphinsex.org existed, I remember reading the dolphinsex dude talking about how if a dolphin wants to have sex with you, they'll make that clear. I think dogs humping legs is enough of a well-known cultural trope that any sensible person would be able to understand sexual interest in animals, even if it's not reciprocated.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:54 AM on March 27, 2010


I guess two potential problems with that, PhoBWanKenobi:

i) your cat is consenting to what, exactly? To humping your toes, perhaps. Expression of interest in one sexual act (even if it amounts to consent) is not interest/consent in other sexual acts, any more than it would be for a human. But that takes us, I guess, back to situations raised above -- where the very act initiated by the animal is in question.

More importantly, though:

ii) we recognize incapacity to consent in other areas -- expressions of interest from the party without capacity are of no consequence.

Not sure where I can take your "consent doesn't enter into it -- cat sex is violent and forceful", though. That just seems like an inverse of the naturalistic fallacy. And it would be pretty odd to suggest that because a party can't say no to their usual sexual partners, it's of no consequence if they try to refuse you as well (I don't think that's what you're saying; just not sure where to go with that).

I'm completely with you on the deprivation of sexual pleasure of animals, though. It saddens me when pet owners treat it as an embarrassment to be hidden or stopped (even if not infringing on anyone's space).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:37 AM on March 27, 2010


i) your cat is consenting to what, exactly? To humping your toes, perhaps. Expression of interest in one sexual act (even if it amounts to consent) is not interest/consent in other sexual acts, any more than it would be for a human. But that takes us, I guess, back to situations raised above -- where the very act initiated by the animal is in question.

All I'm saying is, really, that it's pretty easy to see the sexual interest of animals. I have no idea how my cat would react if I masturbated it (and I don't really want to find out!) but I'd imagine, were that to happen, that it would be very clear if the cat was interested or not. The article itself says that most zoophiliacs look down on coercive sex with animals. And sexual receptivity in animals is fairly transparent, if you dismiss the notion that all sex with animals is non-consensual.

Not sure where I can take your "consent doesn't enter into it -- cat sex is violent and forceful", though. That just seems like an inverse of the naturalistic fallacy. And it would be pretty odd to suggest that because a party can't say no to their usual sexual partners, it's of no consequence if they try to refuse you as well (I don't think that's what you're saying; just not sure where to go with that).

I'm not sure where to take it either. But again, the way that male cats mate with female cats can easily be considered non-consensual. Male dolphins frequently mate with female dolphins in a way that can only be called gang rape. Likewise for a host of other animals, many of them mammals. Hell, male lions will eat the cubs of female lions to force them into estrus and rape them. This suggests to me possibly two things: one, that the zoophiliacs discussed in the article--who aren't coercing animals into sex, and are engaging in sex with them in ways that take their physical safety into account, are at least doing no worse to them than other "lower" animals; or, secondly, that human notions of consent, as our society legally regards them, aren't useful when talking about animals. Notions like kindness, physical safety, receptivity or recipricocity might be more useful.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:07 AM on March 27, 2010


All I'm saying is, really, that it's pretty easy to see the sexual interest of animals.

No, I get that. It's just that with, effectively, a language barrier, you'd have to be awfully careful about what the animal wants and doesn't want.

But the more important point is I think, again, capacity to consent. Expressions of interest are never a defence to lack of (capable) consent.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:18 AM on March 27, 2010


Does anyone read the comments down here?

This is some major bean-plating here, and I'm frankly sort of embarrassed to have given it this much thought, but here goes.

Some people up-thread are saying that the eww-gross factor with zoophelia isn't a legitimate objection, because that's been used to condemn all sexual behavior, from plain vanilla sex to the whole range of human sexuality, and we don't accept it in all or most of those cases. This leaves us the option of finding another objection to zoophelia, or why some thing the gross factor suffices by itself (I fall under this category).

There are certainly some people who have an automatic "ick" feeling about paraphilias or any non-vanilla sex they don't personally care for, yet have no problem with it, support people's right to do it freely and be open about it, are non-judgmental, etc. I think most people use this process:
  1. Gut feeling: "I think X is icky / wrong."
  2. Is there some personal moral rule I can use to overrule gut feelings?
    1. Yes: I think two consenting adults should be allowed to do whatever they want in their bedroom with each other's bodies, so I'm ignoring my gut feeling.
    2. No: (trump rule) Does it hurt anyone? If not, I'm probably cool with it.
Step 1: I think zoophelia is gross. Step 2: Doesn't fall under my consenting adult rule, arguably hurts the animal, case closed, ickyness wins.
posted by Frankieist at 11:38 AM on March 27, 2010


notions of consent, as our society legally regards them, aren't useful when talking about animals

