What will destroy America now?

We’ve got a crumbling infrastructure, we’ve got a know-nothing fool in the White House and a mob of sycophants for Wall Street in congress, climate change is going to inevitably wreak havoc on us, and kids are taking AR-15s to show & tell so they can murder their classmates. All these are minor concerns compared to the true danger to our way of life: the Academy Awards. The wingnuts’ heads are spinning over who won an Oscar.

“The Academy Award ceremonies this week provided the best film and best director Oscar to a violation of the worst possible sexual sin mentioned in Leviticus chapter 18,” Swanson said on his radio program today. “Maybe I’ll just leave it there, I don’t want to defile the ears of my listeners. But this was another milestone in the moral degradation of Hollywood and the nation itself. What it did was it presented the ultimate sexual depravity—and, again, I don’t want anyone thinking what this is—but the ultimate sexual depravity as presented in Leviticus 18 is presented in this movie as a tender and romantic and a beautiful thing. Even saying that is just disgusting.”

Swanson proceeded to read a passage from Leviticus 18 in which God warned the Israelites that they would be destroyed if they dared to engage in such depravity.

“God says, ‘Be careful, I might just bring this to you if you violate my law to the level of egregiousness contained in the moral commands in Leviticus 18,’” Swanson declared. “It’s these abominable practices that are being committed in this nation today and glorified at the highest echelons of the nation.”

The psychology of these people is actually kind of interesting. There are large numbers of people who are obsessed with a distorted version of sexual purity, and they gather in large numbers in buildings called “churches” or “congress”, and they reassure each other that they are the clean ones and everyone outside their narrow little group is dirty. This is not a movie about bestiality; it’s a movie about a sentient being with physical differences from human beings, and that has them frothing in revulsion.

I wonder if they’ve actually seen it. I haven’t seen a lot of fundamentalist fury at the other aspect of the movie that is in defiance of their puritanical mores — the casual acceptance of masturbation and female sexuality as perfectly normal and healthy. It might be a good idea to smuggle showings of The Shape of Water into megachurches to show to the congregations. It might have the same effect on theocrats as Slim Whitman’s yodeling had on the invaders in Mars Attacks.


  1. gijoel says

    Why are we surprised. These are the people who fought so hard to prevent people of the same sex from marrying.

  2. rietpluim says

    This is not a movie about bestiality; it’s a movie about a sentient being with physical differences from human beings

    Not intending to defend the wingnuts, but isn’t that exactly what bestiality is?

  3. nich says

    It’s also a common and annoying joke made among liberal-minded critics: THAT MOVIE WHERE SHE HAS SEX WITH A FISH LOL!!! Oddly, when the fish-person was a buxom, auburn-haired sea princess being courted by the studly, raven-haired prince, nobody made the same objection. Gosh, wonder why?

  4. Ragutis says

    The Little Mermaid has been referenced, and if I may add: Did they shit this big of a brick about Fred and Laliari in Galaxy Quest?

    I just completely fail to grasp how little they think of “love”.

  5. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin says “bestiality” is a common misspelling for “best ale to try”, usually said after several pints in a unclear voice. The traditional response is “don’t you think it’s time to go home and sleep it off?” Whilst it is claimed some people do indeed stumble into a house, sometimes even their own, they are also known to be found the next morning in chicken coops, barns / stables, fox dens, and in at least one memorial occasion, an eagle’s nest hatching an egg. These finds then give rise to another meaning of “bestiality”…

  6. rietpluim says

    Frankly, the only objection against bestiality I can think of is that I do not consider animals able to consent.

  7. whywhywhy says

    #6 rietpluim
    Exactly, the issue is and always will be consent. However, the bible doesn’t really get into consent (well at least not consent by the woman). Thus the christianists don’t even consider that the sentient being in The Shape of Water has the ability to consent (ignoring issues of effective imprisonment).

  8. Reginald Selkirk says

    “It’s these abominable practices that are being committed in this nation today and glorified at the highest echelons of the nation.”

