Bonobo Sexuality

The romanticized conventions concerning the seemingly self-indulgent “hippie chimpanzee” Pan paniscus has been much built up over the years. This is best highlighted when the tranquil Pan Paniscus is juxtaposed with their comparatively vicious chimpanzee cousins (Pan troglodytes). Commonly known as bonobos,  Pan paniscus are known for the variety and profusion of their sexual appetite.  The pygmy chimpanzee (as the bonobo is also known) does not form permanent monogamous relationships, making it a promiscuous species. Sex in bonobos occurs in every possible gender combination, with male-male relationships being slightly less frequent. Furthermore, the bonobo sexual repertoire encompasses a striking variety of positions and methods; oral and manual stimulation have both been observed as well as ventro-ventral genital intercourse. What is remarkable about their use of sex is its apparent casualness;  they participate in sexual activity dozens of times a day yet each encounter lasts an average of 13 seconds. What is often neglected, however, is the way in which unrelated females aggregate and form bonds to tip the balance of social power in their favor. Unlike most animals who practice “conceptive sexuality,” that is females choose to copulate only when they are able to conceive, bonobos effectively structure their society using socio-sexual contact. Indeed, bonobos are far from the peace-loving, egalitarian, hippies presented in popular science magazines. Rather, the use of socio-sexual behaviors in Bonobo females could be more accurately described as Machiavellian.