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Coming like animals

Animal orgasm and interspecies domination
Don Kulick
Traduction(s) :
Jouir comme des bêtes


The evolutionary origin of orgasm in the hominid lineage that led to Homo sapiens has given rise to numerous debates on its eventual adaptive advantages. This article takes a step sideways by exploring other branches and instances of cross-breeding in the tree of life. How do other animal species experience sexual pleasure and orgasm, with a fellow creature or … with a human? After examining the diverse representations of animal pleasure (in popular culture, art, works on artificial insemination, zoophilic pornography), the author suggests that it obliges us to reflect on the configuration and the limits of the ethical universe that we share with animals.

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1In the natural sciences such as evolutionary biology, physical anthropology and neurology, there are intense debates about the status of animal orgasm and how it changed and evolved into human orgasm. These debates all centre on female orgasm. The burning question is this: since women don’t have to experience orgasm in order to conceive, why do they have the capacity for orgasm? There are a number of theories about this. One is the charmingly named “upsuck” hypothesis. This postulates that when females orgasm, they set off a sucking motion of the uterus that helps move the sperm along the reproductive tract. A competing theory is what biologist Elizabeth Lloyd has named the “fantastic bonus” account. Lloyd’s argument is that women have orgasms for the same reason that men have nipples; that is to say, they have them as a by-product of shared tissues during early embryonic development. A final hypothesis currently being debated is that women have orgasms because early hominids lost oestrus – that is, our ancestors lost the characteristic of being in heat. This loss has made it necessary to evolutionarily construct another motivation for females to engage in intercourse, and that motivation was orgasm, which then became selected as adaptive (Komisaruk, Beyer-Flores & Whipple 2006; Lloyd 2006).

2All these speculations about the evolution of female orgasm suggest that at some point in prehistory, primates evolved the capacity to experience sexual pleasure – they began, in other words, to orgasm. Animal sexual pleasure is explicitly addressed in some of the literature on primates, such as in primatologist Franz de Waal’s book Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape. There, in a chapter titled “Apes from Venus”, a photograph of a female bonobo ape lying on her back and lazily fingering her clitoris is accompanied by the text, “Why else would this bonobo female be masturbating if not for pleasure? Bonobo females have unusually prominent clitorises and are among the most sexually solicitous creatures in the animal kingdom” (de Waal 1997: 111).

3In literature like this, it is apparent that scientists and primatologists are actually discussing animal sexual pleasure. It therefore seems legitimate to ask: what is the cultural context in which scientists feel themselves able to identify sexual pleasure and evaluate it? How is animal sexual pleasure represented more generally in society? What do those representations signify in terms of humans’ engagement with non-human animals?

4That is the subject of this essay.

Animal erotics

5There are innumerable representations of animal erotics in human cultures. In contemporary Western culture, these frequently take the cuddly form of romance and dating – Walt Disney’s Lady and the Tramp chastely enjoying a plate of spaghetti together, or sentimental depictions of heterosexual coupling among mommy penguins and daddy penguins. Animal pleasure is also sometimes depicted more sexually, as in Robert Crumb’s Fritz the Cat comics (Crumb 2012). In addition to these kinds of representations, animal erotics is regularly featured in nature films, where animal mating practices are often highlighted as an entertaining or violent spectacle. Mating practices are typically narrated in a way that invites viewers to identify with the male of the species. In order to successfully mate, a male is often presented as having to overcome a challenge: he must battle other males, or he must seduce picky females with gifts, extravagant plumage, impressive antlers, agile dance steps, and so on. This gendered framing is a recurring feature of nature programme narratives: think of depictions of black widow spiders and female praying mantises devouring their mates (who are often referred to with the empathy-inducing adjective “hapless”, which means unlucky and unfortunate). Think of the gigantic slug-like sea lions having to engage in savage battles with one another before they can access a teeming and de-individualized “harem”; think of the deep sea angler fish, where the tiny male attaches himself to the gigantic female and becomes absorbed into her body as an appendage. Nature film narratives that depict animal sexual behaviour all tend to be gently structured so that much more attention is paid to the sexual travails of the males than to anything a female does or wants.

