The Animal in You
With Bestiality About to Become a Felony in Washington State, Charles Mudede Looks Back at the Crime that Shocked the World
Some laws come directly from God. There is a thunderbolt, the smoke clears, and there they are, the Commandments on a stone tablet.
Most laws, however, do not have their origin in God but in man, which is the case with the law that will soon ban bestiality in the State of Washington. The man who inspired the creation of this earthly commandment is Kenneth Pinyan, a Boeing engineer, who, according to a King County Examiner's report, died on July 2, 2005, due "to acute peritonitis [that resulted from the] perforation of the sigmoid colon during anal intercourse with a horse."
If Pinyan hadn't died in that sensational manner, it is safe to say that fucking animals would continue to be one of the many pleasures that a citizen of this state is free to enjoy—just as long as he or she doesn't harm the animal in the process. For it was only after Pinyan died, when law enforcement looked for a way to punish his associates, that the legality of bestiality in Washington State became an issue and a punch line. Absent Pinyan's staggering sacrifice, the fact that there was no law prohibiting the coupling of man and beast would have never surfaced.
This is why it took the lawmakers of Washington—a very conventional breed of men and women—117 years to ban a practice that has no political support. There is no group in our state that advocates bestiality, and animals can't speak, so they have no say in the matter. It was an almost comically easy law to pass: When Senator Pam Roach (R-Auburn) introduced Senate Bill 6417 to make bestiality a Class C felony, it instantly gained bipartisan support in Olympia. The bill passed on February 11, 2006, without one state senator voting against it (36-0). But, again, Senator Roach crafted the bill only after Pinyan's death, which was reported all over the world and last year had the impressive honor of being the most read story in the Seattle Times.
The absence of a law banning bestiality was never more apparent than it was on the day James Michael Tait—the man who, according to the Enumclaw Police Department, filmed the exact moment that the horse's monstrous penis fatally ruptured Pinyan's colon—stood before a judge last November. The prosecutor's office wanted to charge Tait with animal abuse, but the police found no evidence of abused animals on the many videotapes they collected from his home. As there was no law against humanely fucking a horse, the prosecutors could only charge Tait with trespassing. At the time of Pinyan's death, Tait lived in a trailer on a 39-acre lot next to a ranch that breeds Arabian stallions, and at night he and another man would, according to the "Charges in Enumclaw Horse Case" document filed by the office of the prosecuting attorney, "repeatedly visit the [farm's] barn and have sex with several of their [neighbors'] horses." Because the owners of the violated farm "were not aware that [Pinyan, Tait, and others who connected with them via the internet] were repeatedly coming into their barn and having sex with their horses," the prosecutors decided to file criminal trespass first degree charges against Tait. The other man was not charged because he wasn't on the videotape that captured Pinyan's last night on earth.
Tait was. Either Pinyan or the other man recorded Tait being fucked by and surviving the deadly horse—the men called this particular horse Big Dick (the actual name of the horse is unknown)—and, proof in hand, the prosecutor's office set out to punish Tait with the maximum penalty for criminal trespass first degree (one year in jail and a $5,000 fine).
This is how the trial went down: The courtroom, an ugly box whose high walls are decorated with a few posters of French impressionist paintings, was full of people waiting to be sentenced on minor charges. One gloomy young man, represented by what looked like a big-time lawyer, was charged with serving liquor to a minor during a party—shame on the teen who ratted on him. There was one heavy prostitute who brought her baby girl along for, one supposes, sympathy—and if that supposition is indeed correct, it worked: She was given a final warning. Next up was a young Mexican-American man who, like most of the offenders in the courtroom, was trying to beat a DUI—a pathetically common crime.
And in the midst of all these mundane legal proceedings? James Michael Tait, 54, tallish, with a strong build. He wears glasses and has light-brown hair that ends in a ponytail. If I had seen him without knowing his occupation ("trucker"), I would've pegged him for an environmentalist or a hippie who grows and sells organic vegetables. Tait's charge, trespassing, sounded as dull as the rest of the crimes being reviewed by the court that day.
Additionally, none of the other accused took any notice of him. But the boredom of those minor offenders would have been dashed in an instant had they known what was really going on between James Michael Tait and Judge David Christie, a man who bears a striking resemblance to Sam the Eagle on The Muppet Show. The state wanted to punish this man for horse fucking but because there was no law against it at the time the horse fucking occurred, the state could only charge him with a crime as boring as drunken driving, serving booze to minors, a failed attempt to turn a trick. Tait's trial was very short: Tait, flanked by two glamorous lawyers, pleaded guilty to the charge; the judge, without giving the case much thought, suspended sentencing for one year, fined Tait $300, and ordered him to complete one day's worth of community service.
"I want to make myself clear," said Judge Christie in conclusion, "If you ever cross into that property again, I will not be so lenient. Is that understood?" Tait nodded his head, promised never to visit that particular barn again, and left the courtroom in a hurry.
And that was the worst punishment our state could mete out to a horse fucker—until now.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Washington State will soon be a different place for men and women who, like Tait, have a sexual taste for animals. The measure, which is to be heard in the House Criminal Justice & Corrections Committee on February 23, will make bestiality a Class C felony, punishable by a maximum of five years in a state prison or a $10,000 fine, or both. It is a law that points an angry finger directly at James Tait: It bans not just bestiality, but "videotap[ing] a person engaged in a sexual act or sexual contact with an animal" (including a horse) "either alive or dead."
