The Virtue of Jenny the Donkey.

(911 Days)

Let’s talk about bestiality in the 1600s. Sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

The young country of America with its Puritan settlers had let its imagination get away with it and based on the writings of medieval scholar Thomas Aquinas had developed an unwarranted fear of men in league with the devil mating with barnyard animals producing a generation of satanic hybrid offspring. Think about that the next time the news is filled with a ludicrous statement from a person in authority and you are wondering how someone so dumb could wield so much power. ‘Tis the way of humanity.

Intimate relations with animals were punishable by death. Today we’re not really sure what to do with bestiality convictions, and generally settle for making awkward noises and handing out sentences that vary between incarceration and fines, to a wag of the finger and a stern admonishment to never speak of this again. The colonies of Plymouth, New Haven, Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut all have records of hangings for acts of bestiality during the 1640s. The accusations brought forth against mostly teenage boys were a result of either direct witnessing of the act, or the birth of a deformed animal that bore a passing resemblance to the accused. George Spencer who was hanged in New Haven was accused of fathering a stillborn piglet with a sow belonging to his employer. The piglet apparently shared his pale complexion, bald head, and was missing an eye.. as was George. The unfortunate similarities were just a bit too much for the townspeople who convicted him, and hanged him after first making him watch his supposedly beloved sow being executed with a sword. The aptly named Thomas Hogg was also said to bare an uncanny resemblance to a deformed baby pig, and at his trial was made to fondle his alleged porcine partner to see if she would become aroused. Unfortunately for Thomas, the sow peed herself at his touch which was interpreted as evidence of lustful stirrings, that’ll do pig, that’ll do. Thomas Granger, a 16 year old hanged in Plymouth in 1642 for his crimes of passion, by contrast did not appear to impregnate any animals, but was witnessed in the act and confessed to servicing pretty much the whole farm, he admitted to having sex with a mare, a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves and a turkey (how, HOW do you have sex with a turkey? They ‘ve got massive claws.) which tells me that Plymouth clearly needed more social activities for teens. Again the animals that he identified as his lovers were executed in front of him before the noose was drawn tight around his own neck.

It was de rigeur for the animals to be executed, a trifle unfair to my mind, presumably they weren’t encouraging this attention.. at least not at first. It demonstrates just how intense the hysteria was surrounding the possibility of demonic half human-half animal spawn. Horny farmhands were completely expendable, but livestock were valuable creatures, killing them could easily bring about financial destitution.

However there was a notable exception to this automatic animal death sentence. In 1750 in France, a young peasant by the name of Jaques Ferron (not to be confused with 20th century Canadian author Jaques Ferron) was caught in the act of having sex with a female donkey. How he managed this I don’t know, donkey dicks are enormous – so I hear – compared to humans, it must have been like using a grown man’s sock as a snug glove for a kindergartner’s pinky finger. By the way did you know the official name for a female donkey is a Jenny? No I didn’t either, and I can’t help feeling that giving them cute names is only making them more enticing to the lonely teenage farmhands.

Anyway, Jaques didn’t have a hope in hell of being acquitted since he’d been caught right in the middle of his tender moment and was promptly sentenced to death by burning at the stake. The donkey was due a date with an axe but escaped the proverbial chopping block because the village was outraged by the thought of losing her. Nobody came to Jaques’ defense but the donkey was granted her own trial complete with witnesses who swore to her good moral conduct, declaring they had never seen even the slightest hint of promiscuity. The parish priest signed a certificate affirming the donkey’s virtuous reputation, and Jenny was acquitted on the grounds that if the donkey was so virtuous then this must have been a case of rape. We’ll never know the truth if Jenny was violated, or if it had been a mutually enjoyable act between two lonely teens from different sides of the DNA genome, but Jenny got to live another day and go on to have boring old donkey babies, instead of demon hybrids.

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