6This attention to the sexual release of male animals in nature films is mirrored in theriogenology, which is the science of animal reproduction. Theriogenology is an entire scientia sexualis for animals. It is a voluminous literature that focuses on artificial insemination and is published in journals with names like Veterinary Clinics of North America Equine Practice. It discusses what it calls “libido” in animals (male animals, at any rate), and it gives detailed instructions on how to stimulate male animals to ejaculation, instructions like this:

While applying firm pressure, the shaft and glans are gently manipulated in a rhythmic fashion until the horse responds with pelvic thrusting. As the horse thrusts forward, the hands follow the thrusting motion. Steady pressure is maintained on the shaft. Simultaneously, the glans is rhythmically massaged with rotation motion, with the thumb massaging the firm protuberance of the corpus cavernosum penis into the glans penis. During initial training of a stallion, the position of the hands as well as the rhythm and strength of the pressure applied on the shaft and glans are varied depending on the response of the stallion, with the goal of inducing deep pelvic thrusts and engorgement of the glans characteristic of normal copulatory response. (Crump & Crump 1989: 342)

7Instructions like these are sometimes illustrated with photos (McDonnell & Love 1990).

8Like the nature films that focus on how males overcome challenges to mate with females, the literature on artificial insemination is also fascinating from the perspective of gender, because, again, great detail is lavished on male animals. The literature carefully instructs us, for example, that the correct temperature of the warm wet cloths one should use to manually stimulate the glans penis of a stallion should be about 45° C. In contrast, there is nothing on how one might stimulate a mare before artificially inseminating her. So a stallion, a boar, a camel or any other male animal is provided with a range of what the literature calls “breeding stimuli” – these include proximity to female animals in oestrus, who are actually referred to as “teasers”. But it seems that all female animals who are inseminated get in the way of stimulus is a catheter, a syringe and a squirt. This is a literature screaming out for feminist analysis.

9Another feature of this literature that makes it interesting in the context of animal orgasm is that it acknowledges individual erotic taste. For example, one article instructs collectors of pig semen to “grasp the spiral end of his [the boar’s] penis with the hand (gloved or bare, it must be clean, dry and warm). Allow the boar to thrust through the clenched hand a few times before applying pressure. Hand pressure on the spiral part of the penis, imitates that of the oestrus sow’s cervix, stimulating ejaculation. With experience, it becomes obvious that some boars prefer more pressure than others” (Queensland Government 2010). Another example of individual libido, in an article titled “Stallion ejaculation induced by manual stimulation of the penis”, explains that, “Once trained, [some stallions] often appear more attentive to the operator and the plastic bag than to a mare … One stallion we worked with routinely achieved erection in the stall when the operator approached with the plastic bag, and with manual stimulation, he ejaculated” (Crump & Crump 1989: 345).

Animal pornography

10Stallion erection, the manual stimulation of their penises and ejaculation lead us inexorably to a third context, besides nature films and theriogenological literature, where animal sexual pleasure is represented. That context, of course, is pornography. Representations that portray couplings between animals and people have a long history in myth and art around the world (think “Leda and the Swan”, “Beauty and the Beast”, and the famous Japanese shunga woodblock-printed design known as “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife”, which depicts a woman rapturously receiving cunnilingus by an octopus).

  • 1, last accessed November 2016.

11In addition to artistic representations of human–animal couplings, there are also, these days, websites. Some websites are run by people who call themselves “furries” or “furverts”. These are people whose erotic lives centre on dressing up like furry cartoon animals and having sex with others also dressed as furry cartoon animals. There are also websites easily found on YouTube which contain photos and videos of animals mating with other animals. And there are zoophile websites, which cater to the people who call themselves “zoos”. Zoos are people who insist that a sexual relationship with an animal is desirable only to the extent that it is founded on love and consent., for example, stresses on its homepage that “caring for a creature implies love, responsibility and trust. After fulfilling these essential conditions, you are able to begin training your fellow for copulating with you. Remember the coitus just means the emotional climax of your love whose largest part always consists of the everyday coexistence.”1

12Zoos are an extremely controversial group because they transgress a boundary between loving your pet – as many pet owners would unhesitatingly agree that they do – and having sex with your pet, which strikes most people as morally wrong and even abusive. But zoos maintain that they understand animals well enough to be able to obtain their consent for sex. One zoo I interviewed detailed the signs he used to tell whether mares in fact desired to have sex with him: “If they’re really not interested they’ll just move away”, this man told me.

