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In order to answer the question, “Is it necessarily abusive if we have sex with animals? If so, why? If not, why not?”, one must first ask the question, what is considered to be abusive? Another question one must ask is what is animal abuse? To be abusive is to either cause physical harm or even be emotionally cruel. That is to say that this definition does not exclude other species. Robert Agnew in The causes of animal abuse states that animal abuse “typically state that the harm inflicted on animals should be 1) socially unacceptable, 2) intentional or deliberate, and/or 3) unnecessary.” (Agnew, 179) A definition that was given during a lecture for animal abuse was the following: “Animal abuse is any act that contributes to the pain, suffering or unnatural death of animals or that otherwise threatens or harms their welfare. Animal abuse may be physical, sexual, psychological or emotional. It may involve active maltreatment or passive neglect or omission. It may be direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional.” (Class lecture)
The question here still remains to be if it is necessarily abusive if one has sex with animals. On one hand, there are those who will say that it is abusive to have sex with animals. Then there are those who say that it is in fact not abusive to have sex with an animal. In this essay I will discuss both arguments and their reasoning’s behind them as well as where I fall within this question. This essay will talk about bestiality and how people see bestiality in terms of it being a normal behavior or a deviant behavior to have.
Before we get started with the two arguments as well as my standpoint, I want to recognize a piece of information I obtained through research on the web by Dr. Piers Beirne. In this website he states his argument about how bestiality should be seen and condemned. He states that bestiality should ne be condemned on religious beliefs but as a how and why and in what consequences since it is so similar to the abuse of women by men or even children by men and women. “The argument that I would like to develop is that bestiality should not be condemned because of religious reasons… Bestiality in that context is seen as a violation or a rupture of the natural order and it shouldn’t be condemned in those terms at all I believe. I believe, in a nutshell, that bestiality should be condemned, how and why and with what consequences is another story, because it is so similar to the abuse of women by men, and perhaps even more of young children by men and women.” (Piers Beirne; web) I will keep this argument in mind as I point out the arguments between both sides, although they will include the arguments that include things such as that behavior and action being morally wrong or not. With that being said I start with my first argument.
Why is it wrong to have sex with animals? For those who are against these actions argue about whether the animal can give consent. Consent is an enthusiastic yes of ones own free will without any threats. Since animals can not speak human language, they can not give consent. One can not fully say that just because the animal is enthusiastic about an action since they are either waging their tail or doing something that may or may not suggest that they are enjoying that action that the person is doing to them, that they fully know what is being done to them. With every definition, there are arguments being formulated about whether or not it is acceptable or not and whether or not it includes what needs to be included.
Another argument for this stand point is that some people who are participating in bestiality, could be participating only for their interests and benefits; that they are using that animal as an object that can be played with and used for their self interests which is being abusive in two forms: abuse of power over them and sexual abuse. Since the animal can not speak “human” language, they can not speak up about what is happening to them which is emotional abuse as well. Of course in this way, those who are participating use them because for some it may be hard to find someone who would want to participate in any sexual act with them so therefore they use their animals to satisfy that need that they can not get from any other human.
Can being loyal to their owner and wanting to making them happy be confused as them giving consent? To those who are against it, they agree that it can in fact be confused for that. Just like someone who just wants to make their partner happy, can give an enthusiastic yes the same thing could be said for animals. Of course they are still animals in nature and will be on the attack if they feel like they don’t like what’s about to happen, some can still do it because they are devoted or could be influenced to do it by a forms of treats or things of that sort.
The main agreement that many who are against bestiality would bring up is of those with morality and religious beliefs. Some people believe that humans are superior than animals and therefore should not be interacting the way zoophiles do with animals. On the basis of this view, one would say that humans should only be interacting with other humans because they can understand each other on a human level and can talk about relevant things that are going on and one can not do that with animals because they can not talk back.
