Man Without Qualities

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Hyperdowdified IV: Lesson From The Bonobos

Maureen Dowd essentially admitted her odd penchant for reacting to bad date news by resorting to inter-species sexual analogues in her April 10, 2002 column "The Baby Bust" (which might be subtitled "Why Can't Men Be More Like the Bonobo?:"

[A] successful New York guy I know took me aside for a lecture that was anything but sweet. He said he had wanted to ask me out on a date ... but nixed the idea because my job made me too intimidating. ....

Men, apparently, learn early to protect their eggshell egos from high-achieving women. ....

In the immortal words of Cher: Snap out of it, guys. Male logic on dating down is bollixed up... If men would only give up their silly desire for world dominance, the world would be a much finer place. ....

[L]ook at the bonobo. Bonobos, or pygmy chimpanzees, live in the equatorial rain forests of Congo, and have an extraordinarily happy existence.

And why? Because in bonobo society, the females are dominant. Just light dominance, so that it is more like a co-dominance, or equality between the sexes. ... The males were happy to give up a little dominance once they realized the deal they were being offered: all those aggressive female primates, after a busy day of dominating their jungle, were primed for sex, not for the withholding of it.

There's no battle of the sexes in bonoboland. And there's no baby bust.

It's interesting that in this year-old work Big Mo admits the connection between her own dating misadventure and her bonobo analogue. Big Mo reworks this same kind of material in her more recent column - but there are some telling differences that have opened up in the ensuing year. Of course, the new source materials - what she calls her creepy-crawly girl-eats-boy love stories - are much nastier and more hostile than the tales of bonobo love she tendered last year. Last year Big Mo also seemed annoyed and disappointed that the successful New York guy I know did not ask her out on that date - although she doesn't even refer to him as a "friend" - but the more recent column evidences no continuing desire on Big Mo's part for male companionship or frolics. Those "aggressive female primates" seem to have lost their lust. There is also a rather tender focus on the hope for children in the prior column, which is entirely missing in the new one - sexual bitterness seems to have replaced sexual hope.

And, as an aside, there are reports that the bonobos is the last of the great apes to be discovered and yet may be the first to become extinct, a problem they face [b]ecause apes have few offspring, [so human] hunting has a dramatic impact, and a significant part of the population can disappear within a single generation.

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