If they’re not interested in any kind of play in that region, they’ll move away. They’ll just move their tail and clamp it down. There’s all these little slight things where they let you know that they’re not interested in what you’re doing … If they like what you are doing they’ll just stand there, and if they really like what you’re doing they’ll start whinnying and they’ll back up to you…. The tail plays a really big factor in it. Usually a tail down means “not interested” or whatever, and when the tail goes up, I mean you can get the tail going and bobbing, I mean they definitely get it going when they’re enjoying it.

13In describing his observations about equine behaviour, this man is clearly doing what pet owners and animal lovers do all the time: he is reading an animal’s actions in terms of pleasure – in terms of whether the animal likes something, or doesn’t.

14The disturbing difference is that this zoo is speaking about animal erotic pleasure.

15Self-identified zoos like this man contrast themselves with a group they call “beasties”. Beasties constitute the main producers and consumers of the representational genre that I imagined would have the most elaborated representations of animal erotic pleasure, namely animal or bestiality porn.

16Before I began conducting the research on which this essay is based, I – like, I imagine, most people – had never seen a bestiality porn film. I had done research on and taught university courses on pornography, however, and I had read most of the scholarly literature written on the topic. I knew, therefore, that pornography, like any other representational genre, is structured according to particular conventions. My curiosity in thinking about animal porn was to understand the conventions by which animal pleasure would be depicted. Would the standard conventions apply, I wondered? Would the sexual pleasure of a male dog or horse be represented by what in the pornography industry is called a “money shot” – that is, a shot of a penis ejaculating (this is the standard way to end a scene in pornographic films)? Would there be a money shot in animal porn, I wondered? Would the sexual act between a human and an animal be filmed with cross-cutting shots between the coitus and shots of the animal’s panting face, or perhaps its wagging tail? How in the world would female animal sexual pleasure be portrayed?

17In looking for answers to those questions, I discovered two things. The first is that popular representations of bestiality focus on men and animals. One need only think of all the stories of human–animal sex that circulate, such as the urban myth that achieved widespread popularity in the 1980s, involving the actor and his gerbil (which the actor was rumoured to have inserted, in a condom, up his rectum), or the sequence in Woody Allen’s 1972 film Everything You’ve Always Wanted To Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask, which tells the story of a doctor, played by Gene Wilder, who falls in love with a sheep named Daisy. Stories about lonely shepherds and their sheep are another example of this same phenomenon. The 1977 Taviani brothers’ film Padre Padrone is a classic depiction of this, as is the entire plot of Edward Albee’s 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, which is about a man having a sexual affair with a goat.

  • 2 The widely known story that Empress Catherine the Great of Russia was squashed to death by a stall (...)

18Stories and rumours like these may reflect the empirical fact that more men than women seem to have sex with animals, at least if one believes Alfred Kinsey, who asked 20,000 Americans how often they had sex with animals (nota bene – Kinsey didn’t ask “Have you ever had sex with animals?”; he asked “How often have you had sex with animals?”). From the (undoubtedly startled) responses given to that question, Kinsey calculated that 8% of American men and 3.5% of American women had at some point in their lives had sexual experiences with animals (Kinsey, Pomeroy & Martin 1948: 673–677).2

19Aside from possibly reflecting a social fact, popular understandings of bestiality as a male affair are also an example of a meaningful social process. By focusing attention on men and animals as funny (Woody Allen) or dramatic (Edward Albee, Padre Padrone), a cultural space is cleared that can then be filled by much more transgressive images of women and animals as erotic. Because in contrast to how bestiality is most often talked about, when it is portrayed in paintings and illustrations, what gets depicted is women having sex with animals. Think, for example, of the images of “Leda and the Swan” or “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife” that I mentioned above. Women having sex with animals is also the overwhelming theme of animal pornography. Widespread popular belief that bestiality porn is all about men having sex with animals is not correct. With only a handful of exceptions, animal porn depicts women having sex with animals.

20Animal porn began to be commercially produced in the early 1970s. Most of the early films were produced in Denmark as part of the era of sexual liberation – the idea that liberated sexuality would include all kinds of couplings: between women, between men, between young and old, able-bodied and disabled, humans and animals. This idea was expressed succinctly by the American radical feminist Andrea Dworkin, who in Woman Hating (1974) wrote that “Bestiality is an erotic reality, one which places people in nature, not above it”. Dworkin expressed the hope that in a sexually and politically progressive society “human and other-animals would become more explicitly erotic, and that eroticism would not degenerate into abuse. Animals would be part of the tribe, and, with us, respected, loved, and free” (Dworkin 1974: 189).