We talk about consent with regard to children, to intoxicated persons, to otherwise incapacitated persons. In those cases, we don't say that consent is not a "useful" concept; quite the contrary. But we do say the subject is incapable of providing it. I'm not sure I see animals being in such a different boat, and the idea that consent is somehow not useful when thinking about animals concerns me in the way someone said upthread that animals may be beyond morality concerns me. Perhaps we just don't want to apply these concepts to them.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:41 AM on March 27, 2010


(that is to say, human-animal interaction, not animal-animal interaction)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:42 AM on March 27, 2010


To say that animals can't give consent, or that they might think they're giving consent, but they're wrong, is to play a glass bead game on the order of speculating as to whether dolphins are capable of being brought to Christ.

I've never had the desire to fuck a sheep. But then, I didn't grow up herding sheep near a tiny village containing all six women that I had a shot at mating with. If I had, then it's difficult to say what I would have thought or done. And anyone who thinks they know better about themselves is in denial about human nature.

There's a lot of hubris going on in this thread. It's as if many of you think that all the sexual deviants of the world are tuned in, waiting to discover whether or not a lot of angst and moral gymnastics on your part will result in their validation.

I know a woman in California who has a sexual relationship with her cat. It doesn't excite me, nor did it even occur to me that she is committing some kind of universal Wrong. And if you think she is, well, that really does not make any difference.

Speaking for myself, you are all free to fuck chickens, gourds, and watermelonss, octupi, and pine cones. Certain wild vines should probably be avoided, or not, depending on what you're into.
posted by bingo at 11:59 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


We talk about consent with regard to children, to intoxicated persons, to otherwise incapacitated persons. In those cases, we don't say that consent is not a "useful" concept; quite the contrary. But we do say the subject is incapable of providing it.

I think it's quite possible to say that the idea of consent is not useful when talking about animals but that it is useful when talking about humans. The idea that someone who finds it an unhelpful concept in talking about the ethics or morality of non-harmful intercourse when animals would automatically assume that it's likewise the case with talking about intoxicated or underage humans is a slippery slope argument.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:24 PM on March 27, 2010


There's a lot of crazy talk about animal consent in this thread.

We talk about consent with regard to children, et al, because they are people and are thus subject to rules that we don't apply to animals.

But no one says, "Hey! Hang on a second! These animals haven't consented to being eaten! How dare you!?"

It's absurd to talk as if it matters whether an animal can consent to some activity and then, for example, to sit down to a breakfast of bacon and eggs with a glass of milk. An animal is incapable of consenting to being knocked on the head, sliced from stem to stern, and gutted. An animal cannot consent to being chained in a yard for its entire life to act as some idiot's burglar alarm or locked in a pen for its entire life to produce milk or eggs. An animal can't sign a form agreeing to be mated with a series of other animals so that its owner can take and sell its young.

And if you were to judge by their behavior when they get a chance to do otherwise, animals are very much unconsenting partners in most of this stuff.
posted by pracowity at 1:36 PM on March 27, 2010


PhoBWanKenobi: Male dolphins frequently mate with female dolphins in a way that can only be called gang rape.

No, it can't, unless you can somehow prove that female dolphins have feelings about sex analogous to humans. I've seen a lion (in a zoo) violently mate with his partner. If it were two humans, I would surely call it assault and expect the victim to be traumatized. But the female lion quickly went back to the standard cat behavior of stretching and yawning and acting superior. What are we to make of this? We cannot possibly know how animals process sexual emotions and to call animal mating "rape" or "non-consensual" is projecting human emotions onto animals.

This is NOT to assert that animals can consent to sex with humans; I refer you to my previous comment on that matter.
posted by desjardins at 2:02 PM on March 27, 2010


pracowity, the animals-as-meat angle has been covered about 200 times in this thread.
posted by desjardins at 2:03 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, it can't, unless you can somehow prove that female dolphins have feelings about sex analogous to humans. I've seen a lion (in a zoo) violently mate with his partner. If it were two humans, I would surely call it assault and expect the victim to be traumatized. But the female lion quickly went back to the standard cat behavior of stretching and yawning and acting superior. What are we to make of this? We cannot possibly know how animals process sexual emotions and to call animal mating "rape" or "non-consensual" is projecting human emotions onto animals.

