A professor explains the allure of cockfighting

The Indiana Gaming Control Commission says it has busted an Indiana farm that breeds roosters for fighting, having been tipped off about the operation from the Humane Society of America after it saw an article on the farm in Pit Games, a Philipino magazine that follows cockfighting.

The owner of the birds, Ed “Wally” Clemons, who kept the birds at Fairland southeast of Indianapolis, hasn’t been arrested, according to the Shelbyville News. However, he could face misdemeanor or felony charges. Here's another account from WTHR-TV Channel 13.

Why do these kinds of incidents keep popping up? Dogfighting is still a problem in Indianapolis and is part of the reason the city has so many problems with pit bulls. In other words, what’s the attraction of cockfighting, dogfighting and other violent pastimes? What was the allure to Michael Vick?

Margaret Ann Keaton, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Indianapolis, thinks the answer can be found in Freud’s conclusion that everything humans do is ultimately motivated by seeking sexual gratification. We’re all hedonists, and some of us branch into animal fighting to self-gratify.

Just what does fighting have to do with sex? Read on.

Keaton sees human development as moving from caves to Medieval gladiators to today—but without a great deal of fundamental improvement. People who get into animal fighting either weren’t exposed to the civilizing influences of schools, parents and churches, or they rejected those influences.

“This is just sort of an offshoot” of gladiators,” she says. “They’re getting a thrill out of watching animals destroy each other.”

It’s not a perfect parallel, she adds. The cockfighting and dogfighting crowds are too chicken (pun intended) to actually climb into a ring themselves. They’re passive-aggressives who’d rather watch than risk their own skin.

Still, the violence is a turn-on.

Keaton, whose research has focused on violence and aggression, says serial murderers and other repeat criminals tell her of finding sexual gratification in stalking, rape and other mayhem.

That’s her explanation. What’s yours? Any thoughts about cockfighting?

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