The Bonobo Way  

36 posts
3/10/2005 2:36 am

Last Read:
3/5/2006 9:27 pm

The Bonobo Way

The Horniest Apes on Earth

Bonobo Way

Peace Through Pleasure

by Susan Block, Ph.D.

Deep in the soul of the hot, wet swamps of the Congo, there is a tribe. It is here, in their wild, erotic Garden of Eden, in the middle of war-torn territory, that our closest cousins, the bonobos, live and share a powerful kind of pleasure, and make an extraordinary kind of love.

Just in case you don’t know a bonobo from a bonsai tree, bonobos, classified as Pan paniscus, are also called pygmy chimpanzees in primatology circles. We call them the horniest apes on Earth. Some scientists say they’re closer to humans than common chimps, though that’s debatable. They certainly look more like us, with their longer legs, smaller ears and more open faces with higher foreheads. Sexually speaking, the genitals of bonobo females are rotated forward like those of human females, so that they can have face-to-face sex rather than just "doggie style," with the male mounting from behind, like most other primates. Basically, bonobos can do "it" in almost as many positions as we can, and they do do it--a lot.

Females are in heat for three-quarters of their cycle, and many of them copulate even when not in heat, a sexual pattern more like human females than that of any other mammal. Though common chimpanzees only partake in basic reproductive sex, bonobos share all kinds of sexual pleasures, including cunnilingus, fellatio, masturbation, massage, bisexuality, incest, body-licking, sex in different positions, group sex, and lots of long, deep, wet, soulful, French kissing.

Like tantric sex practitioners, or just like two people very much in love, copulating bonobos often look deeply into each other’s eyes.

Such loving passion, such sexual dexterity, such clever, horny playfulness is found nowhere else on Earth except among certain humans.

But that’s not all that makes our kissin’ cousins, the bonobos, so worthy of our attention—worthy enough to be our official mascots here at the Dr. Susan Block Institute (we even call our staff the "Bonobo Gang"). It’s not just how they have sex, but how they use sex-- to maintain friendly relationships, to ease stress (e.g., Don’t be nervous, come here and sit on my face), as a form of commercial exchange (e.g., I’ll give you a blowjob if you give me a banana), and to reduce violent conflict. That is, they seem to use sex to make peace. And that, in a coconut shell, is why we love bonobos.

Scientific observation has revealed that social interactions among bonobos are far less hostile than among common chimps. This is not to say that bonobos never fight; they just do so a lot less. Unlike common chimps (and humans, of course), bonobos have never been observed deliberately killing members of their own species. Among bonobos observed both in the wild and in captivity, sex and mutual pleasure are keys to keeping the peace, reinforcing social relations based upon the give and take of sensual, erotic pleasure rather than on pain and force and fear.

The power behind this astonishingly peaceful, highly erotic "paradise" lies in bonobo social organization. Unlike common chimps and the other great apes, bonobo society is not male dominated. Females are on essentially equal footing with the boys. "Female power is the sine qua non of bonobo life," writes Dr. Richard Wrangham in Demonic Males, "the magic key to their world." Female bonobos have strong relationships with each other, creating a chimp version of "solidarity" or "sisterhood," even though adult females in any one group are generally not sisters, or blood-related at all. Bonobo female solidarity helps to keep the males in line; if a male is so arrogant as to attack a female, her "sisters" will all jump on him. By contrast, the males almost never form alliances with each other, either to defend themselves or attack females.

Bonobo "ladies" strengthen their friendships through "lesbian" sex, frequently performing what researchers call "genito-genital rubbing." The Mogandu people have a much more appealing, expressive name for this act of rapidly rubbing their large sensitive clitorises and labia against each other: hoka-hoka. Sounds like a sexy sort of dance, doesn’t it? That’s what it looks like, the bonobo tango, but it’s quick vulva-to-vulva action rather than slow cheek-to-cheek. Bonobo females grow closer to each other as they do the hoka-hoka, consolidating their social connections along with their orgasms. These highly sexed females are also far more likely to initiate sex with the males than any other great ape females (including humans!). So the bonobo guys get a pretty good deal: Give the ladies some respect, and get plenty of sex, all year ‘round.

Moreover, since the males do get plenty of sex—from confident, horny females who disguise their ovulation time—they don’t compete with each other so much. That is, male bonobos don’t seem to partake in the deadly "wars," raiding parties and other acts of ape "terrorism" so prevalent among male common chimps, and humans. They also tend to resolve any conflicts they might have by mounting each other or engaging in oral or manual sex. As Dr. Franz de Waal points out in Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape, "common chimps resolve sexual issues with power. Bonobos resolve power issues with sex." The latter seems to be safer and more fun for everyone.

What I call "The Bonobo Way" is a very simple philosophy (after all, these aren’t geniuses, they’re chimpanzees) that we all know deep in our bones, but that we seem to forget in the midst of our busy, lonely, fearful, stressed, repressed, polluted, violent lives.

Help save the Bonobos, help save earth, peace through pleasure.

I welcome your comments, so let me hear from you.

Dr. Suzy


3/11/2005 1:24 pm

Dr Suzy,

As an avid National Geographic reader, and viewer I enjoyed your article. Begs to ask the question why can't we have more 'monkey love'. It's interesting that the Bonobo female has 'evolved' so much, while we humans seem to be stuck somewhere between deciding how liberated we are, and not wanting to be too forward. Thus the confusing messages. So I guess we need to emulate the 'lowly Bonobo'.
Once again great article, and I'm pretty sure the animal kingdom has more to teach us.

licknlove81 53M
5 posts
3/11/2005 5:36 pm

Great article Dr. Suzy... I think in the animal kingdom, elephants, tend to have a very strong sisterhood within the herd (though you tend to get away from the animals genetically similar to us humans). But very intersting facts about the Bonobos (Bonobo, kind of sounds like your new next door neighbors last name, or, if they ARE your next door neighbor at least it will be a VERY interesting time in the neighboorhood!)

LimesMastsAvoid 71M
456 posts
4/21/2005 6:28 am

I'm convinced ! I would adopt just to have a Bonobo make coffee for me in the morning.

Become a member to create a blog