21This kind of thinking about the emancipatory power of sex produced a bestiality porn star: a Danish woman named Bodil Joensen. Joensen made some (comparatively speaking) quite bucolic bestiality films in the early 1970s and became a kind of kinky celebrity in sexually liberated circles (Stevenson 2002).

22At some point in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the production of animal porn shifted to Brazil, where the bulk of commercially distributed animal porn is made today, and also to Eastern Europe. There are differences between the pornography produced in these two regions with regard to how degrading they are to the women who appear in the movies – the Eastern European variety being much more obviously abusive than the Brazilian films. Now the precise extent to which the women who appear in these films are forced is something that obviously is impossible to tell conclusively from only the filmic text. Every film, moreover, will be different in this sense. But one of the features that characterizes Brazilian animal porn – in contrast to, for example, the Eastern European films – is that the women who appear in the films tend to be very vocal. They speak to the animals like they would speak to a male sex partner, telling the animals that they are gostoso (beautiful and sexy) and that they have a pica gostosa (sexy cock). The women also vocalize pleasure. They do so in predictably stereotypical ways, of course, but they do go through the motions to convey the impression that they are having orgasms. Sometimes in the middle of a scene with a goat or a dog, one can notice them rolling their eyes or smiling to themselves or the cameraman with a look that indicates they think the actions they are performing are more ridiculous than they are degrading.

23The films made in Eastern Europe are a different story altogether. In all of those that I have seen, the women are obviously coerced or forced to participate. This is signalled through their resolute silence throughout the pornographic sequences, their lack of eye contact with the camera, the stiffness of their bodies, the look of distaste or apathy on their faces, and, not least, by the frequent presence both on-camera and off-camera of usually fully clothed men who control the animals with whom the women are interacting. The muffled voices of these men mutter commands often heard throughout the film. In several of the films I have seen, the women’s bodies are marked with large bruises. There can be no doubt that this kind of pornography is a profoundly disturbing manifestation of sexual abuse.

24This issue of coercion and abuse leads me to the question of animals. What kinds animals feature in bestiality pornography? All kinds of animals appear, from our familiar barnyard friends, chickens and goats, to much more exotic specimens like anacondas or eels. One of the most famous animal porn films, a Brazilian film from the 1980s titled The Zoo, features sex between several women and a tapir. The overwhelmingly most common animals to appear in these films, however, not surprisingly perhaps, are dogs and horses.

25Horses can be either smaller varieties or large adult stallions. Dogs are mid-sized to large, Doberman pinchers or Dalmatians being among the most popular, presumably because their relative non-shagginess makes it easier to see their genital area. Great Danes appear rarely – contrary to popular belief – probably because the larger the animal, the more difficult it is to control. This issue of control is a structuring feature in animal pornography. Animals do not tend to stay put when they are sexually aroused – they like to move around. But animal mobility is a problem when the goal is to shoot an extended sex scene, as pornographic conventions demand. For this reason, most animal porn contains two people in the scene, one of whom holds and controls the animal to make sure that it doesn’t wander off camera or bite or kick anyone, while the other performs some sexual act with the animal. Usually the two people in the scene are women, so much animal porn also has “lesbian” scenes, where the women will often have some form of quick, perfunctory sex with one another before one of them turns to the animal that the other woman firmly holds down.

26All this means that while there are arguable differences in how abusive and degrading Brazilian and Eastern European pornography is to the women who appear in it, both genres are equally abusive and degrading to the animals that appear in them, and this is the point I want to stress about how pornography depicts animal erotic pleasure: it doesn’t. With few exceptions, the animals in bestiality pornography are either restrained and/or drugged: dogs have their paws tied together and are sedated so that they lie for extended periods on their backs while women suck and squat on their penises; goats are roughly held by their beards and forced to bury their muzzles in a woman’s crotch; horses are chained to the ground so they don’t move or kick. For these reasons, it turns out that in bestiality pornography, there are no close-ups of wagging tails or panting tongues, and there are no money shots, because drugged and stressed animals clearly don’t orgasm. And what this means – and this was the other quite unanticipated discovery I made in my over 40 hours of watching this kind of pornography (which is 39 hours more than I would ever wish on my worst enemy) – is that animal pornography is a representational genre that is entirely (and, for pornography, remarkably) focused on human female sexual pleasure. The faces of animals are almost never shown once sexual activity commences, and a typical scene ends not with a money shot, but, instead, with a loudly voiced orgasm by the woman squatting over a dog or licking a horse’s penis.

