Primal Tears: Can a Bonobo Girl Save the World?
Imagine a beautiful, sensitive young girl who is only half human. Her other half comes from a slightly different animal, one that is a little stronger than human, a little less cerebral, a little hairier and a little less neurotic about sex. That animal, which contributes the second part to this extraordinary hybrid, is none other than the “Make-Love-Not-War” bonobo or pygmy chimpanzee (Pan paniscus), our closest Kissin’ Cousin, 99.4% genetically similar to humans and yet, in many respects, a world away.
This remarkable bonobo-human hybrid, born to an idealistic human mother and a lovable bonobo dad as part of a pygmy chimp preservation project gone awry, is named Sage, and she is the shining star of an exciting new first novel, Primal Tears by Truthout’s environmental editor Kelpie Wilson.
Wilson seems to have chosen the highly endangered bonobo, as opposed to the common chimp or gorilla, for Sage’s ape side, at least in part because of the pygmy chimp’s amazingly peaceful, highly sexual society. Bonobo males would rather screw than fight, and bonobo females keep the males in line through their almost-constant receptivity to sex. Everybody is bisexual. For the males, this means that battles are often resolved with orgasms instead of casualties. For the bonobo gals, it translates into a kind *female solidarity* built upon intense sexual relationships involving what the primatologists call “genito-genital rubbing” or “GG Rubbing.” The local Mogandu people have a much more appealing, expressive name for this act of rapidly rubbing their large sensitive clitorises and labia against each other: hoka-hoka. Sounds like a sexy sort of dance, doesn’t it? That’s what it looks like, the bonobo tango, but its quick vulva-to-vulva action rather than slow cheek-to-cheek. Bonobo females grow closer to each other as they do the hoka-hoka, consolidating their social connections along with their orgasms. These highly sexed females are also far more likely to initiate sex with the males than any other great ape females (including humans!). So the bonobo guys get a pretty good deal: Give the ladies some respect, and get plenty of sex, all year â€˜round. This helps bonobo females maintain somewhat equal power with the guys, and keep the peace for all.
The idea of a bonobo-human hybrid might seem crazy, immoral or downright impossible. But scientists have long known that humans can probably interbreed with apes. As far back as 1977, Researcher J. Michael Bedford discovered that human sperm could penetrate the protective outer membranes of a gibbon egg. Chimps and bonobos are much closer to humans than gibbons. So why couldn’t a human and chimp get together to produce a chuman, or humanzee, or Sage?
Why not, indeed. Let’s just say that, for various practical and ethical reasons, though experts generally agree that a human-ape hybrid is quite possible, no such specimen has ever been confirmed. This hasn’t stopped science fiction writers and artists from imagining human-chimp creatures like Bassou of Morocco, or apes with human qualities like King Kong.
Out of this fertile ground rises our heroine, Sage, a *normal* American girl except for the fine hair all over her arms, legs, back and butt, her jutting brow ridge, her long powerful arms, her decidedly unintellectual mentality, her “endless” craving for sex, and a few other pygmy chimpish characteristics. Sage grows up happily, albeit a bit awkwardly, in a back-to-the-land community in the wilds of Oregon with her biological mother, adoptive father and a bunch of friends and neighbors who pretty much accept her for who she is, even if they don’t quite understand what she is. She has some harrowing scrapes with the law as well as some militant creationists and right-wing religious nuts determined to destroy her or put her behind bars. So she runs away to live off the land for a couple of years, communing with bears and generally getting in touch with her *wild* side. Eventually, an older and wiser Sage makes her way back to her human family where she is cherished and soon sponsored by a friendly, environmentally conscious billionaire whose backing not only protects her from anti-evolution human predators, but transforms her into an international superstar. She goes on Oprah-like talk shows and dances onstage with rock stars, swinging from the rafters and spreading her message of peace, love and understanding all over the world, from Middle American soccer moms to African villagers to the Pope who, ironically enough, tries to convert this avid birth control activist to Catholicism.
Though strong on its messages of nonviolence, environmental protection, bonobo preservation, female empowerment and population control, Primal Tears never gets overly preachy, and the story is always compelling. So are the characters, especially Sage herself. We care about what happens to this uniquely empathetic half-human creature. Naturally, being half-bonobo, Sage is pretty sexual, and Wilson doesn’t shy away from her star’s amped up erotic nature, like so many others who write about bonobos. Primal Tears contains some fantastic sex passages with erotic scenes between Sage and human males and females. Actually, I could have used even more sex (but then I could always use more sex). Primal Tears is very cinematic, and would make a great film, much more interesting than another remake of Planet of the Apes.
In the meantime, it is a marvelous read for any bonobo lovers or environmentalists who enjoy a good piece of fiction. Though it should be read by everyone, especially the creationists and anti-abortionists who need to wake up and smell the imminent destruction of our Mother the Earth that we all love so much. Get it now while peace and the planet still have a chance: Primal Tears.