    I don’t have my Bible with me at the moment, so I will just assume that is about Trump’s many comments on incest. I mean, “highest echelons of the nation” just has to mean the White House, right?

  9. Reginald Selkirk says

    What about the impregnation of Jesus’ mother Mary by the Holy Ghost? Wouldn’t that technically constitute bestiality?

  10. zenlike says

    Well, if your (supposed) book of morality says the “WORST possible sexual sin” is consensual sex between two beings able to consent, and not, oh, I don’t know, rape, or childrape, or any other form of non-consensual behavior, then maybe there is an issue with your source of morality.

  11. says

    Reginald Selkirk
    “What about the impregnation of Jesus’ mother Mary by the Holy Ghost? Wouldn’t that technically constitute bestiality?”

    but…but that was bestiality for the best.

  12. nich says

    What about the impregnation of Jesus’ mother Mary by the Holy Ghost? Wouldn’t that technically constitute bestiality?


  13. raven says

    AFAICT, not having seen the movie, The Shape of Water, is just a variation and retelling of the French fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast.
    Which was done at least twice as movies by…the Disney corporation.

    These are the people who froth and rant and rave about Harry Potter books, Yoga, and the Muppets. They have bleak lives of perpetual outrage.

  14. Zeppelin says

    On the topic of “poorly justified outrage over bestiality”: Does anyone know a good discussion of the ethics of bestiality?

    Like, my instinct is to condemn it because it’s gross, but that’s not a moral stance. I find the consent argument unsatisfying, it reeks of post-hoc rationalisation. Bestiality was illegal long before animal cruelty laws existed, so the taboo clearly doesn’t stem from a concern with animal welfare. It’s a sexual purity thing.

    We don’t usually care very much about animals’ consent — we keep them in captivity for our amusement or to take their milk/wool, neuter them because their children would be inconvenient, euthanise them when we don’t want to pay their medical costs, destroy their habitat for our benefit, kill and eat them for pleasure…these things are considered acceptable as long as you avoid unnecessary cruelty in the process of getting what you want from the animal.

    If we really want to condemn bestiality on the basis of consent, we have to completely overhaul the way our society interacts with animals. Surely someone has come up with a better argument.

  15. says

    I wonder if it has anything to do with surrounding ‘pagan’ religions having quite a lot of bestiality: Zeus having sex as a bull or a swan; Loki getting up to all sorts of shenanigans; all those animal-headed Egyptians.

  16. rietpluim says

    The argument being better when we do not have to completely overhaul the way our society interacts with animals?

  17. Bruce says

    The label of “worst sin” is arbitrary, because these fable books don’t rank sins. For all we know, the worst sin is eating shrimp, crab, or lobster. Or maybe it is wearing a wool/linen blend suit? Right-wingers have no credibility on sin, because they don’t ask for an inquisition into cotton/polyester blend shirts. Yet somehow people pretend they are sincere on this. They just hate female agency. The little mermaid and the beauty/beast stories are “ok” bestiality to them, because the man is running things, at least in their view. But now a movie suggests that a woman can make an unconventional decision on her own, and this is intolerable to them. It exposes their true fear: if a woman could choose to sleep with the fishes instead of with me, how can I ever manipulate a woman into sleeping with me? This is the “basis” of their “ethics”. It’s not about Leviticus fighting Brooks Brothers Suits.

  18. says

    Would bestiality have a practical reason behind the taboo, like that the practice would propagate parasites, bacteria, and viruses between species? I assume that if there was a lot of interspecies rape going on, that there’d be more opportunities for new infections.

  19. blf says

    Would bestiality have a practical reason behind the taboo, like that the practice would propagate parasites, bacteria, and viruses between species?

    According to Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge (which only seems to discuss animal→human transmission?):

    Health and safety
    Infections that are transmitted from animals to humans are called zoonoses. Some zoonoses may be transferred through casual contact, but others are much more readily transferred by activities that expose humans to the semen, vaginal fluids, urine, saliva, feces and blood of animals. Examples of zoonoses are Brucellosis, Q fever, leptospirosis, and toxocariasis. Therefore, sexual activity with animals is, in some instances, a high risk activity. Allergic reactions to animal semen may occur, including anaphylaxis. Bites and other trauma from penetration or trampling may occur.

