Back in 1960, Jane Goodall observed her chimp subjects using blades of grass to better scoop termites. That incident, famously, sparked the following comment from Goodall’s mentor, Louis Leakey: “Now we must redefine tool, redefine Man, or accept chimpanzees as human.”
Well, that was 50 years ago. I’m not sure what’s been redefined, or even accepted since then, but hey, monkey sex toys! And while lacking the means to acquire batteries might preclude chimps from wielding, oh, a Butterfly Kiss, they can wield, well…leaves. Or, as John Tierney in today’s NYT notes:
Ideally a dead leaf, because that makes the most noise when the chimp clips it with his hand or his mouth.
“Males basically have to attract and maintain the attention of females,” Dr. McGrew said. “One way to do this is leaf clipping. It makes a rasping sound. Imagine tearing a piece of paper that’s brittle or dry. The sound is nothing spectacular, but it’s distinctive.”
O.K., a distinctive sound. Where does the sex come in?
“The male will pluck a leaf, or a set of leaves, and sit so the female can see him. He spreads his legs so the female sees the erection, and he tears the leaf bit by bit down the midvein of the leaf, dropping the pieces as he detaches them. Sometimes he’ll do half a dozen leaves until she notices.”
“Presumably she sees the erection and puts two and two together, and if she’s interested, she’ll typically approach and present her back side, and then they’ll mate.”
My first reaction, as a chauvinistic human, was to dismiss the technology as laughably primitive — too crude to even qualify as a proper sex tool. But Dr. McGrew said it met anthropologists’ definition of a tool: “He’s using a portable object to obtain a goal. In this case, the goal is not food but mating.”
When It Comes to Sex, Chimps Need Help, Too
Posted by Bradley Novicoff |