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Zoo Research and Data Zoophilia—Implications for Therapy

Zoophilia-Implications for Therapy
Hani Miletski​

An exploratory, descriptive study of 82 men and 11 women who have had sexual relations with animals reveals that the majority of its subjects report being happy and not wanting to change. The study involved a 350-item, 23-page, anonymous questionnaire which was self-administered and returned via postal mail. Subjects reported that acceptance of their bestiality and zoophilia is the most important factor for their sense of well-being. Clinically, it appears that in most cases of true zoophilia, this condition is not treatable; the sexual acting out can be stopped when the person is highly motivated, but the attraction and the desire will always be there. Zoophiles may come to the attention of sex therapists, counselors, and educators for a variety of other reasons. Living a life of secrecy, as many zoophiles do, can lead to many psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, feelings of isolation, and suicide ideation. However, many will not reveal their true selves unless they feel they can trust the mental health professional to be confidential, nonjudgmental, open-minded, and accepting. It is therefore imperative to learn more about the phenomena of bestiality and zoophilia so that sex therapists, counselors, and educators can understand zoophiles' therapeutic needs, and be able to discuss these issues with clients and students in a supportive, empathic manner.
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According to Kinsey, Pomeroy and Martin's (1948) study on the sexual behaviors of 5,300 American men, one man in about 13 engages in bestiality-sexual contact with animals. The authors related that sexual contact with animals is limited to adolescents and young men, is largely confined to farm boys, and does not occur more than a few times in a lifetime. Kinsey et al. (1948) reported, however, that in their sample there were men in their 50s who had intercourse with animals and they had one case of a man who was over 80 years old. They concluded that "the picture is one of decreasing incidence, decreasing frequency, and decreasing significance in the later years; but the cases are so few ... that these data are not readily interpreted" (p. 262).

Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, and Gebhard's study (1953) on the sexual behaviors of 5,792 American women revealed that women engage in bestiality as well. About 5% of the women in the sample reported having had sexual contact with animals, but only 1.2% reported repeated genital contacts, oral sex, or intercourse with animals. In about half of the cases, animal contact was limited to a single experience.
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Hani Miletski, MSW, PhD, is an AASECT-certified sex therapist in private practice and Director of the Human Sexuality Institute at the Fogel Foundation in Washington, OC. This article is based on her doctoral study on bestiality and zoophilia. The author thanks Arthur Goldberg; Cathleen Glass, MSW; An-nette Owens, MD, PhD; Beverly Whipple, PhD, RN; and the Jour-nal's reviewers for their helpful comments on the manuscript. Address for correspondence: Hani Miletski, MSW, PhD, 4330 Eas t West Highway, Suite 306, Bethesda, MD 20814. E-mail: <Hani@DrMiletski.com>
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The only other study providing an idea about prevalence rates of bestiality is the Hunt study (1974), which analyzed data from sex information questionnaires filled out by 982 men and 1,044 women. Hunt's survey data indicated a sharp decline in bestiality rates, and his reported incidence of bestiality was 4.9% for men and 1. 9% for women.

These three studies treat sexual contact with animals as bestiality, not zoophilia; zoophilia involves an emotional and/ or sexual attachment and/ or attraction to an animal (Miletski, 1999). Zoophilia was first listed as a paraphilia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd edition (DSM-III) (American Psychological Association, 1980). Its diagnostic criteria were described as "the act or fantasy of engaging in sexual activity with animals is a repeatedly preferred or exclusive method of achieving sexual excitement" (p. 270). The DSM-III suggested that usually the preferred animal is one with which the individual had contact during childhood. The authors have no information about the age of onset for this paraphilia. However, they state that initially in the course of the disorder, the individuals may be sexually aroused by humans. As time progresses, the animal becomes the most powerful sexual stimulus. This usually occurs by early adulthood and the disorder then becomes chronic (APA, 1980).

In the revised 3rd edition, DSM-III-R (APA, 1987), and in the 4th edition (APA, 1994), zoophilia was no longer categorized as a disorder by itself. The diagnostic committee that worked on the paraphilia section of the DSM-III-R concluded that "zoophilia is virtually never a clinically significant problem by itself" (APA, 1987, p. 405). They omitted it as a formal diagnosis and listed zoophilia in the diagnostic category of Paraphilia Not Otherwise Specified.


"Treatment" Suggestions
Krafft-Ebing (1935) instructed a 47-year-old man who came to see him for advice about his sexual relations with animals "to be on his guard against masturbation and bestiality, and to seek more the society of ladies." He further "prescribed anaphrodisiacs, advised frugality, slight hydrotherapy, plenty of open-air exercise, (and) steady occupation" (p. 569).

