The Controversial Austrian Statesman at 81
Cuckoldry is Pretty Rare in Germany

The Love that Just Dared Speak its Name

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Over the weekend, the center-left German newspaper taz published a fascinating interview (g) with Oliver Burdinski and Kurt Gehrl, two zoophiliacs. That is, men who have sex with dogs. Those are their real names. The point of the interview was to protest against a bill pending in the German Parliament which would increase penalties for bestiality. Both men are members of ZETA (g), an organization whose name roughly translates as 'Zoophiles United for Tolerance and Understanding'. The point of the interview was to remove some of the stigma and shame from their passion, and to foster understanding of the sodomite next door, so to speak. As I read the interview, I felt myself actually beginning to sympathize with their cause.

The interviewer, plainly fascinated by the opportunity to ask these men about their sex lives, goes into great detail. One of the men first realized his orientation when he became aroused by an image of a centaur from early Hercules and Xena shows and from old computer games. He then progressed to make-out sessions with dogs, and the rest was history. One of the men is actually a 'bottom' -- he lets male dogs mount him. There's plenty more fascinating detail in the interview, but I will leave it for others to discover. Let's just say that if you want to know about the details of how grown men have sex with dogs, this interview is a great place to start.

Interestingly, both of the men totally reject the thesis, put forward by a German psychologist, that zoophiles are responding to childhood experiences. They say their childhoods were just fine, it's just that as long as they can remember, they have mainly been attracted to animals. This is yet another reminder how many German psychological 'experts' are still wedded to 1960's-era notion that many adult behaviors are related to childhood experiences. I am pretty sure that zoophiles, like most homosexuals, are simply hard-wired genetically and neurologically to their preferences, and would have turned out precisely the same way no matter what sort of childhood they had. In fact, one of the men interviewed for the article says he'd be happy to be a subject of scientific inquiry.

Of course, the interviewer brings out the standard counter-arguments, to which the men have ready responses. Here's my summary:

  • It's just perverse. That's what people used to say about homosexuality, consensual BDSM, single parenthood, etc. Passing laws based on generalized distaste or outdated religious notions without any proof of harm is simply legislating morality, which is foolish and unjust.
  • You're cruelly exploiting the dogs. The dogs willingly engage in sexual behavior, it's hard to argue that a dog who is mounting a human has been coerced. Forcing dogs to have sex against their will or injuring them is criminal and awful animal abuse, and precisely the sort of behavior that true zoophiles abhor. In any case, the kind of dogs who are of interest to zoophiles weigh at least 70-80 pounds and up, and getting them to do anything they don't want to do is quite a tall order. Dogs like having sex as much as humans do, if not more, and don't care who they have it with.
  • Isn't pedophilia next? No -- children are not sexual beings, and introducing them to sex before it's appropriate is criminal and wrong. Dogs, however, are sexual beings, as anyone who has ever owned one knows.
  • How do you know they consent? Because they either initiate or tolerate lots of sexual behavior, and often visibly enjoy it. Look at our dogs: they're perfectly happy and healthy (the interviewer confirms that this seems to be so). They're objects of our love, and as such, we take excellent care of them. And how many dogs have ever consented to being spayed or neutered?
  • Wouldn't the dog rather have sex with one of its own kind? After thousands of years of domestication, dogs view humans as members of the pack. Their behavior shows they don't make lots of distinctions between humans and other dogs.

I have to say, I think they make a pretty good case. I cringe in horror at the image of their sexual practices, but then again, I cringe in horror at lots of things that I don't think should be against the law, such as Bauernsülze. Why not just leave them alone?

Comments

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Andrew

@Jerry: No doubt that childhood experiences have a long-term impact in many areas, but I strongly doubt basic sexual orientation is one of them. Contrary to your supposition, evolutionary thinkers certainly recognize a spectrum of sexual orientations, but people who are on either side of that spectrum are almost certainly there because of nature, not nurture. There's no such thing as one 'gay gene', but both the self-report of gay people (who near-universally report their preference as being always there and beyond their control) and research is pointing to a strong genetic role in sexual orientation.

