What Can Bonobo Monkeys Teach Us About Ourselves?

Human nature is a chaotic, complicated, and often frustrating phenomenon. It can be disturbing and scary, but it can also be heart-warming and downright hilarious.

Go on Youtube and watch fifteen minutes of nut shot videos. Then, watch 15 minutes of videos showing soldiers returning to their families. It’ll make you laugh, cry, and smile, not necessarily in that order. So long as you stay away from bad sitcoms and Honey Boo Boo reruns, you’ll feel some level of pride in being human.

That said, we still have room for improvement. Human nature is not a finished product. It’s more like a never-ending beta version of a high-end product where the engineers tasked with fixing it are drunk, stoned, and brain damaged. As an aspiring writer who focuses heavily on the sexier parts of human nature, this is something I need to keep up with to some degree.

This brings me to Bonobo monkeys. Confused? I promise that’s not as big a non-sequiter as it seems. Unless you’re one of those ardent religious types who has to believe that mankind was molded into being by some invisible magic man in the sky, as described in a 2,000-year-old holy book written in multiple languages that nobody even speaks anymore, monkeys offer an important insight into human nature. They’re our closest evolutionary cousin. That means we can learn from them and learn about ourselves.

So why single out Bonobo monkeys? Well, being an erotica/romance writer, a better question would be how could I not? While primate behavior is as varied as the menu on Dunkin Donuts, Bonobos set themselves apart in a big way. They really love to fuck.

When I say they love to fuck, I don’t mean that in the crude way that every porn star claims in the middle of a low-budget skin flick. I mean they love to fuck to a point where it’s a big part of their society. They don’t treat it the same way every sitcom since Leave It To Beaver treats it. They use it to create a stable, cohesive society. Excuse me. I just teared up a little.

This is very much the antithesis of how we humans approach sexuality. Whether by evolution or our own erratic proclivities, we’re downright schizophrenic when it comes to sex. Some societies treat it with open enthusiasm. Some, especially those derived from the Abrahamic traditions, treat it a stabbing pain in our nether regions that we try desperately to ignore. If Bonobos could talk, they’d probably think we’re crazy.

I’ve discussed the many ways our deranged society creates unhealthy attitudes towards sex. They drive us apart. They create conflict between genders. They turn us into hypocrites. They even make us mutilate our own genitals. I know human nature has room for improvement, but even if we grade ourselves on a curve, we have to admit we’re pretty damn inept.

So how do Bonobos do it better? What makes their approach to sex so much more refined? What can we learn from it? Well, Psychology Today put together a quick list of sexy lessons from our evolutionary cousins and, given our inability to make up our goddamn minds about sex, we’d be wise to listen.

Psychology Today: 7 Things Bonobos Can Teach Us About Love And Sex

Lesson One: More sex equals less conflict

This makes too much sense to ignore. We already have prime examples of how societies of sexually deprived men can cause a lot of problems. Sex, like hunger and survival, is a very basic drive. In the same way we do crazy shit when we’re hungry, we do crazy shit when we’re horny and have no outlet. We feel conflicted. We feel frustrated. We pick fights, start conflicts, and forget why the hell we’re so angry in the first place. When you’re getting laid often, you’re too content for conflict. Bonobos are proof of that.

Lesson Two: Feminism can be very sexy

I know I just pissed off the Men’s Rights activities, which isn’t hard to begin with, but bear with me here. The feminism Bonobos practice isn’t the same feminism that’s designed to bust men’s balls and create bullshit trigger warnings. In Bonobo society, females are in charge. Males aren’t their bitches, but they don’t get to run the show just because they have nuts to flex. They need to respect the other gender and in doing so, they get laid more. In other words, it’s the kind of feminism that’s a win-win for both genders. What a concept, right?

Lesson Three: Sisterhood is powerful

I don’t think this is a lesson that needs to be belabored too much. Anyone who has seen women at a bachelor party or in quality lesbian porn know that women know how to form close bonds. They’re much better at it then men, who will cut each other’s throats over arguments about which Star Wars prequel sucked most. Creating bonds is an important component for any social species and we humans love to complicate it. Bonobos go out of their way not to. We have no excuses.

Lesson Four: Jealousy ISN’T romantic

I’ve already talked about this before. Jealousy implies you actually own the love and lust of another individual. That doesn’t sit well with me and I don’t think it should sit well with anyone on some levels. Bonobos seem to be several steps ahead in that regard. They don’t seem to care about their partners humping others. This actually creates less conflict. While I’m sure their version of Jerry Springer is much more boring, they’re probably okay with that.

Lesson Five: There’s promise in promiscuity

I’ve written about this as well. Despite what the James Dobsons and Rick Santorums of the world would have you believe, there are clear benefits to sexual promiscuity. The lack of conflict, close bonds, and low stress of Bonobo life is proof that those benefits can be considerable. Granted, they don’t have to worry about revenge porn, Maury Povich, and taboos on adultery, but they make the most of what their sexuality has to offer. They enjoy its pleasures and its utility. Again, that shouldn’t be such a novel concept, but we humans just can’t resist complicating these basic things.

Lesson Six: Good sex doesn’t always include an orgasm and casual doesn’t necessarily mean empty or cheap

I’m starting to think my brain is part Bonobo because I’ve written about this too with my strong opinions on foreplay. Sex isn’t just about taking a trip to O-town or making new soldiers/farmers to keep society going. It’s an important bonding mechanism. It fosters closeness and companionship, two extremely vital things for social species like humans and Bonobos. Humans create societies where huggers like me are terrified of making intimate contact with one another. Bonobos create societies where sex is their version of a handshake. Is it any wonder why there’s so little conflict?

Lesson Seven: Sex and food go together better than love and marriage

No, this isn’t about some kinky food fetish. I’ll save that discussion for a future book. Outside certain types of specialized porn, humans treat food and sex as distinctly separate. Bonobos like to blur the lines. When they come upon a large source of food, they’ll celebrate with a quick orgy to work up an appetite. I’m not sure what the logic is behind this. I don’t know that they think, “Look at all the delicious food! Let’s celebrate by having sex!” However, it’s one of those twisted brands of logic that just makes too much sense.

Despite the many benefits of Bonobo society, humans still like to think of themselves as more advanced. In many ways, they are. We have skyscrapers, nuclear weapons, and spray cheese in a can. Bonobos have none of that and it doesn’t help that they’re an endangered species. However, the unique quirks of their society and the way they’re able to function should give us something to think about.

We humans love to complicate sexuality, creating all of these bizarre and irrational taboos that we refuse to give up, even when they become outdated. We can advance so much as a civilization, but as a species, we’re still painfully slow learners. So why not take a few notes from our evolutionary ancestors? It might help us enjoy our success a little more. If nothing else, it’ll give erotica/romance writers like me plenty of kinky ideas to work with. For that, I thank you, Bonobos.


Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights

4 responses to “What Can Bonobo Monkeys Teach Us About Ourselves?

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