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Sex with a Horse….Again

Stories like this one pop up every once in a while. Bestiality seems to remain popular with a small number of people.

Research has shown that there may be some relationship between bestiality in childhood and adolescence and interpersonal violence (Hensley, Tallichet, & Singer, 2006) and there seems to be a higher rate of bestiality in mental patients when compared to the normal population (Alvarez & Freinhar, 1991). Haverlock Ellis, writing in 1906, elucidated three pre-conditions for bestiality: 1. Seeing animal procreation as similar in mechanism to human procreation; 2. living closely with animals; 3. Belief that sex with animals would confer power or cure venereal disease.

Even in modern times some White Supremacists believe that Jews and other non-white people are descended from Eve’s congress with the snake in the garden of Eden. In the middle ages women in parts of Europe thought to be witches were charged with having sex with the devil in animal form (usually a goat or ram). Psychologists usually see bestiality as a paraphilia, or in common parlance, a fetish. Paraphilias can be learned, usually through seeing someone else perform the behavor, or by associating some aspect of an animal (like the fuzziness of its fur) with pleasure at a young age. People who have trouble establishing and maintaining human relationships may be more likely to engage in bestiality and other paraphilias.

Here are some examples of people who enage in bestiality:

Interview with a couple who engage in bestiality

Man who died having sex with a horse and the farm he frequented

Dolphins are known to be turned on by humans

Alleged dog rapist

At least some of these examples support the psychological view of bestiality. Beirne (2000) asserts that bestiality is a form of sexual assault which should be seen similarly to child sexual abuse. In his view animals are not able to consent to sex and are harmed by sexual activity with humans. Nevertheless, bestiality is not yet illegal throughout the United States. And judging by the number of websites devoted to bestiality there must be a sizable number of people interested in watching human-animal sexual interaction.

References:

Beirne, P. (2000). Rethinking bestiality: Towards a concept of interspecies sexual assault. In Podberscek, AL. (Ed.); Paul, ES. (Ed.); & Serpell, JA. (Ed.). Companion animals and us: Exploring the relationships between people and pets., 313-331. New York, NY, US: Cambridge University Press.

Ellis, H. (1906). Animals as Sources of Erotic Symbolism. Erotic symbolism, the mechanism of detumescence, the psychic state in pregnancy., Studies in the psychology of sex, 71-88. London: F.A. Davis Co.

Alvarez, WA, & Freinha,r JP. (1991). A prevalence study of bestiality (zoophilia) in psychiatric in-patients, medical in-patients, and psychiatric staff. International Journal of Psychosomatics. 38(1-4):45-7.

Hensley, C., Tallichet, SE., & Singer, SD. (2006). Exploring the Possible Link Between Childhood and Adolescent Bestiality and Interpersonal Violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 21(7), 910-923.

By Bizarre Behavior & Culture Bound Syndromes

Dr. Kevin Volkan is a psychologist, writer, and educator with over twenty years of clinical, corporate, and academic experience. He is Professor of Psychology at California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI) and is on the graduate medical Faculty in the Community Memorial Health System. Dr. Volkan was one of the founding faculty at CSUCI which is the 23rd campus in California State University system where he teaches a course on atypical psychopathologies titled Bizarre Behaviors and Culture-Bound Syndromes. This course explores the outer range of extreme human behavior including paraphilias and was the inspiration for this blog. Consonant with his interest in deviant psychopathologies he also teaches clinical psychology and a course on the psychology of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Dr. Volkan has been a Silberman Seminar Fellow at The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC in 2010 and 2014. Before coming to CSUCI, Dr. Volkan was a faculty member at Harvard Medical School where he researched ways to measure medical student and physician performance, and the psychological origins of medical error. While at Harvard, Dr. Volkan also taught for the prestigious Harvard-Macy Institute, a joint program run by the Harvard Business, Education, and Medical schools. In this program he taught medical students and physicians from Harvard as well as from all over the world. Dr. Volkan’s background in psychology is varied and he maintains an active interest in several psychological approaches to understanding human nature – including socio-biological, psychoanalytic, psychometric, and cognitive-behavioral. He has had a long-standing interest in the psychology of compulsive drug use (which has similarities to the psychology of paraphilias), and has published a book on the subject. Dr. Volkan worked as a clinical psychologist for many years. This experience included serving as staff psychologist and Vice Chair of psychology at Agnews State Hospital in San Jose. During his tenure at Agnews, Dr. Volkan worked with patients who demonstrated many severe behavioral problems, including profoundly autistic, psychotic, self-injurious, and developmentally disabled individuals. Dr. Volkan was awarded the Sustained Superior Accomplishment Award from the State of California for his clinical work. In addition to his hospital work, Dr. Volkan also maintained a private practice in psychology in the San Francisco Bay Area. He served as a psychologist for the California Victim Witness program, seeing patients who were victims of crime and/or abuse. Dr. Volkan’s clients included a diverse population of people representing a wide variety of socioeconomic strata and psychological distress. Dr. Volkan received a BA in Biology from the University of California, an MA in Psychology from Sonoma State University, an EdD in Educational Psychology from Northern Illinois University, a PhD in Clinical Psychology from The Center for Psychological Studies, and a MPH in Public Health from Harvard University. In his spare time he practices martial arts and plays guitar in a rock band.

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