A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

Has 1 in 8 people had sex with an animal?

April 12, 2002

Dear Cecil:

Hello, I've looked around for documentation and evidence to refute or validate the statement my sociology professor made to illustrate that the world isn't really what it seems. He claims that "one out of every eight humans has had sex with an animal." Please respond if you're going to investigate "the old one in eight" as my professor calls it.

Cecil replies:

Maybe I lack initiative, but this didn't seem like the kind of thing where you could just go out on the street and ask for a show of hands. Instead I camped out in the medical library looking for articles on zoophilia, or the love of one's fellow creatures. Highlights of my results:

  • According to Alfred Kinsey — you knew I was going to drag him into this — "some 17 percent of the farm boys in our sample had had some sexual contact with farm animals to the point of orgasm, while half or more of the boys from certain rural areas of the United States had had such experience." Kinsey later alludes to the greater tolerance for such things in the west. I take this to mean that in Kinsey's day, when you saw a happy couple walking down the aisle in Wyoming, it was better than even money that the groom had had sex with a sheep.
  • Not necessarily today, though. Comparative studies of 100 students at the University of Northern Iowa found that in 1974, 11 percent (of college students, mind you) had had sexual contact with an animal, but in 1980 only 3 percent had. Unanswered question: Did this reflect the more conservative national mood heralded by the election of Ronald Reagan or just greater access to color TV?
  • You think it's just horny farm boys that do this? I have a report about a 42-year-old woman with four children who was five months pregnant. She complained to her doctor of dizziness and fainting and "confessed that approximately 20 minutes prior to her arrival she had had coitus with her German shepherd dog. … One or 2 minutes later she began feeling hot, broke out in whelps [!] and felt faint." She was allergic to dog semen, the loser.
  • Back to statistics. I found a study on the prevalence of bestiality among psychiatric patients, ordinary hospital patients, and psychiatric staff. Its abstract noted: "Psychiatric patients were found to have a statistically higher prevalence rate (55%)of bestiality than the control groups (10% and 15% respectively)." What struck me was not that the first group had a high rate — hey, they were psychiatric patients — but the implication that, as your professor claimed, maybe one in eight ordinary people was doing it with goats. However, it turns out that 2 out of 20 ordinary hospital patients, and 3 out of 20 psychiatric staff (two of them female) had merely fantasized about sexual contact with an animal--none had done anything about it. Still, it's interesting to think that when you're walking down the street looking good, 5 out of 40 people you pass are more interested in your Irish setter.
  • According to The Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices by Brenda Love (sure), avisodomy is "the ancient practice of having sex with a bird. As the man is about to orgasm he breaks the neck of the bird, causing the bird's cloaca sphincter to constrict and spasm, thus creating pleasurable sensations for the man." Turning the page, I see where "a sheepherder in South Africa evidently became so proficient that he devised a technique whereby he cut two holes at the bottom of his jacket in which to insert the hind legs of sheep to anchor them in place for coitus."
  • I bet even the sheepherders think this is weird: One fellow with a type of zoophilia called formicophilia "was preoccupied with collecting snails, ants, cockroaches and frogs, and then masturbating while these creatures crawled on his body." After 12 weeks of therapy he was still doing this once a week, but three times a week he was masturbating with conventional porn. Progress!
  • A study of 51 chronic zoophiles found that for 88 percent of the women the main motive was "emotional involvement," whereas 59 percent of the men said they did it because it was cheaper. Ain't it always the way?
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