This paper was published in Theoretical
Criminology, 1997, vol.1, no.3, pp.317-340.
PIERS BEIRNE is Professor of Criminology at the University of Southern Maine and the founding editor of the journal Theoretical Criminology. His recent books include Inventing Criminology (1993) and Criminology (1999, 3rd ed., forth coming, with Jim Messerschmidt).
This paper seeks to introduce a view of bestiality which differs radically from both the anthropocentrism enshrined in the dogma of Judaeo-Christianity and also from the pseudo-liberal tolerance fashionable today. I argue that bestiality should be understood as 'interspecies sexual assault' because the situation of animals as abused victims parallels that of women and, to some extent, that of infants and children and further because (1) human-animal sexual relations almost always involve coercion; (2) such practices often cause animals pain and even death; and (3) animals are unable either to communicate consent to us in a form that we can readily understand or to speak out about their abuse. The paper offers a typology of interspecies sexual assault, including sexual fixation, commodification, adolescent sexual experimentation and aggravated cruelty.
animal abuse - anthropocentrism - bestiality - interspecies sexual assault - sexual coercion
fouldescent! that I who erst contended
-- Satan, in Milton's Paradise Lost
In this article I seek to contribute to an as-yet-unconstituted sociology of animal abuse, though my specific focus derives less from overtly theoretical labors directed to this end than from the practical needs of pedagogy. In trying to develop an undergraduate course on the sociology of animal abuse, I was immediately confronted with conveying to my students adequate responses to the deceptively simple question 'what is animal abuse?' Class time devoted to the spectre of such dramatic and well-publicised horrors as factory farming, laboratory experimentation, trapping, circuses, and so on, would tend to stimulate among students, I believed, a visceral reaction rather than the desired goal of sustained enquiry about the nature of animial abuse.
It happened that, in casting awide net for some heuristic device that would enable me to examine animal abuse in a pedagogic context, I stumbled upon a would-be erotic video provocatively entitled Barnyard Love. This crudely-produced, undated German film graphically depicts numerous human and nonhuman beings engaged in acts of interspecies sexual relations. Among these are human males who engage in sexual intercourse with cows and hens and more often - given that heterosexual males are the film's chief audience - human females who have sexual intercourse with dogs, insert eels into their vaginas and perform fellatio on dogs and horses.
Even from my amateurish perspectiveand despite the risks of anthropomorphism, I noticed how immensely varied were the filmed reactions of the different nonhuman animals (henceforth 'animals') to attempted sexual union with and initiated by humans. At one extreme, the dogs in Barnyard Love who were engaged in sexual activities with women seemed energetically to enjoy such human attention. To me, at least, it did not seem possible that such canine enthusiasm could be feigned by off-camera training designed to suppress more genuine emotions of grief and pain. At the opposite extreme, some animals, such as eels and hens, were obviously unwilling recipients of human sexual advances. None of my students would have much trouble, I thought, in identifying as animal abuse the case of one unfortunate hen who was literally fucked to death, which for her was doubtless a terrifying consequence of enforced sexual intercourse with a human male. Yet, in the case of large quadrupeds, such as the horses and cows depicted in the film, the irreaction seemed closer to boredom or perhaps indifference than it did to pain or to bliss - eating, urinating and defecating as they were during intercourse or while their genitalia were being manipulated. Indeed, it was unclear whether these larger animals were even aware of the prolonged sexual relations which humans had foisted on them. In their case, however, what I saw as animals' indifference might actually have been calculated detachment on their part and, despite the fact that we can probably never know it with much certainty, a coping strategy for numbing the pain inflicted on them by yet another of the myriad ways in which their lives are routinely invaded, inspected and disposed of by humans.
The events depicted in films like Barnyard Love raise interesting questions about the understanding of bestiality as a social practice. How should we approach bestiality: is it an outrageous and perhaps perverse act or, as the law's increasing tolerance of it suggests, a relatively benign form of social deviance? Why have sexual relations involving humans and animals been so vociferously and ubiquitously condemned and so little studied?
To these questions let me at once add how remarkable it is, given the intense levels of ideological and physical coercion that have been applied to bestiality, that the social sciences, including sociology and criminology, have almost completely neglected to study a widespread social practice that is traditionally viewed with moral, judicial and aesthetic outrage. When, during his work on the medieval prosecution and capital punishment of animals, the historian E.P.Evans gruffly dismissed bestiality as 'this disgusting crime' (1906:148), he was probably expressing not an idiosyncratic prejudice butan enduring sentiment that he shared with the great majority of his colleagues. To him and probably to most of us, bestiality is a disturbing form of sexual practice that invites hurried bewilderment rather than sustained intellectual inquiry. Indeed, in academic discourse the topic of bestiality tends to surface only in lectures on the evolution of criminal law given by professors who, with embarrassed chuckles, refer to the declining volume of bestiality prosecutions since the early 19th-century in order to instantiate the secularised tolerance and the supposed rationality of western law. While fictional and quasi-autobiographical accounts of bestiality occasionally appear in serious works of literature, like William Tester's (1991) Darling and Peter Hoeg's (1996) The Woman and the Ape, accessible descriptions of it tend to be produced only by libertine presses and cinematographers as erotic commodities for consumption by a popular, albeit limited, audience.
In what follows I seek to introduce a view of bestiality which differs radically from both the anthropocentrism enshrined in the dogma of Judaeo-Christianity and also from the pseudo-liberal stance of tolerance fashionable today. I suggest, specifically, that bestiality should be understood as 'interspecies sexual assault' (since we should not be in the business of policing nonhuman interspecies sexual relations, my argument is limited to the sexual abuse of nonhuman animals by humans). But to begin with, I must comment briefly on the evolution of different images of bestiality and the stated justifications for its censure.
