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Zoo Research and Data Bestiality: An Overview and Analytic Discussion

Bestiality: An Overview and Analytic Discussion
John C. Navarro and Richard Tewksbury
Department of Criminal Justice, University of Louisville

Individuals who experience sexual and emotional attractions to animals are widely considered deviant in American society. Such a condition is frequently referred to as bestiality and zoophilia, which in fact describe two separate types of sexual behaviors. A multitude of studies have uncovered a range of prevalence rates across different demographic groups, which may vary due to the terminology and the type of data collection methods utilized. Dogs and horses are consistently chosen as the preferred animal to engage in sexual activities by humans, while male animals have been presented as the heavily favored sex of animal. It is questionable whether one’s sexual orientation corresponds with the preference of the sex of the animal. Those engaged in human–animal sexual contacts vary in their reasoning behind their sexual behavior with animals, which are generally environmentally or belief based, and reinforce certain myths. Since the development of the Internet not only has it promoted an enhanced research perspective of the sexual behaviors of bestialists and zoophiles, but they have also found an environment populated by like-minded individuals with similar sexual behaviors/interests.

Sexual acts with animals are defined as zoophilia or bestiality. A distinction has developed overtime between these two terms. Yet this is not without controversy. Generally, zoophilia is a clinical diagnosis, and bestiality is a socially defined label. The difference is important for understanding estimates of such behavior; as there is a lack of consensus on definitions, so too do purported rates of such activity vary.
Perhaps most well established are the species of animals humans have engaged with sexually. Dogs are the most common followed by horses. Proceeding in popularity from these two animals are other large mammals. Male animals are generally favored; however, it is questionable whether sexual orientation matches with the preferred sex of the animal. Pet ownership statistics suggest that accessibility to particular animals may influence their likelihood to be sexually engaged with a human. In general, causes and motivations are wide-ranging, with several factors such as myths, past sexual/emotional abuse, and animals being viewed as superior to humans interms of manageable relationships are indicated as possible correlates and contributors for why an individual may be inclined to engage in sex with animals.
A majority of the information known about zoophiles and bestialists derived from historical studies based on in-person interviews. More recent research has exploited the Internet and offered refreshing information, but this is far and few between. The Internet has been recognized as an environment conducive to zoophiles and bestialists (Beetz, cited in Beetz2004; Jenkins and Thomas 2004; Maratea 2011; Miletski 2002; Williams and Weinberg2003). Yet, few studies have utilized the Internet as a tool to gauge their online behavior. Consequently, there are still obscurities about bestialists and zoophiles that future research can fulfill by taking advantage of the rich resource of information offered in the Internet.

Literature review


Throughout the literature multiple terms have been used to define forms of human–animal sexual contact. However, only recently has zoophilia and bestiality been properly differentiated. A zoophile is defined as an individual who has an emotional (Aggrawal 2009; Ascione 2008; Beetz, cited in Beetz 2004; Krafft-Ebing 1892; Masters 1962, 1966; Miletski 2002; Richard2001) and/or sexual attraction for the animal (Aggrawal 2009; Krafft-Ebing 1892; Richard2001). Bestiality is the sexual attraction to animals, absent is the emotional bond with the animal. The individual uses animals merely as a sexual outlet (Aggrawal 2009).
To elaborate, zoophilia made its first appearance as a clinical diagnosis in the third edition of the American Psychiatric Association(APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM) in 1980. Included among the paraphilias, (i.e. an intense sexual interest) (5th ed.;DSM-5; APA 2013), zoophilia was defined as “the act or fantasy of engaging in sexual activity with animals is repeatedly preferred or the exclusive method of achievement of sexual excitement” (APA 1980, p. 270). Later, in the revised third edition of the DSM-III-R(3rded., rev., APA 1987), zoophilia was moved into the category of “paraphilia not otherwise specified,” where it remains today.
Unlike zoophilia, which has an explicit definition, bestiality has been varyingly defined, but all definitions include that any sexual interaction with an animal is considered bestiality. This includes contacts ranging from fondling to actual penetration. Ellis (1905/1931) defined bestiality as the “impulse to attain sexual gratification by intercourse, or other close contact, with animals”(p. 79). Similarly, Ascione (2008) defined bestiality as a “sexual interaction between a human and an animal” (p. 77).
A discussion of these two terms, bestiality and zoophilia, is important as these are two distinct populations. Simply put, it is important to recognize that these terms contrast from one another. In fact, bestialists and zoophiles in Miletski’s (2002) focus group clarified and expressed general agreement in the defining characteristics that distanced both populations from one another. With that said, individuals that have engaged in sexual acts with animals exhibited different prevalence rates, preferences for certain animals and sexes of animals, motivations, and online habits.


