My partner is a female dog.
I’m not just saying this because I ran out of ideas to start this article with, I promise! I’m bringing this up because there are people out there who would call me an abuser for being in a relationship with a female animal. Not just the normal crowd of belligerent antis that plague our social media feeds, nor the out of touch politicians legislating ever more restrictive laws on sexuality. No, strangely enough, there are other zoos who would consider me abusive for my choice of partner. For some of you reading this, you may stop and think, “Well Vex, that sounds strange. Why would people who know being with an animal isn’t inherently abusive think that the animal’s sex makes a difference?”
Good question! As someone who has been in a relationship with a female dog for eight years, I was also confused the first time I observed this kind of talk amongst zoos in groups I was in. I’ve found it comes down to a few common factors, which I’ll explain as we go along.
Unspayed female dogs are simply less numerous than unneutered male dogs.
I’ll start with the first and easiest one! Unspayed female dogs are rare in comparison to unneutered male dogs because it is simply more convenient for many dog owners to have male dogs remain unneutered than it is for female dogs to be unspayed. A male dog can’t come home pregnant with puppies, needing more food and care for months. A female dog can, and those costs will typically be passed on to their human. As such, unspayed female dogs are much rarer than males who weren’t sent home from the vet with an ice pack and an e-collar! And thus, we see more males having an active sex drive, making it far more possible that zoos may have had experiences with the boys in the pack than with the girls.
Zoo spaces are disproportionately male dominated.
Now as for this second point, let’s be real, many spaces on the internet are extremely male dominated. This extends to the furry and zoo community, which also contain a very high amount of queer people and their experiences. Of course this isn’t a bad thing! Don’t think that! But when your community is both male dominated and has a high proportion of homosexual people, it’s easy for the female perspective and experience to be lost or even ignored. This leads to a lot of ignorance and lack of experience with females, and as I’m sure we all know, ignorance is a breeding ground for incorrect and harmful viewpoints. Even among those who have only good will, it’s very easy for misinformation to become fact if there’s nobody there to correct it.
A commonly held belief by many people worldwide is that penetrative sex inherently has a power imbalance.
Thirdly, wow, this is the tough one. Not really, but you get my point.
Anyway, the belief that penetrative sex with animals is by its very nature abusive relates to a belief that is as erroneous as it is ancient. It has roots in the belief that by penetrating someone to have sex with them, you have power over that person, or that person is lesser, so on and so forth. This is essentially a form of “bottom shaming,” a practice which has existed as far back as thousands of years ago. Surprisingly an element of this even plays a role in the ancient Egyptian mythology of Set and Horus’ race for the throne of Egypt, where Horus tricks Set into consuming his bird-seed by putting it in his lettuce, and by ingesting it he is made to bow to Horus and loses his viability for the throne.
The reason I explain all of this is so we have a clear understanding that this is not a new phenomenon, nor one that zoos alone face. For millenia, women and gay men have been dealing with being seen as weaker or as though others have power over them “because they’re the partner penetrated during sex.” Awkward jokes about bird semen aside, being the one in a relationship who penetrates the other doesn’t make you the “active and powerful” lover, just as being the one who is being penetrated doesn’t make you “passive and vulnerable.” Sex isn’t a monolith, and this type of thinking is reductive of the incredible amount of intricacies a relationship has. You can be active and dominant while being penetrated, nod to power-bottoms here, just as you can also be passive and vulnerable while penetrating someone; often times it’s something in between, with both parties contributing to the play of it all while also both being a bit vulnerable too. Sex is a two-way street, there are an infinite number of combinations to how dynamics can go, and that’s awesome! Sex is great to have as long as both parties are enjoying it!
Well, aren’t female animals super complex to read compared to males?
Well, not exactly. There are a lot of differences, sure, but it’s not much more difficult than a male animal of that species. Throughout this article I’m talking primarily about dogs, since they are kinda cute and all, so I will use my experience and knowledge with dogs to explain this common misconception which even I have fallen victim to before!
Ah, the most obvious and possibly bothersome one on this list, depending on if Rex decides it’s time to mount you in front of your family. Male dogs can show interest by mounting and trying to hump you, right? Funnily enough, so can female dogs! Due to the anatomy of the canine vagina, they can even achieve orgasm by humping against objects (such as a really nice leg), so it is incredibly incorrect to assume that female dogs never show interest by mounting even when they are trying to wrestle your shoe between their legs.
An important note here: mounting is not always a sign of sexual interest! It has many other connotations, and I encourage you to study resources on canine behaviour and body language to get the full, unsummarized picture of how canine sexual body language cues can often be something else entirely.
Another obvious sign that many know is flagging. What is flagging, you say? Glad you asked! Flagging in this context refers to a behaviour of female dogs where they move or curl their tail to the side to indicate they are available for mating to potential suitors, and yes, that can mean you! Dogs don’t just have sex for reproduction, they are incentivized by the rush of pleasure chemicals to their brain just as you humans are, and they like to show it regardless of if you’re a dog or not. Feeling good, spending time with their favourite human in the world, and then getting to go outside. Can you see why dogs are so forward?
