Researcher: Nan Rich Wrong About Bestiality

State Senator Nan Rich has made waves with her crusade to make it illegal in Florida to have sex with animals. Not just around her Sunrise district, either. The controversy has earned Rich a future berth on Comedy Central's Daily Show.

Anxious, perhaps, about being accused of exploiting a saucy subject for headlines, Rich has sought to link her bill with the ever-popular cause of preventing child sex crimes. Earlier this month, she was quoted in the Sun-Sentinel:

"There's a tremendous correlation between sexually deviant behavior and crimes against children and crimes against animals."

In remarks quoted by the AP, Rich elaborated.

"Lock people up that commit these kinds of heinous crimes, otherwise you're leaving a person out on the streets that, if they commit sexually deviant acts in one area, it's been proven that they do in the other," Rich said.

I asked one of the world's leading researchers on bestiality,

Dr. Hani Miletski

, about Rich's claim of a "tremendous correlation" between sex with animals and sex with children. "I think it's real bullshit," says Miletski.

"There's no connection that we know of. And if you said this to 'Zoos' -- as they call themselves -- they would be so offended. Because they take precautions to make sure they don't have sex with an animal that is not mature."

The condition of having a sexual and emotional connection with an animal is called "zoophilia." Miletski conducted a study in which she interviewed 82 men and 11 women, all zoophiles. Aside from an intense attraction to animals, says Miletski, "I couldn't find anything that said 'All zoos are this way or that way.'" She said they come from all walks of life and don't even seem to share a childhood experience that could possibly explain how they became zoophiles.

But it's not even purely sexual. And for the human at least, it's not rape. "They really love the animals," says Miletski, "to the point where they want to marry them and treat them as spouses." A German researcher in the field, Dr. Andrea Beetz, found that many of her research subjects belong to animal protection groups. Rich says she's leading the charge on this bill based on her desire to protect animals.

In making her case publicly, Rich has cited an episode in the panhandle town of Mossy Head in which a man was suspected of choking a goat to death while having sex with it.

Florida is one of only 16 states to have not yet outlawed bestiality, but Miletski says its only the tail-end of modern legislative trend. Since she began researching the subject in the late Nineties, she says that at least a dozen states have put these laws on their books.

I asked Miletski whether there was a correlation between sex with animals and any kind of deviant behavior. "No," she said."The two just don't go together." A person with anti-social personality, she allowed, "may have sex with everything -- including animals," but that's not the same as zoophilia.

Rich's bill looks to have clear sailing through the legislature -- what legislator would possibly defend a group as marginalized as zoophiles? To Miletski, it's a shame. "People have this reaction to (bestiality) -- 'It's crazy. It's sex. It's out there.' And people can't get their mind around it, so in order sooth their anxiety they pass a law against it."

Ultimately, she doesn't think there's anything to be gained by making sex with animals a crime. "I don't think it should be illegal," said Miletski. "I think they should let people do what they want to do as long as they don't hurt anybody."

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