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Those Who Practice Bestiality Say They're Part of the Next Sexual Rights Movement

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Miletski and a researcher based in Germany, Andrea Beetz, who conducted a similarly large study, argue that zoophiles are distinguished by their emotional relationship to the animals they love. Because they care for them, they would never consciously inflict pain upon them, even for their own pleasure. A minority of them, Miletski allowed, treat their animals as a "masturbation machine" — but she says that for these zoos, it's the same as casual sex between humans.

Based on her interviews with zoos, Miletski suspects that animals consent to sex with human partners. But she concedes there is no sure way to know.

Ron, the zoophile from the western United States, points out that critics of his sexual practices "can't agree if animals are sentient or are dumb. They can't be both. If [animals] are sentient, [critics] would have to admit that animals can decide for themselves if they want intimacy when and where they choose." Ron believes this to be the case, as do the other zoos interviewed for this article. If animals are not sentient, he continues, "they don't know the difference, and what is it hurting?"

Zoophiles say they act upon the same nonverbal cues for sex as humans do. Brenner, the zoophile from Southwest Florida, asserts that humans having sex are acting on their own animal instincts. And if so, it's silly to deprive another animal of those instincts on the grounds that the animal has a less developed brain.

James, the zoophile I met on Second Life, puts it in even more vivid terms, asking whether he deserves to be imprisoned for raping an animal when he's merely allowing his Rottweiler to mount him.

As upsetting as the comparison of zoophilia to pedophilia is to James, it's evident he's tried to understand those who make it. "When you look at people's relationships to pets in society, they consider pets to be their child," he says. "They'll baby their dog or cat, dote on it, but I think it's blinding them to reality because an animal is not a child with fur. People turn a blind eye to the fact that a dog is a sexual being."


It was one of the most politically explosive quotes of 2003. Then-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told a reporter for the Associated Press: "In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be."

Instantly, gay rights activists recognized an attempt by one of the Senate's most conservative Republicans to define their partnerships as a perversion. They mobilized, denouncing Santorum with such force that it brought national attention to a U.S. Senate race in which Santorum was a heavy favorite but lost.

Cody Beck, the Arizona zoophile who came out to his friends, was 12 then and had only just come to realize he was a zoophile. In the years since, he's been thrilled by how activists' efforts have broadened minds about what qualifies as moral, socially acceptable sex. He recognizes the exciting implications it might have for zoophiles like him. But he's crushed by the gay rights movement's rejection of zoophilia as a similarly legitimate orientation.

"I really want to help that movement," Beck says. "But it really makes me feel like if gay people can't accept this, then I'll have to live my whole life having these feelings of alienation."

Rich Ferraro, a national spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation in New York City, told me that he had never heard of zoophilia. When I explained it to him and explained how zoophiles hope to find an open-minded ally in the gay rights movement, Ferraro said, "That's very far from our mission." He refused to elaborate.

Brian Winfield, a spokesman for Equality Florida, a statewide leader for GLBT rights, was also unfamiliar with zoophilia. He asked for time to huddle with agency leaders before commenting on zoophiles' interest in political alliance. Last week, he told me: "We believe that most people are capable of distinguishing between committed relationships between consenting adults and forcibly having sex with animals. It's just not at all an appropriate analogy."

It's hard to blame leaders of the gay rights movement for wanting to distance themselves from zoophiles. After all, the movement's mission is incomplete, as evidenced by the passage of gay-marriage bans in Florida and California last November. And the addition of bestiality into the argument for equality might create a backlash similar to what Santorum predicted — that government shouldn't expand gay rights because then it would have to do the same for zoophiles.

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Thomas Francis