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Even if he had wanted to adopt more conventional tastes, James couldn't have. "The human body turns me off — women wear perfumes; guys sweat. It irks me. You can show me pictures of nude models and it doesn't turn me on. I think the human body is kind of stupid. A big-horned sheep, certain breeds of dogs, are much more physically attractive to me than a woman with big breasts or a man with a big penis."
James suggested I speak with his friend, a 44-year-old man from the western United States who also asked to speak under a pseudonym. Ron, as we'll call him, uses an Internet connection and email that make it nearly impossible to track his IP address. Our interview occurred through Yahoo Messenger. Ron tells of a fantasy about horses when he was teenager, but acting it out seemed impossible to him. It remained that way through his teens and almost his 20s, "until the day I found by accident a porn site with pictures of men and women having intimacy with horses," Ron says. "I realized that it was possible, and I have not looked back since."
In fact, he has an attraction to several animals — among them: dogs, horses, and goats. Raised a Southern Baptist, Ron says his first struggle was with bisexuality and that after some soul-searching, he ultimately decided that "God is more concerned with how we treat others than what sex we have."
Both Ron and James interact with fellow zoophiles through websites, and neither has found patterns that typify the discovery of one's attractions nor commonalities in background or life experiences. James rattles off a long list of zoophiles he's known who occupy different demographic categories: "white, black, Asian, Mormon, Amish, Catholic, atheist, pagan, Jewish, male and female, and two who are legally blind."
Among the seven zoophiles I consulted for this article, all say that theirs is an orientation and that to meet the definition, one must not harm an animal. For this reason, a man who has sex with chickens, for instance, is not a zoophile because the act is sure to hurt if not kill the chicken. Zoophiles I spoke with say they are as opposed to forcing sex upon animals as the rest of society is opposed to the rape of humans.
In fact, a zoophile from Southwest Florida named Malcolm Brenner wrote Senator Rich a letter voicing support for the principles of her bill — if not for the assumptions that underlie it. "I said I agreed with her trying to prevent animal abuse, but I tried to point out that what gets reported in the news is not zoophilia," Brenner says. "These are instances of bestiality that have injured the animal."
Brenner, a 58-year-old freelance writer, says he hopes to publish a novel he's chipped away at for 30 years titled Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover. It's the fictionalized account of a love affair he had with a dolphin, named Ruby in the novel.
Around age 11, Brenner began to experience urges he knows now as "mixoscopic zoophilia" — the term for watching two animals have sex. Except in Brenner's fantasy, he says, "I was one of animals who were mating."
Though Brenner wasn't raised in a religious family, he knew he was exploring attractions forbidden by society. "I had a relationship with my family's dog, and I felt very ashamed about that. I hadn't developed an attraction toward women."
He tried, though. And Brenner says he almost convinced himself, except for the persistence of the dolphin. He met her in the '70s, as a teenager, while photographing dolphins in an amusement park called Floridaland, in Osprey. The photos were to be illustrated in a book by a family friend.
"The dolphin developed an attraction toward me," Brenner says. "And she had to work very hard to get me to respond to what she wanted."
It was a rough courtship. "When you're in the water with a dolphin, you do whatever they want you to," Brenner says. In this dolphin's case, he adds, "If you don't do what they want, they'll push you to the bottom of a 12-foot pool."
When that didn't work, Brenner says, the dolphin tried a gentler, subtler seduction. "She would take my leg very lightly in her jaws and run her teeth up and down my leg," he says. "It's an incredible sensation. I don't know if other people would find it erotic, but I certainly did."
That method overcame Brenner's resistance. He consummated his flirtations with the dolphin. "It was the most intense experience I've ever had," he says. "A transcendental experience. I felt I was completely wrapped up."
The power of it scared him, though. He didn't want to develop an attachment to her, not only because of their difference in species but also because they were going in different directions: The dolphin's amusement park had closed, and she'd been sold to one in Gulfport, Mississippi; Brenner was attending school that fall in Olympia, Washington. "I felt bad about leaving her," he says of Ruby. "But quite frankly, I was weirded out. I felt I needed to get in a relationship with a woman."