Brian sent our friends a backup article for a fascinating beer discussion we had during our reunion in Cape Cod. He made an analogy to the Benobo, a rare primate somewhat like a chimpanze, with some intriguing sexual escapades. For example, when they find a bunch of food, they get so excited that they just have to have tons of group sex before settling down to chow.
From Brian's email:
I've copied and pasted part of a much larger article I was reading at http://songweaver.com/info/bonobos.html
"For my study, which began in 1983, I chose the San Diego Zoo. At the time, it housed the world's largest captive bonobo colony--10 members divided into three groups. I spent entire days in front of the enclosure with a video camera, which was switched on at feeding time. As soon as a caretaker approached the enclosure with food, the males would develop erections. Even before the food was thrown into the area, the bonobos would be inviting each other for sex: males would invite females, and females would invite males and other females.
Sex, it turned out, is the key to the social life of the bonobo. The first suggestion that the sexual behavior of bonobos is different had come from observations at European zoos. Wrapping their findings in Latin, primatologists Eduard Tratz and Heinz Heck reported in 1954 that the chimpanzees at Hellabrun mated more canum (like dogs) and bonobos more hominum (like people). In those days, face-to- face copulation was considered uniquely human, a cultural innovation that needed to be taught to preliterate people (hence the term "missionary position"). These early studies, written in German, were ignored by the international scientific establishment. The bonobo's humanlike sexuality needed to be rediscovered in the 1970s before it became accepted as characteristic of the species.
Bonobos become sexually aroused remarkably easily, and they express this excitement in a variety of mounting positions and genital contacts. Although chimpanzees virtually never adopt face-to-face positions, bonobos do so in one out of three copulations in the wild. Furthermore, the frontal orientation of the bonobo vulva and clitoris strongly suggest that the female genitalia are adapted for this position.
Another similarity with humans is increased female sexual receptivity. The tumescent phase of the female's genitals, resulting in a pink swelling that signals willingness to mate, covers a much longer part of estrus in bonobos than in chimpanzees. Instead of a few days out of her cycle, the female bonobo is almost continuously sexually attractive and active.
Perhaps the bonobo's most typical sexual pattern, undocumented in any other
primate, is genito-genital rubbing (or GG rubbing) between adult females.
One female facing another clings with arms and legs to a partner that,
standing on both hands and feet, lifts her off the ground. The two females
then rub their genital swellings laterally together, emitting grins and
squeals that probably reflect orgasmic experiences. (Laboratory experiments
on stump- tailed macaques have demonstrated that women are not the only
female primates capable of physiological orgasm.)
Male bonobos, too, may engage in pseudocopulation but generally perform a
variation. Standing back to back, one male briefly rubs his scrotum against
the buttocks of another. They also practice so-called penis-fencing, in
which two males hang face to face from a branch while rubbing their erect
The diversity of erotic contacts in bonobos includes sporadic oral sex,
massage of another individual's genitals and intense tongue-kissing. Lest
this leave the impression of a pathologically oversexed species, I must add,
based on hundreds of hours of watching bonobos, that their sexual activity
is rather casual and relaxed. It appears to be a completely natural part of
their group life. Like people, bonobos engage in sex only occasionally, not
continuously. Furthermore, with the average copulation lasting 13 seconds,
sexual contact in bonobos is rather quick by human standards.
That sex is connected to feeding, and even appears to make food sharing
possible, has been observed not only in zoos but also in the wild. Nancy
Thompson-Handler, then at the State University of New York at Stony Brook,
saw bonobos in Zaire's Lomako Forest engage in sex after they had entered
trees loaded with ripe figs or when one among them had captured a prey
animal, such as a small forest duiker. The flurry of sexual contacts would
last for five to 10 minutes, after which the apes would settle down to
consume the food.
One explanation for the sexual activity at feeding time could be that
excitement over food translates into sexual arousal. This idea may be partly
true. Yet another motivation is probably the real cause: competition. There
are two reasons to believe sexual activity is the bonobo's answer to
First, anything, not just food, that arouses the interest of more than one
bonobo at a time tends to result in sexual contact. If two bonobos approach
a cardboard box thrown into their enclosure, they will briefly mount each
other before playing with the box. Such situations lead to squabbles in most
other species. But bonobos are quite tolerant, perhaps because they use sex
to divert attention and to diffuse tension.
Second, bonobo sex often occurs in aggressive contexts totally unrelated to
food. A jealous male might chase another away from a female, after which the
two males reunite and engage in scrotal rubbing. Or after a female hits a
juvenile, the latter's mother may lunge at the aggressor, an action that is
immediately followed by genital rubbing between the two adults.
I once observed a young male, Kako, inadvertently blocking an older, female
juvenile, Leslie, from moving along a branch. First, Leslie pushed him;
Kako, who was not very confident in trees, tightened his grip, grinning
nervously. Next Leslie gnawed on one of his hands, presumably to loosen his
grasp. Kako uttered a sharp peep and stayed put. Then Leslie rubbed her
vulva against his shoulder. This gesture calmed Kako, and he moved along the
branch. It seemed that Leslie had been very close to using force but instead
had reassured both herself and Kako with sexual contact.
During reconciliations, bonobos use the same sexual repertoire as they do
during feeding time. Based on an analysis of many such incidents, my study
yielded the first solid evidence for sexual behavior as a mechanism to
overcome aggression. Not that this function is absent in other animals--or
in humans, for that matter--but the art of sexual reconciliation may well
have reached its evolutionary peak in the bonobo. For these animals, sexual
behavior is indistinguishable from social behavior. Given its peacemaking
and appeasement functions, it is not surprising that sex among bonobos
occurs in so many different partner combinations, including between
juveniles and adults. The need for peaceful coexistence is obviously not
restricted to adult heterosexual pairs.
At the San Diego Zoo, I observed that if Loretta was in a sexually attractive state, she would not hesitate to approach the adult male, Vernon, if he had food. Presenting herself to Vernon, she would mate with him and make high- pitched food calls while taking over his entire bundle of branches and leaves. When Loretta had no genital swelling, she would wait until Vernon was ready to share. Primatologist Suehisa Kuroda reports similar exchanges at Wamba: "A young female approached a male, who was eating sugarcane. They copulated in short order, whereupon she took one of the two canes held by him and left."
The last paragraph suggests that Loretta is sometimes a whore, and bangs pimp daddy Vernon for food.