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 with humans, and those who engage primarily in contact with animals with only incidental human sexual contact.
I therefore conceptualized my basic research question to be: "Is there a sexual orientation towards non-human animals?" I adapted the definition of "sexual orientation" from Francoeur (1991) in his discussion of homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality. According to this definition, sexual orientation consists of three interrelated aspects: (1) affectional orientation -- who or what we bond with emotionally; (2) sexual fantasy orientation -- who or what we fantasize having sex with; and (3) erotic orientation -- with whom or what we prefer to have sex.
Now I had to find subjects. I had no idea where to begin. I had my client but that was definitely not enough. I started talking to anyone willing to listen. I placed an ad in The Wild Animal Revue. I posted an ad on a message board at the Institute for Advanced Study for Human Sexuality. I sent a letter to Mark Matthews, the founder of the Zoophiliac Outreach Organization. I placed an ad in Sexual Science, the Society for Scientific Study of Sexuality newsletter. I placed an ad in Contemporary Sexuality, the American Association for Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) newsletter. Most importantly, I posted an Internet ad on the alt.sex. bestiality bulletin board.
When I went to AASECT's annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, in June 1996, I posted an ad on the message board. A prominent figure in the sexology field (from another organization) was offended by the ad and ordered it down. This sad incident, however, ended on a positive note: The president of AASECT at that time, Dr. Judy Seifer, formally apologized and became one of my doctoral advisors. Also, before the ad was taken down, it was photographed by a journalist and ended up in the Baltimore City Paper June 19, 1996 issue, as part of an article by Motoyama about the above conference.
All the ads had the same message:
"I need volunteers... Anyone who has ever had sexual relations with an animal... To fill out an anonymous questionnaire. I am a doctoral student who is doing her dissertation research on bestiality/zoophilia. I believe this topic is understudied and that it is important to shed some light on this phenomenon. This will be especially significant for people who struggle with this issue and for their psychotherapists. Please call me at (my phone number) weekdays and ask for Hani. I appreciate any help I can get. Thanks!"
One day I received a phone call from a woman, I'll call her Beverly. She told me she heard about me and my study from a friend on the Internet and she would like to help. I was elated. We had about a 10-minute conversation and I was very impressed. She was divorced, had a daughter and a boyfriend. She sounded very intelligent. And she was a zoo. She also told me she has many connections with the zoo community and would ask everyone to give me a call. I could hardly contain my excitement.
The next day I got a phone call from a man, I'll call him Jim. Jim was a college professor and a close friend of Beverly. They lived about 20 minutes away from each other. We talked for about an hour. He sounded like a really nice, smart guy, and I enjoyed our conversation very much. Then Ted called. He was a Biologist and a friend of Jim. He was a zoo too, and I was in heaven.
I then met with Beverly for lunch. She came with her daughter so we could not talk about my study, but we talked about everything else. I really liked her. Since I did not have access to the Internet at that time, she offered to come with her boyfriend to my place with a lap top and connect me to the Internet on their account. Her boyfriend was a very handsome man, in his 30s. He was divorced, a government employee with a "top secret" clearance and a zoo. I logged on the Internet for the first time in my life and into a chat room where a whole crowd of zoos was waiting to speak with me. Three hours went by and I did not even notice. I was ecstatic.
I never expected what happened next: zoos started calling me from all over the world. When I set up to do this study, I expected, at most, to end up with a few brave zoos and conduct a case-study kind of research. However, more then 160 people contacted me about the study (three heard about me through the Baltimore City Paper) and most of them were very supportive and encouraging. They congratulated me on the idea to conduct a study about them and expressed excitement about taking part in this research project. Some of them began advocating for me and getting their zoo friends to join the study. One zoo, Stasya, devoted his web-page to discuss and advocate my study and provided information about how to contact me. After a while, everyone on the Internet zoo community was talking about me; I felt like a celebrity.
Some of the zoos began calling me on a regular basis, just to chat. I welcomed these advances since I wanted to develop good relationships with them and hopefully get more subjects for my study through them. But, more importantly, I enjoyed talking to them and found them to be very interesting. I was fascinated with their stories and often with their wisdom. When their annual gathering took place, they invited me.
I was very flattered, now I knew they trusted me. But I had some mixed feelings. I did not want to get too close to them as people might think I am a zoo and/or their friend and wouldn't take my study seriously. At the same time, how could I give up an opportunity like this? I decided to go. This turned out to be a profound weekend. It opened the doors to a secret world populated by entertaining, intelligent people, engaged in a sexual behavior that much of our contemporary society views with revulsion. "Living outside the pale," they welcomed me into their gathering. As a researcher, they shared themselves with only the expectation that I would one day objectively report my findings to the greater population.
Beverly came to pick me up at the airport with three other zoos and, after a stop at her house, we went to Jim's where the gathering took place. Jim's house was located in a rural area. He had a couple of horses, a donkey, two llamas and a few dogs. I met more than fifty zoos from all around the country. Some of them came with their partners and everywhere I turned there were big dogs laying around. Everyone was nice and polite. People were supportive and cooperative (after they were assured about confidentiality, my intentions and that I was not a zoo). Overall, I found myself in the company of some interesting and friendly people, and we spent the weekend talking about zoophilia and other general topics. We watched (main-stream) movies, played cards and other games, went for walks, cooked, laughed and had lots of fun. When I returned home, I had a long list of new volunteers for my study and I was much more educated about zoophilia and zoophiles.
While I was at the gathering, in May of 1996, I took the opportunity to conduct two focus groups. In a focus group participants engage in an open discussion about a specific topic, in this case -- bestiality and zoophilia. It's sort of a brainstorming process, which I used to get ideas for what to ask in my questionnaire.
