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Bonobo group hug. Photo:  LaggedOnUser via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.
Bonobo group hug. Photo: LaggedOnUser via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.
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Make 2015 the Year of the Bonobo!

Dr Susan Block

5th January 2015

We humans have much to learn from our kissing cousins, the peaceful, empathic, playful, sensual and highly sexual Bonobos, writes Susan Block. Rather than play out the myth of ancestral 'killer apes', better follow the 'Bonobo Way', and extend our love to all living beings and Earth herself.

The tragic irony is that, just as many of us are discovering the very existence of our kissing cousins who have so much to teach us about life, love and sex, we are coming very close to losing them forever.

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions. If I couldn't do it in December, what winter miracle is going to make it happen in January?

Nevertheless, as I nurse the throbbing memories of the New Year's champagne fête at our intimate new Bonoboville bar, my ears resonating with the plaintive calls of new-year-stressed clients from around the world, I realize that this year, I've got one too.

Go Bonobos in the New Year! Hashtag that to #GoBonobos in 2015, and it just might become the Year of the Bonobo.

Anyway, that's my resolution, which is also the evolution of my personal revolution. But what does that mean? A LOT of things. In fact, way too many for me to get straight in my head, let alone this blog, on this first day-bleeding-into-night of a newborn year.

Though I don't claim to have the answer(s), the basic question is this: "What do these great apes know about sex-and the rest of life-that we don't?"

Here are some things we know about bonobos:

  • They have a lot of sex.
  • They don't kill each other.
  • They empower the females.
  • They stay younger longer.
  • They make peace through pleasure...

And we thought humans were the smartest apes!

So even if you're an anti-resolutionist like me, since you've gotten this far down this article, I would like to ask you to join me in resolving to #GoBonobos in 2015 to help bring about 'Peace on Earth - Pleasure for All' ... or at least improve your love life (just watching bonobos can give you a 'bonobo sutra' of sex ideas).

Help me and all the other burgeoning pro-bonobo forces in the world rise up and come together, reaching critical mass to make 2015 a Year of the Bonobo - with legs, not to mention long strong arms that can swing through the trees and with each other.

If that sounds like turning 2015 into one 365-day NYE party, that's not so far off the mark. In their own jungle-boogying way, bonobos love to party. No doubt, partying is a priority in Bonoboville.

But like all post-hangover vows-to-be-better, this one also has its sober side, and in that sense, it is a three-pronged resolution:

Resolve to practice the Bonobo Way

Learn what our kissing cousins, the amazing bonobos, have to teach us. It's not just about partying, it's about intimacy, empathy and the power of play.

For decades, scientists, philosophers and filmmakers have used the male-dominant, 'killer ape' paradigm to explain why humans bomb and behead each other, and supposedly always will. Sure, our common chimp cousins murder and even make a kind of primal 'war', but do they tell us the whole story?

Luckily, no. Bonobos show us the other side of the primate tale, challenging human civilization's common chimp mentality and presenting an exciting new great ape paradigm for making our world more peaceful, sex-positive, female-empowered and fun for all.

Bonobos have never been seen killing each other in the wild of captivity, and they appear to diffuse violent tension through the give and take of affectionate, erotic pleasure. Of course, I don't believe that humans should imitate bonobos in every way. There are some aspects of bonobo behavior that simply do not translate well into human culture.

But generally, they set a pretty good, very inspirational example of sensual harmony in action. To #GoBonobos involves opening our eyes, ears, hearts, minds, and maybe our legs, to the possibilities of 'peace through pleasure' through observing and connecting with our close bonobo cousins.

Simply put, if they can do it, maybe we can too.

Resolve to release your 'inner bonobo'.

Practice peace through pleasure, and make like bonobos, not baboons. Make love, not war. This resolution is a personal evolution that can turn into a revolution, creating a 'contagious' and 'sticky' movement of peace-through-pleasure in private spaces and public places.

Practice anger-management, bonobo-style. Empower the female in the bedroom and the boardroom. Stage acts of peace-through-pleasure protest against the forces of violence and repression. This needs to happen globally (and it is!), but it begins locally and very personally.

