Psychology Wiki

Assessment | Biopsychology | Comparative | Cognitive | Developmental | Language | Individual differences | Personality | Philosophy | Social |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |

Social psychology: Altruism · Attribution · Attitudes · Conformity · Discrimination · Groups · Interpersonal relations · Obedience · Prejudice · Norms · Perception · Index · Outline

This article covers specifically the sexual orientation 'zoosexuality'. For all other aspects and information related to emotional and sexual activity with animals, see Zoophilia.

Zoosexuality is a term covering sexual orientation towards animals.

It has been in use informally since at least the 1980s, and has become more commonly referenced in scientific research literature since Hani Miletski's research into the field in the 1990s. It has become the accepted term for the sexual orientation, used within the sciences of anthrozoology, sexology and psychology, although it is not in widespread cultural use elsewhere.

Zoosexuality is a value-neutral term covering the spectrum of human-animal sexuality, and implies nothing more than a person with an orientation towards animals. This is a loving and non-violent, incidental intermittent or long term, actual or wished-for, fantasy or reality. Also, similarly to other orientations such as homosexuality and heterosexuality, it may be "exclusive" in nature, or one of a range of sexual focuses - the person may have human partners as well, and their relationships may be authentically relational or otherwise.

The debate over whether zoosexuality should be seen as aberration or orientation is a controversial one outside the field and in popular culture.

Meaning of 'sexual orientation' in the context

Miletski performed the first formal research exploring whether a sexual orientation towards animals existed. The definition[1] of sexual orientation used was based upon the work of Francoeur (1991) in his discussion of homosexuality, heterosexuality, and bisexuality. According to this definition, "sexual orientation consists of three interrelated aspects":

  1. Affectional orientation — whom or what we bond with emotionally,
  2. Fantasy orientation — with whom or what we fantasize having sex, and
  3. Erotic orientation — with whom or what we prefer to have sex.

Kinsey (1948) devised for the Kinsey Reports, a simple scale for studying the heterosexual-bisexual-homosexual orientation, varying from "exclusively heterosexual" to "exclusively homosexual" in 6 stages, providing another measure with which to study the question.

History of terminology used in the field

The study of human sexual activity towards animals has evolved through several stages, some of which are documented under historical and cultural perspectives on zoophilia. Miletski, in examining the literature on zoosexual research, summarized the "confusion and conflicting view points" as follows:

"Throughout the literature review, it is very obvious that authors perceive sexual relations with animals in very different ways. Definitions of various behaviors and attitudes are often conflicting, leaving the reader confused. Terms such as "sodomy," "zoorasty," "zoosexuality,” as well as "bestiality" and "zoophilia" are often used, each having a different meaning depending on the author."

There are three terms most commonly encountered in use: - bestiality, zoosexuality, and zoophilia.


Bestiality simply refers to a sexual act between a human and an animal. It is a term that does not take into account the nature of the act or motive, beyond whether a sexual act takes place. It is the term most encountered legally and most often found in the media.

Initially, several hundred years ago, being considered like homosexuality a religious offence against God (a view still held by many Western religions), it later became viewed as a clinical condition – a fetish, compulsion, disorder, or evidence of some kind of throwback – or "profoundly disturbed behavior"[2]

Due to the observer bias common in early anthropology, and the relatively early stage of understanding of human psychology and sexology, it was categorized even as late at the 1920s - 1930s as a deficiency of some kind attributable to primitive (ie, non-Western) minds, and described in one of the foremost sexology references of the time[3] as:

"the sexual perversion of dull, insensitive and unfastidious persons. It flourishes among primitive peoples and among peasants. It is the vice of the clodhopper, unattractive to women..."

Clinicians, unsure what to make of it except for a rare aberration, and lacking modern research methods and knowledge, considered it basically, an abnormal and rare form of aberrative sex act, perhaps masturbatory in nature. In general up until the 1940s (the time of the Kinsey Reports), it was reported through rare and occasional sources when it came to clinical, legal, or anthropological attention.


