Doing it like Monkeys

Bonobo Ape Sexual Behavior

Bonobo Ape Sexual Behavior

The sexual behavior of bonobo apes is pretty fascinating. They have lots of sex. They masturbate. They have homosexual sex. They seem to really enjoy it. In other words—they resemble humans a lot. This is a photo of bonobo apes. I took this picture in Frankfurt Zoo, Germany. And, yes, they are doing exactly what you think they are.

Whenever somebody insists that homosexual sex, masturbation, oral sex and so on are unnatural, I tend to tell them to take a look at the Wikipedia page about bonobo sexual behavior.

Normally people go to zoos to observe animals. While photographing bonobos in Frankfurt, I noticed that, when it comes to bonobo exhibitions, it is actually more interesting to observe how zoo visitors react when they see all that ape sex going on. I stood in the same place for about an hour, photographing these fascinating animals. Thus I got to spot some trends in the behavior of human zoo visitors. There were no unusual reactions from the children (they probably didn’t understand what was going on anyway). But adults sure showed all sorts of weird reactions. While an ape was masturbating, there were some people giggling and pointing their fingers at it, saying, “Look at what it is doing!” When one ape started licking another ape’s private parts, I heard a female voice saying in German, “I cannot watch this.”

It’s amusing (and also so incredibly sad) how some people are so uncomfortable about something perfectly normal and natural (and pleasurable, it sure looked like bonobos were enjoying themselves).

The society we live in really should get over its hang-ups about sex. Even animal sex makes some people squeamish. A religiously-inspired puritan culture is harmful. The dogmas they preach are factually incorrect. And, yes, a wide variety of sexual behaviors are perfectly normal and natural, just look at these two apes in this photo. There should be nothing perverse about humans enjoying themselves.

Here you can see more of my animal photos that I have taken in various zoos.

This photo was taken with Canon EOS 7D camera with Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens. I didn’t really use any smart photographer’s tricks for getting this shot. I just stood there waiting for an hour until I saw these gorgeous models do something. They were mostly just chilling out, napping. This image © Andreas Avester.


  1. says

    anat @#2

    bonobos are apes, not monkeys

    I guess I should have explained in the blog post why the title is what it is. In my native language there are some sayings about acting like monkeys. Moreover, the word “mērkaķis” means “monkey,” the word “mērkaķoties” is a verb derived from the noun that means “monkey.” Etymologically, “mērkaķoties” means “to act like a monkey,” but the actual meaning of said verb is “to clown around.” The verb “mērkaķoties” has negative connotations, usually it is used in phrases that order somebody else to stop having fun and be serious instead, some person is ordered to act like a civilized human being. In other words—people are told to stop having fun and enjoying themselves. Of course, I often perceive such messages as problematic, because people having fun generally is a good thing.

    In my native language there is a word for “monkey,” and also another one for “ape,” but people often colloquially use the word for “monkey” also when referring to apes.

    Anyway, the title of this blog post is heavily influenced by my native language.

  2. says

    @3 Andreas

    Colloquial English does have the verb phrase “to monkey around”, which sounds like a pretty good translation of “mērkaķoties”; it DOES mean roughly the same as “to clown around” though there is the added usage that you can monkey around WITH something which means to tinker or fiddle with it.

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