10 JULY 2010

Why Bonobos Don’t Kill Each Other

James W. Prescott, Ph.D.
Institute of Humanistic Science

In an Interview with Brian Hare, an assistant professor at the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences at Duke University, and Vanessa Woods, a research scientist in the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke by Claudia Dreifus, New York Times. July 2, 2010, the following exchange illustrates the disconnect between violence and killing with sexuality and their roots in the maternal-infant/child relationship. Brian Hare missed the central lesson of the Bonobo when he responded to Vanessa Woods’s commentary on Bonobo sexuality:

Vanessa Woods: “I knew almost nothing about bonobos. I thought: “Aren’t those the apes that have a lot of sex?”

Brian Hare: “That’s what most people know about bonobos: they have a lot of sex. That’s not what’s interesting about them. The No. 1 reason they are interesting is that they don’t kill each other. The question I was in Africa chasing was: why will a chimp get into a severe fight with another — perhaps kill or maim it — while a bonobo, in the same situation, won’t?”

The reason the Bonobo is non-violent and a non-killer is that multiple sexual relationships is common in the Bonobo Culture and IS the central point of interest. These behaviors are a consequence of high maternal-infant/adolescent bonding where breastfeeding continues to about four years and the male offspring is carried on the back of the mother to about adolescence. --A continuum of affectional bonding and IS a primary characteristic of the matriarchal culture (infrahuman and human).

Frans De Waal & Frans Lanting (1997). In the BONOBO. THE FORGOTTEN APE. University of California Press. Berkeley, Los Angeles/ London, stated:

"Enter the bonobo, which is best characterized as a female-centered, egalitarian primate species that substitutes sex for aggression. It is impossible to understand the social life of this ape without attention to its sex life: the two are inseparable. Whereas in most other species, sexual behavior is a fairly distinct category, in the bonobo it has become an integral part of social relationships, and not just between males and females. Bonobos engage in sex virtually every partner combination: male-male, male-female, female-female, male-juvenile, female-juvenile, and so on. The frequency of sexual contact is also higher than among most other primates." (p.4).

Multiple consenting sexual relationships are a key to peaceful, non-killing and peaceful behaviors and the roots of this behavior are to be found in the maternal-infant/child affectional relationship.

William H. Crocker (1990) in The Canela (Eastern Timbira), I. An Ethnographic Introduction. Smithsonian Contributions ToAnthropology. Number 33.Smithsonian Institutional Press, Washington, D.C. confirms the interrelationships between maternal-infant/child bonding, multiple sexual relationships and lack of aggression in the Canela, a matriarchal culture. http://www.violence.de/prescott/dvd/Canela.pdf

"An infant lives at the breast of its mother”… "One of the oldest Canela men, Khapo who was in his early 80s in the late 1950s, reported that, in earlier times, weaning occasionally took place as late as 3 to 4 years” (p159).

"By 12 or 14, if not earlier, a girl becomes a girl associate to a men's society, during which time of service she becomes accustomed to group sexual relations with men, depending on the character of the society into which she is inducted”…"Socialization largely prevents Canela individuals from being aggressive in tribal life”… "Aggression between women rarely occurs" (p.165).

"The taboos against boys or adolescents fighting are so strong and effective that such offences may not have taken place at a serious level during the 22 years I was there...The fights reported occurred only between drunk adult men". (p165).

This writer found statistically significant correlates of high violence with punitive behaviors toward premarital and extramarital sexuality among tribal cultures in Phylogenetic and Ontogenetic Aspects of Human Affectional Development In: R. Gemme and C.C. Wheeler (Eds.): Progress in Sexology. Proceedings of the 1976 International Congress of Sexology. Plenum Press, New York, 1977

Additional information on the Bonobo as the Make Love Not War Chimpanzee can be found at the websites of Dr Susan Block:

It is estimated that approximately only 3% of mammals are sexually monogamous and the human primate is not among them—male nor female. Sexual monogamy is a culturally imposed system that defies evolutionary psychobiology, which has wrecked havoc upon humanity. Diamond (1982) in The Third Chimpanzee states:

"Throughout human history, adultery has had few rivals as a cause of murder and human misery”. (p.87).

"The role of sexual jealousy as one of the commonest causes of homicide emerges from studies in many American cities and in many other countries. (p.96).

Like the Bonobo and the Canela Culture, homo sapiens must ultimately transform its behavior to produce the neurointegrative brain which can support the neurointegrative behaviors of human equality. http://www.violence.de/prescott/ttf/cultbrain.pdf

Ashley Montagu (1952) in The Natural Superiority of Women stated:

"Women are the mothers of humanity; do not let us ever forget that or underemphasize its importance. What mothers are to their children, so will man be to man" (pp. 247- 248). http://www.violence.de/prescott/dvd/Natsup.pdf

Pierre F. Walter, in an email dated July 5, 2010 raised the following questions:

“What would you think of my idea that in 5000 years of patriarchy the brain of males was virtually entrained into violent behavior but the brain of females to a much lesser extent or not at all? What is the result of this ontogenetic conditioning and how is it reflected in the brain? If this impact is true, I am rather pessimistic if we can change society's hang up with violence in the short run because we have to deal with an evolutionary scar.”

I responded:

“You hit the nail on the head. We have more than an Evolutionary Scar. There are different Brains formed by Early Sensory Deprivation or Sensory Affectional Life Experiences, which are determined by one's Culture, which creates specific cognitive languages; and cultures of Peace or Violence”—jwp. See:


Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching (c. 565 B.C.) stated:

Know the male----But keep to the role of the female--And be ravine to the empire. All mysteries are Tao, and Heaven is the mother--She is the gateway and the womb-door. 
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching c. 565 B.C.), Book One, XXVIII

The world had beginning
And this beginning could be the mother of the world 
When you know the mother
Go on to know the child
After you have known the child
Go back to holding fast to the mother,
And to the end of your days you will not
meet with danger

Lao Tzu--Tao Te Ching (c. 565 B.C.) Book Two, LII


BONOBO Is On The Path To Extinction.
MATRIARCHAL Cultures—Like The Canela-- Are Virtually Extinct On This Planet.
HOMO SAPIENS and The Future of Humanity Are In Jeopardy.