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Bestiality

From Chris Wayan's journal 1997/2/6

Wake up with a strange fantasy of advertising myself in a bondage and discipline column as a dog seeking a mistress. Not an obedient dog--one of those lovably dumb dogs who acts out, who just wants to play and be petted and stick his nose everywhere... A dog not expected to behave with sexual good sense or responsibility. Feels like another phase in my recovery from the sexual weirdness of my childhood. Do I need to act out such fantasies to heal? Or is just noting them enough? Makes me curious what others do...

So I bike over to the library and find a book about healing from child abuse and neglect, "ARMLESS MAIDEN". A lot of the material seems to cling to the victim role, though. I've acknowledged that already--where do you go from there? The next book on the shelf is FOR THE LOVE OF DADDY. Pat Califia's intro says: "Daddy is replacing Master in domination circles" because they want positive male sexual rolemodels, even if that means building on pedophilic fantasies or re-enacting childhood molestation in a safe, loving light. She argues it's healthier to turn old abuse into present love (or at least play) than to repress it or cling to victimhood. "And even if it is pretty edgy, face it--we could all join churches and the Republican party and they'll still hate us queers, so why not do what we like?"

Find the attitude refreshing, even though the heavily butch content of the fantasies doesn't turn me on. Want books on femme roles and straight incest and straight pedophilia and bestiality that do what Califia's anthology does for gay pedophilia, gay incest, and S&M.

But next book on the shelf is about horses. I love libraries! They're so crazy! Recovery from incest, gay bondage fantasies, horses, yup, those go together!

What the hell, I'll take it as a sign. I screw up my courage and look up bestiality in San Francisco's online catalog. Exactly one book in the whole library system! And it's just a study on medieval attitudes towards animals in general, with just one chapter on social attitudes towards interspecies sex.

Surprisingly, it's useful. The pre-Christian attitude sounds kinda familiar: humans are smart animals, all creatures have spirits, sex between species can involve affection and love, and animals can invite or even initiate sex--they're seen as autonomous beings, not Cartesian robots. Early Christian texts draw a sharper line between animals and humans but treat bestiality as a minor sin, an embarrassing sign of immaturity at most. But over the centuries the loathing and penances increase, till bestiality grows from a quirk to a capital crime! At the same time, women slowly become equated with animals, descriptions of devils become distinctly more animalized, and bestiality becomes closely linked to homosexuality. By the time of the witch-hunts, women gays animals and devils are all fused into one complex: not-christian-men. Creepy!

The author thinks this growing paranoia was a reaction to the mounting evidence (pardon the pun) that we're animals with close kin. Apes are mentioned far more in late medieval texts than early ones, for as travel got easier, knowledge of them became more common, and their kinship with us became more obvious. As it got clearer that the Christian thesis "humanity is unique" was just plain wrong, the church got nastier in asserting it, and did its best to silence (i.e., kill) debunkers of the myth.

Also revealing: animal characters in classical fables don't fit medieval or modern views about their species. Foxes can be fools, mice may be brave... The ancients saw animals as individuals, but medievals turned their complex individuality into the neat symbolic stereotypes we still are stuck with: wolves are vicious vs wolves are noble. Yet it pays for any species to be variable, both as a population, and as individuals over time. Mechanomorphism, the assumption that nonhuman creatures will behave in reliable clockwork ways, and that one rat is pretty much like the next rat, is really a hold-over from medieval thinkers trying to deny the parallels between animal and humans. The ancients, who had way more daily experience with wild animals, saw them as modern naturalists do--highly diverse.

Also curious: the modern belief that bestiality equals a sort of statutory rape, because animals can't give informed consent to sex, lacking reason or language--even as evidence mounts for both animal reason AND language. Whether human language is required for informed consent was one of the few points both the ancient pagans and medievals agreed on--and they both disagreed with us! Being in closer contact with animals than we are, they make me wonder. I too find the modern idea strange--knowing whether you or another (animal or human) wants sex doesn't require language--except of course for the famous lesbian sheep, who just stands there waiting for ewe to make the first move. (No really, that's how female sheep show they're interested, according to Science News: they just don't OBJECT. Not the most assertive species!)

Oh well, I know how it feels, being a lesbian sheep. I too just stand there, and my signals are mostly missed--or ignored--or misinterpreted. No wait, very few sheep whine about it on the Net. Much more advanced! Thank you big brain!

Though the book's scholarly, and focused on the Middle Ages, it does put my own feelings in context: I'd feel normal in any pagan culture. In my sexual dreams with animals, most of them talk and are clearly persons, giving clear consent, or even initiating sex; and they link sex to play, affection, love and/or spiritual union... It's appalled me that such positive dreams horrify so many people! They assume such images are rationalizing, something like a child abuser who says "She didn't resist, so no harm done." It's a relief to find hard evidence it's this culture's neurosis not mine--the true analogy is with homophobia, or the medieval view of witches.

I wonder what I'll find if I look up the history of cultural characterizations of incest or pedophilia. Well... as Scarlett O'Hara said, "Tomorrow is another day."

On the way home, I stop at Rainbow Food Co-op for groceries. Get a crush on a girl with green hair, but I don't talk to her. Suddenly I imagine all us Rainbow shoppers and workers plunked back in the Middle Ages, advocating vegetarianism and animal rights...

They'd burn us at the steak.



LISTS AND LINKS: libraries - rants - sociological dreams - bestiality - sex - religion - Stephanie Van Zandt Nelson's research on the medieval roots of our attitude toward dreaming, at the end of "Coyote's Vault" - I volunteer myself as your pet dog in Pet Ad - ethics

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