Introduction to Bestiality
('Among Christians a Crime Not to be Named')
The cultural universe of bestiality is necessarily an anthropocentric one, though in many societies, past and present, it inhabits an ambiguous ideological terrain. On the onehand, it is exalted in mythic and folkloric traditions. Although they are not my concern here, it is worth noting that these favorable depictions of bestiality are often lodged in the sexual antics, the conquests and the offspring of numerous gods, in the lineage of earthly monarchs and rulers, and in the texts of fairy stories and other morality tales. On the other hand, all known societies have likely applied some form of censure to human-animal sexual relations. More over, the judicial accusation of bestiality occasionally blurs into, or is employed in concert with, other charges, such as witchcraft. Thus, some early medieval European accusations of witchcraft involved the claim that the defendant had partaken in a ritual salute of the Devils' backside, the 'osculum infame' or obscene kiss (Russell, 1982:63). In another case of unknown date, a certain Francoise Secretain was burned alive because she had had carnal knowledge of domestic animals - a dog, a cat and a cock - and because, she admitted, she was a witch and her animals were actually earthly forms of the devil (Dubois-Desaulle, 1933:58).
What we refer to as 'bestiality' has been denominated variously in different places and times. Besides a hodge-podge of more or less politecollo-quialisms, bestiality has also been termed 'zoophilia', 'zooerasty', 'sodomy' and 'buggery'. The 17th-century English word 'bestiality' derives from the Latin bestialitas, the latter being used in Aquinas' Summa Theologica severally to refer to primitive behaviour, to human-animal sexual intercourse, and to the way in which animals copulate. Until approximately the mid-19th century, the term referred broadly to the beast-like, earthy and savage qualities allegedly inhering in nonhuman animals. Nowadays, bestiality tends exclusively to denote sexual relations between humans and animals. Usually, in law, it refers to sexual intercourse when a human penis or digit enters the vagina, anus or cloaca of the animal. However, it often also entails any form of oral-genital contact, including those between women and animals and even, in psychiatry, fantasies about sex with animals.
Bestiality is sometimes classified as a crime against nature (peccatio contra naturam); in this it is a bedfellow of other crimes involving 'pollution' such as sodomy, buggery, masturbation and pedophilia. At other times, the terms 'sodomy' and 'buggery' are used interchangeably to describe bestiality, though they have also been employed to denote homosexuality. Each of these terms carries with it perjorative baggage that varies in its moral bases, in its intensity and in the duration of its condemnation. Moreover, in some societies, such as in New England from the Puritan 1600s until the mid-19th century, bestiality has been generally regarded with such trepidation that even the very mention of the word is censured. Accordingly, it is also referred to as 'that unmentionable vice' or 'a sin too fearful to be named' or 'among Christians a crime not to be named'.
Anthropocentrism and the Abominations of Leviticus
From its inception, Christianity applied austere standards and a strict discipline to those of its followers who violated its injunctions against the irremissable major sins of idolatry, the shedding of blood and fornication, including bestiality (McNeill and Gamer, 1938:4-6). In all cases, the pre-scribed penalty was death. The earliest and most influential justifications forcensures of bestiality are the Mosaic commandments. Deuteronomy, for example,declares '[c]ursed be he that lieth with any manner of beast' (27: 21), while Exodus commands that '[w]hosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death' (22:19) - the 'whosoever' here referring to both men and women (Leviticus, 20:15-16). Besides mandating death for humans, Leviticus also dictates that the offending animal be put to death, a practice that reached its zenith in certain late-medieval European societies (Beirne, 1994). The precise intentions of those who originally condemned bestiality are probably not open to reclamation. But over the ages three beliefs have persisted about its wrongfulness: itruptures the natural, God-given order of the universe; it violates the procreative intent required of all sexual relations between Christians; and it produces monstrous offspring that are the work of the Devil. Let us uncover each of these three beliefs in turn.
A Rupture of the 'Natural' Order of the Universe
Prefaced by the general command 'Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy', Leviticus declared "Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith; neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion' (18:23). This theme continues:
Ye shallkeep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diversekind; thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed; neither shall agarment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee. (Leviticus, 19:19)
The rules that cattle should not 'gender with a diverse kind' and that a field should not be sown 'with mingled seed' lie at the heart of the Mosaic injunctions about bestiality. On this very basis, and not without great irony, the early Christian church regarded copulation with a Jew as a form of bestiality and applied the penalty of death to it. So, too, from the time of Leviticus to that of 17th-century English moralists and beyond, bestiality has been regarded as sinful or criminal because it represents a rupture of the natural order of the universe, whose categories it is immoral to mix. Similarly, in his history of Plymouth Plantation, Governor William Bradford (1650: 404-12) recorded the opinions of three Ministers given in 1642 about the acts of 'unnatural vice' to be punished with death, among which were to be women who commit bestiality. Seeking affirmation in Leviticus, the Ministers condemned bestiality, whether penetration had occurred or not, because it is 'against the order of nature', 'unnatural' and a 'confusion'. Again, Richard Capel, a 17th-century Stuart moralist, argued that bestiality is the worst of sexual crimes because 'it turnsman into a very beast, makes a man a member of a brute creature' (quoted in Thomas, 1983:39).
Violation of Procreative Intent
In matters of sexual relations 'Be thee holy' means more than 'Be thee separate' for Christian morality has long required that sexual intercourse flow not from pleasure or play but exclusively from a procreative intent. Bestiality has thus also been condemned because it is held to be a violation of the Christian rule that procreation is the sole purpose of sexual intercourse. Crimes against nature have therefore been proclaimed to be those in which the emission of seed is not accompanied by a procreative intent, as in masturbation, anal and oral sex, incest, adultery, rape and bestiality.
