Nature's raucous bestiary rarely serves up good role models for human behavior, unless you happen to work on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. But there is one creature that stands out from the chest-thumping masses as an example of amicability, sensitivity and, well, humaneness: a little-known ape called the bonobo, or, less accurately, the pygmy chimpanzee.
Before bonobos can be fully appreciated, however, two human prejudices must be overcome. The first is, fellows, the female bonobo is the dominant sex, though the dominance is so mild and unobnoxious that some researchers view bonobo society as a matter of 'co-dominance,' or equality between the sexes. Fancy that.
The second hurdle is human squeamishness about what in the 80s were called PDAs, or public displays of affection, in this case very graphic ones. Bonobos lubricate the gears of social harmony with sex, in all possible permutations and combinations: males with females, males with males, females with females, and even infants with adults. The sexual acts include intercourse, genital-to-genital rubbing, oral sex, mutual masturbation and even a practice that people once thought they had a patent on: French kissing.
Bonobos use sex to appease, to bond, to make up after a fight, to ease tensions, to cement alliances. Humans generally wait until after a nice meal to make love; bonobos do it beforehand, to alleviate the stress and competitiveness often seen among animals when they encounter a source of food.
I think I'll take the bonobo approach over octopuses, baboons, capuchin monkeys and Homo Crawfordensis any day.