It's apparently not bad enough that Arizona is being portrayed as the home to gun-toting extremists and that Arthur Frommer is canceling his vacation plans.
Now New Times' sister paper in Ft. Lauderdale, New Times Broward-Palm Beach, has published a story about zoophilia -- a.k.a. people who are attracted to animals. We're not just talking about petting the family dog. We're talking about heavy petting, and even intercourse, with animals, ranging from dogs to horses to dolphins.
And, go figure, Exhibit A in the Florida newspaper's report is a guy from Arizona.
According to the story, 18-year-old Cody Beck came out to his friends as a "zoophile" before graduating high school -- and allowed New Times' reporter Thomas Francis to use his real name because he hopes to broaden minds. Beck, who hopes to become a history teacher (!), acknowledges an attraction to both horses and dogs.
But don't go all "EWWWWWWW!" just yet. Beck and his fellow zoophiles say they're unlike those who practice beastiality because they participate only in "consensual" encounters. They actually liken their cause to the gay rights movement.
As Francis writes,
Cody Beck, the Arizona zoophile who came out to his friends, was 12 then and had only just come to realize he was a zoophile. In the years since, he's been thrilled by how activists' efforts have broadened minds about what qualifies as moral, socially acceptable sex. He recognizes the exciting implications it might have for zoophiles like him. But he's crushed by the gay rights movement's rejection of zoophilia as a similarly legitimate orientation.
"I really want to help that movement," Beck says. "But it really makes me feel like if gay people can't accept this, then I'll have to live my whole life having these feelings of alienation."
We might as well acknowledge here that the story's writer, Francis, is a longtime friend and former coworker. We talked to him over email to get his insight into zoophilia in Arizona -- and the reaction his story has received.
We're not sure what kind of reaction this piece will get in Arizona, but in Florida, at least, Francis reports that some readers are having a "come to Flipper" moment ...
VALLEY FEVER: You start your story with a "zoophile" in Arizona who "outs" himself as a lover of dogs and horses. Should we locking up our livestock at night? What about the family dog?
REPORTER THOMAS FRANCIS: Arizonans should definitely be vigilant, but not about Cody, the zoophile from Arizona mentioned in the article. Remember that zoophiles like him are distinguished by an attraction to animals derived in part from the animal's attraction to them. So if that attraction doesn't exist, then the sex doesn't happen. Just like in human courtship. And as I understand it, zoophiles have no more in common with rapists of animals than do heterosexual men with the rapists of women.
VF: You're a journalist based in Ft. Lauderdale. Why the focus on Arizona?
FRANCIS: We knew that this story had the potential to get a national readership, and so I was granted permission to look beyond the local boundaries. And frankly, we had to look far and wide for a zoophile who would be as open and reflective as Cody.
But to finish the thought from your previous question, Arizona deserves focus not for the one zoophile who came out in my story but for the dozens (hundreds? thousands?) who are raping animals in that state. Check at the database at pet-abuse.com and you'll learn a dimension about your neighbors you never imagined. Now I realize that some of your readers may believe that any sex with an animal is rape, but I think all of us (zoos included) can agree that binding, muzzling or beating an animal as a prelude to sex is sick. The question is whether there's a reporter in Arizona with the gumption to tackle such a squeamish subject. Do you know any? [Editor's note: Ouch!]
VF: You tell the story of Malcolm Brenner, who believes the love of his life is a (cough!) dolphin. Inquiring minds want to know: how exactly does that work? Wouldn't he drown? Is there a manual somewhere that explains how to lie with the fishes without sleeping with them?
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FRANCIS: I've fielded this question more than any other, actually. For starters, dolphins are mammals, so even if you're having a great dolphin orgy, you can't brag about sleeping with the fishes. As for the sex act itself, there is at least one manual online -- your readers can Google it like I did. (Note: They probably can't get away with Googling it at work as easily as I did.) For the sake of my article, I wasn't called on to describe the sex in meticulous detail, and so I stopped reading after the opening disclaimer about how human orifices are incompatible with with a dolphin penis, which can grow to murderous proportions, apparently.
VF: Guys like your Arizona zoophile see their cause as a civil rights issue, but the gay community seemed a bit icier when you suggested this to them. What kind of reaction did you get to your story?
FRANCIS: The thing I've heard from readers the most is that they always assumed that someone who had sex with animals was weird, wrong, and a threat to civilized society. They had never been called on to defend that revulsion until they read the article. Naturally, some readers have made up their mind that this is a moral abomination and can't be convinced otherwise. The most open-minded, self-critical readers, I think, were astonished at how difficult it was to defend their sense of dread for people who do what zoophiles do. A good example is Nadine Altman, a 70-year-old woman who wrote me a letter I posted on our blog and who has been arguing with a pack of zoophiles in the comments thread for several days until finally, yesterday she admitted that the conversation had left her "enlightened" and changed her mind about prejudices she had had in the past.