The first group met for an hour and included 13 men. The second group met for an hour and a half and included 11 men and one woman. Every participant signed a consent form allowing me to tape the discussion and use their comments (anonymously) in my book. I would like to share some of their comments, so you get a flavor of the way these zoos think and the issues that are on their minds.
I started the discussion by asking: "What do you think is bestiality? What is zoophilia? Is there a difference between them? And what is the difference, if there is one?"
-- "I think there is definitely a difference between bestiality and zoophilia ... zoophiles are more emotionally attached to their animals than a bestialist would be. A zoophile might regard the animal they're with as their significant other. A bestialist might keep that animal as a companion, take very good care of them, but not hold them in the same emotional sense as a zoophile would."
-- "I would say that bestiality refers to the act, any act, regardless of circumstance. Zoophilia is everything beyond the act ... the thoughts, many feelings, decisions on whether to do such things. Zoophilia describes a person; bestiality describes an act."
-- "I'd say it's the difference between having a caring relationship and just using the animal for gratification. The bestialists, from my point of view, just basically use the animal for sexual relief ... they may take care of it and that ... but he's treating it as ... a sex toy. You get just as much out of it as out of what you would, as using a doll or going and seeing a prostitute. Whereas a zoophile relationship is more. It's a marriage, in every sense of the term."
-- "My dog, when he wants sex, I will masturbate him, and that's as far as it goes ... I'm not like a big sex hound or anything like that. If my dog, when my dog really wants sex, then I'll give him that satisfaction, but it's, my relationship with him, is love-based. It's love emotions, being with him, just being able to cuddle up next to him, fuzzy his belly, just hearing any noises he can make, or a cute look. Everything about him. I'm in love with every part of his body, every action he's ever done ..."
-- "The dog was what made me realize that I really enjoyed giving him pleasure. Giving pleasure, not necessarily as a submissive act, but sometimes, but the giving of pleasure I believe is a true, one of the true marks of a zoophile, and that we enjoy making them happy. We enjoy giving them sexual pleasure, we enjoy giving them sensual pleasure through grooming and stuff, and we enjoy, you know, giving them the companionship that they would need if they were in like a pack situation or a herd situation ... through being near them and being associated with them in that way, we can fill their needs, and being able to do that is really a great privilege and pleasure."
-- "What's the difference between a person making love and when is a person just having sex? Even among zoophiles it's quite possible to have sex without making love and so it's pretty difficult to pinpoint where zoophilia ends and someone that's just creating bestiality, the sexual act. The only thing that can ever define that is that person's own feelings."
-- "Right, because there are some people who are zoophiles, like myself, who occasionally have flings or have intercourse with creatures that they may have not met before or haven't gotten to know."
-- "These are artificial definitions. There are divisions within the community. People want to separate themselves. One thing I just want to separate from is animal abuse, okay? Zoophiles generally want nothing to do with that ... most of us here I'm sure would define ourselves as zoo. How many of you have fence hopped? Are you less a zoo? Are you now a bestialist because you've fence hopped?"
At this point I had to ask: "What's 'fence hopped'"?
-- "Jumped over the fence at night to go ..."
-- "It's not like you can go to a farmer's door and say, 'I'd like to take your mare out on a date'" (laughter).
-- "The zoophile thing is kind of a gradual process. When you're an adolescent, your hormones are raging ... and the emotional content just developed over time."
-- "It sounds just like anyone else, though, I mean your normal, average heterosexual junior high or high school student when they're all together."
-- "I don't feel that zoophilia has to involve sex though. Like with my dog, I mean, I consider myself a zoo, but I really don't have sex with my dog. I love him more than anything in the universe and I consider him to be my lover and we're companions. I'd do anything in the world for him ... he's just everything in my life, so that's how I feel masturbation is all it comes to, and the only time that I would ever masturbate him is when he would initiate it ... the sexual part isn't really part of my feelings; it's something he wants and he's the one who always initiates it. And I really don't see that as my main focus of being a zoo ..."
-- "I think what we're seeing is an effort to kind of define ourselves. Now that we know that there is a group of us out here, which a lot of us started three or four years ago ... now there's a struggle to come up with some sort of nomenclature ..."
-- "The greatest word to come along in a while, to be coined in a while, is 'zoosexual,' because it takes all these arguments and tosses them out the window ..."
-- "Every piece on the continuum is contained within zoosexual."
-- "It's a lifestyle."
-- "Part of the problem also is that ... zoophiles are, the distribution of zoophiles is a perfect cross-section of the entire world, or at least the country. There are zoophiles from every walk of life ..."
-- "That does bring up one other point: that most zoos, at least in my own case and I'm sure a lot of others, you tend to think of yourself as a real pervert because ... it's next to impossible to find others. All of us here have been extremely fortunate in finding an entire group of people just like ourselves [through the Internet]. I really hate to think of how many people go through their entire lives without so much as ever realizing that there are others."
-- "It's a really good feeling to find others ... for a long time it was like, well, I have feelings, I'm not sure how to deal with them and then I read part of a book. It's like, 'Wow, there must be other people out there.' But then I was presented with the problem: I have no way of contacting them. Because it's not like you can wear a little button that says, 'Hi, I'm a zoophile' you know (laughter). So, through the Internet ... you can get together with people and then talk for a while and realize that you're not alone, and it's very comforting ... it's very scary thinking how many people live their lives, or even lose their lives because they can't deal with being a zoo. Cause that happens a lot with homosexuals and not being able to deal with being a zoo could result in the same thing ... it's a hard time. It's kind of a rough trip to come to terms with this sexuality. It's not easy and then all the stuff that we have to put up with from society and just living in a closet where you can't really come out to too many people, I mean, you're lucky if you can come out to your friends ..."