Unleash the erotic animal within you. Explore what it means to be 'sex-positive' and 'female-empowering' in our culture. Go bonobos in bed - and throughout your life, to whatever degree you can within your community. Do daily 'bonobo yoga'. Work towards eradicating sexual shame.

Resolve to enhance the bonoboësque qualities within you, share more, judge less, empathize with others and eroticize your life. Resolve to break bad common-chimpish habits of getting mad when things don't go your way, hoarding stuff out of fear and greed, shaming others out of envy or ignorance and/or raging (whether abusively or impotently) like a grumpy old ape.

Resolve to express your natural urge to 'party like a bonobo', to savor and share the simple, most profound pleasures of life every day and night of the year with friends, lovers and, perhaps most importantly, with strangers.

Bonobos love strangers. After all, the unknown can frightening ... or sexually exciting. The common chimp in you is always in a state of fear and suspicion. Your inner bonobo is always open to love.

Resolve to help save the wild bonobos from extinction

The tragic irony is that, just as many of us are discovering the very existence of our kissing cousins who have so much to teach us about life, love and sex, we are coming very close to losing them forever. The current risk of extinction for bonobos is extremely high.

Many aspects of human civilization, industry and war have conspired against these great apes over the past few decades, none of which are any reflection on their culture.

Poaching, despite being illegal in the bonobos' native habitat of the Congolese rainforest, is the worst culprit, continuing its dreadful wildlife massacre, killing off our closest cousins one by one, and sometimes whole tribes at a time.

This vital third prong of the #GoBonobos resolution involves giving your time and money to organizations like Lola ya Bonobo, the Bonobo Conservation Initiativeand others listed on Block Bonobo Foundation who are working against all odds and succeeding in making a difference in bonobo conservation.

It also involves being as sex-ecological as you can to save not just the bonobos, but many species of fauna and flora, all of which are intimately intertwined with all of us. It involves resolving to love the earth you make love on.

Mother Earth is likely to survive no matter how environmentally naughty Her human children are. But we the kids very well may not, if we don't start behaving more like the caring lovers of the great earth goddess Gaia, as the eco-sexualists say, and less like selfish, spoiled-bratty children.

The time to #GoBonobos is now

The murder and mayhem, the bombing and beheadings, the police brutality, the rapes on buses and in our prisons, the devastating terror and the cynical torture need to be addressed with something more constructive than outrage, anger, violent revenge and self-destructive despair.

We need a positive, viable, new way to handle our desires and conflicts that's really even older than humanity. Again, I'm not saying that bonobo culture has answers we humans can simply copy, at least not without considerable modification, but the Bonobo Way points the way to peace ... through pleasure.

Needless to say, that 'pleasure' doesn't always have to be sexual. It can involve the sharing of food, medicine, financial aid, respect, support, understanding or any number of things.

Though it must be said (and I don't mind being the one to say it!): sex is a favorite and quite normal, natural, wonderful, healing, almost super-powerful form of pleasure for almost everyone, bonobo and human.

Can we harness this bonoboësque pleasure energy to heal our world? In a word: Yes! Despite the constant drumbeat of dire news, there is cause to believe that much of the world is 'going bonobos', even though most people still don't know bonobos from bananas (annoyingly, 'bonobo' isn't even recognized as a word by MS Word).

The revolution is already under way!

Peace, anti-war, anti-occupation, anti-nuke, anti-torture and police accountability movements around the world are making their voices heard, and at least some politicians are listening.

Finally it looks like nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction could be abolished, with even the Pope getting on board the anti-nuke bandwagon. Hemp and gay marriage are being legalized in more and more cities.

Colorful feminist groups like Femen, 'Free the Nipple' and other campaigns are using topless 'Shock & Awe', a kind of Commedia Erotica, to confront and literally disarm the befuddled gendarmes of the old guard with their beautiful, powerful and bonoboësque Weapons of Mass Seduction.

Despite tremendous backlashes, the female is slowly but surely gaining power in the boardroom, the bedroom, in executive chambers, academia and on the street.