    A South African site — whose reliability I do not know — also discusses the risks, for both creatures, Bestiality is much, much more common than you think (Feb-2015):

    When researching the topic, one isn’t surprised to find that few academic institutions have conducted serious studies on the matter, making it difficult to find strong estimates for the prevalence today. One recent paper which sought to find a link between sex with animals and penile cancer has offered a little insight, however.

    The study, which took place in Brazil and was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found a 34% prevalence of bestiality amongst men, most of whom were from rural backgrounds, as well as determining that it was a risk factor for penile cancer.


    Outside of the direct pain caused by sex between two mismatched species, though, there are several other ways in which zoophilic activities can have negative effects on the animal and the human. For starters, there is the issue of the transmission of diseases from one party to the other. While most illnesses are not contagious cross-species, there are many that are, and some can be quite dangerous.

    [… additional details…]

    The above S.African site — again, whose reliability I do not know — also has some discussion of the taboo, and amongst other things, asserts “The key debate on the subject is whether the animal finds the experience harmful in any way, or, conversely if they actually find it pleasurable.”

  20. says

    I really wish they’d make up their friggin’ minds. Do the Old Testament rules count or not? It seems like they only matter up until there is a delicious lobster dinner on the table before them, at which point Jesus pops out to say, “It’s okay! I came to fulfill the law on this, pork, beards, and depending on how frisky you’re feeling, tattoos. Everything else though – NOT FULFILLED!”

  21. answersingenitals says

    In days of old
    when women were cold
    but sheep and goats were more inviting,
    all shepherds knew
    how to get a good screw
    choosing the end not prone to biting.

  22. says

    One of my many, many reasons why I love that film is the queer content. Giles is the best GB character in a vaguely Hollywood film. Jenkins should have got supporting actor.

    Also the reference points are not beauty and the beast or the little mermaid. The movie is consciously modelled on the Creature from the Black Lagoon and via that King Kong. There’s a very famous scene in Creature…where the creature and Julia Adams have a quasi-ballet love dance. The sexual content is obivous. The Shape of Water is actually anti-Beauty and the beast

    Anyway somewhat related I’m sad to report that the Christian right is also going after Call Me By Your Name. Most annoyingly they have been largely right. Disgusting film. They should have just called it Call Me Chickenhawk. Great job the dumber parts of the GB community. You totally self-goal on the most enduring and damaging stereotype of MSM. This trash wouldn’t have been well received if critics weren’t scared to criticize a queer (grr) film. Straight men write the worst gay “love” stories.

  23. busterggi says

    “the worst possible sexual sin mentioned in Leviticus chapter 18”

    Someone had sex with a bacon cheeseburger?

  24. thomasmorris says

    @Mike Smith – I haven’t seen CMBYN yet, and I doubt it’ll surpass “God’s Own Country” as my favorite film of last year – but judging by the book and the director’s previous films (particularly the gorgeous “I Am Love”), I have high hopes for it.

    “Straight men write the worst gay love stories”

    For the record, the writer of the screenplay and the director of the film are both gay. And the book, at least, did resonate with my own experience as a gay man.

    Also, I’ve never seen any indication that critics feel obligated to like “queer” films. I watched several films from last year that could fall into that category, but most of them received virtually no critical attention. Could it be that the critics just liked the film more than you?

    “Dumber parts of the GB community”

    Ah, I see. Anyone whose reaction to a work of art must be dumber than you. Cool story, bro.

  25. blf says

    Someone had sex with a bacon cheeseburger?