27Now we might want to interpret this fact in terms of representational conventions or identificatory possibilities for viewers, and this is something we undoubtedly could – and should – debate at great length. My main finding, however, is that even though pornography is a representational genre deeply invested in portraying sexual pleasure, animal pornography is the last place in the world one would want to look for representations of animal sexual pleasure, or animal orgasm.

28This is an intriguing feature of the genre that directs us towards questions about exploitation and cruelty, but it also prompts us to think about identification and pleasure. It suggests rather profound ethical and philosophical questions about interspecies relations. One issue that has struck me in thinking about animal porn is how similar it is in many ways to the practice of taxidermy, which is the practice of “stuffing” and mounting animal skins to make them look like living animals. As American Studies scholar Jane Desmond has noted, taxidermy is a bizarre practice: people kill animals and then mount their dead bodies to make them look alive (Desmond 2002). A practice like this seems to reveal something instructive about human desire for animals – human desire to see animals, to imagine them, to connect with them, even as that desire, in order to be fulfilled, extinguishes them.

29In animal porn films, the animal isn’t killed, but it is constrained, drugged and manipulated. Is there a way we might think about this pornography, at least in part, in terms of a genuine desire for or fantasy of interspecies connection or identification – one that ends up manifesting in a grotesquely destructive way?

The ethics of animal orgasm

30One might well scoff at a question like that, and respond that a phenomenon like animal pornography deserves condemnation, not philosophical or ethical speculation. I agree that bestiality pornography merits vigorous condemnation. But I also think it would be a mistake to simply leave it at that. Because to leave the matter there would discourage us from thinking about animal erotics and animal orgasm in connection with a significant and growing strain of humanistic and philosophical writing on interspecies relations. The very last place I ever imagined one might find representations of animal sexual pleasure was in academic work by respected scholars, such as this:

Ms. Cayenne Pepper continues to colonize all my cells … I bet if you checked our DNA you’d find some potent transfections between us … Surely her darter tongue kisses have been irresistible. Her red merle Australian shepherd’s quick and lithe tongue has swabbed the tissues of my tonsils … we have had forbidden conversation, we have had oral intercourse … we are training each other in acts of communication we barely understand.

31That is not an extract from a zoophile blog; it is renowned American professor Donna Haraway writing about her Australian shepherd dog in her book Companion Species Manifesto (2003: 1).

32And then there is none less than Jacques Derrida, who in his 2002 book-length essay The Animal That Therefore I Am, famously stands naked in front of his cat and tells us “the cat observes me frontally naked, face to face, and if I am naked faced with the cat’s eyes looking at me from head to toe, just to see, not hesitating to concentrate its vision – in order to see, with a view to seeing – in the direction of my sex. To see, without going to see, without touching yet, and without biting, although that threat remains on its lips or on the tip of the tongue. Something happens there that shouldn’t take place” (Derrida 2008: 4, emphasis in original omitted).

33It turns out that Donna Haraway having oral intercourse with her dog and Jacques Derrida musing on the relationship between his naked sex and the eyes, lips and tongue of his pussy are symptoms of an unprecedented scholarly interest in animals and the species boundary. Philosopher Tom Regan recently remarked that “there has been more written by philosophers in the past decade on animal rights than has been written in the previous two thousand years” (Regan, n. d.). This literature now emanates from every scholarly field imaginable and books about animals and the species boundary written by philosophers, sociologists, linguists, anthropologists, psychologists, ecologists, etc. number in the hundreds.

34The fact that so many scholars have turned their attention to animals and that surprisingly many of them are even writing in fleshy erotic prose about animals means something. What? On some level it of course signifies an academic desire for novelty. During the past couple of decades, social science and the humanities have built entire disciplines around gender, class, ethnicity, race, colonialism, sexuality, and increasingly if still rudimentarily, disability. What this means is that we’ve now covered women, workers, immigrants, minorities, the subaltern, queers and crips. What’s left? Where can academic writers and academic theory expand? Well, species seems like a good bet.

