I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that a man inserting his penis into a dolphin constitutes rape and not “the sincere, troubled and complicated intimacy with which Brenner recalls these events, which took place when he was only 19.”
Granted, Jia Tolentino only interviewed Malcolm Brenner because of the new documentary made by Joey Daoud and Kareem Tabsch, but it’s still all kinds of fucked up. Tolentino’s ‘interview’ wasn’t exactly a hard-hitting piece of investigative journalism either. This is the type of language used to describe the rape of an animal:
About their eventual open-water sexual consummation—the dolphin had to be horizontal, him vertical; the CGI rendering in the film is really something—Brenner said it felt like he was “merging with her” into “one creature that was making love with himself.”
(And, yes, the fact that the ‘documentary’ includes CGI footage of the rape is also seriously problematic).
Daoud talked about his initial reaction to reading the “Man Has Sex with Dolphin” headline. “You imagine that the guy got into a shallow pen with a dolphin and chased it around,” he said. “But then I realized it was more detailed, more nuanced.” Tabsch added that he was taken by Brenner’s openness, and that the aspect of the story he found most surprising was “that he views his zoophilia as a product of nurture instead of nature, which is controversial, as many zoophiles and people of non-normative sexualities really feel that nature is the cause.” More specifically: Brenner attributes his zoophilia to a protracted period of molestation at the hands of his childhood psychiatrist, now linked to many such crimes. (He also compares zoophilia to interracial dating, hoping that one day, the former may be as acceptable as the latter.)
As an non-shockable person interested in the point where the unimaginable becomes mundane, I sought out Malcolm myself for an interview. We talked on the phone yesterday, and at the beginning of the call, discovered we both own collie mixes. I asked him, awkwardly, if it was confusing to own a dog and be a zoophile. “I’m not indiscriminately attracted to animals,” Brenner said, “in the same way that I’m not indiscriminately attracted to women.”
Obviously, Brenner has experienced severe trauma in his life. I’m just not sure how productive it is to allow someone who has experienced serious trauma to continue with the delusion that an animal is capable of consent – and, yes, I do know that dolphins are smarter than hamsters. I’m just not buying it. Also, please save us all from tools who insist they are so “non-shockable” as to be down with animal rape being “complicated intimacy”.
I’ve included a selection of questions from the interview below to show just how badly Tolentino fucks up the interview. Brenner refers to serious trauma, drug dependency, and identifies the ‘positive’ voices in his head as coming from the dolphin. These aren’t things to celebrate. They are quite serious red flags for someone who may self-harm or harm others. There is no attempt to engage with Brenner’s anthropomorphising of the dolphin or his belief in a ‘telepathic’ bond. Instead, Tolentino has gone for the “look how UBER-COOL I am. I’m even down with animal rape.” Even by Jezebel’s piss-poor standards, this is an appalling piece of journalism.
That’s good. So, I have a general question. What is attractive to you, in animals? Is it a type of animal, or a type of personality, or a situation, or a combination of these things?
I’m attracted to animals that have a rather independent streak in them. Animals that think for themselves. In addition to the dolphin, the only animal I ever had any sexual experience with is canines.
How did it feel after she touched you? Did you immediately start thinking about initiating a sexual relationship with her?
I felt very embarrassed. I was not comfortable with my own zoosexuality—I didn’t want to be a zoophile. I was trying to do everything I could to avoid this animal, who seemed to know what my secret was. It took her literally about 3 or 4 months to begin to win me over and convince me that she was intellectually pretty much my equal.
And at that point, I had to start asking myself—well, if I have this high of a regard for her, and if this was a woman who was being so forward with me, would I hold out on her? The answer I came up with was, no I wouldn’t. And so I felt my sort of inhibitions just eroding.
Dolly actually changed her courtship tactics through the course of the relationship. At first she was gentle and forward, as you noted, but after that she became very aggressive. She would throw herself on me and rub her vulva against my knees. Any protruding part of my body was fair game for her. She would masturbate on me, essentially. I had to watch out that no one was around to witness this.
I was going to ask you if anyone in the park noticed.
Nobody picked up on it. I was slow to pick up on it, to be honest. I was not a virgin, but basically one. I wasn’t either sexually very experienced, or emotionally very experienced. That, I think, was the downfall of the relationship.
In what way?
I’d made plans to go to college out of state, at Evergreen, in Washington State. I’d been going to New College of Florida, and I was dissatisfied, and Evergreen looked like an exciting and innovative type of place. But I was also frankly freaked out by the intensity of my involvement with the dolphin. I was having telepathic connections with the dolphin.
The dolphin was acting like a girlfriend.
Yeah, she sussed what was up. And I saw, she is appropriating me like this.
What was it like when you were finally had sex with her?
It felt like I was making love with the ocean itself. It felt like, first of all, that I had forgiven myself—gotten over my hesitations about finally giving her what she wanted. When I had that realization, then it just seemed there was this energy surging between us, growing more intense, bringing us both to orgasm. Some scientists say that female animals don’t have orgasms, but I know she did. She vocalized it.
Would you describe this as the greatest intimacy you’ve ever felt with anyone?
Yeah, it stepped right over the species line. The dolphin, I know, was just as aware. She’d had to elude a male dolphin to get to me.
Does it feel lonely to you now that this height of intimacy in your life happened so long ago, and with a dolphin?
Yeah, it does. But I had a very strong sense of intimacy with my second wife, also. It was some physical thing that happened when we were close together—her smell, or her electrical field. I thought that that intimacy would sustain our relationship. In the long run it did not, and I’ve always felt cheated by intimacy, ever since.
You’ve been married twice—was either of your wives ever jealous of Dolly?
I don’t think jealousy was a big part of what caused this relationship to founder. There were other circumstances.
Was the act of intercourse you talk about in the documentary the only one?
Yes. But the telepathic connection was much more intense than the documentary represents, and it started earlier. I was getting high a lot back then, and it began while I was high one night. The voice did not immediately announce itself to be a dolphin trying to communicate with me—it was a voice that wanted to play games, 20 Questions, that kind of thing.
I was skeptical but intrigued. And I couldn’t make it go away. I could tell it to shut up, but not to go away. I wondered if I was going schizophrenic, but most schizophrenics have voices that are violent, tell them to hurt themselves. This voice was playful and benevolent, and gradually, I came to the conclusion that it was the dolphin.