One thing I have found in all my research into bestiality is that it is, predominantly, a male activity. There are women who do it, but over and over again, the majority of what I’ve read is talking about men. Some of this may be down to the historical importance of penetration when it came to trials but I think it goes beyond that.
Looking back in history, between 1635 and 1778, Sweden executed about 700 people for bestiality, mostly adolescent boys and young men. At the same time, under the UK laws, penetration was necessary and hence those people prosecuted were almost always men. There was at least one exception and that was a woman and her dog who were hanged in 1679. Women were generally accused in a different way, through witchcraft trials. English women on trial for witchcraft would often confess to having sex with the devil, who frequently took an animal form.
“Bestiality discredited men in the way that witchcraft discredited women”
– John Murrin
However, unlike bestiality which is a specific act and a one off incident, witchcraft tended to be vague. Bestiality vs witchcraft is a topic that I want to look into more in the future.
At certain points in British history, abuse of an animal was considered to be a violation of the man’s property, as was the case when women were abused by men other than their husband.
When I was looking at reasons why people have sex with animals, or how they explain their actions, I focused mostly on the modern situation. Historically, Arab men have had sex with goats, mares, sheep, sows, asses and cooperative camels. It was believed that sex with an animal increased virility, cured disease and made their penis bigger – the latter is a belief that I’ve found replicated in different cultures. What won’t men do for a bigger dick?
“Sex between humans and nonhuman animals remains a typically male activity”
– Christine Overall
Some cultures also view young men having sex with animals as a part of learning about sex and sexuality. It is also a way of demonstrating man’s control and domination over nature.
We have to consider this topic within the context of the patriarchal society we live in, where women are still so often considered objects, there for the amusement of men.
“The privileged expectation in male dominant societies [is] that men shall have sexual access to the bodies of women as a right”
– Sheila Jeffreys
This attitude around the right to sex, sex entitlement, certainly has a role to play and as we saw in the justifications section of this series, some people have sex with animals because they can’t have sex with women.
“Animal sexual assault is the product of a masculinity that sees women, animals and nature as objects that can be controlled, manipulated and exploited.”
– Pier Beirne
We see this when we look at male sexist language. Calling women bitches, birds, chicks, foxy, fresh meat etc creates emotional distance between man and ‘prey’, making women less than and hence easier to abuse without guilt. If this is the case, then surely within this construct, it’s not much of a stretch to abuse animals.
As I said at the start, women do engage in bestiality and I don’t want to portray this as a purely masculine behaviour but it is something to keep in mind in this conversation.