@Johannes: Ah yes, 'human dignity', that fungible concept. There is a pretty deep cultural difference at work here: many English-speakers are at a loss to understand precisely what Germans or French people mean when they talk about 'human dignity'. You can assert that someone having sex with a dog is degrading his own dignity, but you can't prove it. The ultimate counter-example is, of course, homosexuality, considered a horrible crime against nature and human dignity by almost everybody until quite recently. Kant assumed quite casually that homosexuals were sick people violating profound, innate laws of nature.

I'm not arguing for zoophilia, but just saying that I find the argument that a harmless sexual practice engaged in by consenting adult humans should be banned because majorities would find it 'disgusting' is quite weak.

Johannes

I probably should not have read the taz article, it is bound to give me nightmares someday. ;)

I am pretty sure that for most people harm to animals is secondary when condemning bestiality. There is strong disgust, of course, but I believe also the intuition (which I admittedly share) that a sodomite is actually degrading himself (and thus, in a fashion, disrespecting human dignity) in a particularly loathsome way. This may not be a good reason to make it a criminal offense as there are surely many cases where it can be argued that sodomy would be a victimless crime.
But I think it is shortsighted to ignore such intuitions or moral (not legal) arguments. (This may be old-fashioned, but I do think they run deeper than mere legality.)

Instead of being put into jail, most people would probably think sodomites should undergo compulsory therapy and would prefer them to stick to furry mangas or whatever that's called instead of acting out their desires in the flesh.

Manuel

"This is yet another reminder how many German psychological 'experts' are still wedded to 1960's-era notion that many adult behaviors are related to childhood experiences."

Long-term effects of child sexual abuse would be one case of childhood experiences influencing adult behaviors.

I'm a comp-sci student and I'm not competent at all in these matters. Still, the idea that childhood experiences do not influence adult behavior strikes me as pretty odd. Probably not even Eysenck would have gone that far.

"I cringe in horror at lots of things that I don't think should be against the law, such as Bauernsülze. Why not just leave them alone?"
Probably out of two reasons:

1.) Animal rights activists view 'Zoophilia' as brutal animal rape. And in some cases, they are probably right.

2.) Zeitgeist might have changed. Lots of people just can't stand the thought that there are guys out there who fuck dogs. And, most disgusting of all, go unpunished!

As Günter Krings put it in Bild:

"[It's] embarrasing if we can only justify an important change of law like this with animal health. Moral laws and dangers to hygiene are much more obvious reasons for me."

So, it's totally unimportant whether animals are hurt or not. It's all about "moral" and "hygiene". (And next week, we reintroduce "gesundes Volksempfinden"?)

This is pretty much the Bauernsülze-reasoning. Nice analogy you found there, Andrew.

Jerry

Just as a sidenote, I strongly prefer explanations to sexual preferences based on build of personality and experiences towards those, who insist on genetics (unlike you as it seems).

Basicly it's the old 19th century story of "sin" versus "sickness" under more tolerant signs, asking whether people get attracted to others based on (concious or unconcious) decission or predetermination. Be it the preferance of certain sexes/genders, hair colours, personality traits or in this case species. Or on a nonsexual note (there is no substantial difference, that would those make stand out) political positions or favourite foods.

What the genetic stance does not get covered in a clean way are those types, who fall between the categories (sometimes leading to doubt, whether those categories, like the named homo-/heterosexuality exist at all or are only a result of socio-political fights). More often than not, defenders of genetic views tend to wave away bisexuals as confused or experimenting, acting against their given nature (and will do the same with switching voters, once they start getting on the political genes).

I doubt that and still hang with the freudian thesis, that every person is attractable to anyone (yes, in case of animals as well) given the right circumstances. How much it takes to cause this attraction depends on personal history. And some just don't care as much as others about given borders or set their own (like taking only partners of a certain zodiac sign).

Both, genetic and aquired explanations, leave room for cultural problems, be it the expectation to change, what is too deep rooted, and being blamed if not doing so, in the latter, or to be treated as a different (maybe even inferiour) race (in this case being actual racism) in the former.

I started worrying when I first read the hypothetical question, how parents would react when they got to know, their to-be-born child "will be" homosexual due to genetic analysis. Maybe my refusal towards any genetic predetermination besides a few phycical shapes is partly based on moralic beliefs.
Or maybe it's just a wannabe social scientist defending what he does see as his turf. ;-)

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