In 1894, Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing introduced the term zoophilia in his book Psychopathia Sexualis, and this has remained the favored term in common use outside legislative statute (which focuses on acts not motives), such as culture, subculture, media, and clinical areas. Confusingly, it has acquired multiple very different meanings:

  1. According to the dictionary, as a general term, it simply denotes an affective bond beyond the norm. Thus, animal lovers are "zoophiles", albeit non-sexually so. Even then, dictionary definitions do not agree whether their definition means an affectionate bond, an enjoyment of company, an erotic bond, or a sexual fixation (fetish):
    • "Affection or affinity for animals"
    • "An erotic fixation on animals that may result in sexual excitement through real or fancied contact".
  2. In psychology, as a specialized term, it refers to the paraphilia of being attracted sexually to animals in a way that causes distress or pain. In this sense, it denotes a specific paraphilic condition.
  3. In popular use, it has come to indicate a person who has sex with animals (so for example, non-sexual zoophiles tend not to wish to be described as "zoophiles").
  4. More generally (and especially amongst zoosexuals), it is used to signify someone who has a strong bond to animals that is of a relational (possibly including sexual) nature, as opposed to mere "ownership".[4]


The concept of zoosexuality as a bona fide sexual orientation, as opposed to a fetish, paraphilia or affective bond, can be traced back to research such as Masters in the 1960s. This was around the time (following Kinsey) that minority sexualities and sexual interests began to be seen as other than a sign of mental abnormality, and instead, began to be seen as indication that the range of typical human sexuality was a richer field than had been previously perceived.

The term 'zoosexual' itself was probably coined in the 1980s, being cited by researchers such as Miletski in the 1990s. It was seen as a value-neutral term which would be less susceptible to being "loaded" with emotion or rhetoric (by either 'side' both positive or negative), as many terms are, would not favor one viewpoint over another, and would not incorporate either positive or negative assumptions as to the persons or motivations involved. Usage of the noun form can be applied to both a "zoosexual (person)", and a "zoosexual act".

Its earliest archived use in online newgroups is in March 1994, by which time (judging by the post in question) it was already a well established term needing no explanation.

Professional views upon zoosexuality as a sexual orientation

Zoosexuality (zoophilia) is classed as a mental disorder by psychiatrists in DSM-IV. Donofrio[5] (doctoral dissertation, 1996), investigating zoophilia, reported that his findings supported the American Psychiatric Association's view in their diagnostic manual DSM-IV that zoophilia was not by itself a "clinically significant problem" by which is meant relatively uncommon in incidence. Studying the matter further, he also concluded that the concept and recognition of a sexual orientation towards animals (as opposed to simple classification as paraphilia) was supported by his study.

In her "monumental"[6] and "pioneering"[7]1999 study, a comprehensive reference work and analysis combined with further research, Miletski was the first researcher to consider formally the question whether a genuine orientation exists (as opposed to a mere sexual fetish), arguing that a scale similar to Kinsey's could be applied for this, stating that:

"zoosexuality implies a sexual orientation toward animals... And Donofrio (1996) reports that the concept of zoophilia, being a sexual orientation, was supported by his doctoral study. He therefore, suggests using a scale resembling Kinsey's sexual orientation scale, which was also offered by Blake (1971). Donofrio's model suggests that those who have no interest whatsoever in sexual contact with animals would appear at the Zero point of the scale. Those individuals whose sole sexual outlet and attraction are animals, would be assigned the Six position. Along that continuum, between these two extremes, would be individuals who include animal sexual contact in their fantasy, or have had incidental experiences with animals, have had more than incidental contact with animals, place their sexual activity with animals equal to that involving humans, prefer animal contact but engage in more than incidental contact with humans, and those who engage primarily in contact with animals with only incidental human sexual contact. I therefore conceptualized my basic research question to be: 'Is there a sexual orientation toward nonhuman animals?' "

In her book, she concludes that the answer is 'yes', and that:

"The findings of this question... clearly indicate that different people have different levels of sexual inclination toward animals. "Is there a sexual orientation toward nonhuman animals?" — yes, so it very clearly shows that some people...have feelings of love and affection for their animals, have sexual fantasies about them, and admit they are sexually attracted to them. Sexual orientation, as we know it, can be fluid and changing with time and circumstances...We can place people on all levels of the Kinsey scale, even when we apply this scale to sexual orientation toward animals. It is logical to assume that the majority of the human race will be placed around the zero point of this Kinsey-like scale...but the current study shows that there are some humans whose place on this Kinsey-like scale is definitely not zero. In fact, there are some...individuals whose place on this scale would be the other extreme (6=sexual inclination exclusively with animals)." (Miletski ch.13 pp.171-172)

This finding has since also been agreed by Andrea Beetz, who in her 2002 book Love, Violence, and Sex with Animals concurred that there had been an omission in some previous studies, and that:

"Findings of this study agree with the view of recent authors... that indeed a sexual orientation towards animals - a zoosexuality - exists, even if it is not appropriate to regard all persons who have sex with animals as zoosexuals." (Beetz 2002, section 5.7)

A series of 2005 - 2006 articles in the Journal of the International Society for Anthrozoology[8], also states this view.

A term "bestiosexuality" was discussed briefly by Allen (1979), but never became established.