For those who believe that is in fact not considered to be abusive if one has sex with animals argue the following. Like stated in the previous paragraphs, to be abusive is to physically harm, or sexually harm the person and or non-human partner. They see their actions to be as not physically harming and especially not sexually harming their non-human partner because it seems like their non-human partner does not seem to be in any pain and may be in fact enjoying the behavior as well as they are. People who are bestialists or how some refer to call themselves as zoophiles explain that what they have between themselves and their non-human partners is much more than just physical; that they also “maintain a deep and caring bond between each other.” (Sarah Wheeler; web)
A question that is usually to always brought up when talking about bestiality is that of consent. Those who are for having sex with animals argue that animals can in fact give consent, whether it be through their body language and actions. If an animal feels as though they do not particularly like a situation and or action, then they will make a noise that one will understand when it is time to withdraw and not continue any further. An example of this would be when a dog snarls when they are in an uncomfortable situation or do not like what is going on. Just like they are able to let one know when to back off, they are also able to let one know when they are looking for something more for example sex. Even then the question still remains if they can give consent and if they know what it means to give consent and for what they are giving consent to. They argue that one can not expect other species to understand at the same level as humans do just like one is not expected to understand at their level of understanding about the world. It is what makes everything species unique.
After analyzing these two stand points I do understand why some people believe that it is not considered to be abusive to have sex with animals. Although I understand their reasoning I believe that it is still considered to be abusive to have sex with animals. Let’s break it down, those who say it’s not abusive because they give consent by actions, that may be true for somethings but one can not say that they fully know what is going on like stated in the standpoint of those who agree that it is abusive. Yes, one can not expect that they understand and comprehend on the level that humans do but there has to be a common ground. One can not just assume that it is okay to not understand because that is not consent at all. Let’s take it a step further. If one can not get consent and still continue even though their actions and behavior is not considered a no either, that is rape. Carol Adams could not have stated this any better as she states that “…we should understand bestiality as forced sex with animals because sexual relationships of unequal power cannot not be consensual” and that is exactly how I see it. Like explained before, definitions and things as such will always continue to change because it will always be questioned. For example, the definition of rape changed from what it meant before which had excluded husbands and gave them an “husband exemption clause” to what it means now. This quote furthermore explains this “Ultimately, sexual coercion occurs whenever one party does not genuinely consent to sexual relations or does not have the ability to communicate consent to the other. Sometimes, one participant in a sexual encounter may appear to be consenting because she does not overtly resist, but that does not of course mean that genuine consent is present.” (Beirne, 114)
It is stated by those who perform those acts, do it because they feel a strong emotional connection with them. A question was raised after reading an article on the web by Sarah Wheeler that stated this point about having an emotional connection with their companion and therefore give and receive sexual and oral acts while others do it to satisfy a sexual need that they can not from another person. How can one distinguish from another? How can one say they are not inflicting sexual abuse to those animals? One can not assume again that they are not if one isn’t fully sure. In Confronting Animal Abuse: Law, Criminology, and Human-Animal Relationships by Piers Bierne he states “In their case, however, what I saw as animals’ indifference might actually have been calculated detachment on their part and, despite the possibility that we might never know it with much certainty, a coping strategy for numbing the pain inflicted on them by yet another of the myriad ways in which their lives are routinely invaded, inspected, and disposed of by humans.” (Beirne, 99) Like this quote above, I believe that we will know for certain but one can not rule it out.
During the class on Animal Abuse, a film was shown about the topic of this. There was a veterinarian I believe, who stated “I don’t think its animal abuse if we feed them and take care of them.” That argument can be made for domestic violence. With that logic an abuser can say the same thing such as “I don’t believe that’s domestic violence if I’m feeding him/her and aking care of them.” Although I do agree that it is abusive to have sex with animals I do not agree with it on the religious stand point that we as “humans” are superior beings. It shouldn’t be a competition whether or not who’s superior. On this note it bring me back to what Beirne said about how one should look and condemn bestiality, not on religious beliefs but on “how and why and with what consequences…” and for some that is the main thing they base their argument on.
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