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Can animals consent to sex?

Illustration for article titled Can animals consent to sex?

I was just watching this GIF (possible trigger warning: dog sex + vomit) for the 100th time when the thought occured to me.


It seems like consent is something that requires language to materialize, and perhaps this is why I think that animals can't consent. Yet, I still feel like animal rape is a real thing, that could possibly traumatize the female. Even if they can't consent, it doesn't mean that they can't not want to have sex. I have heard of puppy mills that rape the female dogs so that they could get more puppies (not sure how that would happen though?) There's this article that claims that dolphins rape humans. (This does not help improve the dolphin's image in my mind. On an unrelated note, my friend loves reminding me that dolphins look like sharks squeezed into a condom.) There's also another article about *shudder* dolphin gang rapes. A former zookeeper (he might be lying though) says this:

I have never heard of bears raping women, but there are documented cases of orang-utans doing so. Young male orang-utans often rape females - around half of all orang-utan births are thought to be the result of rape - because they often find a female in heat before a fully-grown, dominant male does. The female does not want to mate with an immature male, and will resist his advances, but he will force her. Since this is non-consentual sex, it can be called rape, but one can hardly blame the animal for raping a human in the same way - it is just following its natural instincts.

The same is true of a dog humping its owner's leg, or the incidents you refer to with the bull and donkey - the animals just see a chance for copulation and attempt to take it. It's debatable whether this can really be called rape, because the animals themselves have no such concept. In most of these cases there is no penetration, because the animal cannot physically join with the human without the human complying - unlike orang-utans, they don't have arms or hands with which to restrain and undress the human.


I think this in turns raises a whole lot of other questions. If animals can indeed consent to sex, then is bestiality okay? Should we actively prevent non-consensual animal sex if it results in the birth of highly endangered animals? Are there non-human rapists? Are they in the wrong?

I do think that if animal rape exists, then it would be less traumatic than human rape. I think in today's society, sex is considered as something more than just an act of reproduction. Perhaps animals wouldn't feel shame after being raped, because they are incapable of feeling it? Or maybe it is worse, because they have no support group, nor the words to formulate why they feel bad after sex with this other animal.


I don't know. This is a new train of thought to me (I try to steer clear of thoughts related to bestiality because they conjure disgusting imagery in my mind) so this is more like a seed. I am sure the comments will be more insightful.

PS: Also related- are humans animals?

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