Okay, sorry--gangs of male dolphins will isolate single female dolphins and take turns attacking her (" Male aggression toward a consort included chasing, hitting with the tail, head-jerks [sharp lateral or vertical movements of the head], charging, biting, or slamming bodily into the female. Males enforced herding partly by making a 'popping' vocalization which induced the herded female to approach. When a female failed to approach a popping male, he sometimes threatened or attacked her") and mating with her, often isolating her from other dolphins for a period of days (29 was the longest seen in this study). I've seen casual mention of female dolphins making calls of distress, but I haven't been able to dig up a study yet. The point remains that sex among non-human animals is often violent and coercive and much of it could appear, to an outside observer, to be non-consensual as the term is casually (not legally) used. Which is one reason why I think considerations other than consent (as legally understood) might be more useful in discussing the ethics of human/animal sex.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:11 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's a better article than I was expecting, and the comments there are also better than expected. One zoo's answers to some of the questions:

What makes some domestic species—such as horses and dogs—more common erotic targets for zoophiles than others
The same long-established traits that make horses and dogs more common "companionship targets" than llamas or pigs. Our species have evolved over long periods of time to provide mutually satisfying emotional and working relationships, and to permit "bonding", to distill it down to a single word.

Do zoophiles find particular members of their preferred species more “attractive” than other individuals from those species
Yes, of course. And zoos can generally describe broad preferences for looks but ultimately the difference between what makes you go "WOW!" and what doesn't even turn your head is hard to pin down. Same for everyone, I guess.

and, if so, are they seduced by standard beauty cues, such as facial symmetry in horses?
Probably to the same extent that those qualities are important to anyone - in other words, yes, in some stastistical sense, but what's important and how much so varies widely from individual to individual.

What is the percentage of homosexual zoophiles (those who prefer animal partners of the same sex) over heterosexual zoophiles?
I don't know, but I do know that for those who are attracted to both humans and animals, the preferences are generally unlinked - strong heterosexual attraction for human partners with no preference either way for animal partners, for example, or any permutation. To the extent that attraction is visual, we see the dimorphism between men and women clearly so there is a basis for a preference one way or the other, but in most cases, male and female animals present fewer visual cues that would lead you to discriminate between the sexes if looks are what matter.

How do zoophiles differentiate between a “consenting” animal partner and one who isn’t “in the mood”?—aside from the hoof marks on their foreheads, that is.
Go back to Nova or Life on Earth (or just spend some observant time in their company) and you'll see that sexually mature animals of many species have very clear ways of saying "I am interested in sex with you right now" and "I am not interested in sex with you right now". These are human-readable signs. Arguments that they "don't count" for some reason or another baffle me, and pursuing them has never led to fruitful discussion, just further entrenchment. I think it's worth pointing out that an act of sex doesn't have long term social or emotional consequences for animals the way it does for people - it's just a few minutes' fun and pleasure, it's not something to reflect back on and develop feelings of shame and guilt over. The capacity for that kind of reflection is debatable in the first place, but in any event there's no complicated moral problem for the animal; the sort of social framework that could cause that just doesn't exist. That's one of the reasons comparisons with pedophilia are far off the mark. The fact that it involves sexually mature adults is another one that seems like it would be more obvious.

Here's another way of going at it, if you like. A fair number of people in this thread seem willing to admit that animals can communicate consent (or forbiddance) to sexual contact to at least the same extent that they can give consent to other physical contact. With people, there is a vast difference in significance between a sexual act and a scratch behind the ears, or whatever your kind of casual contact is, which necessitates the higher standard for consent that we all seem to agree on. But to a dog? It's really not that much different. And that's why the same kind of messages that suffice to indicate a belly rub is OK (and in fact, hey! you stopped! nudge nudge keep doing it please! *body language*) are also a good guide to what's OK for sexual contact. And the same messages that suffice to communicate "please don't put that thermometer there" obviously suffice for any kind of "no". Ignoring those would be cruelty, of course.

Why are men more likely to be zoophiles than women?
I'm not sure that's been established; at best, we know men are more likely to disclose it in surveys.

Are zoophiles attracted only to sexually mature animals
Yes, for at least the same fraction as makes up the non-pedophile part of the general population.

and if not, does this make them “zoopedophiles”

It makes them abusive if they act on it, whatever term you want to use.

Is the tendency to become a zoophile heritable?
Good luck getting a large enough sample size to answer that definitively, but in a broad sense, how likely is it that the enormous, complex tangle of emotional and physical traits that we do inherit would not affect that tendency?

You would be disgusted. And you would wish they hadn't told you. You'd probably judge them
I'm grateful every day for the real live friends I have who weren't, and didn't, when I did. Well, OK, I can't say for sure what they felt - but what they SAID was, it's OK, and you're still OK with us. You're weird, but you're not bad. They were heroic.