Oh, did I say forward without mentioning a few of the more assertive cues that female dogs can give to show interest in sex? Let me correct that! There’s a plethora, but I’ll give a few and leave the rest to you to study yourself, no hard feelings but this keyboard wasn’t made for paws!
Now, again, remember that context is important for all of these signs. Don’t take this as your dog mouthing on you means that they want sex because of this or any other signs alone. Context is key. But if your lady is shoving her neck over you, grabbing at you with her paws, and mouthing at your hair or clothes? That’s a pretty good indication that she’s feeling risqué, but just make sure of it first, okay? Feel out the situation, ideally you should know them for long enough to be able to easily tell their body language at a glance, because body language really does change from individual to individual.
Wrestling is fun, that’s a fact. Your dogs probably find it fun, you probably find it fun, and I know my partner does! This one goes for both male and females from what I’ve been told by zoos with male partners, but I’ll still be speaking mainly on my experience, so don’t feel left out!
So your dog likes to wrestle, big deal right? Well, in a lot of cases it really is just play, but in some cases it is actually a form of foreplay! A lot of times when I’m done wrestling with my partner, she decides that the best cooldown would be to take a trip to the bedroom. How do I tell when she’s feeling up for intimacy rather than just wanting to take a sip of water and a breather? Well, like I keep saying (and I’m sorry for repeating myself, it really just is the most important part), context is key. Context is king. Sometimes it’s as simple as playing around and then she backs up on me, other times I initiate by scratching the very end of her thighs near the underside of her tail and she moves her tail out of the way so hard you could put it on paper in bold text.
This sounds pretty similar to having a male partner. Are there any big differences? Is it really the same level of difficulty as a male animal?
Well, there’s the slight catch. There actually are a few things that make it more difficult than having a male partner, but it’s not in the romantic or sexual side of things.
It’s with the part that most would call “pet ownership.” Now, I disdain saying I own a pet. I don’t believe that it is truly possible to own a living being as you would an inanimate object. But for the ease of use with the terms in this section, I will refer to this as pet care. Pet care when it comes to female dogs does have several catches that make it either a bit or significantly more difficult, depending on who you ask.
One of these is the estrous cycle. Estrus is more commonly known as a heat cycle. I won’t rehash what you’ve likely read a hundred times from various vet websites, and if you haven’t, please go read from a medical source. Instead, I will talk about the social and behavioural difficulties estrus can bring.
When a dog enters standing heat (the part where they flag and bleed from their vulva), they can be insatiably aroused, or incredibly closed off. It once again depends on the dog. Either way, they can become more aggressive and defensive around other dogs, and they will of course more than likely attempt to have sex with a male.
Dealing with this is a headache for very many, as you need to have absolutely constant vigilance and make sure you’re crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s when it comes to making sure that other dogs can’t get to them. Even though they are not genetically related to him, you may liken your dogs to the Kool-Aid® Man once they break down a door or chew through a wall to reach each other. And yes, they can do that. They will do that. Don’t think it won’t happen to you, take the proper precautions to prevent an accidental litter! A good quality kennel that they won’t chip teeth trying to break out of is never a bad purchase!
But let’s say you do make a mistake, as is sadly common, and now your female dog is pregnant. Well, canine contraceptives aren’t something you’re going to want to use regularly. In fact, the side effects are so serious that you can generally only get them from a vet. So in the most common case, you’re left with a pregnant dog and puppies with nowhere to go. Her behaviour will be very erratic during pregnancy, and then you even have to deal with finding the poor pups a home, let alone the heartbreak of sending them to a shelter.
From these two examples alone, you can probably see where the additional difficulty comes from. With a female dog you have to be very cautious and careful, because any mistakes will end up being her (and by extension, your) responsibility. Male dogs don’t have to worry about being pregnant or going through heat cycles, so in this case the claim that female dogs are more difficult or complex to have does have truth to it.
Don’t let this discourage you, though! With careful and thorough planning when it comes to your dog’s heat cycle, it will come and go with a quickness and she’ll be right back to normal! Once post-estrus ends, you also don’t need to worry about her ending up pregnant, so she can safely go back into the dog park!
And finally, a quick word to all who hold the beliefs mentioned and criticised in this article:
Prithee, rather than going on Twitter and posting something akin to “female animals cannot consent sorry guys!!!”, instead first observe and study actual behaviours of the aforementioned female animals. These beliefs you hold are based on ignorance, and I know you can do better than going off of preconceived notions.
Female animals are just as capable of sexual autonomy as male animals, and deserve love all the same!
PS: To the love of my life, you were in my mind the entire time I wrote this article. Also at my feet because you were really tired. I love you so much, it’s been a fantastic eight years together with you. Happy birthday, my wonderful lady.
Article written by Vex (May 2023)
Find them at https://twitter.com/KoolKanine
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