Gays, horses, bimbos, and bestiality.

Science, technology, and life.
May 4 2007 11:58 PM

Bareback Mountain

Gays, horses, bimbos, and bestiality.

Still from Zoo. Click image to expand.
Zoo

First comes sodomy. Then incest, polygamy, and pedophilia. That, the preachers warn us, is how society slides into ruin.

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

Now, the final depravity: bestiality.

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Zoo, a movie about zoophiles—people who eroticize animals—opened today in Los Angeles, a week after its debut in New York. The Traditional Values Coalition denounces  it as an attempt "to normalize bestiality as simply another sexual orientation." The American Family Association has threatened to boycott  any company that promotes it. Right-wing blogs are blaming Will and Grace, Heather Has Two Mommies, and Brokeback Mountain  for paving this road to hell. Rush Limbaugh, whose mockery of zoophiles is woven into the movie, compares them to gay men who fornicate in public restrooms.

It's an equation as old as Leviticus. Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: It is abomination. Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: Neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: It is confusion. But the confusion, it turns out, is between homosexuality and bestiality. The zoophiles in the movie—men who have sex with horses—don't think like gay men. They think more like Limbaugh.

Conservatives have long feared that homosexuality would lead to other perversions. Zoo, they suspect, proves it. "The moral relativism that advocates an equality between normal sexual relations and aberrant homosexual relations is what has made movies such as this possible," complains  one blog. But Zoo isn't about equality. It's about inequality. It gets inside the heads of the horse fetishists, exploring their peculiar mentality. At the core of that mentality is a craving for otherness. Zoophilia isn't homo. It's hetero. Very hetero.

The men in the movie think their trysts are meaningful. "It's the love of animals—that's what zoophilia is," says one, a ranch hand who goes by his Internet alias, H. "It's just like if you love your wife." Another, who calls himself the Happy Horseman, ventures, "You're connecting with another intelligent being."

But the more the men talk, the more this pretense unravels. "I don't need a high level of emotional interaction," says a zoophile who goes by the name Coyote. The Happy Horseman agrees. A horse "has no idea what Tolstoy is, or Keats," he explains. "You can't discuss the difference between Monet and Picasso. That just doesn't exist for their world. It's a simpler, very plain world. And for those few moments, you kind of can get disconnected."

In other words, horses are bimbos. The ranch where the men gathered for equine sex, nestled under a mountain in the Pacific Northwest, was a place to get away from failed marriages and friendships. For some, the Happy Horseman recalls, going there meant, "I don't have to really deal with relationships."

The men think the sex is consensual, since the horses—sorry, but there's no other way to explain this—do the penetrating. "They don't care whether it's a filly underneath them or a human," Coyote says of the stallions. In this respect, the horses are no brighter than the local animal welfare officer, who, according to H, "doesn't know her ass from a hole in the ground." H yammers on about love, Buddhism, and taking good care of his animals. But when it's time to explain why he invited other zoophiles to the ranch, he says some of them might "just want to grab a horse by his nuts."

The most telling scene depicts one of the parties the men threw. One guy mixes drinks in a blender; another pulls red meat out of the freezer. "These were people I could trust," Coyote recalls fondly. H recounts his hospitality: "I'd invite them to my home, and I'd treat them like any other person that was in my house. I did summertime barbecues, Thanksgiving. I did Christmas dinners. One year we did a turkey and a ham."

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