Rates of persons engaging in bestiality range from 0.6 percent to 55 percent (Alvarez and; Freinhar 1991; Duffield et al. 1998; Fleming et al. 2002; Flynn 1999; Harness 2011; Hensleyand Tallichet 2005; Hensley et al. 2006; Hensley et al. 2010; Hunt 1974; Kinsey et al. 1948;Kinsey et al. 1953; Merz-Perez et al. 2001; Miller and Knutson, 1997; Sandnabba et al. 2002; Schenk et al. 2014; Story 1982). It is important to note that the purpose of the studies reporting such activities vary, as do populations, sampling procedures, definitions, and data collection methods.
Attention to bestiality was first widespread in the United States as a result of the well-known Kinsey studies. A total of 5300 Caucasian American males (Kinsey et al. 1948) and 5940 females (Kinsey et al. 1953) were interviewed for Kinsey’s classic studies. Eight percent of American males reported sexual animal contacts (Kinsey et al. 1948). However, more notable is that 40 percent to 50 percent of rural males reported such acts (Kinsey et al. 1948). A relationship between bestiality and rural areas is commonly found in the literature (Ellis 1905/Ellis, 1931; Hensley et al. 2006; Hensley et al. 2010; Kinsey et al. 1948; 1953; Krafft-Ebing 1892; Miletski 2002; Thomas 2011). Females have a much lower rate of sexual involvement with animals, with “only” 3.6 percent of adult females reporting any such sexual acts after their adolescent period (Kinsey et al. 1953).
Two decades later, Hunt (1974) examined over 2000 voluntary participants (982 men and1044 women) about their sexual behaviors and revealed 4.9 percent of men and 1.9 percentof women reported bestiality. Such rates, much lower than those of Kinsey et al. (1948;1953), have been interpreted as a result of the decline in the nation’s rural population, where access to animals for sexual activities are more abundant (Hunt 1974).
Taking a psychiatric perspective, Alvarez and Freinhar (1991) examined a total of 60 individuals (20 psychiatric inpatients, 20 medical inpatients, and 20 psychiatric staff members) about their sexual relationships and fantasies. In total, 55 percent of the psychiatric inpatients, 10 percent of the medical inpatients, and 15 percent of the psychiatric staff either engaged insexual acts with an animal or fantasized about such. However, in regard to actual sexual acts performed with animals, only psychiatric inpatients (30 percent) reported these activities. Overall, Alvarez and Freinhar’s (1991) study suggested that those with mental disorders engaged with or fantasized about animals at a greater rate than the general population. The association between sexual activities with animals and the stability of one’s mental health (Ascione 2008) and intellectual deficiencies is not uncommon (Duffield et al. 1998).
A number of studies have examined institutionalized juveniles from psychiatric (Duffieldet al. 1998) or correctional facilities (Fleming et al. 2002; Harness 2011; Schenk et al. 2014) and questioned their sexual activity history with animals. Duffield et al. (1998) reported that within the previous year seven of 70 youths (10 percent) that resided at a psychiatric facility for juvenile sex offenders reported sexual acts with animals. Alternatively, in a study of three Midwestern juvenile institutions, 6.3 percent of 381 male youths reported at least one sexual act with an animal (Fleming et al. 2002). Schenk et al. (2014) revealed differences in juveniles’ admissions of sexual activities with animals with and without a polygraph examination. Whereas 37.5 percent admitted to bestiality, this increased to 81.2 percent when questioned using a polygraph.
Other researchers have examined the sexual history with animals of undergraduate students (Flynn 1999; Harness 2011; Miller and Knutson, 1997; Story 1982), which indicated that bestiality is a sexual activity practiced by all sorts of demographic groups, but at rates lower than those for the mentally ill or incarcerated. Harness (2011) reported a rate of 4.4 percent. Story (1982) reported rates of 11 percent and 3 percent for undergraduates in 1974 and 1980. Notably, there is a decrease of bestiality incidences from 1974 to 1980, which support the conclusion proposed by Hunt (1974) and Miletski (2005) that bestiality rates have decreased due to adecline in the rural population. Later research supported this conclusion with yet lower bestiality rates. Miller and Knutson (1997) and Flynn (1999) questioned undergraduates and uncovered 2.4 percent of males and 0.6 percent of females engaged in bestiality, respectively.
Research has also been done with adult prison inmates. Miller and Knutson (1997) surveyed 299 Iowa inmates and reported that approximately one in nine inmates (11 percent) witnessed or committed a sexual act with an animal. Merz-Perez et al. (2001) found 3.3 percent of inmates, but only inmates serving sentences for violent offenses, reported any sexual contact with animals. More recently, Hensley and Tallichet (2005) examined whether there was a history of animal cruelty in the childhood or adolescent development of inmates in three Southern correctional institutions. They report that 14.3 percent had engaged inbestiality. In later studies, Hensley et al. (2006) and Hensley et al. (2010) surveyed maximum and medium-security inmates and reported bestiality rates of 6.1 percent and12.7 percent, respectively.

