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The Secret Life of Zoophiles

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The Secret Life of Zoophiles

© 2000 Hani Miletski (M.S.W., Ph.D. - psychotherapist and an AASECT-certified sex therapist based in Bethesda, MD) This article is excerpted from a book she is currently writing concerning her study on bestiality and zoophilia.

It all started when my client, I'll call him Christian, told me he could not find any literature about bestiality/zoophilia. I had been seeing him, in my psychotherapy practice, because he could not stop having sex with dogs. He was a very religious man and believed it was wrong to have sexual relations with anything other than women, and even then, only when you are married to that woman. However, he could not control his urges to have sex with the dogs in his neighborhood.

I asked the librarian at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) to conduct a literature search for me (at that time I was not connected to the Internet), which resulted in very disappointing findings. There was nothing out there about bestiality and zoophilia other than one autobiography by Mark Matthews: The Horseman: Obsessions of a Zoophile. In this book, the author describes his struggles to accept the fact that he loved his horse more than he loved his wife. He portrayed himself as an intelligent, professional individual who was sexually attracted to horses and eventually, after admitting to himself his love for his horse, he married his horse.

I was intrigued with the idea that there are people who may be sexually attracted to animals and may even prefer animals as sex partners to humans. I decided to dedicate my doctoral dissertation to this topic and began to study bestiality and zoophilia.

This was not an easy thing to do. Some of my colleagues and friends thought I was out of my mind: "You are going to study what?" Some concluded there was something wrong with me, that I needed therapy and/or that I myself was having sex with animals. The man I was dating at the time could not even handle discussing the topic and we ended up going our separate ways (it wasn't a good relationship anyway). But, there were others who admired me and encouraged my controversial investigation and I was set to be (maybe) the first researcher to study this virtually unknown phenomenon and to conduct a large scale, professional study on bestiality/zoophilia.

With greater focus and effort, I spent days at the library of the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and at the library of the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Maryland. I found a specialized magazine, The Wild Animal Revue, which provided me with much information about this topic and its editor was so kind as to lend me several rare books to help with my study. I bought other rare books in a little store in New York, and the Internet was a source of abundant information about bestiality and zoophilia as well.

I ended up finding many books and articles whose authors mention and sometimes even discuss bestiality and zoophila. Many authors suggest that human beings have had sexual relations with animals since the dawn of history and throughout the world (in some countries more than in others). These authors assert that sexual relations with animals has been practiced, thought about, dreamed of and has emerged as myth, fairytale, folklore, literature, painting and sculpture (Cauldwell, 1948; Dumont, 1970; Kinsey et al, 1948; Kullinger, 1969; Masters, 1962). None of them, however, provides an in-depth picture into the lives and behaviors of the people who engage in sexual relations with animals. Many authors volunteer their opinions and discuss humans' sexual relations with animals as though they are an authority on the subject. Their opinions, however, are often conflicting and cause much confusion to the reader.

Conducting this extensive literature review diminished any lingering doubts about the necessity for a study on bestiality and zoophilia. As my literature review reveals, scientific studies on the motivations for engaging in bestiality/zoophilia and studies describing the sexual, social and mental health profile of individuals involved are very scarce. The few related studies described above (Kinsey et al., 1948; Kinsey et al., 1953; and Hunt, 1974) proved outdated and limited in their findings since they did not focus on the issue of bestiality/zoophilia. Peretti Rowan's study (1983) was more focused but did not distinguish between bestiality and zoophilia and only six variables were explored. Donofrio's recent study (1996) focused on zoophiles, however the small number of participants (8) limited his findings.

The major void of knowledge regarding bestiality/zoophilia bothered me. I believed, and I still do, that as clinical sexologists and psychotherapists, we need to be equipped with a carefully researched base of knowledge in order to understand the phenomenon and the individuals involved. As professionals helping those who struggle with and experience ego-dystonic feelings about bestiality and zoophilia, it is important that this research be available and on-going.

To this end, I decided to conduct an exploratory study in an attempt to gather data on a sexual behavior under-studied and misunderstood. I also wanted to better understand the people who engage in sexual relations with animals and their motivations for doing so.

The idea that some people may be sexually attracted to animals, to the point of preferring animals to humans as sex partners, fascinated me. The new term, coined by the "zoo" community ("zoo" is basically a shortcut for "zoophile") on the Internet: "zoosexuality," implies a sexual orientation towards animals. Stasya (1996), Tanka (1995), Shepherd (1996) and Fox (1994) on the Internet agreed with this definition. And Donofrio (1996) reports that the concept of zoophilia, being a sexual orientation, was supported by his doctoral study. He, therefore, suggests using a scale resembling Kinsey's sexual orientation scale which was also offered by Blake (1971). Donofrio's model suggests that those who have no interest whatsoever in sexual contact with animals would appear at the Zero point of the scale. Those individuals whose sole sexual outlet and attraction are animals would be assigned the Six position. Along that continuum, between these two extremes, would be individuals who include animal sexual contact in their fantasy, or have had incidental experiences with animals, have had more than incidental contact with animals, place their sexual activity with animals equal to that involving humans, prefer animal contact but engage in more than incidental contact

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