A 2005 paper Zoophilia, between pathology and normality [9] by doctors at the Munich Polyclinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, states that "Zoophilia, a sexual preference for animals, has lost its character as a severe mental disorder. In clinical practice it is rarely seen nowadays, particularly since it was decriminalized [in Germany] in 1970 ... Findings from this study do not offer explanations about the causes of zoophilia. It is noteworthy, however, that the subjects in question were socially well adapted and displayed good interpersonal social skills. The authors stress that zoophilia shows a variety of manifestations..."

Further discussion

Forms of zoosexual activity

Although its findings go back consistently many decades, the study of zoosexuality with modern research methodologies, is still relatively new. Massen (1994, p. 57) distinguished nine basic forms of zoosexual activity, which he stated frequently overlap:

  1. Incidental experience and latent zoophilia
  2. Zoophile voyeurism (also called mixoscopic zoophilia)
  3. Frottage
  4. The animal as a tool for masturbatory activities
  5. The animal as a surrogate object for a behavioral fetishism (sadomasochistic practices, sexual murder, etc. See Zoosadism)
  6. The animal as fetish
  7. Physical contact and affection
  8. The animal as a surrogate for a human sex partner
  9. The animal as deliberately and voluntarily chosen sex partner.

Beetz later added[10] that this omits the "experienced and not deliberately chosen" emotional-sexual bond of zoophilia and relationship (which had not been widely explored in the literature available to Massen[11]):

"Not clearly named in this list is the form of zoophilia, that is characterized by an emotional as well as a sexual attraction respectively love to an animal, which is called zoosexuality by other authors (Donofrio, 1996; Miletski, 1999). Such an attraction is experienced and not deliberately chosen, and the animal does not serve as a surrogate in such a relation"

Benefits to science of the term

There are valuable benefits realized to science in identifying such a term, because previously, all terms available implied (inaccurately, as now understood) either mental illness, or simple sexual objectification:

  1. It appears to better reflect current understanding of the subject.
  2. It is descriptive rather than normative (ie, it provides a 'handle', but does not attempt to make further assumptions or interpretation within that handle). This has been seen as valuable within the psychological profession.[12]
  3. It recognizes an entire spectrum of emotional and sexual attraction and/or orientation to animals, as opposed to a one-dimensional view of a sex act. (This would be analogous to reducing all knowledge about homosexuality and gay culture and history, to the subject title "gay sex")
  4. It enables people to discuss the subject in a manner analogous to other orientations, without prejudicial terminology creating assumptions. For example, if homosexuality were known by a term associated with a clinical condition, this would hamper neutral study of the actual facts concerning that orientation. (Note: Similar to homosexuality, zoosexuality is now no longer considered a mental illness under the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-IV unless it significantly interferes with daily functional life)
  5. It allows different aspects of the subject to be examined and researched, as one field.

Miscellaneous comparisons with other orientations

Akeret (1995) discussed in his book some of his most memorable clients of many years previous, one of whom was in love with a polar bear. At the time he saw that client, homosexuality was considered a "perversion" as much as zoophilia, according to the DSM, and both were considered conditions requiring intervention. He stated of this case, that curing his client from zoophilia "appeared no easier than trying to cure a homosexual." (cited by Miletski, p.41)

(See also: Reparative therapy and Homosexuality and psychology)

On another note, Miletski in her work touches upon a more sombre similarity shared with other minority orientations:[13]

"It is common knowledge that suicide rates are high among gays and lesbians. They tend to grow up feeling different, lonely, isolated, and unable to talk to others about their homosexual feelings. Since zoophiles have similar experiences, and if zoophilia/zoosexuality is a form of sexual orientation, it may not be surprising that 18 men (22%) and one woman (9%) reported they tried to commit suicide, and six other men and three other women reported they thought about it. Yet, only two men reported the reason for thinking about and/or trying to commit suicide was being a zoo. It is possible that the seven men who provided reasons such as isolation, loneliness, depression, despair, rejection, feeling unloved, low self-esteem, anger, and stress may have experienced these feelings because of being zoos. During the 12 months prior to the study, however, the majority of men (57=69%) and women (9=82%) reported they were pretty happy with their personal life."

Emotion in zoosexuality

It is generally accepted that in common with heterosexuality and homosexuality, the broad scope of zoosexuality includes (for example) zoosexuals for whom the forming or existence of a loving relational bond is important, and also some whose motivation is closer to abuse or zoosadism. The emotional relationship associated with the latter is documented in that article. This section therefore considers emotional connection in zoosexuals where abuse is not a conscious intent of the interaction.