    Apparently, yes, sortof — Seduced by a burger: Carl’s Jr. advertising finds its groove (2009):

    When I watch the Carl’s Jr commercial featuring “Top Chef” host and mega-model Padma Lakshmi make hot sweet love to a Western Bacon Cheeseburger, I have many thoughts, some of which, I confess, are not entirely to my credit. The spot features the former Mrs Salman Rushdie sitting on a brownstone stoop in a clingy sundress hiked up mid-thigh, cramming the giant burger into her educated maw and sucking barbecue sauce from her fingers and wrists. Let’s not mince onions here: This is sex with a burger.


    The sexualization of fast food takes us down the same path of old cigarette advertising that showed doctors, athletes and cowboys smoking like crazy and living active, aerobically challenging lives; or beer commercials, in which everybody is as sleek as ferrets. These products have definite, measurable health consequences, and it’s the job of the advertising’s imagery to push these consequences as far offstage as possible.

    And so you have the impossibly lean and beautiful Lakshmi wolfing down a 1,000-calorie burger. Now that’s hard to swallow.

  26. microraptor says

    I think I must have watched too much Star Trek when I was a kid, because I have to ask why anyone would even care about a movie about an interspecies romance.

    But really, look at how common it is in speculative fiction: Spock, human and alien; D&D, human and everything including reptiles, squid-monsters, plants, elementals, the undead; Guardians of the Galaxy, human and sentient planet…

  27. says


    First of all the film is a faithful adaptation of the godawful book. I don’t really care if the director and screenwriter are gay because the original author is straight, which is readily apparent from the novel. Why the novel was embraced to begin with a complete mystery to me The novel’s problems are embraced by the film and in fact made worse because of the terrible terrible casting.

    There’s nothing in this piece of shit that should be embraced by anyone really but especially gay and bisexual men. It’s nothing but playing into the stereotype that we are sexual predators. Olivier and Elio are not gay lovers; it’s basically a straights go wild fantasy in which a boy is plucked by an older man. In the novel the only clearly definitively gay characters are portrayed as silly idiots. Elio’s family is totally cool with him being violated because that’s realistic. Oliver’s moment of self-doubt comes across as a predatory rationalizing his behavior.

    I know the canonical ages are 17 (but still a “child” because the story is a maturation plot) and 24. But but the guy who plays chicken looks 15 and Hammer very much looks 31. It’s not my experience. It’s disgusting exploitation of a kid and I fucking hate that it’s being held up as this great love story. It’s not love. It’s not the gay experience. It’s entirely false.

    There is *zero* chance that if Elio was a girl the film would have been embraced because the “relationship” is held up as this ideal first love and the age difference is largely ignored. (An Education is the closest film I can think of to this piece of shit and there the director/writer had the decency to condemn the relationship). Film critics, on the whole, are ignoring the obvious pederast aspect because they are not willing to upset the GB community because the community has inexplicably embraced this crap. I do not for a second believe a film in which a 17 year old girl is fucked by a 24 year guy (while the actors look 15 and 31) and everyone in the story is just sort of cool with it would have been well received. It would have been denounced

    We have spent decades, DECADES, trying to get out of the stereotype that gay men are pedophiles and sexual predators. Along comes a novel that might as well be called Chickenhawk: a how to manual, written by a straight man that’s later turned into a film that stars two straight men and the openly gay characters are held in disdain. The story, such as it is, is stubbornly disconnected to from issues of politics, familiar rejection and actually how most of us experience growing up and the 80’s for that matter.

    But perversely it allows gay men to viciously enjoy bagging a young straight(ish) guy so *of course* morons can’t keep their cocks in check and embrace this disgusting crap. Excuse me if I rather not validate the Christian right. If this film is a the prototypical gay experience, and I don’t for a second it is, then yes we are a danger to kids. Fuck this movie and novel so much.

  28. woozy says

    I think I must have watched too much Star Trek when I was a kid, because I have to ask why anyone would even care about a movie about an interspecies romance.

