The ultimate taboo of zoophilia should not be stigmatized, says ethicist

There’s a good reason why the acronym LGBTQIZ+ has never caught on. As the author of an article in the most recent issue of the Journal of Controversial Ideas points out, in the sexual revolution the flag of zoophilia is even more stigmatised than necrophilia or paedophilia. Nonetheless, he sets himself the task of justifying it. “There is in fact nothing wrong with having sex with animals," he writes, "it is not an inherently problematic sexual practice.”

Now before you explode in rage, allow me to put up a qualified defence of the pseudonymous author, Fira Bensto. Yes, his (or her?) ideas are outrageous. But the article was published precisely because it is outrageous, like the other articles accompanying it. One challenges the weirdness of Black feminist intersectional physics. Another asks how to teach snowflake students who cannot abide being offended. Another argues that a sex-based conception of sexual orientation is plausible. (Incredible!) Another defends the right of women to exclude transwomen (i.e., men) from women-only spaces. (Even more incredible!)

In the age of cancel culture, the Journal of Controversial Ideas offers a safe haven for articles which woke academic journals would not dare to touch. The founding editors explained that “The journal is neutral with respect to moral, political, philosophical, religious, and social views. Papers defending ideas commonly considered controversial by liberals or progressives, and those defending ideas considered controversial by conservatives or libertarians, are equally welcome.”

Zoophilia Is Morally Permissible” is certainly controversial, although Bensto says that he is not a zoophile himself. Only three academics have expressed a theoretical tolerance for zoophilia (one of them is utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer, an editor of the journal) but he is the first to argue explicitly that it is “morally permissible”.

Why not hear Bensto out -- not to see if he has good arguments for bestiality because there aren’t any -- but to see what bad arguments he used to persuade himself? The 14-page article is utterly repugnant, so I’ll condense it into a few brief sentences.

The first argument against zoophilia is that it harms animals. Bensto agrees that it could harm some animals, but not necessarily. The second is that animals cannot consent to sexual activity with humans. But Bensto analyses this contention and concludes that “animals can validly consent according to most conceptions except the most demanding ones”.

So, he concludes, “zoophilia ought to be made legally permissible. This entails decriminalizing it where it is currently outlawed and fighting against the current wave of recriminalization. Going beyond mere legalization, we could argue further that zoophilia ought to be socially normalized too.”

Bensto recognises that this view is socially unacceptable, not to say nauseating. However, he doggedly follows the argument wherever it goes. If critics rely upon human exceptionalism or “dubious appeals to naturalness”, it is, he believes, impossible to condemn zoophilia. “Critics of zoophilia need more than outrage, they need better arguments. I suggest that the permissibility of zoophilia should now be taken as the default position, with the burden of proof belonging to its critics.”   



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If Bensto is right, I predict that bestiality will become legal, socially acceptable, normalised, and eventually government subsidised, as all the other letters in the sexual orientation alphabet soup are today. I don’t want to make any tasteless jokes about a society in which this becomes a reality. It is too stomach-churning.

My point is that this article, this reeking bin of intellectual garbage, this stercoraceous heap of idiocy, is logical, perfectly logical -- once you accept its initial premise. He writes:

I will take for granted a broadly antispeciesist or non-anthropocentric perspective that rejects human exceptionalism. Such a perspective ascribes some inherent value or rights to animals and refrains from appealing to tradition, status quo, human or animal essence, or God to reason about ethical issues. This allows us to circumvent a number of objections against zoophilia which usually focus on the “human side” of the relationship and take zoophilia to be a vice, a sexual perversion or to go against Christian morality or human essence.

In short, the mental world of Fira Bensto is the kind of hell that you descend into if you reject human dignity. If humans are not exceptional by virtue of their rationality and immortal soul, if humans are no more than animals with bigger brains and opposable thumbs, then why shouldn’t zoophilia be practiced and even be protected? 

In fact, any taboo can be justified by an ingenious philosopher who does not accept the normativity of God and human dignity. No doubt if Mr Bensto put his mind to it, he could construct a cogent argument for the moral permissibility of genocide. Will he rise to the challenge? I look forward to the next issue of the Journal of Controversial Ideas.  

Michael Cook is editor of Mercator 

Image credits: Bigstock  


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  • Michael Cook
    commented 2023-11-11 17:45:35 +1100
    I’d welcome some reaction to this article. Peter Singer actually advertised it on Twitter with the words “read and ponder”. I’m not sure what he meant by that.
  • Michael Cook
    published this page in The Latest 2023-11-10 17:06:09 +1100