Preferred animals

Although identified rates of bestiality vary, the types of involved animals identified in research are consistent. Household pets and farm animals are the animals most commonly used as sexual partners (Ascione 2008). The use of farm animals as sexual objects was first reported prior to1650 in England (Thomas 2011). In the 20th century, researchers have consistently reported dogs as the most common sexually involved animal (Beetz, cited in Beetz 2004; Hunt 1974;Kinsey et al. 1948; 1953; Miletski 2002; Money 1986; Williams and Weinberg 2003). Miletski(2002) reported that 87 percent of males and 100 percent of females who reported any sexual contacts with animals reported dogs as their non-human sexual partner. Further, both Beetz (cited in Beetz 2005) and Williams and Weinberg (2003) reported dogs as the primary sexually used animals (69.9 percent and 63 percent respectively).
Following dogs in frequency of use as sexual partners are horses (Beetz, cited in Beetz 2004).In Miletski’s (2002) study, over half engaged in sexual contact with horses. Beetz (cited in Beetz2004) reported 12 percent of men participated in sexual contact with farm animals, and one-half of those men reported their animal sexual partners as horses. Of Williams and Weinberg’s (2003)participants, 37 percent reported they were currently involved in sexual contacts with equines.
Other animals have also been reported to be utilized for sexual purposes. These include farm animals such as calves, cows (Beetz, cited in Beetz 2004; Kinsey et al. 1948; Menninger 1951;Miletski 2002) donkeys, goats (Kinsey et al. 1948; Menninger 1951; Miletski 2002), pigs, and sheep (Kinsey et al. 1948). Other large animals such as camels (Gregersen 1983; Miletski2002), deer, llamas (Miletski 2002), gorillas (Menninger 1951), and bulls (Beetz, cited in Beetz2004; Miletski 2002) have also been reported as sexual partners. Even aquatic mammals, such as dolphins are known to sexually advance onto a human (Dekkers 1994) or be sexually approached by humans (Dekkers 1994; Williams and Weinberg 2003).
An examination of ownership statistics may suggest why some animals are preferred over others, with a special focus on accessibility. The American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owners Survey reported nearly 82.5 million, or 68 percent of, American homes owned an animal. The most common animal in US households was a dog. In contrast, although horses are the second most common animal involved in bestiality (Beetz, cited in Beetz 2004; Williams and Weinberg 2003), horses were the second least common animal to be owned by a US household (American Pet Products Association 2014). However, even if an individual owns an animal themselves, they are more likely to sexually engage with an animal that belongs to an acquaintance rather than an animal of their own (Duffield et al. 1998; Miletski 2002).

