Dearest Pet: On Bestiality

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Verso, 2000 - Art - 208 pages
2 Reviews
"People love animals--a stroke here, a pat there, a quick nuzzle in that gorgeous fur ... the amount of cuddling they get can make you jealous. In Holland, dogs are caressed more than people. Not as thoroughly, though: that one spot, somewhere down below, generally remains untouched ..." Generally, but certainly not always. Kinsey's research showed that 8 per cent of men and 3.5 per cent of women had had sex with an animal, and that in rural areas the figure for men was closer to 50 per cent. Yet bestiality is almost universally condemned. While our love for animals is extolled as noble and "natural," all erotic elements in the relationship between humans and other species are vilified and proscribed, thus consigning them to the realm of exotic pornography or crude innuendo.

Even so, something remains of physical love for animals. In different forms, sublimated or occasionally celebrated, its traces can be found throughout art and popular culture: in Leda and the Swan, Beauty and the Beast or the Lorelei; in a lubricious menagerie of satyrs and centaurs, wolfmen and vampires, all the way through to King Kong and Fritz the Cat, pony clubs and amorous dolphins, or even advertisements for luxury catfoods.

Dearest Pet uncovers and explores those traces, illuminating the ambivalence of human attitudes to cross-species sexuality. Its author, the biologist and broadcaster Midas Dekkers, has analysed bestiality in all its aspects--physical, psychological and legal--and examined its representations in religion and mythology, art and literature, pornography and advertising. Beautifully--and sometimes bizarrely--illustrated, his book is neither drily academic nor pruriently trivial, but erudite, witty and challenging: the first history of the last taboo. A book for animal lovers, and for those who are just their good friends.

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I'm sorry, but this is possibly the least academic book I have ever read. I was sent a link to this from an acquaintance who was using this supposed academic work to prove a point. I've only read 13 pages and I have already found several problems:
1. The author implies that kissing domesticated animals is a sign of our latent sexual feelings towards them, but we as humans do not always kiss because we are sexually attracted. Otherwise, we must all be latent pedophiles too, because what parent has never kissed their infant. Additionally, we must all be secretly attracted to all of our relatives as well, if this holds true. Kissing is a sign of affection, not necessarily a sign of lust.
2. The author implies that the dove which appeared to inform Mary of being chosen as a vessel for Christ had sex with her in order for her to become pregnant. In the same paragraph, the author mentions Mary as a virgin. I fail to see how she could be a virgin after having sex. The two negate each other, regardless of species.
3. The author, while not explicitly stating this, seems to say that people of the 1600s did not understand the correlation between sex and pregnancy. This seems to be more of a problem of phrasing than understanding, as I'm sure the author knows that people since the time of the Egyptians understood that sex lead to pregnancy (as the inventions of the first contraceptive show).
4. pg 16. The author notes "records of bestiality" from the Inquisition, but fails to note that such records are discredited by most of the academic community because they were obtained under torture. Repeated experience throughout human history has shown that, under torture, innocent people will make up vivid stories to placate their tormentors and stop the torture. The Inquisition's records, including the one cited in the text, also have "eyewitness" reports of people riding on sticks in the sky, having sex with the Devil, and eating human babies. I find the use of this extract without the proper context to be academically irresponsible. 21. The author refers to sexual reproduction, that is having gendered species, as "inefficient." I understand that this is nit-picky, but the fact is that most of the scientific community agrees that this in fact helps species by allowing a larger gene pool. If it were "inefficient" then gendered species would have all died out millions of years ago.
6. pg 20 & 21. The author implies cross-species mating does not occur in the wild. It does. An example more close to home may be the way a dog may try to mount a human's leg. Additionally, the author implies that when courting, an individual animal will monitor them closely for signs of 'otherness.' While it is true an individual animal monitors potential partners closely, it is not to determine the others' species (an elephant recognizes another elephant immediately, this has never been an issue). What the individual is in fact instinctively monitoring is it's partner's genetic viability (essentially, if offspring with the partner will be healthy and continue the species). Vague sentence structure may be responsible for this.
7. pg 21. The author states that species are classified as such because they are a group of organisms that mate with each other, and only after the fact begrudgingly admits that viable offspring factor into this. A species is a group of organisms that produce viable (fertile) offspring as a result of reproduction. Again the author seems to claim that cross-species mating does not happen.
The fact is that cross-species mating happens, although rarely. It happens rarely because we (gendered organisms) are naturally interested in our own species- this is a survival tactic of natural selection, if we weren't we would never have survived as a species. But the fact is that organisms occasionally have urges that are not directed to the continuation of the species but rather to sexual gratification. There are numerous recorded

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About the author (2000)

Midas Dekkers was born in Haarlem, the Netherlands, in 1946. Trained as a biologist, he broadcasts regularly on the animal world.

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