If I Have To Read About Bonobo Sex One More Time I Swear I Will Die.


Bonobo group hug
Demonstrating tight social bonds akin to humans, these bonobos are snuggling, while the mother of the infant pictured holds its little hand-foot. Darling! You can find other pictures of two of these girls gazing adoringly down at the infant, but this is long enough without me posting every picture of a bonobo that gets me misty eyed.

Why are we obsessed with monkey sex? Serious question. There has to be some sort of evolutionary precedent for this.

I get it, okay? Bonobos have a lot of sex. It’s a defining characteristic of their socialization that sets them apart from their close geographic and genetic neighbors, the well-loved Common Chimpanzee (which, lest we forget, are total jerks). I get it. I get it, because I can’t read a single article about the things without long spiels about how exactly these apes can’t get a leaf in their face without stopping to grind sinspots.

You know what else bonobos do? They understand fairness. Also, they share with strangers before friends, showing a preference for social expansion and acceptance rather than insularity. They have context-based language, wherein the same sound means different things in different situations, before thought to be something unique to humans.

Bonobos could tell us a lot about where we come from, and how we got here. They are our closest living relatives, sharing the spot with our buddy the chimp (there’s a picture of a dead chimpanzee there so, like, click with caution my dudes). Even if you don’t believe in evolution (I GUESS), their closeness to us can teach us a lot about how culture developed from the ignorant, all-naked-all-the-time-times in the Garden to the bastion of garbage we call civilization. Is the forbidden fruit, the knowledge of good and evil, an actual fruit? Or is it that tiny portion of our genome that is ours and ours alone?

What sets us apart from the great apes? What is it that makes us special? Or, is it worse, and we’re not all that special? Are we just bald, bobble-headed chimps that wear pants? Or are we bald, bobble-headed bonobos that forgot the matriarchy and decided that Pan Troglodytes knew what was up?

These are the questions that plague me at night. I couldn’t sleep, so I started looking up stuff on the internet, as you do. Nothing like the wonders of animal self-awareness and the idea that we’ve been torturing what equates to hairy children for centuries to put your ass to sleep, right?  I don’t even remember what, exactly, got me on the topic of bonobos.

Either way, I’d hoped to answer some soul-searing existential questions, and lull myself to sleep. Instead, I was tormented by monkey sex. I wanted to look at cute pictures of baby bonobos, who have the doe-eyed, gangly-limbed cuteness all baby apes do in spades. Instead, I was tormented by monkey sex.

There are very important questions raised by bonobo behavior, as with the behavior of all great apes. Do they deserve personhood? What makes a person a person? Is it our clothes and our tools and our speech? Or is it our sentience? What is sentience? How smart do you have to be for it to count?

If we grant rights to cooperations, but not creatures we know to feel suffering, love, and to know themselves, what does that say about what we value?

I know what the search results for bonobos said about what we value. It says we value hot, fervent, never-ending monkey sex. And that’s terrible, because it paints a narrow, weirdly hyperfocused, and often flat-out wrong picture of a fascinating, endangered creature.

I love bonobos, guys. I live in fear of the day they go extinct, because we will have killed a species just as emotional and social as us, that one day could have risen to be like us. I want to meet a bonobo.

But this ardent fascination with monkey sex has gotta stop. It tormented me last night, and it torments me even now. Bonobos deserve our love because they are thinking, sentient creatures. The pictures we preserve of them should showcase their social groups, their intelligence, their love for their offspring and friends. That’s what we should focus on.

Not the monkey sex. For the love of God, no more monkey sex.

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