Preferred sex of animal

The literature has shown that dogs and horses are the most common animals to be involved as a sexual partner with humans; it has also conveyed that there is an inclination that male animals are more likely to be involved in sexual encounters with humans than female animals. But, there is some ambiguity as to whether humans have a preference of the sex of the animal in accordance with their sexual orientation. Thus, it is of interest to examine whether a human’s sexual orientation is matched to their preference of the sex of the animal.
To begin, Beetz (cited in Beetz 2005), Miletski (2002), and Williams and Weinberg (2003) produced varying rates of their participants’ sexual orientations. Miletski (2002) used the Kinsey scale to ascertain sexual orientation of individuals sexually involved with animals and reported that approximately three-fourths of males (72 percent) and females (73 percent) were heterosexually inclined. Similarly, Beetz (cited in Beetz 2005) reported that most of her participants viewed themselves as heterosexuals (44 percent) with less than one-fifth identified as homosexuals (16 percent) and bisexuals (15 percent). Unlike Beetz (cited in Beetz 2005) and Miletski (2002), Williams and Weinberg (2003) reported over half of their participants classified themselves as bisexuals (58 percent), one-quarter (25 percent) as heterosexuals, and nearly one-fifth as homosexuals (17 percent). According to the results collected by Beetz (cited in Beetz 2005), Miletski (2002), and Williams and Weinberg (2003), heterosexuals and bisexuals largely represented those that have engaged in sexual encounters with animals.
Although this may be true, Beetz (cited in Beetz 2005) and Miletski (2002) discovered that males reported a greater occurrence of sexual encounters with male animals than female animals. Miletski’s (2002) findings revealed that males have engaged in sexual contacts with male dogs (90.2 percent) more often than female dogs (72 percent). Similarly, the men in Beetz’s study (cited in Beetz 2005) reported a greater rate of sexual contacts with male dogs (60.2 percent) than female dogs (46 percent). Furthermore, Beetz’s (cited in Beetz 2004) male participants reported a greater rate of sexual contacts with strictly male dogs (33 percent) compared with only female dogs (13 percent). Regarding horses, Miletski (2002) reported equal proportions of individuals involved with male (53.7 percent) and female horses (52.4 percent). Conversely, Beetz (cited in Beetz 2005) reported a greater rate of sexual contacts with female horses (40.7 percent) than male horses (35.4 percent). The pattern of males selecting male animals over female animals ended with dogs and horses among Miletski’s (2002) participants and was only applicable to dogs in Beetz’s (cited in Beetz 2005) study. Men in Miletski’s (2002) study reported to have engaged in sexual contacts more frequently with female cattle/bovines (40.2 percent) than male cattle/bovines (18.3 percent), female felines (19.5 percent) than male felines (17.1 percent), female swine (15.9 percent) than male swine (9.8 percent), and female goats (13.4 percent) than male goats (9.8 percent). Likewise, the males in Beetz’s (cited in Beetz 2005) study reported a greater rate of sexual contacts with female cattle/other bovines (6.2 percent) than male cattle/other bovines (3.5 percent). As can be seen, men are more likely to engage in sexual acts with male dogs (Beetz, cited in Beetz 2005; Miletski 2002) and male horses (Miletski 2002) than their female animals. The remaining animals that males reportedly engaged with sexually at a greater rate are consistently females (Beetz, cited in Beetz 2005;Miletski 2002). Taken all together, Miletski’s (2002) male participants predominantly reported to be heterosexually inclined, yet males exhibited a higher occurrence of same-sex sexual encounters with dogs and horses. Comparable to Miletski’s (2002) findings, Beetz’s (cited inBeetz 2005) sample of male participants were primarily heterosexuals, however, reported a greater preference for male rather than female dogs.
A more definitive clue of the relationship between human sexual orientation and animal sexual preference is conveyed by Williams and Weinberg’s (2003) results of their male participants. Across all sexual orientations there was general agreement that both sexes of animals were desired, but there existed different rates of desire between each sexual orientation. The clearest rate of desire was represented by bisexuals, in which they preferred both sexes of animals(84percent) compared to strictly male animals (10percent) and female animals (5 percent). Heterosexuals also presented a clear distinction of their sexual preference of animals with over two-thirds (70 percent) indicating a stronger desire for female animals than male animals (7 percent) and over one-fifth (22 percent) desired both sexes. Homosexuals were some what split between their desire for male animals (42 percent) and both sexes of animals (58 percent). Williams and Weinberg’s (2003) findings indicated that to some extent one’s human sexual orientation is matched with the sexual preference of an animal, in which