But as dawn breaks on a new era in our state, which will become the 37th state to prohibit human-animal sexual relations, one wonders why it took so long for such a law to be enacted here. There are two possible reasons for this surprising omission from Washington State's legal code: Either the State of Washington overlooked bestiality (which is not a bad thing to overlook considering there are much bigger problems to worry about—wars, poverty, earthquakes, health care... These issues are pressing; horse fucking is not), or, the reason for the law's absence—the one I believe is much more likely—is that no one wanted to contemplate horse fucking, much less talk about it. The formation of any law requires a lot of thought and even more talking. To pass a measure against bestiality means you have to picture it, write about it, and describe it in great detail.
Indeed, reading the law that was drafted by Senator Roach is very much like reading hardcore porn. Here is the last paragraph of the bill: "'Sexual contact' means any contact, however slight, between the sex organ or anus of a person and the sex organ, mouth, or anus of any animal, or any intrusion, however slight, of any part of the body of the person into the sex organ or anus of an animal, for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal of the person. Evidence of emission of semen is not required to prove sexual contact."
Enumclaw is a horse town near the southern edge of King County and the base of Mt. Rainier.
"You won't believe how upset people were when they heard about it," a waitress at Enumclaw's Branding Iron Cafe told me when I visited. The Branding Iron is inside a popular livestock market, the Enumclaw Sales Pavilion, which itself is not far from the barn where Pinyan's desire lead him to his fate. My young waitress has lived in this small town all her life, and she recognized the name James Michael Tait ("I've seen his credit card before"). She also thought that horse sex was gross but not a big deal. "But horse people around here were really pissed. It was like they were ready to kill those guys. 'You just don't fuck horses. It's wrong. It's evil.' That's all I'd hear while serving the tables."
Outside snow was falling. Across from the cafe wild-looking horses ran about in the snow, their steaming breath shooting out of flared nostrils. The smell of horseshit was everywhere.
Perhaps the equestrians of Enumclaw—sometimes called "horse people"—were upset about the horse fucking because it made their own closeness to horses seem somehow suspect. True, it's a socially accepted closeness, but it nevertheless involves touching the animals, brushing them, caressing their wavy manes, cleaning their hooves, breeding them, riding atop them. The only intimacy that separates the proud horse owner from the perverse horse fucker is the act of sex, which is why socially accepted proximity to horses is disrupted when placed next to socially rejected proximity to horses. Brushing them, caressing them, feeding them, riding them—these people are always with horses, and horses are always with them. So what truly differentiates an average equestrian from an extraordinary equestrian? One way or the other, both derive pleasure from horses.
And pleasure is the only function horses serve in our modern society. When Britain surrendered the territory of Washington to the U.S. government 159 years ago, horses were the most important animals to mankind. They delivered our mail, they carried us into battle, they pulled our wagons across the wilderness, they took us where we needed to go in the city. These days, however, the use value of horses stands at zero. We don't need them for anything. All we do with horses is trick them into jumping over hedges and other obstacles, or race them around tracks, or have them prance into arenas to show their useless beauty. From thick tail to mucusy muzzle, horses are all about pleasure, which is why, again, a socially acceptable relationship between horse and man is disturbed when it occurs in the same location as an unacceptable relationship between horse and man.
Until Pam Roach rode to the rescue, that is. Her bill will reassure the legitimate horse community, drawing a clean distinction between horse lovers and horse fuckers. "It's really a bill that will protect animals, who are innocent by the fact they can't consent," Roach told the Associated Press. It's also a bill that will protect horse owners, who, like horse fuckers, are not innocent.
THE DEAD MAN
Everyone knows about Kenneth Pinyan's death, but little is known about his life.
The Enumclaw Police Department stated that he was involved with Tait and the other man for about a year, and that he met the pair on the internet. Also, Pinyan worked at Boeing for eight years. Outside of that, all that's left in the public records is a document, a deed of trust, which was filed less than a month before Pinyan died. It is for a house Pinyan purchased in Gig Harbor on the Key Peninsula Highway. In the deed, Boeing Employees Credit Union trusts that "Kenneth D. Pinyan, an unmarried man" will repay over 30 years the amount of $144,000. Though the house is not close to the Boeing plants in Renton or Everett, or to Big Dick in Enumclaw, Pinyan moved into it anyway.
He would die before he could make his first mortgage payment.
The house is not easy to find. It's a blue manufactured home deep in the woods, accessed by a dirt road. The day I visited in November of 2005, I chanced to meet two of Pinyan's neighbors, a middle-aged woman and her teenage son. They sat in a running automobile—the very machine that cost the horse its prominent place in human society. The mother was cheerful; the son looked bored. I asked them if they knew Kenneth Pinyan.
"He's a nice guy, always friendly," said the mother. "I don't think he is at home right now, though."
Evidently she had no idea that her neighbor had been dead for nearly six months. I refrained from breaking the news to her at that point.
"He just moved in not too long ago," she continued. "Seems happy."
Why does he need all this property, I asked. Doesn't he live by himself?
"The last time I saw him he told me that he bought a horse in Enumclaw and was planning to bring it over here," she replied.
From the gate of Pinyan's property, one can see a miniature red barn. If Pinyan hadn't died that day, not only would bestiality still be legal in Washington State, but here, near the shores of Oak Harbor, an engineer who worked on the most complex machine in the history of the world would be practically married to a horse, a descendant of the dominant means of transportation for centuries. On the surface, the situation would have looked normal: Pinyan, a proud equestrian by day, brushing his horse's mane, riding the handsome creature—but at night he would cross the line.
At this point, I revealed Pinyan's situation: Madam, your neighbor is no longer among the living. Her face clouded with sadness.
"He's dead?" she said. "That's just awful. I didn't know."
Then I explained the manner in which he died, and the woman's sadness turned to shock.
"He liked to play the guitar," said the woman's son, apropos of nothing. "He liked making music."