Amidst all the species on the planet, the act of “sex” plays an important role for all, human and animal alike. For humans in modern society, “sex” is more than just an act to reproduce but also stands for the longing for pleasure, and for many people it has to do with the intimate connection of “affection”. What about other animals? Is it easy to say that their “sex” is merely for reproduction?
To take this one step further, what about the animals that are considered pets, such as cats and dogs? Humans have always had strong affections toward them, and pet dogs and cats are even considered to have feelings and emotions. In this scope, what does “sex” mean for them? It is still merely for reproduction? Does the concept of sexuality and sexual desire equally apply to pets as it does to humans?
From a scientific point of view, when it comes to the “sex” of pets, nowadays veterinarians suggest “spaying/neutering surgery”, for it prevents undesired pregnancy which might cause the problem of strays. Spaying/neutering can also further prevent some illness of cats and dogs (for example, removing a cat’s uterus prevents diseases like Pyometra). It also prevents cats and dogs from going into heat, and thus they will become more “tame”, more “suitable” to live with human in urban environment. However, the sexuality of pets is barely discussed in the field of science, and the animals’ sexual desire is even not yet recognized at all by science, thus almost completely ignored. Veterinarians tend to look after the bonds between pets and humans rather than those pets’ own need for sex.
Beyond the scientific point of view, gauging from the philosophical point of view, are we, human beings, really capable of understanding other animals’ feelings? In the book of Zhuangz, from the chapter “Qiu Shui” (Autumn Floods), a story goes as following: Zhuangzi and Huizi were strolling on a bridge over the River Hao. Zhuangzi said, "See how free the fishes leap and dart: that is their happiness." Huizi replied, "Since you are not a fish, how do you know what makes fishes happy?" Zhuangzi said, "Since you are not I, how can you possibly know that I do not know what makes fishes happy?" The discussion between Zhuangzi and Huizi implies a philosophical proposition: how can one understand the feelings of another species? And, is it possible for one to fully understand the feelings of the other person’s?
Hence, the feelings and perceptions of animals’ are unknown to us on the philosophical level. Yet, even though we, humans, cannot fully understand animals’ needs, many of us are determined to “protect” animals and even attempt to stand in their shoes to fight for their rights. For example, human beings try to “protect” animals by all sorts of means and even want to treat them in a more “humane” way. Legally, we have the “Animal Protection Act” to protect animals and to respect their lives. In literature, “animal studies” attempts to connect the ideas of feminist theory, queer theory, and so on to reflect the patriarchal oppression of “the Other” of all sorts in human civilizations in which females, queers, colored races, and animals seem deemed as the inferior minority deprived of subjectivity.
From what has been mentioned above, hopefully it is clear that even though we cannot discern if pets have the need for “sexual pleasure”, we cannot otherwise totally deny it. Hence, if pets really have this sort of need, how should we, as the owners, deal with it? Do we really have the rights to remove the organs in the name of love? Is our control over pets’ bodies being another representation of supremacy? In contrast to human’s case, if there is an adequate contraception method available for pets, is it possible for pets to enjoy the right of “sex”? Is there any chance for us to sympathize with animals regarding their sexual desire?