Bestiality has also been condemned because of the off spring a sexual union between human and beast is thought to produce or because of the evil that such offspring are held to signify or portend (Davidson, 1991:41-43). This particular condemnation has itself been part of a complex cultural framework that includes animism, paganism and a fascination with monsters. Classical antiquity, for example,provides numerous seemingly non-judgemental references to interspecies sexual intercourse, including stories where animals were thought to be in love with humans. Such cases arevery prominent in De natura animalium (c.A.D.200), for example, the Roman historian and sophist Aelian's miscellany of facts about animals and humans, genuine or supposed, which he gleaned from Greek writers, including Aristotle. Drawing on material from and about Rome, Greece, India, Libya and Egypt, Aelian documented how widespread was the belief in the actual offspring of animal/human unions ('creatures of composite nature'). As he wrote, '[m]any creatures are begotten with two faces and two breasts: some bornof a cow have the foreparts of a man; others on the contrary spring up begotten of a man but with the head of a cow' (1958: xvi,3:305). Although Aelian provided his readers with no clues as to how such offspring were regarded, they cannot always have been viewed with disfavor given his ubiquitous and often reverential references to creatures such as satyrs, centaurs and minotaurs.
How easily the rigid boundaries between animals and humans can become blurred is recorded in a history of Ireland by the 12th-century chronicler Giraldus of Wales. Without further comment he related how in the Glendalough mountains a cow gave birth to a man-calf, the fruit of a union between a man and a cow, the local folk 'being especially addicted to such abominations' (Cambrensis, 1863:85). He reported elsewhere how Irish men and women had sexual intercourse with cows, goats and lions and how the populace believed that such unions were occasionally fertile. Indeed, Giraldus pondered whether it is murder to kill the product of a man-cow union, for '[w]ho can disallow the claims of a creature which stand serect, laughs, and goes on two feet to belong to the humanspecies?' (ibid.). Similar superstititions appear in 17th-century New England, one case being related in the New Havencourt records. Moreover, the poetry of John Donne and the speeches and sermons of John Winthrop, Cotton Mather and his brother John, Samuel Danforth and William Bradford, are infected with the fear that colonial agricultural society was a frontier existence beset not only with the internal dangers of alcohol, idleness and lust but also surrounded by forests, wild animals and savages (Thomas,1983: 38-41; Canup, 1988). Superstition combined with religious doctrine to assail bestiality and to portray its progeny as monsters resulting from the decay of civilization and the encroachment of the wilderness. Monstrous progeny were a visible reminder of how evil it was totransgress the God-given boundaries separating man from beast.
The social control of the object of such fears has been subject to great cultural variation in both style and volume. In some societies, the censure of bestiality has been accompanied by surprisingly few prosecutions. For example, despite the horror with which bestiality was viewed by puritan zealots and legal writers in England (Sharpe, 1983:65-6)and in colonial America (Chapin, 1982:127-9), it was rarely indicted and was unlikely to result in a conviction. In other societies,the number of convicts executed is staggering. Thus, in Sweden, from 1635 to 1778 there were as many as 700 executions for bestiality and an even greater number of males was sentenced to flogging, church penalties and public forced labor in chains (Liliequist, 1990). Upon conviction, both human and animal were usually put to death, often by burning at the stake but occasionally by beheading, hanging or from blows to the head. The bodies of the condemned, both human and animal, were finally burned or butchered and buried together.
If the penalties for bestiality and the entire range of unnatural acts had been strictly enforced, as Goodich (1979:66-7) has noted, then Europe and colonial America would have become vast penal institutions inhabited by populations restricted in diet and dress, excluded from church services, and condemned to a joyless life of fasts, prayers and flagellation. While the relative frequency with which bestiality was condemned in early modern societies partly reflects the greater contacts between humans and animals in rural societies, such public displays of atonement have largely been dispensed with in modern urban societies. It is far more efficient for the state to deal with bestiality behind closed doors, or even to ignore it, and for the local folk community either to ridicule those who engage in it or to ostracise them.
Indeed, since the mid-19th century many 'unnatural offences', including bestiality, have effectively been decriminalised. In the US there is no federal bestiality statute and only 27 of the 50 states now have such a statute. Nowadays, a defendant will probably becharged with a misdemeanor like public indecency, a breach of the peace or cruelty to animals. Indeed, following the lead of Jeremy Benthamand others, the social control of bestiality has formally passed from religion and criminal law to a psychiatric discourse at whose center lie diseased individuals who are often depicted as simpletons or imbeciles with psychopathic personalities and who allegedly sometimes also have aggressive and sadistic tendencies. However, at once subverting this psychiatrisation and also echoing certain aspects of the spirit of decriminalisation, there has gradually emerged a pseudo-liberal tolerance of bestiality. This tendency implies that because bestialityis an interesting and vital part of almost every known culture it should not only be tolerated but even, within certain limits, celebrated (e.g. Dekkers, 1994; and see Shell, 1993: 148-75; and on the Internet see 'alt.sex.bestiality').
Naming Interspecies Sexual Assault
Are the decriminalisation and the psychiatrisation of bestiality and the drift to toleration of it signs of increasing civility and social progress? A superficial answer to this question is 'yes', if by it one means that censured humans are no longer brutalised by execution or by solitary confinement with hard labor. But that would be to look at bestiality solely from an anthropocentric position, which is what the juridico-religious dogma surveyed here does exclusively. Seldom, either in times pastor now, do popular images of social control include recognition of the terror and the pain that judicial interrogation and execution inflict on animals convicted of sexual relations with humans. Neither in the Mosaic commandments nor in the records of past or present court proceedings, neither in the rantings of puritan zealots nor in psychiatric testimony, is bestiality censured because of the harm that it inflicts on animals. But, especially in the case of smaller creatures like rabbits and hens, animals often suffer great pain and even death from human-animal sexual relations. While researchers have examined the physiological consequences of bestiality for humans (e.g. Tournier et al.,1981), they pay no such attention to the internal bleeding, the ruptured anal passages, the bruised vaginas and the battered cloaca of animals, let alone to animals' psychological and emotional trauma. Such neglect of animal suffering mirrors the broader problem that, even when commentators admit the discursive relevance of animal abuse to the understanding of human societies, they do not perceive it, either theoretically or practically, as an object of study in its own right.
