The Wrongness of Sex with Animals
by Tony Milligan
For sexual purposes, animals are off limits. But if we regard attributions of
species membership as unimportant in familiar ethical contexts, then it may
be difficult to explain why this is the case. Someone who is unimpressed by appeals
to species membership as a basis for favoring humans over non-humans
may remain similarly unimpressed by such appeals when sex becomes an issue.
Species barriers may seem to be beside the point.
Peter Singer’s (sometimes misrepresented) attitude toward human sexual relations
with non-humans leans heavily in this direction. In a notorious book review
where more was perhaps implied than said, Singer advanced the claim that, in
the absence of any cruelty or physical harm, sexual relations with non-human
animals would not be “an offence to our status and dignity.” And, insofar as we
do not regard status and dignity as the main issue here, we may be inclined to
agree. However, what follows will lean in the opposite direction to Singer and
will argue that once we have set aside any consideration of status and dignity,
we will still have significant grounds for ruling out familiar forms of sex with
familiar, terrestrial, non-human animals under ordinary circumstances that fall
short of the fictionally-extreme. However, the grounds in question turn out to
concern something other than species membership simpliciter.