Planet of the Love Monkeys

Some of Our Closest Relatives Are Sex Maniacs

By Buck Wolf

July 26, 2001 — What if super-intelligent talking apes really did take over the world? It might be one big sex party.

Scientists are amazed by the sexual antics of the bonobos, who are as close to humans as the chimpanzees.

The bonobos share more than 98 percent of the same DNA as their human cousins, and they party like hairy little Hugh Hefners. Their society literally revolves around elaborate, recreational sex. They typically resolve a group conflict with a a nice, long orgy.

"The bonobos are the free-sex hippies of the animal world," says primatologist Franz de Waal of Emory University in Atlanta, author of Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape (University of California Press). "They make the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s look quite tame. You'll see two bonobos hanging upside down and copulating — and groups of them doing likewise."

Indeed, a Planet of the Apes run by the promiscuous bonobos would be a whole lot different than what we'll see at the movies. It would certainly have given new meaning to Charlton Heston's immortal line from the original film: "Take your stinking paws off me you damn, dirty ape."

Chimps Don't Monkey Around

In a bonobo-dominated world, Mark Wahlberg, the star of the new Ape flick, might slip back into his Dirk Diggler porn star role from Boogie Nights.

Most of us would consider inter-species romance bananas. However, in the new film, Wahlberg actually shares an onscreen kiss with his chimp counterpart, Helena Bonham Carter — an actress who looks pretty darn good with long sideburns, a hairy chest and knuckles that drag on the ground.

In our world, when it comes to making love, real chimps don't monkey around. It's all business, with rarely any foreplay. A typical lovemaking session lasts under 10 seconds. The bonobos, however, are connoisseurs of recreational nookie.

If two males get into a fight over food, they will do a little more than kiss and make up. "They practice homosexuality much more than other species — and they do it just for pleasure," says de Waal.