    I honestly think this entire “Hey, a chick fucked a fish” thing probably arose as a single person making a joke. It was probably even made by someone who liked the film and was just trying to make a joke about interpreting it in the most dense missing of the point way.
    Religiocrats, of course, have no sense of humor, nor are they capable of internal evaluation.
    Traditionally as far as fiction goes, it’s always been, “a human is a being with reason/soul” so most people seeing romance between aliens, mythical creatures, mole people, whatever don’t even think the creatures aren’t “human”. Which is probably why the person originally making the joke thought it was funny (“hey, think about it– the guy is technically an animal; you could interpret this a bestiality; isn’t that wierd! Ha, a chick fucked a fish!”)

  29. Zeppelin says

    @rietpluim, 16: Well, most people who make the consent argument don’t want to overhaul the way our society interacts with animals. Most of them eat animals for pleasure and keep them in captivity for fun, and even vegetarians don’t typically want to ban eating meat the way people support banning bestiality.

    So whether or not we ought to take the wishes of animals more seriously, the argument is hypocritical coming from most people. It would certainly be hypocritical of me to use it, which is why I’m looking for a different one.

  30. drew says

    Yet nobody complained about Don Knotts as Mr. Limpet. I think we’re missing the angle (see what I did there?) of “our women” with the fish. That’s so “obviously” wrong that it usually goes unmentioned. Is there some kind of iceberg theory of right wing creepiness with most of the ick under the surface?

  31. leerudolph says

    What about the impregnation of Jesus’ mother Mary by the Holy Ghost? Wouldn’t that technically constitute bestiality?

    The Annunciation was aural sex.

  32. rietpluim says

    Zeppelin, I get your point, but I wouldn’t be too hasty to call it hypocritical. “Inconsistent” describes it well enough.

  33. ethereal says

    re: bestiality: Look up the Harkness test meme. Bestiality is sex with (rape of) a nonsapient animal. Sapient fictional characters who look like animals are people.
    Yes, the core issue is consent. I am not interested in exhuming ancient religious taboos for the purpose of justifying a humanist stance, especially since said ancient taboos haven’t worked in heavily religious communities at least for the last 2 centuries. Bringing up meat-eating is pure whataboutism _at best_.

    re: sex in myths: What God did to Mary is rape. What Zeus did to various ancient Greek women is sometimes freaky sex (think fursuits) and sometimes rape. Loki did actually commit bestiality when he “distracted” a stallion but, and I’m going for understatement of the year here, Loki isn’t a positive role model. The Egyptian gods are all people and members of the same family.

    re: The Shape of Water: I didn’t like it (it was telegraphed through and through), but I’m glad it won now that it’s pissing off conservatives.

    @ Mike Smith: I agree with everything except this:
    “There is *zero* chance that if Elio was a girl the film would have been embraced”
    You mean, it wouldn’t have been embraced by the people who love IRL child rapist Polanski? And Woody Allen’s movies, most of which are cinematic versions of “If I Did It” ad nauseum?

  34. Zeppelin says

    @rietpluim, 33: Fair enough, I suppose “hypocritical” implies that people are on some level aware of the contradiction, which isn’t necessarily the case. It would be hypocritical of me to use that argument, since I am aware of it.

    @ethereal: I’m not struggling with the definition of bestiality. I’m struggling for a morally coherent argument against it that doesn’t require us to completely overturn how humans interact with animals. Maybe we should, but that’s the point — people only ever bring up an animal’s consent when it’s about sex. If I’m happy to be friends with someone who kills and eats animals, what moral high ground do I have to judge someone who blows their dog?

    The problem is that nonsapient animals are incapable of explicitly consenting to anything, being nonsapient. We don’t usually let this bother us.
    My guinea pigs regularly attempted to escape their enclosure. I was definitely keeping them there without consent and against their will, purely for my amusement. They were also taken from their parents to be sold to me, again without consent.
    If we apply human standards to them (as you do when you refer to sex with a nonsapient animal as “rape”), I’m guilty of slavery and false imprisonment. I like to think I was a kind slave holder, and that my guinea pigs were better off as my prisoners than trying to survive on their own…but we don’t accept that in justifying human slavery, do we?