bisexuals significantly preferred both sexes of animals, heterosexuals generally favored female animals, and homosexuals did not desire female animals.The relationship between one’s human sexual orientation and preference for the sex of the animal became more clear-cut when Miletski (2002) reported the findings from her female sample. All of the females in her sample engaged in sexual contacts with a male dog, while nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of females reported sexual contacts with female dogs. Dogs were the only female animal species reported by females as having been engaged with sexually. Over half of the females (55 percent) engaged in sexual contacts with male horses and male felines (27.2 percent). Generally speaking, females exhibited a stronger preference for male animals than female animals, unlike their male counterparts. The question then arises why are male animals typically preferred over female animals? Is a male animal desired because they have the ability to penetrate or because it is an attraction to the male animal? How is gender involved in the attraction? Or, is gender an issue at all?
In part, the answer appears to be related to the sexual behaviors males and females engaged in with animals. With regard to male animals, nearly two-thirds of men and females (64 percent) reported they always and/or primarily engaged in masturbating the animal. Second most frequently, almost half of the male (42 percent) and female participants (45 percent) performed fellatio on the animal. The third most common sexual behavior performed on a male animal by a male participant was anal intercourse (34 percent), whereas only one female participant reported this sexual behavior in Miletski’s (2002) study. The male participants in Beetz’s study(cited in Beetz 2004) reported that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) were anally penetrated by amale dog. In respect to female animals, men reported they always and/or primarily engaged in vaginal–penile intercourse (55 percent), followed by masturbation of the animal (38 percent), and cunnilingus (34 percent), but cunnilingus was the most practiced sexual behavior by a dog onto the women participants (55 percent) (Miletski 2002). Likewise, half of the men in Beetz’s (cited in Beetz 2004) study vaginally penetrated a female dog. Notably, anal intercourse was the least practiced sexual behavior on female animals with only four men (5 percent) that reported this sexual act (Miletski 2002).
When asked about which sex of animal was most attractive to males and females an additional pattern emerged among males. Of the 87 percent of men that reported an attraction to dogs, men reported a greater attraction to male dogs (39.7 percent) than female dogs (19.1 percent), but most frequently they did not have a preference for the animal’s sex (41.1 percent) (Miletski2002). Miletski’s (2002) findings corresponded with Beetz’s (cited in Beetz 2005) in that more than one-half of males have sexually engaged with both sexes of animals. Comparatively, of the 81 percent of males that reported an attraction to horses, two-thirds (60.3 percent) were attracted to either sex instead of strictly female (17.5 percent) or male (22.2 percent) horses. Interestingly, males expressed a greater attraction for both sexes of animals yet continued to prefer male animals over female animals. Nevertheless, females sustained their preference for male animals when asked which sex of animal was most attractive to them. Nearly all females reported an attraction to a male dog (90.9 percent), but no females were attracted to female dogs. Of the females that were attracted to horses (73 percent), more females were attracted to male horses (87.5 percent) than female horses (12.5 percent) with none reporting an attractionto both sexes. Not only did Miletski’s (2002) participants report they have been sexually engaged with male animals at a higher rate but also reported a greater attraction to male animalsthan female animals.
Given these points, does the sexual orientation toward humans mirror the sexual preference for animals? At this time, this question cannot be definitively answered. It is uncertain whether those that engaged in sexual acts with animals prefer a sex of animal that matches their human sexual orientation. As Beetz (2005) noted, no particular preference in the sex of the animal was exhibited in the research conducted by herself, Miletski (2002) and Williams and Weinberg(2003). With that said, one can say there are stronger and more common inclinations toward a male animal than a female animal. Having said that, recent research conducted by Maratea’s (2011) who had analyzed a zoophile-oriented Internet forum possibly cleared up the ambiguity of the relationship between human sexual orientation and the preference of animal sex. Specifically, an online poster stated that an individual who prefers one gender yet prefers the opposite sex of animal is defined as a polysexual. Based on this logic, a human can prefer female humans yet engage in sex with male dogs or female horses, with the former being recognized aspoly sexuality due to the fact it is the opposite sex of the preferred gender.