There is a lot of room for abuse, transmission of diseases, and psychological damage (to the human) which leads me to think that that it should be outlawed.
I agree that human-human relationships have a lot of potential pitfalls, but there's no reason to outlaw them. (I believe at this point a reference to a certain meat patty sandwich is the local tradition?)

Being a zoo means having an important relationship with a nonhuman. It's not a cheap replacement for a human relationship, it's a different kind of relationship; it can coexist with lots of happy and healthy human relationships. But it is a two-way relationship with a language to learn, a lot of listening to do and sacrifices to make, and the whole nine yards; making it a good relationship seems to take as much work and attention and respect as people put into any other kind of relationship they care about. Here's the thing: lots of people form close emotional relationships with animals that they would describe in the same terms I've just used, and it's considered anything from normal to noble. If you say maybe it's OK to have some orgasms together as part of that relationship if both parties enjoy it (and not if they don't), that somehow tips people into considering it an abomination. I think it's just one more way of being close for two friends that love being close to one another. That's about all I can say; all the arguments in this thread are so old and well-worn that I can see five steps ahead where any attempt to reply to specific points would lead, and the answer is effectively nowhere. It's an issue that just makes people dig in their heels too hard, and making an effort to communicate just earns you a headache and a long bout of disillusionment. Self-identifying zoophiles - the kind of people who actually choose to use that word - are fiercely protective of their loved ones, hate cruelty, often work actively to fight it, and find it especially bitter to be assumed guilty of cruelty themselves. And I think a lot of zoos understand how much "ick" it causes other people, and don't want or expect a lot of accomodation. Just it'd be nice not to have to be scared of laws that can ruin your life and get your loved ones put to death.

There are a lot of thoughtful and admirable comments in this thread. Much thanks and respect for those.
posted by pru at 3:48 PM on March 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


Thanks for your comments here, pru.

One thing brought up in the comments to the original article is that it's legal to masturbate an animal for breeding purposes but not for the purpose of giving an animal pleasure. That sort of makes my head explode, but I think it underscores the moral panic with which our society regards these human/animal interactions. It's certainly not a consent issue or an animal well-being issue if an identical behavior is okay when the human has a different motivation.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:59 PM on March 27, 2010


One thing brought up in the comments to the original article is that it's legal to masturbate an animal for breeding purposes but not for the purpose of giving an animal pleasure.

The Bible says the same thing about humans.
posted by tzikeh at 4:14 PM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, pru, thanks for sharing your perspective.

I'm assuming zoophiles aren't attracted to all animals or many different animals, but rather one particular species (other than human)--is that right? You talk to some extent about consent and being able to understand an animal you know well, but doesn't this depend on a zoophile's being attracted to a species of animal that communicates well with humans--like a domesticated animal versus a wild animal or a more non-communicating animal like a fish? Or do you think if you know an animal well enough that animal will be easy to understand?

Also, on this point:
I think it's worth pointing out that an act of sex doesn't have long term social or emotional consequences for animals the way it does for people - it's just a few minutes' fun and pleasure, it's not something to reflect back on and develop feelings of shame and guilt over.

Dogs (and maybe more animals I'm not as familiar with) seem to have lasting and intense memories of physical abuse--they'll cower or whine if they see someone who resembles (even just by gender) an abuser; they can become much more defensive and aggressive after being attacked by other dogs. This suggests to me that they remember past fear and pain. I interpret this to mean pain can have long term social/emotional consequences for dogs. Wouldn't this mean pain from rape would affect them as well? Is this something to be nervous about when you're dealing with imperfect communication between you and the animal?

Also, if an act of sex wouldn't have long term emotional/social consequences for animals, how does a zoophile develop a fulfilling sexual relationship with his/her animal? Based on what you've said it seems to be about a lot more than sex, but obviously sex is what separates a zoophile from a non-zoophile, so sex is meaningful to the zoophile, right? Does it matter that it's not meaningful to the animal?
posted by sallybrown at 4:18 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Interesting to see consent identified as the central issue here too.

I had also read that romance way back about the affair with the dolphin, who would return to the beach of her own free will for their encounters. Thinking it through, it was this freedom of agency that seemed to set that scenario apart from nearly all the other, more frequent zoophilia stories: dogs and horses are not free in as fundamental a way as the dolphin in that story.

And so, when the dolphin guy resurfaced recently, the part I was least happy to hear about was that the dolphin had actually been captive, not free-roaming at all. The animal's diminished freedom of choice brought questions to the scenario that otherwise I would have seen no reason for.
posted by progosk at 5:55 PM on March 27, 2010


I doubt anyone's still reading down here, but...

