Bonobo Taboos: Examining the Primate Hippy Image

Bonobos have sex with everybody basically all the time. Well, not everybody

People always think that when I say "Bonobos have a lot of sex" that they have sex all day long, just like the primate hippy image that they have.  But actually their sexual interactions are very short. They’re mostly like ten seconds or 20 seconds maximum.  They are more like brief greetings or brief reunions or after a fight they may have a quick sexual interaction. 


And they occur in all combinations.  There are really no taboos except mother-son sex doesn’t really occur.  So mothers have sex with their sons until they’re maybe three years old when they’re still little babies.  But after that, nothing happens between them, which is remarkable because Bonobos have sex with everybody basically all the time.

They have sex with their neighbors.  So, for example, the neighboring groups meet.  There’s some hostility between them but very soon there is sex going on and then grooming and so on.  And so Bonobos don’t have a lot of limits on sexual partners.  They can be of the same sex as themselves or the opposite sex as themselves.  They can be of different ages, but mother-son combinations don’t occur.  So that’s suppressed between them.  And that’s the only taboo that I think they have. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

American education: It’s colleges, not college students, that are failing

Who is to blame for the U.S.'s dismal college graduation rate? "Radical" educator Dennis Littky has a hunch.

Percentage of college student dropouts by age at enrollment: 2-year and 4-year institutions

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • COVID-19 has magnified the challenges that underserved communities face with regard to higher education, such as widening social inequality and sky-high tuition.
  • At College Unbound, where I am president, we get to know students individually to understand what motivates them, so they can build a curriculum based on goals they want to achieve.
  • My teaching mantra: Everything is permitted during COVID-19. Everything is permitted during COVID-19. Everything is permitted during COVID-19.
Keep reading Show less

The mystery of the Bermuda Triangle may finally be solved

Meteorologists propose a stunning new explanation for the mysterious events in the Bermuda Triangle.

Surprising Science

One of life's great mysteries, the Bermuda Triangle might have finally found an explanation. This strange region, that lies in the North Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been the presumed cause of dozens and dozens of mind-boggling disappearances of ships and planes.

Keep reading Show less

LIVE AT 2 PM ET | Lead your team toward collaborative problem solving

What does it mean to "lead without authority"?

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

Keep reading Show less

Planet Nine will be discovered in the next decade. Here’s why.

The planet that we are searching for is a little bit smaller and closer than we originally thought.

Planet Nine will be discovered in the next decade. Here’s why. | ...
Videos
  • Years ago, California Institute of Technology professor Konstantin Batygin was inspired to embark on a journey of discovering what lurked beyond Neptune. What he and his collaborator discovered was a strange field of debris.
  • This field of debris exhibited a clustering of orbits, and something was keeping these orbits confined. The only plausible source would be the gravitational pull of an extra planet—Planet Nine.
  • While Planet Nine hasn't been found directly, the pieces of the puzzle are coming together. And Batygin is confident we'll return to a nine-planet solar system within the next decade.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…