Cerrone (1991) suggested treatment for zoophilia that consists of family therapy, social assertiveness training, and sex education. The latter is provided to reduce the clients' "misperceived thoughts of sex and to educate them to the norms of sexual development" (p. 37). According to Cerrone, this "multicomponent approach" to the treatment of zoophilia has been proven effective.

McNally and Lukach (1994) treated a 33-year-old, White, mildly mentally retarded man who compulsively masturbated in front of large dogs, and often persuaded them to lick his penis after he had ejaculated. The patient's sexual fantasies had exclusively involved exhibitionistic activity in front of dogs. The authors offered this patient a 6-month behavioral treatment program comprised of masturbatory satiation, covert sensitization, and stimulus control procedures. The authors report that at termination, the patient no longer became sexually aroused by dogs, and his masturbation fantasies entirely concerned sexual activity with women.

Other psychotherapists reportedly have tried to force their zoophile clients to stop having sex with animals (Miletski, 1999). Clients have been "locked up" in mental institutions for observation, and treated with drugs and electroshock therapy (Miletski, 2000).


A Different Perspective
As a sex therapist, this author was concerned about the lack of adequate data about zoophilia and its treatment. She therefore conducted an exploratory, descriptive study involving a 350-item, 23-page, anonymous questionnaire. Only people who have had actual sexual relations with animals were included in the study. "Sexual relations," for the purpose of this study, was defined as any physical contact between a person and an animal that results in sexual pleasure for the human participant. The final sample included 82 men and 11 women between the ages of 19 and 78. All of the women and 87% of the men were from the United States (Miletski, 1999). Two focus groups with zoophiles were also conducted to learn more about their concerns and perceptions (Miletski, 2000).

The majority of the participants (73%) heard about the study through the Internet, which means they were sophisticated enough to use both a personal computer and the Internet, and thus may have been more sophisticated than other zoophiles. Further, the zoophiles using the Internet may be more open and content about their sexual behaviors with animals than other zoophiles as a result of being exposed to other zoophiles on the Internet and having a sense of community. These factors have probably skewed the study's results.

According to Cooper, Scherer, Boies, and Gordon (1999) and Cooper (1999), one of the advantages of online studies is that participants are more likely to be honest about sexual issues than if other methods of data collection had been used. In the present study, however, every participant had to make telephone or personal contact with this author to ensure authenticity, and to obtain the individual's mailing address. The questionnaires were sent out and returned through regular mail, and all participants had to sign an informed consent which was part of the questionnaire. In doing so, the honesty and validity of the responses were probably compromised.

Although this study cannot be representative of the zoophile community, and had its inherit flaws (no control group, etc.), it nonetheless resulted in abundant and rich information about the life and behaviors of its participants. One of its surprising findings was that only six men (8%)-including two who have already stopped and none of the women reported they wanted to stop having sex with animals. The participants' reasons for not wanting to stop focused on wanting to be true to themselves, enjoying the sex and the relationship with the animal too much to give it up, and having accepted their lifestyle.

The majority of men (69%) and women (82%) reported that during the 12 months prior to the study, they had been mostly happy with their personal lives. All but three men related having close human friends, and the majority of both men (68%) and women (73%) reported having either daily or weekly contact with their close human friends. At the time of the study, 26 men (32%) and one woman (9%) were married, and another 17 men (21%) and one woman were in intimate relationships with human lovers.

The study further revealed that the most popular animal sex partner for men (74 = 90%) and women (11 = 100%) was a male canine. Second most popular for men (59= 72%) and women (8 = 73%) was a female ca-nine. The third most popular partner reported by men (44 = 54%) and women (6 = 55%) was male equines. The men reported female equines (43 =52%) as their next most popular animal sex partner, and the women reported about male felines (3 = 27%).

When it came to male animals, the men reported they masturbate the animal (52= 64%), perform fellatio on the animal (33 = 42%), and submit to anal intercourse performed by the animal (27 = 34%). The women reported they masturbate the male animal (7 = 64%), have the animal perform cunnilingus on them (6 =55%), have vaginal-penile intercourse with the animal (6 =55%), and perform fellatio on the animal (5 = 45%).

Regarding female animals, the men reported they have vaginal-penile intercourse with the animal (45 = 55%), masturbate the animal (31 = 38%), and perform cunnilingus on the animal (27 = 34%). The women reported they have the female animal perform cunnilingus on them (4 = 36%).


Case Study
Mr C, a divorced white man in his 30s, referred himself for therapy. A very religious man, active in church and in his social group, Mr C complained about his inability to resist having sex with dogs. Since he did not own a dog, he used to go out at night, take off his clothes, and have sex with the neighborhood dogs. They all knew him, and at his sight, they would get sexually aroused and mount him. Some nights he would submit to dozens of male dogs.

During the day, Mr C would kick the dogs away when they approached him, fearing they would reveal his secret in front of people. Sometimes, he reported, the dogs would start humping him when people were around, turning the encounter into a very embarrassing situation.

Mr C lived with his elderly mother and his teenage daughter. He spent most of his time in church, teaching and helping the needy. Upon questioning, Mr C related that he enjoyed the physical sensations of a dog penetrating his anus (sometimes to the point of orgasm without having to touch himself). He also enjoyed pleasing the dogs and feeling that they wanted him. Yet his pleasure and behaviors were ego-dystonic and he was tormented by his own behaviors and by the fear of being "outed."

Mr C did not respond well to working through the addiction model. Anti-androgens were not an option for him because he was already taking hormones for a variety of ailments. Antidepressant medications did not help. Insight-oriented therapy, social assertiveness training, and sex education all did nothing to decrease Mr C's desire to have sex with dogs, and he was feeling more hopeless than ever.

As I was learning about zoophilia and the individuals involved in it, my perceptions started changing. I no longer sought to help Mr C stop his bestiality but rather to explore the meanings embedded in his behaviors. As the terms of treatment shifted, he became more comfortable discussing his feelings and more accepting of his bestiality. As therapy progressed, Mr C realized that his sexual behaviors with dogs had more to do with his feelings toward them than with sex. Eventually Mr C was able to admit he loved one of the dogs in his neighborhood, and would like to only "make love" to him. This realization helped reduce Mr C's anxiety and guilt feelings.

When that dog died, and the grieving period was over, Mr C got himself a puppy. He waited for the puppy to mature before he made any sexual advances toward it, and when he then learned that his dog was not interested in having sex with him, Mr C lost interest in having sex with dogs.


Implications for Therapy
Each of the six men in the present study (including the two who already stopped) described his reasons for wanting to stop having sex with animals. One of the men who already stopped simply stated, "It is perverted-have not done it since I was 17." The other man explained, "It took a lot of deep work to clear the shame and trauma associated with being anally raped by my father. This was the source of my anal-focused animal sex with cats, massaging and attempting penetration. As I cleared the trauma and dared tell the truth about the cats, the desire left, gradually but steadily." This man was acting out his own childhood sexual abuse on cats. As he worked through the trauma of the abuse and was able to talk about his bestiality, the desire to have sex with cats dissipated.

One of the four men who have not yet stopped having sex with animals related: "Having sex with my dog is not a regular event. Usually only with extreme frustration with my wife." In this case, couples therapy seems to be the treatment of choice to help this man stop having sex with his dog and improve his relationship with his wife. Another man wrote, "I'd like to stop all sexual activity but masturbation and sex with my wife. The terms of our commitment to each other would be violated otherwise. This doesn't preclude changing those terms though, if done consensually." This man seems confused, or he was not telling the truth. He didn't tell his wife about his current sexual relations with animals, and in the year prior to the study, he reported he had sex once with an animal and with two women. The third man, a very religious Jehovah's Witness, related: "I do not want to hurt any-one, especially my wife and family." He further reported he cannot stop thinking and fantasizing about sex with animals. He had told his wife, a counselor (who concluded he was ignored as a child), and four elders in his church about his zoophilia. And the fourth man explained, "I say 'yes' only because of the tremendously devastating personal consequences of being found out. Life would be so much simpler if I did not run that risk. If, however, I could be magically whisked to a place and time where interspecies sex was accepted, I would never want to stop." Clearly, this man does not want to really stop having sex with animals; he is scared of being outed. He is married with children. He is blind and his sex partner is his guide dog. Clinically, it appears that in most cases of true zoophilia, this condition is not treatable. The sexual acting out can be stopped when the person is highly motivated, but the attraction and the desire will always remain.

Zoophiles may come to the attention of sex therapists, counselors, and even educators for a variety of other reasons. Half of the men ( 41 = 50%) in the pre-sent study have been in psychotherapy, with an average of two different psychotherapists, and six women (55%) have been in psychotherapy, with an average of 2.5 psychotherapists. Their reasons for seeking psychotherapy vary. Seven men and three women were diagnosed with depression. Three men were diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD), and another man with "suspected" attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Three men reported they had "a nervous breakdown" related to stress in the workplace. Two men were diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Another two men were diagnosed with paraphilic disorders (exhibitionism and voyeurism). One man was diagnosed with avoidant personality disorder. Another was "diagnosed" with "lack of ability to socialize." One man was diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder, and another reported he was a male-to-female transgender.

Only half of the 41 men (21) and two of the six women who had been in psychotherapy told their psychotherapists they have had sex with animals. In many ways, zoophiles are forced to lead a life of secrecy, fraught with fear of being outed. Bestiality is illegal in many of the states in the United States and in many countries. Social disapproval is harsh, and zoophiles may be ridiculed, verbally and physically attacked, and their careers and relationships destroyed (Miletski, 2000). Zoophiles will not reveal their true selves to anyone unless they feel they can trust that person to be confidential, nonjudgmental, open-minded, and accepting.