Emotion in humans

Main articles: Animal love, Zoophilia

Masters, in 1962, posed the question, "To what extent does the human individual participating in an act of bestiality regard the animal sex partner as a person?" He comments in reply that:

"[The human] anticipates that the animal will derive gratification from its intercourse with him, as another person would, and he is disappointed if this reaction does not occur", attributes emotional capabilities and some conceptual abilities, and "in short, regards it as a personality, a human-like consciousness which differs from him erotically more in form than in spirit. This is, in part why individuals are able to 'fall in love' with animals, especially with those animals with which they have had repeated sexual experiences...."

He also asked in the same work, "Is it possible for a human being to be in love, in the romantic sense of that expression, with an animal? Is it possible for an animal, within the limitations of its nature, to reciprocate such affection?"

"In this area the attitudes and emotions with which the (human) subjects approach their (animal) objects are considered decisive..." There is said to be "a genuine feeling for the animal on the part of the human", and may "approximate what is called 'erotic love' when humans only are involved... Though comparatively quite rare, there do occur cases... of human beings who genuinely 'fall in love' with animals, a love which includes sexual relations, but also such 'romantic' elements as tenderness, spiritual affection, and even jealousy."

Likewise Beetz states:

"That the emotional side indeed plays a role for some people engaging in sexual contact with animals, was acknowledged by several sources, e.g . Bornemann (1990), Cerrone (1991), Davis (1954), Donofrio (1996), Hentig (1962), Kinsey et al. (1948), and Miletski (1999). For example, Hentig (1962) referred to a patient described by Hirschfeld: The man was deeply in love with a horse, had built a special, luxurious barn for it, pampered it, was according to his own words faithful to the horse and would have killed himself in case the horse died before him. New -- at least in his time -- was the perspective of Ullerstam (1966) who suggested, that emotions as well as erotic feelings can even be reciprocal between man and animals. Also Kinsey (1954) held the opinion, that the sexual contact can lead up to a close emotional attachment to the animal and that in some cases the animal gets used to this interspecies contact so much, that it neglects possible sex partners of its own kind." (Beetz section 5.2.11)

Finally, according to Kurrelgyre (1995, cited by Miletski) "Many zoos find satisfaction purely in giving pleasure to the animal."

Emotion in animals

Main article: Emotion in animals

Whilst studies of animals responses to zoosexual activity are less researched, there is a significant body of opinion in the near-unanimity of those studies which have been undertaken and attempted to review this area. Thus Masters, in 1962, wrote:

"Where sadism is not present, there is considerable room for doubt as to whether there is any cruelty. It has always been noted in fact, by ancient historians and up through Kinsey in our own time, that animals tend to become affectionately attached (not only physically) to humans who have sex relations with them, and sometimes have even been known to forsake intercourse with their own kind in testimony to their preference for relations with humans. Whatever one may think of bestiality, this does not sound as if it were an act of cruelty so far as the animal is concerned."

Masters ultimately speculated that:

"One seems forced to conclude, the animal derives a considerable psychical[14] and/or emotional pleasure from sexual contact with a being of a higher nervous, emotional, and intellectual organization, who is somehow able to provide the animal with non-material rewards which another animal is not able to offer."

This is corroborated by Kinsey, who according to the same author, "accepts as factual that animals may develop great fondness for humans who have sexual relations with them".

Likewise Miletski (1999) noted that information on sex with animals on the internet is often very emphatic as to how to give pleasure and identify consent, and how to avoid harm, to the point that she states "one can find instructions on how to tell if the animal is in the mood for sex, and specific suggestions such as to cut one's nails and file them before he/she engages in any sexual act with an animal, lest one physically hurt the animal."

Beetz adds to these her finding that other than "violent sexual acts", sexual contact "of suitable anatomy and size" does not necessarily cause pain or injuries to the animal.[15]

Looking at animal capability to have genuine emotions, more generally, Jonathan Balcombe argues in his 2006 book that animals in fact have a highly developed sense of pleasure in life, and not merely basic responses such as pain.[16] Reviewing this book, Wayne Pacelle, the President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) comments: "Dr. Balcombe convincingly argues that animals are individual beings with a wide range of emotions and feeling. If he is correct — and I believe he is — it follows that we must grapple with the ethical consequences of his important insights."

Intersubjective emotion

Beetz (2002, section 5.2.11) comments on the intersubjective bond, "That an emotional attachment to the animal is important, if not more important than the sexual interaction for many zoophile persons, was documented by the research of Miletski (1999)".

She summarizes (section 5.2.8) that: "In most references to bestiality violence towards the animal is automatically implied. That sexual approaches to animals may not need force or violence but rather a sensitivity or knowledge of animal behavior... is rarely taken into consideration."

