The Bonobo Factor: Good Casual Sex


Read the introduction to this series of posts here.

Bonobo Love Secret 06 - Good sex needn’t always include an orgasm, and “casual” doesn’t necessarily mean “empty” or “cheap”.

“Sex At Dawn” co-author Christopher Ryan writes:

Most bonobo sexual interactions are nothing more than a quick feel, rub, or intromission—a “bonobo handshake,” if you will. (See Vanessa Woods’s excellent book by that name for a personal story of living with bonobos while falling in love.) But bonobos are very romantic: like humans, they kiss, hold hands (and feet!), and gaze into one another’s eyes while having sex.

What does this mean for us?

Isn’t it weird that we think nothing of breathing, or eating, or drinking, or exercising — all necessities for life — in front of each other, in public, yet shun almost all outward or public displays of sexual energy? Most of us would be shocked, even disgusted, at a couple having open sex in public. Have you ever asked yourself why that is? Loving sexual energy is beautiful. We all deeply enjoy experiencing loving intimacy. So why do we shun its open display? It is as essential to life as breathing or eating. We never feel shame about eating in front of others (barring, perhaps, an eating disorder, which in fact is probably rooted in sexual ‘body image’ dysfunction). So why would we feel shame about the open sharing of sexual energy? Sex is as inevitable and as natural as eating.

As Ryan states, the bonobos often share sexual energy in passing—a quick “handshake” of loving stimulation. This is an important distinction from open sexual intercourse. Yet we humans are culturally conditioned to have trouble with almost all “handshakes” that generate sexual energy between us and others, unless it is with our monogamous partner. Even then public touching or kissing can be awkward. Heck, we even shun nudity in our own homes.

The "A-frame" hug. 

The "A-frame" hug. 

We all know, in our modern litigious society, we have to be careful whom we touch. Don’t you find it laughable—in a sad way—when males and females hug, how often we do the classic “A-frame” shoulder hug in order to avoid the possible sexual energy transmission of chest or genital contact? When is the last time you caressed someone’s face, not because they are your lover, but just because they are beautiful? We all know how good it feels to be touched, clothes on or not, but how often do we do it, or request it?

We are constrained by the boundaries of a possessive, monogamist, patriarchal world that has somehow made sex less than natural; less than the full-spectrum, beautiful energy at the root of this amazing, divine universe we are part of. Bonobos thankfully don’t overthink life, like we do. They just keep on giving sexually energetic “handshakes” to anyone in their group, anytime, anywhere, as motivated.

I agree with Ryan, orgasms are not essential for sex to be good.  Good sex is any casual exchange of loving sexual energy between people.

Despite the incredible constraints placed upon us by cultural mores and laws, we need to open our attitudes toward sexual energy. In spite of initial discomfort, we need to nurture environments and communities of people that are willing to begin engaging in open and honoring displays of loving sexual energy. Look again at the picture at the top of this post. Are you comfortable with the open displays of touch and affection? What if all the people in the images were unclothed, like bonobos? How would you feel then?

If we continue to stay constrained and fearful of natural, loving sexual touch, we will not fully experience ourselves, nor fully explore the potential of the special bonding that occurs through the sharing of good sexual energy “handshakes”.

Read Part Eight HERE