How A Scientific Experiment Led To Sexual Encounters Between A Woman And A Dolphin

Margaret Howe Lovatt was a young research assistant when a scientist asked if she would isolate herself and live with a dolphin to see if the creatures could learn to speak in the human language. Sure, that's pretty odd, but it actually gets stranger. The experiment allegedly led to a dolphin developing romantic feelings for Lovatt. Eventually, sexual encounters between the woman and the dolphin took place. While the pair never had actual intercourse, the controversy surrounding the experiment gave rise to uncomfortable questions. Can humans and dolphins have sex? Why was Lovatt giving a dolphin a handjob? 

Dolphins are sexually frisky creatures in almost any setting. They've been known to be sexually aggressive, to the point where dolphins can sexually assault people and are more promiscuous than many other wild creatures. Still, dolphins having sex with humans is virtually unheard of, especially in a scientific setting. This scandalous experiment is one filled with drugs, misplaced romantic feelings, sexual deviance, and tragedy. Be warned: there are sexual interspecies topics below. Read at your own caution. 

  • The Project Was Funded By NASA

    The Project Was Funded By NASA
    Photo: MrMiscellanious / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    John Lilly was a neuroscientist who had been studying dolphins and other marine mammals for some time. He had a theory that dolphins, who sometimes mimicked human voices, might be able to be taught to speak English. This introduced the possibility of dialogue between humans and another species. It may seem like a far-fetched theory, but Lilly was widely respected at the time, so he was able to secure funding from NASA and opened a lab for dolphins in 1963.

    His idea was to isolate three dolphins in different settings. He wanted to expose them to human language in various ways, so that they could possibly learn to talk and understand mankind. Lilly already knew that the animals had large brains and believed that this meant they had a greater capacity than most creatures to develop interspecies communication skills. 

  • John Lilly Thought Dolphins Could Teach People How To Speak To Aliens

    John Lilly Thought Dolphins Could Teach People How To Speak To Aliens
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Use

    John Lilly may have had deeper, more mystical motivations than just trying to get dolphins to speak. Lilly was, at the time, self-experimenting with LSD and also using it in official research as a neuroscientist. He speculated about the existence of extraterrestrial life. Of course, he wasn't exactly advertising all this when he was seeking out funding. However, LSD research was underway and he was asked to also study its effects on animals during the experiment. Often, he took the drug himself while floating in an isolation tank. This would later prove to be a major factor in the project's downfall.

    According to an article in The Telegraph, Lilly hoped that studying dolphins communication could teach mankind how to contact and speak with aliens!


  • Margaret Howe Lovatt Moved Into A Flooded House

    Margaret Howe Lovatt Moved Into A Flooded House
    Video: YouTube

    Lovatt was a research assistant in her early twenties when she signed on for the project in 1964. Right away, she showed a particular flair for working with animals and Lilly took notice. Lilly decided to isolate Lovatt with the young male dolphin, called Peter, because he had not yet received human sound training. He set up a "dolphinarium" or "Dolphin House" by waterproofing the floor of a house and flooding it so that Lovatt and the dolphin could live together under observation. 

    One would think that, as a young research assistant, the prospect of living with a dolphin would be a terrifying one. However, Lovatt was actually up for it and even volunteered to do it! She began living there in isolation with Peter the dolphin, sleeping, eating, playing, and living her daily life with the young creature. 

  • The Dolphins Knew Celebrities

    The Dolphins Knew Celebrities
    Photo: Frank Carroll / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The three dolphins used in Lilly's experiment were connected to a dolphin celebrity. As it turns out, the person who first introduced Lilly to LSD was Ivan Tors, the producer of the movie Flipper. And perhaps given this close relation, Lilly was able to get three dolphins from Marine Studios - a kind of early Sea World where dolphins performed. 

    Lilly's dolphins were named Pamela, Sissy, and Peter, and each dolphin had their own unique personality. As Lovatt remembers it: "There were three dolphins... Peter, Pamela, and Sissy. Sissy was the biggest. Pushy, loud, she sort of ran the show. Pamela was very shy and fearful. And Peter was a young guy. He was sexually coming of age and a bit naughty."

  • Peter Started To Show Sexual Urges

    While Peter was a good learner and responded well to Lovatt, he was a maturing dolphin who was beginning to have rather uncomfortable needs. He began to exhibit courtship behavior towards Lovatt, including gently biting her on her legs, caressing her, and even rubbing himself on her ankles or feet.

    This, of course, was a major inconvenience during training sessions, and Peter would become distracted as he became more worked up. In order to help relieve some of the tension, Peter would briefly be moved back to the tank with the other two females, where one assumes he could flirt and ease his urges in peace. But this constant moving was time-consuming. Lovatt knew that some other solution would have to be found. 

  • Margaret Eventually Chose To Relieve The Dolphin's Sexual Urges Herself

    For many, this was where the experiment really started to go off the deep end. Lovatt decided that, in order to keep her dolphin student focused, it would be beneficial for her to relieve his sexual urges. After all, he was showing a great deal of affection and sexual interest in her, and she was his main source of interaction. She began to pleasure him manually, in order to alleviate his sexual tension, and the lessons continued as usual.

    Although Lovatt claims that there were no sexual feelings on her part when relieving Peter, she does speak of the experience being "sensuous":

    It wasn’t sexual on my part. Sensuous perhaps. It seemed to me that it made the bond closer. Not because of the sexual activity, but because of the lack of having to keep breaking. And that’s really all it was. I was there to get to know Peter. That was part of Peter.