Associated factors

A discussion of other factors other than ownership statistics and animal sex preferences may help explain why individuals engage in bestiality and do so at different rates with certain animals. Mentioned previously, the literature has established that rural backgrounds are commonly associated with bestiality (Ellis 1905/Ellis 1931; Kinsey et al. 1948; 1953; Krafft-Ebing 1892;Miletski 2002; Thomas 2011), but other recognized links include the belief that sexual acts with animals rid venereal diseases (Dekkers 1994; Krafft-Ebing 1892; Masters 1966) or improve sexual abilities (Dekkers 1994; Edwardes and Masters 1963; Gregersen 1983), reflect a history of sexual abuse (Aggrawal 2009; Miletski 2002), and that animals are better sexual partners than humans (Peretti and Rowan 1982; Richard 2001). Some of the other less established factors that are linked with bestiality include mere curiosity (Dekkers 1994; Fleming et al. 2002; Kinseyet al. 1948; Kinsey et al. 1953; Miletski 2002), experimentation (Hunt 1974), strong libido(Donofrio, cited in Beetz 2004), as a means to violate a taboo (Richard 2001), and for thrills (Peretti and Rowan 1982). With that said, there is no cardinal reason for why an individual might engage in bestiality.

Myths promoting bestiality

The myth that bestial intercourse cured or prevented venereal diseases has been prevalent throughout history (Dekkers 1994; Krafft-Ebing 1892; Masters 1966). Similarly, myth has also held that sexual relations with an animal can encourage penis enlargement (Dekkers 1994;Edwardes and Masters 1963; Gregersen 1983). The Persians reportedly engaged in sexual contacts with animals to prevent venereal diseases (Krafft-Ebing 1892). Arab men copulated with animals in order to enlarge their penises, increase their virility, and cure diseases (Dekkers1994; Gregersen 1983; Masters 1962; Menninger 1951). Moroccan Muslim fathers encouraged their sons to copulate with a donkey to enlarge their penises (Dekkers 1994; Edwardes andMasters 1963). Turks also maintained the same belief, although they viewed it as sinful if a human copulated with an animal that is suitable for eating (Gregersen 1983).
Other beliefs supporting and encouraging bestiality have included a male practicing sexual intercourse before marriage so as not to be embarrassed by their sexual ability (Beirne 2000; Gregersen 1983; Money 1986). Beirne (2000) heard a second-hand story from a colleague that a male engaged in intercourse with a donkey because he was anxious to have coitus with his soon-to-be wife. He used the donkey simply to develop his sexual understanding. In like manner, Money (1986) detailed how Indians off the coast of Colombia practiced sexual intercourse with a donkey prior to marriage with a female; without doing so males were not considered fit to be a groom. Gregersen (1983) spoke about the Marquesans, a society located in the Oceanic region, where males conducted an “emergency practice” with dogs and horses prior to having intercourse with a human female.

Sexual and emotional abuse

There is conflicting evidence whether individuals who have been sexually abused are more likely to engage in bestiality. Emotional abuse appears to be a more common correlate than sexual abuse. In Miletski’s (2002) sample of 89 participants, 17 percent of men and 30 percent of females reported sexual abuse, whereas emotional abuse comprised the highest abuse rates among men (42 percent) and women (45 percent). Correspondingly, Duffield et al. (1998) and Fleming et al. (2002) reported that emotional abuse and neglect were more prevalent among juveniles that engaged in bestiality than sexual and physical abuse. Others (Sandnabbaet al. 2002) also reported low correlations between bestiality and a history of sexual abuse. Taken together, and best supported by Miletski’s (2002) research, a majority of her participants did not suffer from an abusive history. Likewise, nor did they view their sexual acts with animals as abuse, and some of the participants anthropomorphized and reported animals as their lovers.

Relationships with animals are more maintainable than people

Peretti and Rowan (1982) sampled 51 individuals that engaged in both animal and human sexual relations at one point in their lives to investigate what variables are likely to assist the development of zoophilia. 1They discovered that their participants were largely uninterested in human social contacts. For most this was a general preference, although some zoophiles also reported that they believed the time and money required for a relationship with a human were too costly. Relationships with animals were preferred, considered easier, and offered fewer obstacles than relationships with humans. Males complained that the effort in sustaining a human relationship is tedious and difficult, and not appealing especially when they are financially strapped. In a similar vein, Algerian boys copulated with “she-asses” instead of marrying because marital dowries are too expensive (Dekkers 1994). Subsequent research(Miletski 2002) reiterated Peretti and Rowan’s (1982) findings that the preference for animals over humans are multifarious.

