02 June 2011

Post 388: The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale. ISBN: 9780446571579.

Well... in my general update I promised to tell you if this book went too far with the sex thing. The answer is yes. And no.

Hale's decision to include the sex, the kind(s) of sex, and the abundance of sex is brave and shocking and uncomfortable. It is only natural for us to be discomforted by the idea of anyone having sex with an animal, but the entire premise of the novel is How Animal is Animal?

If Bruno truly has the capacity to reason and communicate on the level of a human, then if we are good and just people we would have to recognize him as a sentient being with all the rights of such. One of those rights would be the opportunity have a romantic and physical consensual relationship with another being of similar capacities. I am not talking about sex between animal and human, but between sentient being and sentient being. The fact that Bruno happens to be an ape is a misfortune of birth and to deny him a full life based on that circumstance alone is uncomfortably close to other denials of personhood. Just because we have a specific idea of what a person is now, and that idea does not include apes, does not necessarily make it the right idea forever.

That being said, while I can accept this concept on an academic level, if confronted with a sentient animal-human pairing I would probably not take it very well. There has been enough conditioning over the millions of years of evolution for this to carry a great deal of ick factor in even the most liberal of people. But when I posed the question in terms of extraterrestrials, I realized I didn't really have a problem with the idea of humans forming interspecies relationships. I am simply not wired to see nonhuman terrestrial animals as sentient beings, at least not on the level capable of having consensual sexual relations with humans.

I don't think I would personally ever be able to have that kind of relationship with a sentient terrestrial animal, but I am not sure I would want to deny them the right to have a relationship with another sentient being just because it freaks me out. It's sort of one of those things I never want to have to deal with, but I am thankful that I have been exposed to the idea of it, because it makes it easier to reevaluate why I feel a certain way about the theoretical situation. Sometimes knowing how personal moral stances were built makes it easier to see why they were established and if they should remain in place or be adjusted to meet new circumstances.

The Bookmarks Magazine artfully dances around an uncomfortable review over at Goodreads. From the blogging world What She Read pegs some of the pitfalls of the book a Littlemore (ha.ha.) directly without doing a disservice to the good aspects of the novel.
LibsNote: Library copy.
*I am not condoning the rape of animals. I am saying that if there were animals capable of reasoning on a similar level as humans and of consenting to a relationship with a human, that I would not automatically say that it was Capital W Wrong.


  1. This book has certainly gained a lot of attention and controversy. I really enjoyed your candid opinion on the subject matter.

  2. If you are interested in the moral quandaries of assigning personhood to nonpersons, you should maybe consider reading Handling the Undead by John something Lindqvist (he wrote Let the Right One In, and I have butchered his name because i am too lazy to open a tab and google it, but not too lazy to type out this lengthy excuse). I am reading it now, because I thought it was a zombie novel, but it really isn't, at least not in the traditional sense. People start coming back from the dead and are referred to as "the reliving". They have only base motor functions and no communication skills and no signs of life except that they're walking around and some of them are moaning. So the government takes over but families want their dead people, and some people want to do experiments on them, so you know, it kind of gets into this whole "Do reliving people have rights?" thing. Aaaanyway, it's neat.

    This books sounds uncomfortable, um but, that is probably a good thing. Who wants comfortable? Shake things up!

  3. Ash,
    Thanks! I have to say I was more than a little concerned about what the backlash for this post might be. Glad to have your support in at least expressing my opinions. It was a tough decision to make to publish this.

    Definitely, it's important for people to be uncomfortable at least some of the time. Otherwise we become completely stagnant, who wants that?


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