Objections to the term

No peer accepted research in the field of sexology or psychology which has researched the field, has formally rejected the term, or concluded that such an orientation does not exist.

Outside the scope of those researching sexual orientation itself, and especially in the case of those studying human and animal abusive or criminal sexuality, or with strong personal beliefs against human-animal relationships, there may be concerns over the implications of clinically recognizing the term. In this sense, the term would probably be considered controversial.


Main bibliography, see: Zoophilia
  • Andrea Beetz Ph.D.: Bestiality and Zoophilia (2005), ISBN 1-55753-412-8
  • Andrea Beetz Ph.D.: Love, Violence, and Sexuality in Relationships between Humans and Animals (2002), ISBN 3-8322-0020-7
  • Profesors Colin J. Williams and Martin S. Weinberg: Zoophilia in Men: a study of sexual interest in animals. - in: Archives of sexual behavior, Vol. 32, No.6, December 2003, pp. 523-535
  • Hani Miletski Ph.D.: Bestiality - Zoophilia: An exploratory study, Diss., The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. - San Francisco, CA, October 1999
  • Hani Miletski Ph.D.: Understanding Bestiality and Zoophilia, 2002, available at Hani Miletski's Homepage (Book review by Journal of Sex Research, May 2003)
  • Josef Massen: Zoophilie - Die sexuelle Liebe zu Tieren (Zoophilia - the sexual love of/for animals) (1994), ISBN 3-930387-15-8
  • R.E.L. Masters Ph.D.: Forbidden Sexual Behaviour and Morality, an objective examination of perverse sex practices in different cultures (1962), ISBN LIC #62-12196

See also


  1. Miletski, chapter 13
  2. UK Home Office "Review of sexual offences" 2002
  3. Havelock Ellis' 7 volume work, Studies in the psychology of sex (1927)
  4. In this sense, described further in the article "Zoophilia", the term 'zoophile' is often contrasted to the negatively-connoted term "bestialist", which signifies a person who has sex with animals with no such relational interest or care.
  5. Also cited by Miletski, 1999, p.65.
  6. Beetz (2002) section 5.2.25: "One of the most monumental and recent studies on human-animal sexual contact was conducted by Miletski in 1999"
  7. Review by Vern Bullough (distinguished professor emeritus at SUNY, Outstanding Professor at California State University, past president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex, and winner of the Alfred Kinsey Award for distinguished sex research) published in Journal of Sex Research, May 2003: "In sum, this study is a path-breaking one and gives us a better understanding of the topic. Much work still needs to be done, but Miletski should be complimented for her pioneering efforts..." (Online version)
  8. Journal of the International Society for Anthrozoology, published by Dr Anthony Podberscek of the University of Cambridge Department of Veterinary Medicine in Great Britain, exact citation to be obtained
  9. Dittert, Seidl and Soyka, Zoophilia between pathology and normality, Klinik und Poliklinik fur Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, Klinikum der Universitat Munchen [University of Munich], Germany. Indexed PubMed 15197450 [1]
  10. Beetz 2002, section 5.2.4.
  11. By coincidence of timing, zoosexuality research per se became much easier around and just after the time Massen was finishing writing due to the advent of the internet and its myriad online communities in a variety of alternative lifestyles.
  12. Beetz, 2002: "There are different people who engage in sex with animals and not the kind of interaction but first and foremost the quality of the relationship seems to distinguish between them. This emotional relation or at least the respect they show towards the will of the involved animal should be more closely investigated, when conducting research that includes bestiality. Because [it is] this, the quality of the interaction and the relationship – that may be loving, neutral, or violent – and not the fact of a sexual interaction [which] is important, and provides information for a better understanding of bestiality and zoophilia and their significance in relation to other phenomena."
  13. Miletski, chapter 8
  14. The term psychical is used, meaning, "of the psyche". Not to be confused with "physical, meaning, "of the body".
  15. Beetz 2002 section 5.2.6: "Except of the violent sexual acts with animals described above, it should be noted, that in many cases the sexual contact with a mammal of suitable anatomy and size does not necessarily cause pain or injuries to the animal."
  16. Jonathan Balcombe, Pleasurable Kingdom, 2006: Publishers description states that the book: "suggests that creatures from birds to baboons feel good thanks to play, sex, touch, food, anticipation, comfort, aesthetics, and more. Combining rigorous evidence, elegant argument and amusing anecdotes, leading animal behavior researcher Jonathan Balcombe proposes that the possibility of positive feelings in creatures other than humans has important ethical ramifications for both science and society."


This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).