In principle, the attempt to understand bestiality as a form of animal abuse might profitably draw on the perspectives and insight of the three major tendencies that lie at the philosophical and theoretical heart of the animal protection community, namely, utilitarianism (e.g. Singer, 1990) liberal rights-theory (e.g. Regan, 1983; Francione, 1996) and feminism (for a comprehensive bibliography, see Donovan and Adams, 1995:353-61). We might insist, following liberal-rights theory for example, that if bestiality is engaged in with a mammal, then it is a harm inflicted on a moral patient entitled to the fundamental right of respectful treatment. But discursive support for this specific task is very difficult to find either in the writings of the animal protection community or in its day-to-day activities. Moreover, though in the last decade some of the most important contributions to the understanding of animal abuse have been made by feminism, except for very brief statements by Carol Adams (1995a, 1995b:65-69) and Barbara Noske (1993), feminists have altogether ignored the harmful effects of bestiality on animals. Departing from this curious silence, Adams (1995a) insists that we should understand bestiality as forced sex with animals because sexual relationships of unequal power cannot be consensual. In making this argument, and in asserting that all forms of masculinist oppression are linked, Adams thereby begins to claim the perspective of animals as a central concern of feminism.
I agree with Adams that, in seeking to replace anthropocentrism with anac knowledgement of the sentience of animals, we must start with the fact that in almost every situation humans and animals exist in a relation of potential or actual coercion. Whether as domestic pets or as livestock, where they are throughly dependent on humans for food, shelterand affection, or as feral creatures, where humans have the capacity to ensnare them and subject them to their will, animals' interaction with humans is always infused with the possibility of coercion. So it is with sex. In the same way that sexual assault against women differs from normal sex because the former is sex obtained by physical, economic, psychological or emotional coercion - any of which implies the impossibility of genuine consent - so, too, Adams' assertion that bestiality is always sexual coercion ('forced sex') is surely a correct description of most, if not all, human-animal sexual relations.
However, I am not convinced that bestiality must entail sexual coercion simply because human-animal sexual relations always occur in a context of 'unequalpower' (however theorised). If unequal power is the definitive criterion, then sexual coercion would be an essential characteristic not only of intercourse between human adults and infants or children but of most adult heterosexual and even homosexual intercourse as well. Sexual coercion is not sex that occurs always and only in a context of unequal power, though on occasion, of course, situations of inequality imply coercion because for a variety of reasons the party with less power cannot freely dissent from participation. Ultimately, sexual coercion occurs whenever one party does not genuinely consent to sexual relations or does not have the ability to communicate consent to the other. Sometimes, one participant in a sexual encounter may appear to be consenting because she does not overtly resist, but that does not of course mean that genuine consent is present. For genuine consent to sexual relations to be present - somewhat to modify Box's (1983: 124) original formulation - both participants must be conscious, fully informed and positive in their desires.
If genuine consent - defined in this way - is a necessary condition of sex between one human and another, then there is no good reason to suppose that it may be dispensed with in the case of sex between humans and other sentient animals. Bestiality involves sexual coercion because animals are incapable of genuinely saying 'yes' or 'no' to humans in forms that we can readily understand. A different way of putting this is to suggest that ifit is true that we can never know what it is like to be a nonhuman animal, as the philosopher Thomas Nagel (1974) has implied, then presumably we will never know if animals are able to assent - in their terms - to human suggestions for sexual intimacy. Indeed, if we cannot know whether animals consent to our sexual overtures, then we are as much at fault when we tolerate interspecies sexual relations as when we fail to condemn adults who have sexual relations with infants or with children or with other 'moral patients' - to use Tom Regan's(1983) term - who, for whatever reason, are unable to refuse participation. If it is right to regard unwanted sexual advances to women, to infants and to children as sexual assault, then I suggest sexual advances to animals should be viewed likewise.
Moreover, like infants, young children and other 'moral patients' (Regan, 1983), animals are beings without an effective voice. Some animals, such as the cows and other farm yard animals - including those I viewed in the film Barnyard Love (supra, pp. 318-319) - are not equipped to resist human sexual advances in any meaningful way owing to their docile and often human-bred natures. Other animals, in trying to resist human sexual advances, can certainly scratch, bite, growl, howl, hiss and otherwise communicate protest about unwanted advances. But in most one-on-one situations an animal is incapable of enforcing her will to resist sexual assault, especially when a human is determined to effect his purpose. Moreover, animals are disadvantaged in yet another way, for when they are subjected to sexual coercion and to sexual assault,it is impossible for them to communicate the facts of their abuse to those who might give them aid.
In short, because bestiality is in certain key respects so similar to the sexual assault of women, children and infants, I suggest that it should be named interspecies sexual assault.
For many of the same reasons that, as it applies to humans, the concept of sexual assault is more widely applicable than that of rape so, too, interspecies sexual assault comprises a wider range of actions than those found in dictionary definitions of bestiality or in notions embedded in popular culture, both of which tend to focus narrowly on penetration of the vagina, anus or cloaca of an animal by a human penis. But if the concept of interspecies sexual assault is not exhausted by penile or digital insertion, then how wide should its scope be? Should it include touching, kissing and fondling? If it is extended to fondling, for example,then to the fondling of what, with what and by whom? Given animals' inability to communicate consent to human sexual overtures, I would like to establish - or at least to aim for - the general principle that interspecies sexual assault comprises all sexual advances by humans to animals. Admittedly, such a principle clearly has inherent problems which I cannot pretend to know how to solve. For example, how do we establish a general rule for identifying actions that are physically identical to those defined as interspecies sexual assault but which have a different intent? Consider the following tale related to me by a colleague.
