I have pet rats, they are old and unfortunately I thus have to see the vet quite often. Sitting in the waiting room, I often take one out off the box and cuddle it. Since it’s a rat it immediately produces a reaction in everyone around. Most people just smirk about it, others, especially children are fascinated, but every now and then, someone hates them.
The last time was quite remarkable. I had Sissi on my arm, she was laying on her side, bracing my thumb and making little chirping noises in pleasure as I petted her behind the ears. To all spectators, this was a cute sight, yet one woman was terrified. I then claimed that she had learned to hate rats to which she responded that that’s not “learned”. I then asked her what’s so horrible about my pet and she answered that she once knew some guy, who had a rat which walked.
This wasn’t my first encounter of that kind and if I would take prejudices I heard against rats seriously, they could multiply asexually, hide their gender, walk through walls, engineer biological weapons and damage technology within 50 meters with the force of their mind.
In the “making of” of the rat horror movie Willard featuring Crispin Glover, the makers stated, that it’s all about the lighting. The problem with rats is that if you show them in darkness, the audience cant see anything, if you show them in full light, they are just cute animals, you need to show them in a twilight, so that the audience can’t really see them, just notice there’s something in the shadows and that’s where the horror comes from.
My talk today, isn’t about rats, but of a sexual orientation called zoophilia. For the past millennia, zoophile persons chose to stay in the dark. Yet in the recent years, certain people decided to put that topic into a twilight to scare people with large success. I will attempt to put it into full light, so you may judge for yourselves.
The Term Zoophilia originates from the list of paraphilias, which is the scientific term for sexual perversions. There was never any extensive research done on Zoophilia. The relevance of that paraphilia list is still in question.
There had been works on zoophilia, but none of these caused further scrutiny by the scientific community. It’s largely viewed as a rare perversion of no real relevance that no one cares about.
To a certain degree that is understandable. Would you care about a sexuality that isn’t your own, you likely find disgusting and you consider to be reserved for some twisted weirdos, but no one you know?
You could define Zoophilia as the sexuality of humans towards animals. A more neutral term would be interspecies sexuality. The problem with Zoophilia though is, that it is much more unspecific than that kind-of umbrella term suggests. A zoophile person, or as we prefer it, a zoo, isn’t into all animals, some are into horses, some are into dogs, some are into dolphins, some into others, some into multiples and there’s even more diversity as the sexuality towards the species can vary. There are zoos who are heterosexual towards humans and homosexually towards dogs, yet bisexual towards a third species. Labeling two individuals as Zoophiles often leads to the assumption that they have the same sexuality, which in they might not.
Another problem with the term is that it puts humanity in a special place. Amongst animals it’s actually also normal to show sexual behavior towards another species. Biological speaking, humans are animals, too, so this should be expected as well. Speaking about Zoophilia or Athrophilia, which is the animal’s counterpart suggests an objective difference that just isn’t there.
So, one might argue that for the zoophile community adapting that unclear term might have been a bad idea.
Before I come to what the life of a zoo looks like, I want to address the prejudices that circle around these days. Usually, you see zoophile and animal abuser used synonymous, which is likely caused by the press wanting to sound smart, not double-checking and then getting the term wrong. Also since it sounds so similar to pedophilia, it’s catchy with people in a negative way. As a side note even using pedophile and child abuser synonymous is just as wrong, but the words are so in everyone’s mouth that they get pretty upset, if you dare correct the mistake.
This leads to the problem that if you refer to yourself as a zoophile, people might consider you a rapist and stop listening to you, before you even start to speak.
However the term zoophilia has been misused in the media in other ways. According to the “Stern” zoophilia is “pathological animal love” and if a person shows aggression against animals, such as the cases of the horse and cattle rippers, the press usually calls that zoophilia as well. I’ve also read an article, in which a human had sex with a cow and a “case of zoophilia” was suspected, whatever that means.
Generally if anyone wants to put sex, love or sexual organs and animals in a negative context he or she in someway uses the term.
Apart from a general misuse of the terminology, there are certain accusations and rumors that are common these days. I don’t have the time in this talk to address everything I’ve heard, I will try to categorize them and talk about the categories.
“Animals can’t speak therefore can’t communicate”
This argument starts with the misconception that animals can’t communicate consent because they can’t speak. Usually people have no problem with nonverbal humans having sex, and they also acknowledge that animals can communicate whether they want food or go out or want to play. But for some magical reason they are assumed to be unable to communicate whether they want sex or not. When I questioned what this magical reason would be, the argument was changed and the question left unanswered. Furthermore, body language is important for humans as well, especially in mating rituals. Usually when this argument is questioned, it’s either completely changed or somewhat pseudo intensified with saying “we will never truly know what an animal want”.