This is not just about putting a woman in the White House or the Kremlin, though that might help. It's about honoring all of our feminine sides and empowering the female within our souls, as well as within our cultural institutions.

Naysayers insist that female dominance is 'unnatural', but bonobo society (the only great ape culture to empower the females), shows us just how natural it can be, not to mention beneficial for all-male and female.

Let's give our kissing cousins a chance!

Life is a longshot for any endangered species, but if we can make 2015 the Year of the Bonobo, our kissing cousins have a chance. Conservationists are working wonders to protect and save the wild bonobos against all odds.

Primatology and anthropology departments at the world's top universities, formerly mum on bonobos, are now doing dozens of important studies showing various ways in which bonobos are amazingly close to us as well as just plain amazing.

There's also an exciting wave of bonobo-oriented art being produced. I haven't yet seen the new indie movie, 'Bonobo', but the trailer looks fantastic-almost as if the producers visited Bonoboville, though I think I would have known if they did.

Then again, there are more and more 'Bonobovilles'-sex-positive, female-empowering, environmentally conscious communities that resemble bonobo culture-popping up everywhere, another sign 2015 is the Year of the Bonobo.

There's even more to 'Bonobo' than the bonobos (and though it's a little confusing, it's all good, especially if we can use the connections to help save the wild ones), like the superb electronic musician / band leader who calls himself 'Bonobo' (aka Simon Green), 'Bonobos' clothes for metrosexual men, a few hip clubs and restaurants named 'Bonobo', a 'Bonobo' Winery in Traverse City, Michigan.

And I can't tell you how many people call themselves 'Bonobo' on Twitter, Facebook and, of course, our own Bonoboville. I'm not sure how many folks who use the name support the actual bonobos, but my resolution is to get all these groups, stars, companies and individuals to help make 2015 the Year of the Bonobo, not just because it's the right thing to do, but hey, it's good for business.

Don't just do it - spread the word!

Speaking of business, of course, there's a personal reason for me making this resolution (isn't there always?): as those of you who know me know, I just wrote a book, The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace through Pleasure, and I'd love for you to read it and spread the word.

Hopefully, my self-confessed, selfie-centered desires for literary glory and book sales are somewhat mitigated by the fact that a portion of all proceeds from The Bonobo Way and Bonoboville (our new social media community, now in beta) goes directly to several organizations helping to save the bonobos from extinction.

Moreover, the whole book is pointed toward raising 'bonobo awareness' of both the wild bonobos and our own, human 'inner bonobo', the part of us that laughs, plays, empathizes, nurtures, cuddles, makes love and really resonates to the Bonobo Way.

So yes indeed, brothers and sisters, lovers and sinners, it's my resolution to #gobonobos as much as humanly possible (and at my age!) over the next 365 days (how many Saturday night shows, after-parties and orgies is that?) and help make 2015 the Year of the Bonobo.

According to the Chinese calendar, it's about to be the Year of the Sheep or Goat, depending on which astrologer you consult. No offense meant to farm animals, but I personally think it's more urgent and fun to celebrate, investigate and protect the bonobo - at least, this year.

Take the 'Bonobo Way Challenge!'

In this vein, I call upon you, my darling readers, sex-positive colleagues, friends and even my bitter enemies, to take the super-sex-positive bonobo as your totem creature and resolve to support the bonobos through your words, deeds, orgasms and hashtags.

I call upon peace activists, feminists, fetishists, ecologists, polyamorists, bisexualists, sex workers, swingers, occupiers, masturbators and animal lovers to look to this fellow animal for a little knowledge and a lot of love and to support our closest living genetic relatives in their fight for survival.

Please take the 'Bonobo Way Challenge' (no ice required) and join me in helping to make 2015 the Year of the Bonobo, to use 'The Bonobo Way' to help bring about 'Peace on Earth - Pleasure for All' ... or at least improve your love life.



Susan Block, Ph.D., a.k.a. 'Dr. Suzy', is an internationally renowned LA sex therapist, author of The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace through Pleasure, occasionally seen on HBO and other channels. Visit her at Email your comments to her at and you will get a reply.

This article was originally published on CounterPunch, © Dr Susan Block.



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