35However, in addition to this space of novelty, which is of course a space of innovation and creativity, it is clear that attention is now increasingly turning to animals because, as many of the scholars who address the species boundary argue, difference between humans and animals at this moment is not just any difference among others. Instead, at this moment, it is, as literature scholar Cary Wolfe has observed in his discussion of Derrida’s work, “the most different difference, and therefore the most instructive difference” (Wolfe 2003:67). Decentring man and interrogating what many writers, following philosopher Peter Singer, call “speciesism”, and what Derrida, with his characteristic deconstructionist flourish, calls “carnophallogocentrism”, has a profound ethical and political consequences.

36Academics are doing vital work criticizing the intolerable scale of the institutionalized suffering that humans inflict on animals, and in arguing that animals share a moral universe with humans. What an exploration of how animal orgasm and animal erotics are perceived, imagined, theorized and practised can contribute to that work is that it can tell us something about the shape of that moral universe, and its limits.

37During the last 10 years, bestiality laws have been passed in many states in the United States, and also in a number of European countries, some of which, such as Sweden, reanimated medieval laws forbidding bestiality that had been abolished more than half a century ago. The consistent justification for this new wave of laws forbidding sexual contact with animals is that sex with animals is necessarily abusive, since animals cannot consent to sex with humans (Cassidy 2012). Significantly and tellingly, artificial insemination, which involves stimulating and, as we saw, sometimes manually manipulating male animals to ejaculation, and then forcibly inseminating female animals, is not considered by any of these new laws to be either sex, nor abuse. And that no animal can (or does) consent to be slaughtered, euthanized or experimented on by humans troubles the logic behind these new bestiality laws surprisingly little.

38This vast, but usually unremarked, discrepancy between public abhorrence at having sex with animals and public acceptance of slaughtering, euthanizing and experimenting on them suggests that thinking about animal orgasm can illuminate one of Derrida’s main points about the challenge that animals pose to philosophy and ethics.

39Derrida (2008: 26–27) maintains that in order to move beyond the carnophallogocentric humanism that both undergirds and sanctions the increasingly “monstrous” subjection and exploitation of animals, the protocol for thinking about the human–animal relationship needs to shift from the obsession with lack that has framed the discourse in the West for the past two thousand years (animals lack reason, language, laughter, emotions, an unconscious, the ability to lie, etc.) to a consideration of philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s famous query regarding animals, namely: “Can they suffer?”

40The answer to “Can animals suffer?”, Derrida points out, is affirmative and undeniable. And the consequences that follow from that undeniable answer are monumental. However, to avoid answering the question (and to a large extent to avoid even posing it), “men do all they can in order to dissimulate this cruelty [that humans routinely inflict on animals] or to hide it from themselves; in order to organize on a global scale the forgetting or misunderstanding of this violence, which some would compare to the worst cases of genocide” (2008: 26).

41The perhaps unexpected relevance of animal orgasm to this discussion is that as the recent wave of bestiality laws shows so clearly, contemplating cross-species sexuality appears to have the power to evoke in people precisely the ghastliness of exploitation and the compassion towards animals that is repressed, misunderstood or denied when the subject of contemplation is the killing of animals. It might therefore be instructive to look more carefully at the topics raised in this essay, in order to try to understand how the compassion that is raised when the subject is sex might also be roused when the subject is slaughter, experimentation and euthanasia. What is it about sex and animals that arouses a sense of responsibility and obligation?

42“The animal looks at us, and we are naked before it. Thinking perhaps begins there”, Derrida has noted (2008: 29). It is crucial that that thinking should not lose sight of the significance and power of the fraught erotic electricity that Derrida’s image of him and his cat implies, but does not probe.

I gratefully acknowledge Vanessa Manceron, who encouraged me to write this article, and who helpfully commented on several drafts. Thanks also to an anonymous reviewer and the Terrain editorial collective, whose suggestions for revision were valuable. The essay is an updated version of a paper I presented at a conference panel on “The Orgasm” that I co-organized with my then colleague, Emily Martin, several years ago. Emily’s comments, support, wisdom and wit have been crucial in my thinking about this topic (and much else), as were the comments of all the panel participants.

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1, last accessed November 2016.

2 The widely known story that Empress Catherine the Great of Russia was squashed to death by a stallion with whom she was trying to have sex is a rare exception of a rumor (rather than a visual depiction) about a woman having sex with animals. The rumor, though, is false: Catherine died from a stroke in her bed at the age of 67.

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Don Kulick, « Coming like animals », Terrain [En ligne], 67 | mai 2017, mis en ligne le 10 novembre 2017, consulté le 08 mai 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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Don Kulick

Uppsala University

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