When I was a little girl I didn't take my dog to bed - she was too big for that - but instead lay regularly in her basket. I even sucked her nipples since I had seen her pups do that. She allowed it and didn't prevent it, even though she wasn't suckling at the time. My mother, a doctor herself, was thank goodness not too narrow-minded and left us alone in our tactile relationship.
(Personal communication, September 20, 1996)
This innocent and affectionate suckling was probably not sexual in nature, it certainly was not assaultive and it doubtless caused the dog no harm.
Many actions like this can ofcourse be either sexual or affective in nature, depending on their social contexts or on the physiological responses of the actors (for both human and nonhuman animals, innocent, nonsexual physical touching and strokings low the pulse and respiration and lower the blood pressure, but quite the opposite responses are produced by sexual arousal). But where, precisely, should a sociological line of demarcation be drawn? It is clear, to me at least, that the milking of a cow, for example, has nothing to do with sexual assault. But how about electrically-inducede jaculation for insemination? Is this interspecies sexual assault? Simple assault? Neither?
In arguing that interspecies sexual assault comprises all sexual advances by humans to animals, I do not mean to dilute the severity of the condemnation of the sexual assault of one human by another. However, I suspect that, for different reasons, some feminists and most conservative opponents of the animal protection community will wish to accuse me of just this. Such a reponse assumes, wrongly I believe, not only that there is some anthropocentric chain of moral claims and priorities wherein those of humans are necessarily far above those of animals but also that the interests of humans and animals are incompatible. On the contrary, sexism and speciesism operate not in opposition to each other but in tandem. Interspecies sexual assault is the product of a masculinity that sees women, animals and nature as objects that can be controlled, manipulated and exploited. Listen only to some of the sexist language that prepares the way for bodily sexual assault (and see Dunayer, 1995). Much of this is voiced in speciesist terms. When a man describes women as 'cows', 'bitches', '(dumb) bunnies', 'birds', 'chicks', 'foxes', 'freshmeat', and their genitalia as 'beavers' or 'pussies', he uses derogatory language to distance himself emotionally from, and to elevate himself above, his prey by relegating them to a male-constructed category of 'less than human' or, more importantly, 'less than me'. Reduced to this inferior status, both women and nonhuman animals are thereby denied subjectivity by male predators who can then proceed to exploit and abuse them without guilt. Unchallenged, sexist and speciesist terms operate in concert to legitimate sexual assaults on women and animals.
Towards a Typology of Interspecies Sexual Assault
Between the ages of 12 and 14, I used to fuck my horses. Every day I would wake upto feed the horses, clean the stalls, and fuck the mare. (The Advocate, November 15, 1994) - Jeff Heiskell, leadsinger of The Judybats
Thus far, in outlining and opposing conventional notions of bestiality, I have suggested their replacement with a concept of interspecies sexual assault. Sexological surveys and historical studies of court records of bestiality prosecutions have use fully revealed glimpses of the number and variety of species thus abused, among them mules, cows, sows, dogs, mares, ducks, sheep, goats, rabbits and hens. These diverse creatures include companion animals, farmyard animals, livestockand animal labourers. Although interspecies sexual assault often results from the same malicious masculinity and comprises the same harmful actions as those that constitute the sexual assault of one human by another, it is clearly not a unitary social practice but one with differing social forms.
In what follows I try to identify some key categories of a typology of interspecies sexual assault, including: (i)sexual fixation; (ii) commodification; (iii) adolescent sexual experimentation; and (iv) aggravated cruelty. These four categories are structured in terms of both differing human-animal social relationships and also the degree of harm that is suffered by abused animals.
Sexual Fixation (or 'zoophilia')
This is the form of interspecies sexual assault that occurs when animals are the preferred sexual partners of humans. It is hard to believe that this was not the case when, for example, in colonial New England in 1642, Thomas Granger was indicted for buggery with "a mare, a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves and a turkey" (Bradford, 1650: 320). Rare descriptions of sexual fixation with animals are provided by Kree (1974) and by Krafft-Ebing (1886:376-7), who designates it as 'impulsive sodomy':
A. was convicted of having committed masturbation and sodomy on dogs andrabbits. When twelve years old he saw how boys masturbated a dog. He imitated it, and thereafter he could not keep from abusing dogs, cats and rabbits in this vile manner. Much more frequently, however, he committed sodomy on female rabbits -- the only animals that had a charm for him. At dusk he was accustomed to repair to his masterÕs rabbit pen in order to gratify his vile desire. Rabbits with torn rectums were repeatedly found...At the height of the attack there were sounds of bells, cold perspiration, trembling of the knees, and, finally, loss of resistive power,and impulsive performance of the perverse act...A. stated that if called upon to choose between a woman and a female rabbit, he could make choice only of the latter.
Sexual fixation with animals is probably the least common form of interspecies sexual assault; one author (Dekkers, 1994:149) estimates that the percentage of humans who have sex exclusively with animals is far below 1%, though this figure lacks suitable evidence. The psychological literature contains no adequate accounts of it, yet Adams (1995a:30) asserts that there is a similarity in the respective world views of the zoophiliac, the rapist and the child sexual abuser. 'They all view the sex they have with their victims as consensual,' she claims, 'and they believe it benefits their sexual "partners" as well as themselves' (1995a: 30). It is possible that Adams' claim is correct. But it will remain unsupported until a significant number of methodologically-sensitive life histories have been completed on zoophiliacs. It is just as likely that 'fixated humans' assault animals sexually not because they believe it benefits their sexual 'partners' but because they enjoy inflicting pain on other creatures who, in this particular case, just happen to be animals because animals are more available to them than humans. Do they often not start with animals and eventually 'graduate' to humans?
