All the Bonobos in the House Say Ooh Ooh Ooh Ah Ah Ah

Toast passes on a fascinating article from Foreign Affairs that discusses how primatology is questioning humans’ exceptionalism and providing answers about our tendencies toward war and peace. It’s quite a long article, but well worth your time to read in whole. I won’t even excerpt it, except to give me some useful snark fodder, which I encourage you to promptly dismiss as the uncalled-for dig at rightwing extremists that it is:

[A]ll along there has been another chimp species, one traditionally ignored because of its small numbers; its habitat in remote, impenetrable rain forests; and the fact that its early chroniclers published in Japanese. These skinny little creatures were originally called "pygmy chimps" and were thought of as uninteresting, some sort of regressed subspecies of the real thing. Now known as bonobos, they are today recognized as a separate and distinct species that taxonomically and genetically is just as closely related to humans as the standard chimp. And boy, is this ever a different ape.

Male bonobos are not particularly aggressive and lack the massive musculature typical of species that engage in a lot of fighting (such as the standard chimp). Moreover, the bonobo social system is female dominated, food is often shared, and there are well-developed means for reconciling social tensions. And then there is the sex.

Bonobo sex is the prurient highlight of primatology conferences, and leads parents to shield their children's eyes when watching nature films. Bonobos have sex in every conceivable position and some seemingly inconceivable ones, in pairs and groups, between genders and within genders, to greet each other and to resolve conflicts, to work off steam after a predator scare, to celebrate finding food or to cajole its sharing, or just because. As the sound bite has it, chimps are from Mars and bonobos are from Venus.

All is not perfect in the bonobo commune, and they still have hierarchies and conflict (why else invent conflict resolution?)... There is even recent evidence for a genetic component to the phenomenon, in that bonobos (but not chimps) possess a version of a gene that makes affiliative behavior (behavior that promotes group cohesion) more pleasurable to males.
See, now all along I've had this theory that anti-war, pro-diplomacy, egalitarian, sexually broad-minded liberals were evidence of human evolution, but maybe I was wrong. Maybe we're just a different species. We're bonobos.

It's no wonder Bush looks so much like a chimp.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus