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is the practice of having sex between humans and animals. The practice has existed throughout most societies and time periods of human existence, dating back to 8000 BC and even beyond. Different time periods have witnessed different levels of acceptance of the act of bestiality, but it has been occurring almost constantly in history, whether in open knowledge of society or in the privacy of one’s own residence.
There have long been cases of bestiality throughout history. Documented examples of bestiality have been dated as far back as 8000 BC, seen in cave drawings in Northern Italy (Archaeometry, 2008). While the reasoning behind the drawings cannot be concluded with any certainty, it does make it clear that such a practice had taken place. While not accepted, bestiality also has a place in many major religions. In the Bible, Leviticus 18:23 states “And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion” (ESV Bible, 2001). This condemnation of the practice of bestiality is serious enough to warrant the death of the human and the animal in historic times. This was strictly followed in practices of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. In strong religious cultures, bestiality was seen as an abomination and was not accepted. The practice of bestiality was most widely accepted during the Middle Ages (476 AD to 1492 AD) due to the low level of acceptance of the Christian church in Western society (Miletski, 2006). During the Renaissance period, the attitude in Western society changed greatly as bestiality was widely persecuted under the sentence of death. This persecution and stigma related to bestiality has persisted through modern times, with only a minimal amount of societies accepting the practice.
Figure 1. The Enumclaw farm where Pinyan practiced bestiality. Farms like this provide certain privacy for such acts.
An infamous case regarding bestiality is the story of 45 year old Kenneth Pinyan. Prior to 2005, there were no bestiality laws in the state of Washington. On July 2nd 2005, Pinyan made an emergency visit to the hospital. That night he was pronounced dead from acute peritonitis due to a perforated colon (Brown, 2005). Soon after that night, it was discovered that this incident was due to a series of instances in which Pinyan and two companions would videotape and have sex with horses and other animals on a farm in Enumclaw, Washington. The videos were confiscated by police and used while investigating his death (Sullivan, 2005). This specific incident sparked an outcry among politicians and state officials calling for the creation of laws banning any forms of bestiality. Within six months of this incident, motions were in order to create such laws which eventually passed Washington congress unanimously. After Pinyan’s death, banning the practice of bestiality was seen as inevitable, and many of the state’s citizens were shocked that it was not already illegal.
As laws were passed banning bestiality, more cases came to light in the state of Washington as soon as charges could be filed. One such case came to light within months of the passing of the bestiality laws. In October of 2006, a Washington man, Michael McPhail, was brought up on felony bestiality charges after his wife witnessed him having sex with their family dog (KIROTV.COM, 2006). This case was seen as an ideal case as to why such bestiality laws should be in place, as his wife noted that the dog was “squealing and crying.” Such incidents question the cruelty of bestiality. Incidents such as McPhail’s and Pinyan’s brought animal rights groups across the country calling for stricter penalties for those caught performing acts of bestiality.
Due to the notoriety and widespread audience of the death of Pinyan, there was increased attention towards bestiality. As of July 2005, there were 17 states in the United States that did not have any laws or regulations towards bestiality (Sullivan, 2005). Questions arose about the need for bestiality laws in those 17 states as news of Pinyan’s death spread. The problem of bestiality being considered animal cruelty raised debates amongst animal rights groups nationwide. Political ideologies did not matter; this was a unifying subject across all levels of beliefs. In the eyes of the public, bestiality was clearly a revolting and disgusting act that needed to be prohibited.
As bestiality is a sex act, much of the stigma and illegality behind the act revolve around the notion of consent. As consent is the means for determining whether sex acts or legal or illegal, this measure would seemingly hold up to determine the status of bestiality. The problem comes in that there is no way to determine consent among animals, thus making the act inherently nonconsensual (Levy, 2003). Individuals who engaged in acts of bestiality were viewed as sexual deviants. First listed in the 1980 version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, zoophilia, or bestiality, was classified as a mental disorder (Miletski, 2006). This classification was later reduced, as the 1994 version does not list zoophilia as a disorder, but rather diagnosed that it is rarely a problem by itself.
There have been many sexuality studies conducted through the 20th century that have helped to determine the prevalence of bestiality in American society. The first study from Kinsey, Pomeroy and Martin in 1948 found that 1 in every 13 males in the United States has at some point performed bestiality (Miletski, 2006). As the first study that produced statistics regarding bestiality, the results were groundbreaking. Five years later in a study from Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin and Gebhard, they discovered that 5% of the women that participated had also at one point in time participated in bestiality acts. The studies had shown that the percentage of Americans that had performed acts of bestiality was rather high considering the social stigma related to the act. A 1974 study performed by Hunt found statistical evidence that claimed around 5% of men and 2% of women had engaged in bestiality (Miletski, 2006). These numbers for the first time had given statistical importance to the acts of bestiality and zoophilia.
Archaeometry (22 October 2008).
Coren del Valento.
Brown, Michael. Claire Rasmussen (29 May 2008).
Bestiality and the Queering of the Human Animal.
Holy Bible (2001).
(17 October 2006).
Spanaway Man Accused of Having Sex with Dog.
Lambert, Ken (15 July 2005).
Videotapes show bestiality, Enumclaw police say (photograph).
Levy, Neil (1 September 2003).
What (If Anything) is Wrong with Bestiality?
Miletski, Hani (1 December 2006).
Introduction to Bestiality and Zoophilia.
Sullivan, Jennifer (16 July 2005).
Videotapes show bestiality, Enumclaw police say.
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