CommodificationViolation of Procreative Intent
This is the predominant element in interspecies sexual assaults that are packaged as commodities for sale in a market. It often involves a two fold assault - one by a man on a woman who is assaulted and humiliated by being forced to have sex with an animal, the other on the animal who is coerced, without the possibility of giving genuine consent, into having sex with a human. Examples include live shows of women copulating with animals in bars and sex clubs or depictions of interspecies sexual assaults in pornographic films such as Barnyard Love and Deep Throat. In the latter, for example, Linda Marchiano ('Linda Lovelace') is filmed having intercourse with a large dog resembling a German shepherd. During this act and for a long time after it, Marchiano herself 'felt nothing but acute revulsion' (1980:107-14; and see Hollander, 1972:35), and she agreed to be filmed in this two-hour episode only because her boyfriend and batterer threatened to kill her.
Consider also the more problematic case of Deena the stripping chimpanzee (Adams, 1990). For $100 Deena and her trainer would appear at a social gathering, during which Deena would perform a striptease act for the partygoers. Is this interspecies sexual assault? Clearly, this case is one that combines commodification with aspects of sexual objectification. The chimp had been trained to perform like a human female stripper - a marketable action that it could not possibly have freely chosen to do, and whose social context it could not have fully understood. Though it is true that sexual abuse does not necessarily involve actual physical contact, perhaps this particular act should be understood less as sexual assault than - like Adams (1990) suggests - as a violation of an animal's right to dignity.
Adolescent sexual experimentation
This seems to be typically practised in rural areas by young maleswith easy access to animals. It is probably the most common form of interspecies sexual assault, as shown by quite disparate studies of 17th-and 18th-century Sweden (Liliequist, 1991) and of mid-20th-century rural America. With regard to the latter, for example, it has been documented that about 8% of the male population has some sexual experience with animals and that 'a minimum of 40-50% of all American farm boysexperience some form of sexual contact with animals' (Kinsey, Pomeroy and Martin, 1948:671), as do 5.1% of American females(Kinsey et al., 1953:505). But these findings are highly suspect both because Kinsey's methodology lacked probability sampling and because his aggressive personal interviewing techniques ensured elevated levels of reportings. Moreover, in most Western societies - where petownership has dramatically increased and where, with the rise of 'factory farming', there has been a steady decline in the percentageof the human population living in agricultural areas or residing with farm animals inside their houses - it cannot be certain thatit is farm animals who are nowadays the most common objects of interspecies sexual assault by humans.
Precisely what the practice of adolescent sexual experimentation with animals represents symbolically and culturally and how it contributes to gender socialisation, varies from one social context to another. It can be performed either alone or with other adolescents who either watch or else participate. In a group context, some boys of necessity teach how it is done while others learn. It can be performed for a variety of reasons, including mere curiosity, cruelty, showing off for other boys, and acquiring the techniques of intercourse for later use on girls. An anonymous colleague has told me, for example, that when she was doing anthropological fieldwork in rural Algeria, she and a co-worker witnessed a very nervous young male (on the night before his wedding)'practising' sexual intercourse with a donkey for the explicit purpose of not appearing hopelessly unskilled with his wife the following night. Presumably, too, there is some point towards the end of their adolescence when young males desist from experimental sexual activities with animals because such practices are regarded as unmanly or, perhaps, as perverse.
It is reasonable to suppose, given their great predominance in sexual experimentation with animals, that young males also disproportionately engage in aggravated cruelty during acts of interspecies sexual assault(i.e. a level of cruelty over and above that already presented in most such acts). It is true that no specific pattern of aggravated cruelty has yet been uncovered among young males who engage in interspecies sexual assault, but this is so perhaps only because this category has not yet been researched. Psychologists have shown that children and adolescents who assault animals appear to be over whelmingly young males of normal intelligence (Tapia, 1971; Felthouse,1981) who are often sexually abused at home and whose family situations also often contain spousal abuse (Friedrich, Urquiza and Beilke, 1986; Hunter, 1990:214-6).
Quite apart from the occurrence of cruelty during adolescent sexual experimentation, aggravated cruelty can be a major element in interspecies sexual assault in other ways. In mid-19th century England, for example, one case was reported where two-feet-long knotted sticks were thrust into mares' wombs, which were then vigorously rented, and another where the penises of cart horses and donkeys were cut off (Archer, 1985:152). Multiple cases of such atrocities were confirmed in several English counties in 1993 (The Times, 1993, March 2, May 8, June 4). Similarly, in 1991 at a zoo in New Bedford, Massachusetts, a deer was found with fatalwounds that included a fractured jaw and extensive bleeding from the rectum and vagina (Standard Times, 1991, July 26). Sometimes, aggravated cruelty against animals takes place in conjunction with the humiliation of women. This has been documented both in Nazi concentration camps (Fleis-mann, 1968:50-71) and in the course of partner abuse (Adams, 1995b:65-9). In the latter, it can take the form of battering, which involves the use of animals for humiliation and sexual exploitation by batterers and/or marital rapists. Recent reports from LosAngeles 'tell of a man who, after fights with his girlfriend, sought revenge by raping her pet chicken' (quoted in Holmes, 1991:27). Moreover, if one allows that, like humans, animals are capable of experiencing non-physical pain, then aggravated cruelty also occurs whenever interspecies sexual assault produces emotional or psychological pain and suffering (Ascione, 1993; Masson and McCarthy,1995).
