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. Follow him on Twitter.

Now, the final depravity: bestiality.

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."

The parties were "a potluck supper kind of thing," says the Happy Horseman. "It was pretty much a classless society of our own little small world. No one had any kind of different statuses. … There was no alphas and omegas and betas." The men would drink, smoke, chat, and watch movies. Then, says H, one of them might suggest, "Hey, let's go out to the barn and pester the animals." In the re-enactment, the men leave the house and head out into the darkness.

It's just like a gay orgy, except that it's the opposite. The guys aren't there to have sex with one another. They're there to have conversation with one another, followed by sex with beasts whose cousins the men regard as barbecue meat. The classlessness of the society in the house conceals its abuse of the society in the barn. Later, the men return from the barn, bonded together in silent triumph. This isn't a gay party. It's a frat party.

If you're worried about where this mentality comes from, don't look at Brokeback Mountain. Look at Limbaugh. Like the zoophiles, he exalts stupid sex objects. "How many of you women in the audience, in the deepest, dark secrets of your dreams and desires, would be flattered to be hired as eye candy?" he asked  his listeners a year ago. "I'm not talking about being chased around the desk," he added. "But probably some women wouldn't be bothered by that, either."

Like the zoophiles, Limbaugh loves a frat party. Long before the Duke rape case unraveled, he called the alleged victims "hos." When the Abu Ghraib scandal erupted, he joked, "Have you people noticed who the torturers are? Women! The babes!" What had happened in the prison, he shrugged, was "no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation, and we're going to ruin people's lives over it," just "because they had a good time."

To Limbaugh, women are just like animals. Don't take my word for it. Take his. Five months ago, he compared his cat to a girlfriend: "She gets loved. She gets adoration. She gets petted. She gets fed. And she doesn't have to do anything for it, which is why I say this cat's taught me more about women than anything my whole life."

That's the kind of frat-boy thinking that ends with a bunch of drunken idiots in a barn. The next time you hear that biblical injunction against lying down with mankind, remember that the alternatives could be worse.