  35. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    I’m struggling for a morally coherent argument against it that doesn’t require us to completely overturn how humans interact with animals.

    There are basically three modern arguments for prohibiting bestiality. The first is that it’s ICKY. Which is true, but lots of things are icky. There are people in this world who, if left to their own devices, would put ketchup on macaroni and cheese. And yet I don’t see people arguing that that should be outlawed (though I say it’s worth considering).

    The second is that it’s ICKY, but outlawing things because they’re ICKY is problematic, hence the Sudden Interest (of “Why the Sudden Interest” fame) in “animals’ ability to consent, these aren’t the droids you’re looking for, move along.” As you’ve noted.

    The only remotely satisfying argument is a pragmatic one: that given the state of affairs among humans, more good is accomplished at this time by presenting a simple, no-exceptions, no openings for distracting but-what-abouts, stance that all sexual contact requires informed consent, than is accomplished by being intellectually honest and consistent about animal bodily autonomy.

  36. says

    As previously noted, Don Knotts wasn’t in the water a whole minute before Lady Fish showed up and offered to let him fertilize her eggs.

  37. says


    I think maybe it’s because people tend to think of sex as somehow special and different from other interactions. Like maybe even in the moment that someone says “animals can’t consent to sex”, the dictionary in their head is defining “consent” as something that is only ever about sex.

    Maybe the reason it doesn’t compute when you look at things more generally (consent to non-sexual interactions, sex is not magically special) is that it was never computed that way to begin with?

    Something like “special pleading leads to inconsistency” seems like a simple explanation.

  38. Zeppelin says

    @Brian Pansky: I think that’s the case. My working theory is still that the consent argument is a post-hoc justification for a pre-existing sexual taboo, because you’re not supposed to legislate those anymore. That’s why it kind of falls apart when you actually think about why lack of consent is bad and put it in context.

    @Azkyroth: Yeah, argument three is about as far as I’ve gotten as well.
    I don’t see how anything of value could be lost by banning bestiality, and I don’t much like the people who are inconvenienced by such a ban, so, eh, whatever. And even if the animal consent argument is invalid there are presumably moral fringe benefits to prohibiting it, as you mention.

    I would also support a ban on macaroni and “””cheese”””, on the grounds that eating it is a violation of human dignity and preparing it violates the dignity of macaroni.

  39. WhiteHatLurker says

    What will destroy America now?

    Same as what would destroy it every night, Pinky. Your president. Aren’t you paying attention?

  40. billyjoe says

    In my opinion, it is almost certainly the disgust factor. Most people feel that sex with animals is disgusting. Some people feel that anal sex is disgusting. Sometimes it is projected repressed self-disgust. Every other reason is probably just an excuse or rationalisation.

  41. emergence says

    I remember some wing nut freaking out about Kirk having sex with aliens in one of the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies. For some reason religious fundamentalists really seem to hate the notion of humans having sex with fully sapient humanoid SciFi/fantasy creatures. Having sex with a man with scaly skin and gills is apparently morally equivalent to fucking a salmon.

  42. anat says

    To those interested, this is how Washington state came to outlaw bestiality. See, people lose consideration of their own safety while in pursuit of satisfaction, and need to be protected by the law. Oh well. I’m not going to lose much sleep over that.

  43. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    Don’t agree with me, billyjoe, it makes me very uncomfortable. >.>

    See, people lose consideration of their own safety while in pursuit of satisfaction, and need to be protected by the law.

    Applying that logic consistently would also mean banning cars. And swimming pools. And re-banning alcohol.

    Again: it’s a post-hoc rationalization of “it’s ICKY!”

  44. says

    Maybe just maybe moral judgments are not simply rational but are based on moral sentiments. On the whole disgust + lack of consent + preventing harm provides is enough to say yeah sex with animals is wrong. Emotivism for the win.

  45. seversky says

    What will destroy America? An epidemic of the Dunning-Krueger effect infecting the country’s leadership from the Oval Office on down.

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