Note: The subject matter below is disturbing. It deals with “zoophilia,” sexual relations between people and animals. While I avoid graphic language and descriptions, the issue itself is tragic.
“My name is Malcolm J. Brenner and this is the story of how I fell in love with Dolly the dolphin.” The story that follows is one of the most disturbing and shocking cultural phenomena of our day.
Let’s begin with Dolphin Lover, the documentary that is making global headlines. Then we’ll look at the larger movement it represents and the tragic way our culture seems to be accepting that movement.
Brenner is a freelance writer, photographer, and journalist. As he explains in Dolphin Lover, he first discovered a theme park called Floridaland as a child in the mid-1960s. In the early 1970s he was asked to take photographs of dolphins there. That’s when he met Dolly, a female dolphin.
Brenner says he was already sexually attracted to animals (he tried to have sex with the family dog when he was eleven or twelve). He attributes his “zoophilia” (sexual relations with animals) to “very intense physical and sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of a psychiatrist in my youth.” He also describes his mother as “kind of a cold, distant character.” So he “found animals to be a safe and secure repository, if you will, for my sexual desires.”
As he developed a relationship with Dolly, he claims that he fell in love with her and she with him. He states, “I think I was probably more in love with Dolly than I’ve ever been with anyone else in my life.”
Brenner wrote a book about his experience with the dolphin, then told his story in the documentary. His motive is clear: he wants to defend “interspecies sex.” He likens it to sex between African Americans and Anglos, which was once a crime. He hopes that “in a more enlightened future zoophilia will be no more regarded as controversial or harmful than interracial sex is today.” He states, “I couldn’t find any moral or ethical objections. And I still don’t.”
Zoophilia in history
“Zoophilia” people describe themselves as sexually attracted to animals and typically view their sexual activities as positive for both themselves and the animals involved. They distinguish “zoophilia” from “bestiality,” sexual relations with animals with little or no regard for the animals.
Sexual relations between people and animals are an attested part of human history. The practice was first depicted in art 25,000 years ago. Ancient pagan myths portray the gods coming in the form of animals and seducing women (Zeus as a bull is a frequent example).
Babylonians reportedly used bestiality during their Spring Fertility Rites. According to the ancient historian Herodotus, Egyptian women had sex with goats for religious purposes. Scholars say that ancient Greeks similarly engaged in bestiality during religious celebrations such as Bacchanalia, in honor of the god Bacchus. Romans used bestiality as a form of amusement in the Colosseum as well. Some Arabian cultures encouraged sex with animals, as did some African tribes.
This practice has not been limited to ancient times. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, bestiality became common in France and other European countries. Some brothers in Paris even supplied animals for their clients. A similar practice occurred in China.
Bestiality is a common practice in some nations today. For instance, according to Huffington Post, German brothels are increasingly offering animals to their customers.
Many who oppose zoophilia/bestiality do so on non-religious grounds. They assert that animals cannot give informed consent to sexual relationship, making the practice essentially rape. The same argument is used against pedophilia.
However, a growing zoophilia movement is now seeking to legitimize the practice. It advocates for bestiality and protests whenever laws that limit it are enacted or threatened. It also seeks to defend zoophiles from discrimination and cultural intolerance.
New York magazine recently carried a 6,200-word story headlined, “What It’s Like to Date a Horse.” The writer interviewed a man who is attracted to female horses. What makes the article so horrifying is not just the behavior it describes, but the sympathetic tone in which it does so. The subject is made to be a man of principle who is courageously willing to tell his story.
A Christian response
After the New York magazine article was published, cultural commentator Damon Linker called it “perhaps the most vivid sign yet that, in effect, the United States (and indeed the entire Western world) is running an experiment—one with very few, if any, antecedents in human history. The experiment will test what happens when a culture systematically purges all publicly affirmed notions of human flourishing, virtue and vice, elevation and degradation.”
Linker is right. Our society is committed to tolerance for all values and practices (except those it considers intolerant, such as conservative Christianity).
Dolphin Lover is an example. It won top prize for Documentary Short Film at the Los Angeles Film Festival and has played at a number of other film festivals around the world. After the movie was released on YouTube, one commenter wrote, “I went from repulsion to acceptance while watching this.” Someone else wrote, “I think this was very touching and fascinating, the people who disliked this video probably didn’t bother watching it.”
Actually, I did. And I more than “disliked” it. I grieved for Malcolm Brenner—for the abuse he suffered as a child and for the confusion with which he lives now. And I grieved for a culture that has so lost its way it doesn’t even know it’s lost.
Solomon noted, “When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue” (Proverbs 28:2). We live in a land that has so transgressed, we are all now our own rulers. How long can our stability continue?
The good news is that the good news is still good news.
Scripture consistently rejects all sexual relations with animals (Exodus 22:19; Leviticus 18:23; Lev. 20:15–16; Deuteronomy 27:21). Wherever the Judeo-Christian worldview has been in the ascent, zoophilia/bestiality in all its forms has declined. When we turn from the depraved to the holy, from paganism to biblical truth, we step from deep darkness into life-giving light.
We can expect our culture to continue its acceptance of behavior we would have rejected just a few years ago. From same-sex marriage to “plural marriage” (polygamy) to “polyamory” (“many loves”) to zoophilia/bestiality, the narrative is now clear.
As a result, our culture needs our witness more than ever. Martin Luther King Jr.: “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”
The less we listen to our conscience, the more we need it.