April 20, 2024

The ultimate taboo should not be stigmatized, says ethicist

There’s a good reason why the acronym LGBTQIZ+ has never caught on. As the anonymous author of an article in the most recent article in 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: it is not an inherently problematic sexual practice.”

In the age of cancel culture, the Journal of Controversial Ideas offers a safe haven for articles which other academic journals would not dare to touch. “Zoophilia Is Morally Permissible” is certainly one of those, although the pseudonymous author, Fira Bensto, says that he is not a zoophile himself. Only three academics have expressed a theoretical tolerance for zoophilia, he says, but he is the first to argue explicitly that it is morally permissible.

His starting point is to exclude human exceptionalism. He takes a “broadly antispeciesist or non-anthropocentric perspective”.

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. However, 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, to put it mildly, socially unacceptable. However, if critics do 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.”