This paper has tried to replace anthropocentric censures of bestiality with a concept that I term 'interspecies sexual assault'. My argument about the meaning and causes of interspecies sexual assault has derived largely from how the situation of animals as abused victims parallels that of women and, to some extent, that of infants and children. Specifically, bestiality should be understood as interspecies sexual assault because (1) human-animal sexual relations almost always involve coercion; (2) such practices often cause animals pain and even death; and (3) animals are unable either to communicate consent to us in a form that we can readily understand or to speak out about their abuse. Though space does not permit it here, this concept of inter-species sexual assault can doubtless be strengthened with the discursive support of utilitarianism and of liberal rights-theory.
As I have proposed it, the concept of interspecies sexual assault clearly needs further elaboration. Key problems remain. For example, given the lack of studies of interspecies sexual assault, my fourfold typology is quite provisional. Between the categories of aggravated cruelty and adolescent sexual experimentation, especially, there is obvious overlap. One must be able to distinguish, too, not only between the malicious masculinity behind aggravated cruelty and other situations of adolescent sexual experimentation and exploration, but also between the latter and innocentand affective fondling. Some difficulties seem to resist a clear answer - for example, is electrically-induced ejaculation for insemination a form of interspecies sexual assault and, if so, is it an instance of commodification or of aggravated cruelty or both?
Finally, in advancing the concept of interspecies sexual assault, I must stress that I do not wish to add to either the psychiatrization or the criminalization of a practice which nowadays occupies a place at the outer margins of public and legal concern. But this leaves me in uncomfortable position. If a sexual assault on an animal by a human is a harm that is objectionable for the same reasons as is an assault on one human by another - because it involves coercion, because it produces pain and suffering and because it violates the rights of another being - then it would seem to constitute a sufficient condition for the censure of the human perpetrator. Clearly, we need to confront the nature of the censure that inevitably accompanies the relocation of bestiality as interspecies sexual assault. Should the censure involve criminalization? If so, of what severity? Should culpability be strict, or should the scales of justice depend on such factors as the moral sigificance of what was done, the degree of harm and the species of animal assaulted? Even if a cultural consensus could be established about the harmfulness of interspecies sexual assault - or any other form of animal abuse - for animals that are kept in confinement by humans, its effectiveness as aright would nevertheless be undermined by the rival cultural powers associated with the rights to private property and to privacy.
Not coincidentally, it is of course precisely invocations of these rival rightsthat men use when they sexually abuse women and children. The right toprivacy would undermine the detection and prosecution ofinterspecies sexual assault; the right to private property would be invokedto defend it. As Ted Benton (1994:147-48) has argued about the latter, those who wish to ascribe rights to animals, including the right to respectful treatment, would eventually be forced to challenge the very existence of animals as private property.
Adams, Carol J.(1990) "Deena -the World's Only Stripping Chimp"
Animals' Voice Magazine 3(1):72
Adams, Carol J. (1995a)"Bestiality: the Unmentioned Abuse"
The Animals'Agenda 15(6):29-31
Adams, Carol J.-----(1995b) "Woman-Battering and Harm to Animals", in Josephine Donovan and Adams (eds)Animals and Women: Feminist Theoretical Explorations, pp.55-84. Durham: Duke University Press.
Aelian (1958-1959) On the Characteristics of Animals. Translated by A.F. Scholfield. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Archer, John E. (1985) A Fiendish Outrage? A Study of Animal Maiming: 1830-1870
Agricultural History Review 33 (Part II):147-57
Ascione, Frank R. (1993) "Children Who Are cruel to Animals: a Review of Research and Implications for Developmental Psychopathology"
Beirne, Piers (1994) "The Law is an Ass: Reading E.P. Evans' The Medieval Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals", Society and Animals 2(1):27-46
Beirne, Piers (1995) "The Use and Abuse of Animals in Criminology: A Brief History and Current Review", SocialJustice 22(1):5-31
Bentham, Jeremy (1785) (1978) "Essay on`Paederasty', Part 2", Journal of Homosexuality 4(1):91-107
Benton, Ted (1994) NaturalRelations: Ecology, Animal Rights and Social Justice. London: Verso
Boswell, John (1980) Christianity, SocialTolerance, and Homosexuality. Chicago: University of ChicagoPress
Box, Steven (1983) Power, Crime, and Mystification. London: Tavistock
Bradford, William (1650) (1970) Of Plymouth Plantation,1620-1647. Edited by Samuel Eliot Morison. New York: Alfred A.Knopf
Brown, Julia S. (1952) "A Comparative Study of Deviations from SexualMores", American Sociological Review 17(2):135-46
Brundage, James A. (1987) Law, Sex, and Christian Societyin Medieval Europe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Bullough, Vern L. andBonnie Bullough (1977). Sin, Sickness, & Sanity. New York: Garland
Cambrensis, Giraldus (1863) Historical Works.Edited by Thomas Wright. London: H.G.Bohn
Canup, John (1988) "'The Cry of SodomEnquired Into': Bestiality and the Wilderness of Human Nature in Seventeenth-Century New England", American Antiquarian Society 98(1):113-31
Chapin, Bradley (1983) Criminal Justice in Colonial America, 1606-1660. Athens:University of Georgia Press
Chee, K.T. (1974) "A Case of Bestiality," Singapore Medical Journal 15(4):287-88
Coke, Edward (1628) (1642). The Third Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England. London: M.Flesher