I'm assuming zoophiles aren't attracted to all animals or many different animals, but rather one particular species (other than human)--is that right?
That is not necessarily true, although it is for me, and - as far as I know - for every other zoo I've ever kept any correspondence with (which is a small number).

You talk to some extent about consent and being able to understand an animal you know well, but doesn't this depend on a zoophile's being attracted to a species of animal that communicates well with humans...
Yes, I think it does. That describes the large fraction of cases by far, though. The present terminology for discussing this is inadequate - we're stuck with one word ("zoophile") that is supposed to include cases like mine (which I would summarize as, "sees sex as a possible healthy component of a larger relationship"), as well as cases that can only be characterized as pathological and abusive, as well as cases that are just plain weird (such someone whose only sexual interest is some sort of exotic animal which they will never encounter, or which is physically impossible to mate with, and probably doesn't permit any more credible chance for an emotional relationship than a pillow does). Trying to talk about all those things simultaneously causes some confusion, I think. I hope it's clear I don't condone them all equally.

This suggests to me that they remember past fear and pain. I interpret this to mean pain can have long term social/emotional consequences for dogs.
This is true, and dogs show signs of this very clearly - as you described - which is one reason I trust my own dogs' behavior (stable, outgoing, relaxed and trusting with strangers) as a good certificate for the absence of abuse. My dogs are well-known and lots of people have the opportunity to interact with them and observe their interactions with me. I don't think abuse would go unexposed with that kind of scrutiny.

But there shouldn't ever be any question that causing pain is wrong in the first place anyway. My comment had more to do with explaining one of the reasons why equating zoophilia and pedophilia is an error. We all (rightly) object instantly to any claim from a pedophile along the lines of "it didn't hurt, they agreed to it, and even enjoyed it" because we know that, however physically "harmless" the act was, there are almost certainly going to be emotional consequences later that are terribly painful and destructive. Those consequences aren't there for a dog. They aren't going to feel embarassed, or shamed, or hate themselves and their bodies; they aren't going to wonder if they're going to Hell, or if their friends and family will abandon them if anyone ever finds out; they aren't going to wonder if someone somewhere has terrible pictures of them; and so on. In short, I feel secure that an act which is pleasurable for a dog in the moment is never going to become a source of pain in the future - and that's why I feel I can fairly claim "no harm" but a pedo can't.

Based on what you've said it seems to be about a lot more than sex, but obviously sex is what separates a zoophile from a non-zoophile, so sex is meaningful to the zoophile, right? Does it matter that it's not meaningful to the animal?
The "obviously" may be less obvious than you think. Again, "zoophile" is a word which is applied to a lot of different circumstances, including people who never have sex with animals at all (but self-identify as zoo). I would say that attraction and amenability to the idea of sex are sufficient to characterize a zoophile, but understand that's not a definition that people will agree on universally.

So this last bit is just speaking for myself with no claim to representing anyone else's feelings. It's not a big deal to me that it's not a big deal to them - that they're not going to go write in their journal about how wonderful it was, or whatever it is people do to capture the enormous meaningfulness of the human experience; that it's not something they've been looking forward to all their lives under the steadily-mounting pressure of storybook expectations; or that I'm not going to get a ring and a pledge that I'm the only one they'll ever have fun with. In the moment, the physical part can be electrifyingly wonderful, and that's as good as it needs to be. On the whole, there are other moments that are much more meaningful to me.

I have good close friends and a broader circle of acquaintances, and so lots of opportunities to get intellectual give and take and chitchat and all the other things that I want from human relationships - and although I'm certainly not a capital-e Extrovert, I'm also not misanthropic and I really don't feel happy or comfortable if I'm isolated away from other people for very long. But they don't do it for me. You know? It took me a while to figure out what did, even after it should have been obvious, and you can imagine I had a lot of doubts, questions, and frustrations in coming to terms with it. Finding out there were other people out there like me - some sane, sober, intelligent, and sensitive people - mattered a lot. So did picking up the phone and agreeing to take part in Miletski's study, although it was very scary. I suppose that's why I'm taking the time to write a bit here even though it's hard work to express myself well - not because I think I'm going to change someone's opinion when they've already lumped me in a category with "killing people, cannibalism, or drowning small children", but on the off chance it will matter to someone who's trying to figure themselves out and could use one more voice saying they're not in that category.
posted by pru at 4:45 PM on March 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Thanks a lot for sharing--
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:50 PM on March 29, 2010


Man's Best Friend with Benefits
posted by XMLicious at 2:34 PM on April 3, 2010


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