Historical And Cultural Perspectives On Zoophilia
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First, let me start by just saying "Eew…"

Basic Information

Zoophilia is sex between humans and animals1. This is also known as bestiality and by a variety of other, culturally specific terms - many of them highly pejorative.

I really don't want to go into this at length and detail, and luckily (thanks to Wikipedia) I don't have to. Suffice it to say that our modern cultural taboos have not always been the norm. Many cultures over the ages have been rather looser in regards to bestiality.

Here's a brief overview, consult wikipedia if you need the zoological specifics:

  • Prehistory: Some paleolithic artwork includes images of bestiality.
  • Nordic Bronze Age: Zoosexual carvings at Sagaholm.
  • Ancient Egypt: Bestiality may have been an element in Egyptian culture and religious practice.
  • Ancient Greece: The gods are depicted as frequently having sex with or as animals in Greek Mythology. Numerous classical writers mention bestiality, some of them in terms far from condemning.
  • Ancient Rome: Took the Greek Myths one step further, including very disturbing recreations at the Circus Maximus.
  • Europe in the Middle Ages: Witches were often accused of having sex with animals that The Devil had possessed - or with the Devil himself in animal form2.
  • Recent and contemporary Tribal Cultures: Some (certainly not all) have less stigma attached to zoophilia than we do.
  • Us: We like to pretend we're all prim and proper, but you can find anything on the internet. Or some seedy bars.

It is notable that cultures that find bestiality revolting tend to throw the book at it. When witches were burned, their suspected familiars were also put down. Prior to 1861, English law declared Buggery a hang-able offense. The Talmud has a passage prohibiting women from even being alone with animals.

Sources

Bibliography

Game and Story Use

  • The bond between a Druid and his or her Animal Companion might prove to be very intimate. Just sayin'.
  • If you want to make a culture seem really alien or bizarre, this is one way to do so. The squick factor is likely to get a visceral reaction from your players.
  • If you're establishing fantastic racism in your setting, a sexual relationship with other sapients might be considered bestiality (or at the very least an extremely literal case of xenophilia).
    • Very mundane racism might consider some or all interracial relationships bestial, especially if the cultural schema denies or minimises the humanity of one of the partners.
    • More generally, a highly legalistic society could further restrict who is a "person" and who is a "non-person" (and therefore potentially an animal equivalent)3.
    • Looking forward, there may well be equivalent questions about the sexuality of sapient AIs, Bioroids and uplifted animals viz-a-viz humans…
  • Could justify a Half Human Hybrid race in fantasy. Crossbreeding for religious reasons, giving rise to a Hybrid caste.
    • This actually has significant possibilities for a religion that practices totemism (although there is no evidence of any real-life totemists doing this) and might be the result of having your body borrowed by the wrong kind of spirit if you happen to be a shaman.
  • Could also be played for laughs. Especially if Zeus is involved.
  • Note that the centaur and minotaur both have their origins in bestiality.
  • Where fantasy genetics actually allow anything to crossbreed with anything else, anti-bestiality laws may be more or less rigorously enforced.
  • Some more esoteric sources suggest that bestiality taboos may have been at least in part to prevent modern humans miscegenating with other pseudohumans such as Neanderthals.
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