The Bonobo Factor: More Sex

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Read the introduction to this series of posts here.

Bonobo Secret To Love 01 - More Sex = Less Conflict

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

As the great primatologist, Frans de Waal put it, “Chimps use violence to get sex, while bonobos use sex to avoid violence.” While chimps victimize each other in many ways—rape, murder, infanticide, warfare between groups—there’s never been a single observed case of any of these forms of aggression among bonobos, who are much sexier than chimps. As James Prescott demonstrated in a meta-analysis of all available anthropological data, the connection between less restrictive sexuality and less conflict generally holds true for human societies as well.

What does this mean for us?

From a personal standpoint, when I think of times that I have been angry, or prone to irrational emotion, I know intuitively that if a woman companion started to insistently touch and flirt with me, and perhaps erotically expose herself (all bonobo tendencies), to the extent that I could not resist engaging in sexual activity with her, my mood would completely change. My potentially conflict-causing emotions would rapidly dissipate.

This is consistent with scientific findings that show that the area of the male and female brain that generates “ego” shuts off during orgasm. This video by AsapScience, called “The Science of Orgasms” presents a good, quick summary of what happens with the mind and body during orgasm.

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I had a partner once, who insistently gave me three successive rounds of orgasmic oral sex, about 15 minutes apart. Each time she assured me she expected nothing in return. Just enjoy. I was surprised, at the time, by the profound effect it had on me. I have no trouble saying that she turned me into male ‘putty’. That is, aggression of any kind was the furthest thing from my mind. I was in a state of very agreeable, euphoric relaxation.

I have no doubt that female-inspired, loving sexual activity of all forms would rapidly diffuse male aggression within a group. Can we imagine a community where open sexual energy is lovingly employed by the wise female ‘community core’ for conflict resolution and bond nurturing? Obviously, we would have to get over our developed predilection for possessive monogamy and feelings of jealousy (more on this in later points), which is easier said than done based on our cultural conditioning, but, as Christopher Ryan alludes to in his closing comment, there have been interesting examples of successful, peaceful, abundant communities with an “open loving sex” dynamic similar to bonobos, past and present (more on this in future posts).

It is sad that we are conditioned to think that more sex equals more guilt and shame, and likely, therefore, more violence. The bonobos show us that exactly the opposite might be true and challenge us to shift our thinking and the way we live.

Read Part Three HERE 

The Bonobo Factor: Intro

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“It’s humans that have the hang ups. Sex in bonobo society is a mechanism to reduce tension. Sort of like a handshake!” Quote from a Youtube video posting. Here’s a quick view of bonobo sex.

Bonobos. Have you heard of them? More and more of us have. In Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha’s thought-provoking book “Sex At Dawn” we read this:

“Genetically, the chimps and bonobos at the zoo are far closer to you and the other paying customers than they are to the gorillas, orangutans, monkeys, or anything else in a cage. Our DNA differs from that of chimps and bonobos by roughly 1.6 percent, making us closer to them than a dog is to a fox, a white-handed gibbon to a white-cheeked  crested gibbon, an Indian elephant to an African elephant or, for any bird-watchers who may be tuning in, a red-eyed vireo to a white-eyed vireo.”

 

Pretty amazing… and sobering at the same time. Bonobos have only been studied fairly recently. When they were first discovered they were considered a ‘sub-group’ of the chimpanzees. For a long time most scientists considered the chimpanzee hierarchical, power-focused model of ‘society’ most like humans. Ryan and Metha point out that with more study of the bonobos and early human matriarchal societies, and deeper understanding of human physiology, comes evidence that we may in fact be much more closely related to them than chimps. Their book includes this passage:

Crucially, human and bonobos, but not chimps, appear to share a specific anatomical predilection for peaceful coexistence. Both species have what’s called a repetitive microsatellite (at gene AVPRIA) important to the release of oxytocin. Sometimes called “nature’s ecstasy,” oxytocin is important in pro-social feelings like compassion, trust, generosity, love and yes, eroticism. As anthropologist and author Eric Michael Johnson explains, “It is far more parsimonious that chimpanzees lost this repetitive microsatellite than for both humans and bonobos to independently develop the same mutation.”

 

Oxytocin is worthy of a blog post on its own. Maybe several. But for me this is a significant find.

So what if we are more closely related to bonobos than chimps? What does this mean? Well, first it means a lot of resistance. Why? Because bonobos are notoriously free and open in their sexuality. Bonobos have been observed to, “engage in sex to ease tension, to stimulate sharing during meals, to reduce stress while traveling, and to reaffirm friendships during anxious reunions.”

In other words, they have sex a lot. And it is primarily female-driven, because their societal construct is matriarchal in nature. They even have sex with males from neighboring communities, or tribes, when they cross paths. Make love, not war. This does not sit well in our ‘modern’ patriarchal world, with all its embedded hierarchies, where loving sexual energy is extremely ‘narrowed’ and constrained and often becomes power exchange rather than honoring union. The paradigm shift required to embrace a “bonobo-like” human existence would be huge! But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask ourselves the question: would life be better if we embraced our bonobo-like nature?

Here’s a quick preview of that list:
1. More sex = less conflict.
2. Feminism can be very sexy.
3. Sisterhood is powerful.
4. Jealousy isn’t romantic.
5. There’s promise in promiscuity.
6. Good sex needn’t always include an orgasm, and “casual” doesn’t mean “empty” or “cheap”.
7. Sex and food go better together than love and marriage.

You can read Christopher Ryan’s original post here, or here.

Over the next few blogs posts I will reiterate Christopher Ryan’s comments about each point, and then follow with a response as to what I think that means for us, if we, indeed, embraced the ‘Bonobo Factor’.

Read Part Two HERE