The derivative noun "zoosexuality" is sometimes used by self-identified zoophiles in both support groups and on internet-based discussion forums to designate sexual orientation manifesting as romantic or emotional involvement with, or sexual attraction to, non-human animals.
Some zoophiles and researchers draw a distinction between zoophilia and bestiality, using the former to describe the desire to form sexual relationships with animals, and the latter to describe the sex acts alone.
Sexual fantasies about zoophilic acts can occur in people who do not have any wish to experience them in real life.
Nancy Friday notes that zoophilia as a fantasy may provide an escape from cultural expectations, restrictions, and judgements in regard to sex.
Masters (1962) says that some brothel madams used to stage exhibitions of animals mating, as they found it aroused potential clientele, and that this may have encouraged the clients to engage in bestiality.
Zoophilia has been partly discussed by several sciences: Psychology (the study of the human mind), sexology (a relatively new discipline primarily studying human sexuality), ethology (the study of animal behavior), and anthrozoology (the study of human-animal interactions and bonds).
Some researchers distinguish between zoophilia (as a persistent sexual interest in animals) and bestiality (as sexual acts with animals), because bestiality is often not driven by a sexual preference for animals.
Ernest Bornemann (1990, cited by Rosenbauer, 1997) coined the separate term zoosadism for those who derive pleasure – sexual or otherwise – from inflicting pain on animals.
The percentage of males who reported sexual interactions with animals in 1974 was 4.9% (1948: 8.3%), and in females in 1974 was 1.9% (1953: 3.6%).
Miletski believes this is not due to a reduction in interest but merely a reduction in opportunity.
It may also be touched upon by sociology which looks both at zoosadism in examining patterns and issues related to sexual abuse and at non-sexual zoophilia in examining the role of animals as emotional support and companionship in human lives, and may fall within the scope of psychiatry if it becomes necessary to consider its significance in a clinical context. 18, February 2011) states that sexual contact with animals is almost never a clinically significant problem by itself; Additionally, zoophiles in categories 2, 3, and 8 (romantic zoophiles, zoophilic fantasizers, and regular zoophiles) are the most common, while zoophiles found in categories 6 and 7 (sadistic bestials and opportunistic zoophiles) are the least common.
Zoophilia may reflect childhood experimentation, sexual abuse or lack of other avenues of sexual expression.
Confusing the matter yet further, writing in 1962, Masters used the term bestialist specifically in his discussion of zoosadism.