The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace Through Pleasure
An Alternative Great Ape Paradigm for Human Sexuality
By Susan M. Block, Ph.D.
Gardner & Daugthers, Publishers, 2014
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans
If pleasure is heaven then The Bonobo Way is heaven sent. The experience and insight of Dr. Susan Block and her understanding of human sexuality and the pleasure seeking and sharing Bonobo apes (who live south of the Congo River in East Africa and have 99% of the same DNA as humans), may surprise you and turn any preconceived expectations and judgments about bonobo’s and human’s upside down and inside out.
Ms. Block begins by telling the tale of her first encounter with the Bonobo at a zoo, its effects on her marriage and the rest of her life. She discovered what she calls The Bonobo Sutra, and says, “The list of bonobo sex activities is more impressive than the original Kama Sutra.” She also learned about the revolutionary way Bonobos use sex for conflict resolution and that there are no known instances of them ever murdering, raping or attacking fellow Bonobos or other species. This may be true, in large part, because of the matriarchal structure of Bonobo communities and families. “I call them the most feminist apes on Earth,” says Dr. Block.
Sex and food are shared by all, but it is the female Bonobo who decides when, how and if she chooses to indulge in either. Food and sex also seem to go “hand in hand”. Opposite from most ape cultures, Bonobo boys stay with their mothers until late in life and it is the girls who migrate to another group at childbearing age. New females are accepted into their new group and clan, with food, sex and emotional bonding. The author says, “If you’re a bonobo female, your gal pals have your back.”
After Dr. Block has explained some of the research and her experiences, with the Bonobo, she then shows how their way of life and behavior has, is and could be, incorporated into human well-being and sexual relations. She says, “In essence, The Bonobo Way offers an alternative great ape paradigm for human behavior, especially (but not exclusively) sexual behavior.” And, “Our emotional wiring is closer to the peaceful, sexual bonobo than to the brutal, militaristic chimpanzee.” The basic Bonobo steps for human’s to incorporate into our lives are that 1) Pleasure heals pain. 2) Doing good feels good. 3) You can’t fight a war very well if you’re having an orgasm.
As a sex therapist and facilitator of Bonoboville (a speakeasy, pleasure den for invited consenting adults, which is on the radio and sometimes filmed), Dr. Block has developed a 12-Step Program, which she encourages humans to follow. Some of the steps include – Go Bonobos in Bed, Outercourse Is In, Mix Food and Sex, Create Your Own Bonoboville, and Swing Through Life.
The Bonobo Way takes care to develop this way of life ethically and looks closely at the questions it raises, and says it is not a one size fits all program. Dr. Block doesn’t minimize others concerns or questions about living The Bonobo Way, but deftly addresses them with research, examples, and most importantly, her history with her marriage, studies, counseling practice and Bonoboville. One may deny or differ with her ideas, concepts or philosophy, but not with her personal perception and story, as it is her experience alone (or in this case with many others), which is being shared.
If you get a copy of The Bonobo Way, there is a strong possibility that you will find yourself drawn too and/or resonating with living a Bonobo way of life, as well as wanting to help protect them from extinction. The last step of the The Bonobo 12-Step Program is, “Save the Bonobos, Save the World”.