There are certain things that require verbal communication in a human way, yes. When I go to the vet, I would wish to talk to my animals about their diseases, yet I can’t. To express it’s desire an animal doesn’t need to talk though. I often bluntly ask then, if you’re a female and your dog gets a boner and tries to jump on you, what does it want?
The question is then dodged with the next argument
“Animals suffer from having sex with humans”
There’s one true rule to sex. If it doesn’t fit don’t push. But even if people accept that you don’t have sex with the intent to cause suffering, it’s often said that animals for another magical reason suffer mentally or in their soul or whatever when having sex with humans. A donkey can have sex with a horse, without mentally suffering, yet it can’t have sex with a human – just because.
“Animals are something other”
Often the argument comes up that animals are something other than animals. Animals are like children, therefore you shouldn’t have sex with them. Humans aren’t animals, therefore you shouldn’t have sex with animals. Basically everything that separates humans and animals is mentioned, even god comes into play now and then and how he intended his creation.
Generally all these accusations are debunked very easily. Yet the concern that hides behind most should be taken seriously and generally is. You need to know your animal, you need to be able to communicate with it is some way. There should be empathy between you and your partner that’s true for all sexual relationships, not just for zoophiles.
Likewise being a zoophile doesn’t prevent you from actual raping someone. You’re not a better human because you are a zoo. Your sexuality doesn’t govern whether you coerce someone into something or not. If you have sex with an animal against it’s will it’s rape, just as with humans. And we zoos look down on rape in the same way other humans do.
The zoophile life
So what does a zoophile life actually look like? Between your own four walls, the life is just very similar to a normal life, you have your partner around you, you take care of him or her and it’s a loving relationship like every other one. The sex, if it’s there – as there are many zoo relationships without sex – is the usual, too.
Finding a partner is kind of similar, too. If you’re heterosexual you might have noticed, that you half subconsciously judge everyone of the other gender whether they could be a possible mate, when you see them for the first time, while you don’t with your own gender. It’s the same to zoos. Except that you include animals. The “pretty woman walking down the street” might be a horse or a dog.
That pathological behavior, sexual harassment, playing hide and seek in the shadows until your nature compels you to rape someone just isn’t happening. It’s your run-of-the-mill sexuality, just that it includes animals. I’m sorry to disappoint anyone who expected some rare obscure action here, it’s just perfectly normal everyday life.
The real differences occur, when that life collides with society. You can’t take a horse to the restaurant for a candlelight dinner, you can’t have rats running on the Christmas table when dining with your family and you shouldn’t expect anyone to take you seriously when you say you’re in love with a cat.
A zoo often collides with society in a variety of ways, usually because he’s not taken seriously. This often leads to social behavior issues, some might become depressed others grow cynical. The social rejection is very likely to scar your life if you’re a zoo. On top of that the low lifespan of animals cause you to go through all the sad parting, which you would expect at the end of your life in an earlier state. So while zoophilia itself can’t be viewed as a disease, it certainly invites other mental disorders, through negative life experience.
The social stigma and anxiety
Slowly we’re getting to the meat of the whole issue. It is said that there’s a social stigma going on with zoophilia. In the recent years however I’ve come to know that that’s only half true. Surely there are some haters who go to extremes. Bullying, intimidation, raising hate on social media, stalking, fraud, denunciation, death threats, these are all things that happen. Usually this originates from right extremists, but it really boils down to a handful of key persons, who aren’t representative for the public. Also people who have only heard of zoophilia in a negative context are usually biased against it, but this usually lasts only as long as it’s something far off they can be angry about and if they are confronted with having to hate someone they don’t really can’t hate, these people change.
What’s the biggest issue is the self-fulfilling prophecy that zoophilia has this social stigma. There is a lot of people who are afraid of a backlash if they out themselves as zoophiles or know one, employ one, have one in the family or even talk to one.
When I talked to the organizer about coming to this event, he informed me that the board had decided to forbid video capturing in fear of a bad publicity.
Think about that for a moment. As long as my sexuality is unknown, it’s no problem, but if people know that my girlfriend isn’t human, it’s bad publicity. Giving a talk about a topic rarely someone talks about may be bad publicity. It’s not important that we made the way from Germany here to answer a request for knowledge, it’s just important which species and gender our loved ones have.
The bad thing about this is that the guilt, if you so will, is pushed away. “We don’t discriminate, we’re just afraid that people who discriminate might talk negative”. Seriously, discriminating on your own, before some else does is still discrimination and your not getting accepting for the fear of backlash. We’re the victims, not you.