Online interactions

The Internet can be a vital instrument to access these populations in order to uncover and obtainan accurate representation of their sexual behaviors with animals and causes/motivations behind their paraphilia. Several studies have utilized the Internet as a tool to examine populations engaged in a variety of deviant sexual practices (Denney and Tewksbury 2013; Jenkins andThomas 2004; Maratea 2011; Tewksbury 2003, 2006). Included in this literature are studies that assessed the online activities of bestialists and zoophiles ( Jenkins and Thomas 2004; Maratea2011). Others have relied upon the Internet to access bestialists and investigate their behaviors (Beetz, cited in Beetz 2004; Miletski 2002; Williams and Weinberg 2003). The Internet, among other functions, has emerged as a sort of sanctuary for numerous sexual minorities, including bestialists and zoophiles (Beetz, cited in Beetz 2004; Jenkins and Thomas 2004; Maratea 2011;Miletski 2002; Williams and Weinberg 2003).
The most noteworthy research studies were conducted by Beetz (cited in Beetz 2004),Miletski (2002), and Williams and Weinberg (2003), in which they accessed and directly examined online communities of individuals that engaged in sexual activity with animals. Each gathered demographic and behavior information through an online questionnaire that yielded around 100 participants per study. Overall, these three studies highlighted that the Internet is an important asset for purposes of both accessing online communities interested in bestiality and providing a “community” for those so involved.
Nearing the mid-millennia, Jenkins and Thomas (2004) found and examined 100 websites dedicated to bestiality in the spring of 2003, which formed into three primary categories: pornography, online forums, and exhibitionism. Eighty-six percent of the examined websites were pornography related, and Jenkins and Thomas (2004) opined that the human–animal pornography appeared to be oriented toward general porn seekers and not the bestialists/zoophilesas a majority of the websites depicted degradation of females. In other words, more focus was given to sexualize the human than the animal.
Most recently, Maratea (2011) examined an Internet forum board oriented toward zoophiles in fall 2008. An examination of nearly 5000 posts showed that individuals neutralized their sexual behavior with animals in several ways. For some, denial of injury justified their actions. For instance, one poster wrote that it is the human being abused, not the animal, especially in cases that involved larger animals like horses. Another form of neutralization involved claims of benefits. Some believe that it is abusive to not relieve an animal’s sexual frustration, and by engaging in sex with the animal they are helping the animal. Others neutralize through condemning their condemners; they identified themselves as better members of society compared to those who mistreat their animals and pointed out inconsistencies in society’s logicas animals are sexually aroused for business-oriented purposes like animal husbandry. In whole,these online posters did not view their human–animal sexual contacts as abusive and sought to bolster their viewpoint by legitimizing their sexual contacts with animals. Moreover, Maratea(2011) acknowledged that the Internet brought together individuals that have sexual interests of animals and encouraged a supportive community where none otherwise would have existed. This is similar to the benefits of online sexual communities recognized by Denney and Tewksbury (2013) and Tewksbury (2006).
Maratea’s (2011) findings are remarkable for three primary reasons. First, his findings built upon the three primary studies undertaken by Miletski (2002), Beetz (cited in Beetz 2004),and Williams and Weinberg (2003) that contacted their participants during the emergence of the Internet. Second, Maratea (2011) examined zoophiles following the height of the popularity of the Internet as it has become a standard commodity in everyday life in the late 2000s. Third, this forum offered seemingly honest conveyances of zoophiles’ attitudes about their sexual engagements with animals.

Future research

While we know some information about who is likely to engage in bestiality, what types ofnimals are commonly involved, and how bestialists and zoophiles conceive of their sexual attractions and interactions with animals, there remains much that can still be learned. Additional research should seek a greater understanding of the perceptions bestialists, zoophiles, and others who engage in human–animal sexual contacts hold of themselves, as well as how, why, when, and under what circumstances such behaviors were initially considered and enacted. Additionally, enhancing our understanding of the means by which bestialists and zoophiles find and construct communities would be a significant step forward.
The Internet has been frequently utilized as a tool to investigate individuals that engage in forms of sexual deviant behaviors, including those engaged in virtual communities (Denneyand Tewksbury 2013; Jenkins and Thomas 2004; Maratea 2011; Tewksbury 2003, 2006). One question of interest may be whether the Internet has contributed to a normalization of sexual behaviors previously deemed as deviant? Since the Internet has provided wider communication with a variety of individuals thereby facilitating access to similar like-minded individuals, has it potentially altered the means, popularity, and judgements about human–animal sexual activities? Additionally, have preferences for certain animals or sex of animals, along with associated factors, such as myths, past sexual/emotional/physical abuse, or the preference of animals over humans maintained or changed in today’s society? Such questions, and others,may provide for broader and more accurate understandings of bestiality to be achieved.


