Thursday, December 14, 2006


I hope you’ll indulge my little experiment in trying to dodge the web-crawlers who are looking for entries on interspecies intimacy. Last time I just flat used the word, I got a lot of really repulsive and quite vivid spam. It takes a long time to get that stuff out of one’s head and I needed the space for other things.

This is a book review: “Dearest Pet: On B*st**l*ty” by Midas Dekkers, translated from the Dutch by Paul Vincent. (Yes, it was a remaindered book.) Do not expect the warm and humorous approach of a nice Jewish mother like Dr. Ruth. This is blunt, sometimes block-headed, and not very sympathetic. The idea is to be intellectual and analytical in the old fashioned way that requires a person to smoke a pipe, so as to have pauses to think, during which one knocks out dottle and looks for more matches.

But it’s very useful to take this hyper-dignified tone of voice if you are an animal control officer who has a complaint about the practice and must go knock on the doors of both complainant and perpetrator to see what to do about it. “Excuse me, madam, but I’m here to ask some questions about the relationship between your son and the neighbor’s dog.”

It’s also useful for the person who must answer the phone, never knowing or being able to imagine what complaint might come next. I admired the shelter attendant who took the call when a woman phoned in despair because her husband would only relate in the marital way to the family cat and not to her. The shelter attendant kindly and gently moved the woman over to the idea that counseling would do more good that having us come to pick up the cat.

Many times the tone of these matters is much like the indignant Australian about to be court-martialed for molesting an ostrich. “If I’d known everyone would be so upset, I’d have married the Xing bird!” That is, people are inclined to mix issues. At least he picked a big bird. Chickens and ducks are likely to be killed by such invasions, but then they can be eaten afterwards. In such cases, cruelty laws apply until the bird is dead -- then USDA laws pertain. The trouble is that people who do such things are normally smart enough to do it privately so there is no complainant.

Kinsey reported that up to half of rural men have tried the charms of domestic animals large enough to be accommodating, but a much lower percentage of urban men have done so, as Dekkers says, “because in the city women are more available than cows.” In other words, sex acts in general are likely to be crimes of opportunity, if in fact they are crimes. It is probably wise to resist defining most such events as crimes per se, and treat them as mental disorders instead. For instance, the man caught having sex with a dead deer alongside a road was defended as innocent because the law referred only to live animals: there was no law against bestial necrophilia. It’s impossible to define the parameters of perversion.

One cannot predict the ingenuity of the human sex drive. It has evolved to continue the species in spite of many obstacles. I did my hospital chaplaincy where one program (from which I was excluded) was the invention of sex lives for married persons with disabled partners. One man had no sensation except for the backs of his upper arms, but using just that area, his wife learned to bring him to climax. As Dekkers says, and as I used to tell junior high kids a little too advanced for their age, “The most important human sex organs are your skin and your brain -- so take good care of both.” Of course, if you want brainy sex, you’ll need another human being. (Certain congressmen, using email, don’t need skin at all.)

Dekkers is quite broad in addressing cross-species relationships, speaking of the penetration of the fragrant tube of the flower by the buzzing energetic bee. He also spends a good deal of time on the eroticism of the mother/child relationship, which is naturally enough the model for much of women’s attachment to their pets and why they tend to see pet “abuse” as equal to the abuse of children. More amorous men should pay attention to the charms of protective cuddling. If they treated their girl friends the way their girl friends treat their cats, all parties might be pleased at the results.

Nursing is also an exchange of fluids and in some cultures women are expected to nurse piglets as well as children, because the survival of the piglets is so important. At the other extreme, women are probably more likely to be vegetarian than men, because of considering animals to be like children. Dekkers likes to remind us what we’re doing when we eat eggs and sperm of various species and what part of the mother the chicken eggs drop out of. Last night on the radio someone was relating that his cousin visited the farm and finally realized where milk came from -- the news shocked him as much as when someone told him what his mother and father had done to create him.

If you look at blogs labeled with the word I decline to spell, you’ll find that the issue is much entwined with religious commandments and the doctrines that protect the privileged status of humans. Also, there are many libertarians intent on claiming that such shenanigans are victimless crimes, which shows that they’ve never read Linda Lovelace’s autobiography. She’s the actress who became famous in the movie that celebrated her lack of a gag reflex but who was forced to do some things with dogs literally at gunpoint -- even WITH the gunpoint. Then there’s the set of people who have extra-terrestial cross-cosmic relationships, beamed up for ecstacy.

I repeat, the animal that animal control is constantly required to address is the human one. In Portland, we used to get two or three complaints about inappropriate relations every year. We got none about humans killed in pursuit of the ultimate (generally the receivers of horses), but probably the police would have sense enough to deal with that themselves. Although when a local porn palace featured an act with a woman and a Great Dane, the police asked for our opinion about whether or not it was cruelty. We deadpanned back, “What was the expression on the face of the dog at time.” He said he’d have to go watch the act again. He was distracted the first couple of times.

Don’t read this book unless you need to have your consciousness raised. There are illustrations I would not leave lying around, especially the Japanese ones that tend to take genitals-as-sea-creatures to extremes. Now I have to go find some more matches and check the elbow patches on my tweeds.

PS: All sheep jokes in the comments will be deleted as soon as I see them. I already know too many.

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