Thousands of British telly viewers recently learned a great deal more about Missouri's warm-and-fuzzy down-home culture than the state Department of Tourism probably wanted them to know.
In their living rooms, the Brits watched as Carl Junction, Mo., resident Mark Mathews led his wife, Pixel, into his trailer, then made passionate love to her.
"She's gorgeous," Mathews gushed. "She's sweet. She's loving. I'm very proud of her.... Deep down, way down, I'd love to have children with her."
But there's a slight biological hitch:
Pixel is a horse.
The British documentary, Hidden Love: Animal Passions, was an exploration of Missouri's zoophile community, which claims that copulating with critters should simply be considered an alternative sexual orientation. Missouri, it turns out, is one of 26 states that do not bar human beings from having intercourse with animals.
"In Missouri," wrote television commentator Victor Lewis-Smith for the London Evening Standard after the show's airing on UK Channel 4, "you can not only take your poodle to the opera, you can buy it a negligee and indulge in some no-nonsense beef-bayoneting afterwards, without fearing a knock on the bedroom door from the disapproving authorities."
There's some evidence to suggest that interspecies intercourse is going on in the Show-Me State. According to Tim Kniest, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Corrections, polygraph tests administered last year to 116 sexual offenders who were on parole or probation in the northwestern section of the state indicated that half of them admitted to having had intercourse with an animal at some point in their lives. And there's anecdotal evidence that others outside the criminal-justice system are indulging their animal passions.
"There's a very big underground community here," says Sheila Rilenge of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, a not-for-profit group in St. Louis that wants to see laws passed during the next legislative session that would, at the very least, make intercourse with animals a misdemeanor.
Animal-welfare organizations say the explosion of Web sites promoting bestiality and zoophilia is forcing the issue out of the barn.
"In the past, in a town of 100,000 there might be one person with this predilection," says Stephanie Lafarge, a sex therapist and director of counseling at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "And that person would never announce it and would go to his grave with it.
"Because of the Internet," Lafarge says, "there is a lot of new communication going on, urging people to come forward, to be identified and to get trained. They have parties. There are personal ads. They've created a support system for themselves. Nobody has any numbers, but because of the Internet, I am sure there is much more of this going on now than there used to be."
Lafarge notes that two groups of people indulge. The first are bestialists, who like to rape animals or like to watch trained animals rape other people. Type the word "bestiality" into any search engine, and you'll get more than 450,000 hits such as "The Fun Farm" or "Man's Beast Friend," which mostly show pictures of things like "Heidi Sucking on Joey the Horse."
The second group are zoophiles, people like Mark Mathews, who love animals in an emotional sense and want to have intercourse with them as a result. A search of "zoophilia" turns up more than 15,000 hits such as "The Ultimate Zoo Page" and "The First Church of Zoophilia," which will perform marriage ceremonies between adherents of the church and their loved ones.
According to the unnamed author of the Ultimate Zoo Page, sites like his are a place for "zoos" to find solace and to learn how to express their love for animals. He adds that as more and more people come out of the closet about their zoosexuality, the easier it will be for society to accept them. "Zoosexuality is an orientation, in the same category as hetero-, homo-, and bisexuality," the author states. "We are not sick at all.... Zoosexuality is an alternative lifestyle.... We do not choose to be zoos, it is a part of us."
Links are provided for the visitor, directing them to other sites where they can learn how to make love to the animal of their choice, including geese, dolphins, sheep and pigs. Rilenge, of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, says that on one zoophile page she investigated, six ads had been placed by Missouri residents with trained animals available for lease.
"But this is not just about the animals," Rilenge says. "This is a social issue. Frequently the abuse of animals is linked to the abuse of women and children later on, whether that be cruelty to animals in a sexual nature or just neglect. It's almost unusual when a violent offender has not first had experiences with animals."
In New York, where copulating with critters is illegal, Lafarge counsels offenders for the state correctional system. She says it's important to make the distinction between bestialists and zoophiles, because zoophiles try not to hurt their animals, whereas bestialists do.
"There is no evidence yet that zoophilia leads to sexual deviation, but that's not to say that's not the case," Lafarge says. "We do make the link between other forms of physical violence against animals as being a predicator of physical violence against women and children. I would go on to say that someone who is sexually violent with an animal, like a beastialist, is a predator and might very well do that toward people."
The Alliance for Animal Legislation is talking with state lawmakers about sponsoring a bill that would ban interspecies intercourse, and even though it is not legislation most politicians would vote against, the alliance, as of our deadline, has not pinned down a sponsor.
"I wouldn't touch that with a 10-foot pole," one legislator told The Riverfront Times.