On June 17th, the BBC will debut a new documentary, The Girl Who Talked to Dolphins. It's the story of Margaret Howe Lovatt, who in the 1960s took part in a NASA-funded research project, in which she developed an unusual relationship with a dolphin named Peter. A relationship that at times became sexual.
The emotional attachment between humans and animals is well documented. Like any animal and human who spend long amounts of time together, a dolphin trainer could say they "love" their dolphin, but this does not excuse nor open the door for zoophilia or delphinophilia. While I am a dolphin enthusiast, I am also a firm believer that humans and dolphins should not have sex.
Investigating the case of Margaret Howe Lovatt and Peter the dolphin, it was a relationship that started out of a logistical problem. In 1964, Lovatt was working on an experiment to try to teach Peter how to communicate with humans. (A dolphin to human translator is still in the works today.) She literally moved in with him for three months, sleeping next to the tank, and working on a desk that hung over the water where he swam. They spent a great deal of time together, and as Peter was a sexually maturing adolescent dolphin, he often had sexual urges at inconvenient times.
As it turns out, it's very difficult to teach a dolphin to talk when he is aroused. Lovatt found that Peter "would rub himself on my knee, my foot or my hand." She allowed it, "I wasn't uncomfortable — as long as it wasn't too rough. It was just easier to incorporate that and let it happen, it was very precious and very gentle, Peter was right there, he knew that I was right there."
In order to satisfy Peter's increasing sexual urges, he would be transported to another pool with two female dolphins. This was a logistical nightmare and it disrupted his communication lessons constantly. Eventually, Lovatt took it upon herself to relieve Peter of his urges, rather than going through the long and inconvenient process of transporting him, "It would just become part of what was going on, like an itch, just get rid of that scratch and we would be done and move on."
Sexual acts between dolphins and humans have a history. Malcolm Brenner wrote the book Wet Goddess about his nine-month long relationship with a dolphin. At the Nottingham Trent University, Dr. Mark Griffiths has studied delphinophiles (humans sexually attracted to dolphins.) There are also a number of blogs and online communities dedicated to the study and appreciation of dolphin sex. (Note: this link is graphic and contains details of zoophilia, click at your discretion.)
The relationship between Lovatt and Peter was certainly unnatural, but not unheard of. Still, I strongly urge you to stay away from dolphins in a sexual capacity, even if you believe they turn into handsome men at night.
You can watch the full clip below and see more previews on the BBC's YouTube page.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.