Now this case is a pretty minor thing, but these minor unpleasantries add up, if you are confronted with them on a daily basis. Another thing is to deny us certain rights we by law have with the same or similar line of argumentation – and it also happens.
Unfortunately, this reasoning that you’re afraid of someone else discriminating, is used by just about anyone in the zoophile community. If the zoophile community has given you one signal in the past 30 years, it is that you are perfectly right to discriminate. This isn’t something we can blame much on the outside. The reason we’re today suffering from zoophilia bans is zoos not having spoken up when they had the opportunity. And since everyone assumes there’s discrimination, they won’t speak up. I want to break that circle, but I’m at least two decades late.
I will address that ban in a moment, but I want to address the history of zoophilia a bit more. I will use the German history, because it’s so iconic.
There was a law in Germany called the Sodomy paragraph or the gay paragraph or simply $175. Sodomy is a biblical term for perversion, the exact meaning varies by time and location. Usually it refers to samesex, anal sex or bestiality.
Basically the law forbid sex between two men or humans and animals. Ironically lesbians we’re fine. That paragraph existed from 1871 to 1994, though it was practically a relict from the 1970s onward. As you might imagine that law was particularly used during the Nazi time, also a bit before and after. It went through several revisions and was finally removed in 1994, since it became inconsistent with the German law in general. Also by that time people had realized that it might not be the best idea to throw people in jail for their sexuality. Through that law zoophilia and homosexuality were always linked.
Please be aware that this is only a very rough overview over that Paragraph. There’s a lot more detail to find in when and why it was changed, which we can’t get into for time’s sake.
In the recent years the gay community spoke up, homosexuality is accepted in Germany. The zoo community remained silent. Today zoosexuality is banned again though this time through the animal protection law. The gay community didn’t bother about that, they don’t wish to talk to us, apparently discrimination is only a bad thing as long as oneself is the victim.
Nowadays, it’s the same story in every country. Someone claims that there are animal brothels and that their number is increasing and that it’s a concern. To protect the animals, animal sex is then forbidden. There’s a number of problems with that law. First off, these animal brothels don’t exist. No one was able to define what counts as one and none was ever found. It’s a hoax cooked up by some magazine several years ago and it still has it’s fans. At least in Germany a ban on sexuality alone isn’t possible. And lastly in the agrar industry it’s common practice to gain and sell the semen of animals. This “gain” is achieved through jerking the animal off or massaging the prostate gland. Yet completely consensual sex, since it’s industrialized, it’s okay somehow.
Now the politician’s know that they can’t legally make such a law. They know the animal brothels are fiction and they know they can’t mess with the industry.
In Germany the last animal protection law should have banned the neutering of piglets without anesthetics and the branding of horses, yet these didn’t happen, because it would have been too expensive, and we are talking about expenses of 5€ here. So a scapegoat was needed and guess who’s apparently not defending themselves.
Yes, it’s the same people who are saying you may burn an animal with an iron and you may simply cut the balls off an animal while it’s conscious, but you may not have consensual sex with an animal because it might get hurt in the process.
The support of the zoophilia ban is actually support of animal abuse, not the opposite.
Still, we did go into the counteroffensive and put forth a claim against that law, but bureaucracy is slow and expensive.
By the way, having sex with an animal, so it get’s injured has always been illegal, and we’re completely supporting that. What’s new about this law is illegalizing sex, were the animal is fine and has fun.
Challenges and opportunities
Zoos face a challenging time, we’re inches short of a worldwide ban of our sexuality. The fear to be discriminated has turned into a real threat. The community has yet to see that ignorance and sitting it out isn’t going to achieve anything. In fact it’s now or never for us.
To everyone else I can say, we’re currently in the process of making communicating. Zoophilia has become more and more a topic and people have become less afraid of it. The press has turned from pointing fingers at those perverts to actually discussing with us. A talk like this wouldn’t have been possible two years ago. This acceptance provides interesting opportunities for science. I genuinely believe that there’s much to be learned. Zoophilia offers new perspectives on human and animal relationships, sexuality in general and on society behavior. There’s lot’s of stuff undiscovered which is waiting for a scientist to study it.
To the rest, I can issue a warning. While press and science grow on the topic, politics goes the other route of enabling hatred, fear and prejudice into the law. And we’re not talking about incompetence here, we’re talking about people who actually believe, you may burn a person for their sexuality.
Even though it won’t affect you much, and I can’t expect sympathy for something that might even disgust you. I still want to bring your attention to what the people you elect are doing.
I want to close with a famous quote about the Nazi time by Martin Niemöller, which I will let you decide whether it becomes relevant again.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionist, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.