Eleven of the 21 men who told their psychotherapists about having sex with animals reported experiencing negative reactions. For example, one of the therapists thought his client was joking and laughed. Another did not know what a zoophile was. Yet another therapist tried to force his client to stop. It is important for mental health professionals to become more knowledgeable about this phenomenon and go through a personal soul-searching of their own sexual attitudes, to identify and encounter any barriers they may have to working with zoophiles and assisting them when they need help.

A life of secrecy and fear, which dominates many zoophiles, may lead to isolation, anxiety, depression, and even suicide attempts. Eighteen men (22%) and one woman in the study reported they had tried to commit suicide. Their reasons included "depression," "isolation," "feeling unloved," "low self-esteem," "anger," "stress," and, after realizing they were zoophiles, "felt like a freak." For most zoophiles, the initial realization that they are attracted to animals is egodystonic. They feel shame and guilt and they suffer greatly from their inability to stop. Marshall (1972) adds that often the strong feelings of guilt experienced by zoophiles are accompanied by psychosomatic manifestations that develop in later years.

Although no cause and effect for childhood abuse and bestiality / zoophilia was established in the present study, it is important to note that many of the participants reported being abused during childhood. Forty-four percent of the men and 45% of the women reported emotional abuse, and 20% of the men and 27% of the women reported physical abuse. For the question about sexual abuse, Miletski used the broad definition of childhood sexual abuse engaging in any sexual behavior or being subjected as a child to a sexual behavior with or by a person who is at least 5 years older than the child and asked the participants various questions that resulted in more disclosures of childhood sexual abuse incidences than they had reported: 40% for the men and 36% for the women. Based on these findings, exploring a zoophile client's childhood victimization, and working through it if applicable, seem invaluable.

Many zoophiles relate to their animals as sex partners, some even as spouses. Since the life expectancy of animals is much shorter than humans, zoophiles tend to mourn the death of several lovers throughout their lives. Losing a pet is hard enough, and when the pet was a lover, the pain is much deeper and stronger. In addition, when zoophiles cannot express the extent of their pain since no one knows the real nature of their relationship with the deceased animal the experience may become a devastating one (Miletski, 2000).

Matthews (1994) reports that there are some zoophiles who feel their "true spirits" are animal, and that their human bodies are therefore inappropriate.

Matthews suggests that these zoophiles are somewhat similar to transsexuals, who feel that their genitals do not match their gender identity. He uses the term species dysphoria to describe this particular situation. In the present study, two men related that they identify with animals. One of them said, "I identify strongly with horses; want to be a horse and want to experience things that horses experience including sex with other horses." The other man explained, "I feel a draw to dogs. Rottweiler above all other breeds. It's as if I am a Rottweiler, but I have the body of a human."

Another issue for therapy is coming out to family members and friends: What does one say? How does one explain it? How does one deal with negative consequences? (Miletski, 2000). Discussing issues of zoophilia and bestiality with clients and students in a supportive, accepting manner can make a whole world of difference for a hurting, confused zoophile. Opening the door to discussing this taboo topic will impact any therapeutic alliance in a positive way, and asking about the animal sex partner is likely to be highly appreciated by the zoophile.

Once sex therapists and counselors know their client engages in sexual relations with animals, this knowledge may be helpful as an assessment tool. Knowing that zoophiles and bestialists may have the above described concerns and underlying issues can help the professional to better focus on the client's needs. More attention should then be given to possible hidden concerns such as childhood abuse, anxiety, social isolation, depression, and suicide ideation. Further, it is important to find out more about the nature of the zoophilia/bestiality relationship; if the sexual relation is forced, this could be an indication of a personality disorder.


Conclusions
Zoophiles may come to the attention of sex therapists, counselors, and educators for a variety of reasons. They may be dealing with having to live a life of secrecy fraught with fear of being outed, depression, low self-esteem, anger, stress, anxiety, shame, guilt, grieving the loss of animal sex partners, coming out, childhood abuse, wanting to be animals, and wanting to stop their bestiality.

Whether they feel their bestiality is ego-dystonic or they want to work on other issues, it is the sex therapist, counselor, or educator's professional obligation to be prepared to assist them. In order to be able to work with zoophiles, it is imperative to learn more about the phenomena of bestiality and zoophilia and be nonjudgmental, confidential, open-minded, and accepting (which is not the same as advocating for zoophilia). Otherwise, zoophiles are unlikely to reveal their true selves, and this secrecy may negatively impact the therapeutic milieu and progress.

It is further important that all sexologists go through a personal soul-searching of their own sexual attitudes, to identify and encounter any barriers they may have to working with zoophiles and assisting them when they need help.


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As said in the study, the method had some flaws and the amount of data is a bit small to draw statistical conclusions. Other than that, looks like a good study.
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