Collard, Andre with Joyce Contrucci (1989) Rape of the Wild. Bloomington: Indiana University Press
Collins, Anne-Marie(1991) "Woman or Beast? Bestiality in Queensland, 1870-1949", Hecate 17(1):36-42
Davidson, Arnold J. (1991) "The Horror of Monsters", in James J.Sheehan and Morton Sosna (eds) TheBoundaries of Humanity: Humans, Animals, Machines, pp.36-67. Berkeley:University of California Press
Dekkers, Midas (1994) Dearest Pet: On Bestiality. Translated by Paul Vincent. London: Verso
Donovan, Josephine and Carol J. Adams (1995) (eds), Animals and Women: FeministTheoretical Explorations. Durham: Duke University Press
Douglas, Mary (1984) Purity and Danger: an Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: ARK Paperbacks
Dubois-Desaulle, Gaston (1933) Bestiality: an Historical, Medical, Legal and Literary Study. Translated by 'A.F.N.' New York: Panurge Press
Dunayer, Joan (1995) "Sexist Words, Speciesist Roots", in Donovan and Adams (eds) Animals and Women: Feminist Theoretical Explorations, pp.11-31. Durham: Duke University Press
Evans, E.P. (1906) (1987) The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals. London: Faber and Faber
Felthouse, Alan R. (1981). "Childhood Cruelty to Cats, Dogs and Other Animals," Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law, 9:48-53
Fleismann, Sigmund (1968) Bestiality: Sexual Intercourse Between Men and Women and Animals. Translated by Robert Harris. Baltimore: Medical Knowledge Press
Fletcher, George P. (1978) Rethinking Criminal Law. Boston: Little, Brown
Francione, Gary L.(1995) Animals, Property and the Law.Philadelphia: Temple University Press
Friedman, Lawrence (1993) Crimeand Punishment in American History. New York: Basic Books
Friedrich, William N., Anthony J.Urquiza and Robert L. Beilke (1986 ) "Behavior Problems in Sexually Abused YoungChildren," Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 11(1):47-57
Goodich, Michael (1979). The Unmentionable Vice: Homosexuality in the Later Medieval Period. Santa Barbara, Ca.: Clio
Hebenton, Bill, Ken Pease and Coretta Phillips (1996)"Sentencing Offenders against Non-Human Animals", unpublished paper presented at the annual meetings of the American Society of Criminology, Chicago
Hendrickson, Kate M., Teresita McCarty and Jean M.Goodwin (1990) "Animal Alters: Case Reports", Dissociation 3(4):218-21
Hoeg, Peter (1996) The Woman and the Ape. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Hollander, Xaviera (1972) The Happy Hooker. New York: Dell Publishing
Holmes, Ronald M. (1991) Sex Crimes. Newbury Park: Sage
Hunter, Mic (1990) Abused Boys: The Neglected Victims of Sexual Abuse. New York: Lexington
Kinsey, Alfred C., Wardell B.Pomeroy and Clyde E.Martin (1948) Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia: W.B.Saunders
Kinsey, Alfred C., Wardell B.Pomeroy, Clyde E.Martin and Paul H.Gebhard (1953) Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Philadelphia: W.B.Saunders
Krafft-Ebing, Richard von (1886)(1978) Psychopathia Sexualis. Translated by Franklin S.Klaf. New York: Stein and Day
Larson, Laurence M. (1935) (ed.). The Earliest Norwegian Laws. Tr. Larson. New York: Columbia University Press
Levin, Eve (1989) Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700. Ithaca: Cornell University Press
Liliequist, Jonas (1991) "Peasantsagainst Nature: Crossing the Boundaries between Man and Animal in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Sweden", Journal of the History of Sexuality 1(3):393-423
Lovelace, Linda with Mike McGrady (1980) Ordeal. New York: Bell Publishing
Masson, Jeffrey Moussaieff and SusanMcCarthy (1995) When Elephants Weep: the Emotional Lives of Animals. New York: Delacorte
McNeill, John T. and Helena M. Gamer(1938) Medieval Handbooks of Penance. New York: Columbia University Press
Monter, E.William (1990) Frontiers of Heresy: the Spanish Inquisition from the Basque Lands to Sicily. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Nagel, Thomas (1974) "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?" The Philosophical Review, October:435-450
Noske, Barbara (1993) "Hoe Heet is een Ezelin?", Opzij, Feministisch fs 20 Maandblad 21:26
Parker, Graham (1986) "Is A Duck An Animal? An Exploration of Bestiality as a Crime", Criminal Justice History, 7:95-109
Posner, Richard A. And Katherine B.Silbaugh (1996) A Guide to America's Sex Laws. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Records of the Colony and Plantation of New Haven (1641) (1857).Edited by Charles J. Hoadly. Hartford, Conn.: Case, Tiffany
Regan, Tom (1983) The Case for Animal Rights. Berkeley: University of California Press
Russell, Jeffrey Burton(1982) A History of Witchcraft. New York: Thames and Hudson
Salisbury, Joyce E. (1991). Sex in the Middle Ages. New York: Garland
Salisbury, Joyce (1994) The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages. New York: Routledge
Sellers, Nicholas (1972) "Criminal Prosecution of Animals", The Shingle 35:179-83
Semonin, Paul (1996)"Monsters in the Marketplace: The Exhibition of Human Oddities in Early Modern England", in Rosemarie Garland Thomson (ed) Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body, pp.69-81. New York: New York University Press
Sharpe, J.A.(1983) Crime in Seventeenth-Century England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Shell, Marc (1993) Children of the Earth: Literature, Politics and Nationhood. New York: Oxford University Press
Singer, Peter (1990) Animal Liberation. NewYork: Avon Books
Tapia, Fernando (1971) "Children Who are Cruel to Animals", Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 2(2):70-77
Tester, William (1991) Darling. New York: Alfred A Knopf
Thomas, Keith (1983) Man and the Natural World. New York: Pantheon
Tournier, C., B.Croguennec, B.Pillegand and R.Claude (1981) "Ulcres rectaux par sodomisation animale", La Nouvelle Presse Mdicale 10(14):1152
Acknowledgement. I am indebted to Carol Adams, Ted Benton, Katherine Berney, Jim Messerschmidt, Barbara Noske and Andrew Rowan for their generous comments on an earlier version of this paper.
Republished by Verschwiegenes Tierleid Online Menschen für Tierrechte, TVG Saar e.V. with kind permission of the author, Piers Beirne. June, 2004