Autism spectrum disorder, bestiality and zoophilia: a systematic PRISMA review

Date30 January 2020
Publication Date30 January 2020
AuthorClare Sarah Allely
SubjectHealth & social care,Learning & intellectual disabilities,Offending behaviour,Sociology,Sociology of crime & law,Deviant behaviour,Education,Special education/gifted education,Emotional/behavioural disorders
Autism spectrum disorder, bestiality and
zoophilia: a systematic PRISMA review
Clare Sarah Allely
Purpose There remains a lack of knowledge surrounding paraphilic or deviant arousal sexual
behaviours in individuals with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (Kellaher, 2015). The purpose of this
paper is to explore the literature for any empirical study, case study or discussion/review paper
surroundingindividuals with ASD and zoophilia or bestiality.
Design/methodology/approach A systematicPRISMA review was conducted.
Findings Thissystematic review highlighted only a small number of papers, which have looked
at zoophilia or bestiality in individuals with ASD. Only one article was identified as being relevant
in the present review, three further articles included a description of a case involving someone
with ASD who engaged in zoophilia or bestiality and another paper, although not the focus of the
study, found one person with Asperger’s disorder who had several paraphilias including
olfactophilia, podophilia and zoophilia in a sample of 20 institutionalised, male adolescents and
young adults with Autistic disorder and borderline/mild mental retardation. All the case studies
clearly highlight some of the ASD symptomology that can contribute to engaging in bestiality or
Practical implications It is important that individualswith ASD have access to appropriate and timely
sex education and that parentsare supported by healthcare professionals to engagewith their children
with ASD in such interactionsacross the autism spectrum irrespectiveof the parent’s expectations.
Originality/value To the author’s knowledge,this is the first review of ASD in relation to bestiality and
Keywords Autism spectrum disorders, ASD, Asperger’s syndrome, Bestiality, Zoophilia,
Zoosexual behaviour, Zoophilism, Zooerasty, Zooerastia, Bestiosexuality
Paper type Research paper
Zoophilia and bestiality
Zoophilia is a paraphilic disorder with intense recurrent sexual fantasies, urges and
behaviours involving animals. In the fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
(DSM-5) zoophilia is categorised under “other specified paraphilic disorder” in the
DSM-5. The DSM-5 classifies paraphilia as “any intense and persistent sexual interest
other than sexual interest in genital stimulation or preparatory fondling with
phenotypically normal, physically mature, consenting human partners” (American
Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 685). The DSM-5 makes a distinction between a
paraphilia and a paraphilic disorder. It states that a paraphilic disorder “is a paraphilia
that is currently causing distress or impairment to the individual or a paraphilia whose
satisfaction has entailed personal harm or risk of harm, to others” (American Psychiatric
Association, 2013, pp. 685-686). Additionally, zoophilia is classified as disordered if
this behaviour is ego-dystonic and harmful to oneself or others. In the DSM-5, there are
eight specific paraphilias detailed, namely, voyeuristic, exhibitionistic, frotteuristic,
sexual masochism, sexual sadism, pedophilic, fetishistic and transvestic.
Clare Sarah Allely is based
at the School of Health
Sciences, University of
Salford, Manchester, UK.
Received 15 June 2019
Revised 9 December 2019
Accepted 9 December 2019
Conflicts of Interest. The
authors have no conflicts of
interest to declare.
Funding: This paper was
DOI 10.1108/JIDOB-06-2019-0012 VOL. 11 NO. 2 2020, pp. 75-91, ©Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 2050-8824 jJOURNAL OF INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIESAND OFFENDING BEHAVIOUR jPAGE 75
Two categories were added in the DSM-5. These were “other specified paraphilic disorder”
(this is replacing paraphilia not otherwise specified) and unspecified paraphilic disorder.
These are used when the assessor makes the decision to describejust the diagnostic class.
“Other specified paraphilic disorder” includes, for instance, zoophilia (animals), scatalogia
(obscene phone calls), necrophilia (corpses), coprophilia (faeces), klismaphilia (enemas),
urophilia (urine) (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, pp. 685, 705). Shaffer and Penn
(2006) also describe a variety of zoophilia types in their paper. For instance,
necrobestialism (arousal from having sex with dead animals); avisodomy (breaking the
neck of a bird while penetrating it for sex); anolingus (arousal from licking lizards);
phthiriophilia (attraction to lice) and musophilia (arousal from mice). A paraphilic disorder
involving animals can be diagnosed under the “other specified paraphilic disorder”
category (Holoyda, 2017). Frequently, the behavior of sexual contact with the animal(s)
occurs in the individual’s place of residence or on the farm or stable, which affords the
individual some degree of privacy, reducing the risk of being reported. The animals which
are found to be most commonly used for sex are dogs and horses (Beetz, 2004). In the
literature, there have been descriptions of over 100 unique paraphilias (Federoff and
Marshall, 2010). The revisions to the DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) now
makes it possible for an individual to engage in consensual atypical sexual behaviour
without it being considered to be a mental disorder. The prevalence in the general
population is unknown and is believed to be rare (Holoydaand Newman, 2014).
Bestiality is a term, which is used to describe any sexual act that occurs between a human
and an animal. Saying that someone engages in bestiality is different from giving a
diagnosis of zoophilia. It also fails to explain why someone engages in sexual intercourse
with an animal. As explained by Holoyda and Newman (2016), there are a number of
different motivations for engaging in sexual intercourse with animals (Holoyda et al.,2018).
Studies investigating bestiality are limited to specific subgroups such as forensic samples
or self-identified zoophiles. It is not fully understood what the prevalence of bestiality is in
the general population (Holoydaet al., 2018). As discussed by Beetz (2004),Miletski (2002)
and Beetz (2002) highlighted the distinction between zoophilia and bestiality. Zoophilia
refers to an emotional attachment to animals, which is associated with a preference for
having animals as sexual partners or that includes a sexual attraction. Bestiality is a term,
which is used to describe any sexual contact of humans to animals or physical contacts to
animals that result in sexual excitement for the human who is engaged in these acts.
Crucially, these types of relations between a human and an animal may occur in
combination and there is nothing to suggest that they should be treated as totally distinct
categories (Miletski, 2002;Beetz,2004).
Issues with the diagnostic criteria
Beech et al. (2016) highlight that significant controversy exists surrounding what a
paraphilia actually is and when an unusual sexual interest becomes a mental disorder
(Moser, 2009). There is a lack of agreement regarding what is “normal” sexual behaviour.
As a result, there exists no useful boundary to consider when making decisions regarding
what denotes a sexual mental disorder (Frances and First, 2011). Indeed, the APA had not
offered a definition of normal sexual behavior, in contrast with paraphilic interests until the
publication of the DMS-5 (Beech et al.,2016). Moreover, due to the “malleability” of sexual
norms across time and cultures, it is difficult to define the concept of “deviant” sexual
behaviour in any absolute way (McManus et al.,2013). The revisions to the DSM-5 aimed to
partly address this issue by including “disorder” after every paraphilia diagnosis. This
enables people to engage in (some) atypical sexual behaviours without it being labelled a
mental disorder. In the DSM, a disorder is classified as a “behavior that causes mental
distress to a person or makes the person a serious threat to the psychological and physical
wellbeing of other individuals” (

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