A distinct difference lies between bestialists and zoophiles in regard to their sexual behavior withanimals. As research progressed, these two terms became distinct, but it does explain why researchers came to different conclusions on an accurate rate of this sexual behavior. Moreover, as the literature grew it has exhibited patterns and themes, which included favored species of animals, preferred sexes of animals, dominant environmental and belief influences, and with the Internet introduced a new forum where individuals can openly discuss their sexual preferences without fear of rejection or stigmatization.
Human–animal sexual contacts are widely practiced and not restricted to particular populations. A variety of animals have been used as sexual partners, but dogs and horses are the most common. What is not definite is whether one’s sexual orientation dictates the chosen sex of animals. That is to say that heterosexuals and bisexuals were the most dominant sexual orientation, albeit males and females reported to have engaged in same-sex sexual encounters more often with male animals than female animals. Consequently,the relationship between sexual orientation and the sex of the animal is uncertain, yet it is clear that male animals are preferred. One can reason that male animals are favored for their penetrative abilities, are convenient sexual partners as demonstrated by the ownership statistics, or as suggested by Williams and Weinberg (2003) the genital size of horses makes it difficult to engage with sexually. With that said, it is of interest that the theme for the selection of male animals diminished after dogs and horses in Miletski’s (2002) study and was only demonstrated with dogs in Beetz’s (cited in Beetz 2005) study, in which female animals became the preferred sex.
Moreover, rates and preferences may change due to an individual’s access, motivation, reasoning, or certain factors that may influence their decision to engage in bestiality. There are various factors which may promote an individual to sexually engage with animals some of which are more predominant than others, such as a rural background. Likewise, there are also myths that encourage an individual to engage in sexual activities with animals, such as the belief such actions may remedy diseases, enlarge genitals, and enhance their sexual prowess. Other reasons to engage sexually with animals beyond those that provide benefits are to address an individual’s imperfection, such as experiences with emotional abuse and the lack of ambition to pursue a relationship with a human (for whatever reason).
Since the advent of the Internet it has provided an additional and significantly larger environment for individuals to discuss all sorts of activities, including deviant sexual behaviors.The Internet can accommodate an assortment of pornographic materials oriented toward an individual’s sexual needs. In this case the Internet has offered animal pornography and communities to maintain discussions and support for such sexual behaviors. More importantly, the Internet has offered researchers an avenue to conduct studies in order to better ascertain individuals that sexually engage with animals, which may have not been possible through traditional data collection methods. Although this may be true, since the early 2000s, no study has utilized the Internet to question individuals about their sexual activities with animals. The Internet should be viewed as an essential tool that can update historical research and help to clarify unanswered and ambiguous questions about human–animal sexual contacts. Altogether, the Internet has the potential to yield newfound findings about the behavior of those that sexually engage with animals due to the fact that a grander audience is available, thus facilitating a determination as to whether the conclusions of past literature hold true today.

Short Biographies

John C. Navarro is a graduate student at the University of Louisville working towards his Doctorate degree in Criminal Justice. Navarro graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice Sciences in 2011 and Masters of Science in Criminal JusticeSciences in 2014 from Illinois State University. Current research interests include sexual deviant behaviors, mental illness, identity theft, and crime mapping.

Richard Tewksbury is professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Louisville. His work focuses on issues of sex offender registration, criminal victimization risks, and perceptions of sexual offenses and deviance.


*Correspondence address: Richard Tewksbury, Department of Criminal Justice, University of Louisville, KY 40292, USA.E-mail:
1The term zoophilia is used in this instance due to Peretti and Rowan’s (1982) sample they chose to examine.

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