December 20, 2005

Are women sexually interested in apes?

Over on Huffington Post, LA Weekly writer Joshuah Bearman looks at the "bestiality" subtext to the movie "King Kong" and says:
[The] subtext turns out to be biologically based: I just read about a new study which shows that human women are aroused by watching monkeys having sex. Medical fact! The paper was in Biological Psychology, and the methodology went right to the source by measuring something called Vaginal Pulse Amplitude. There were male subjects too, but the primate porn did not get a single rise out of their apparatuses. I know -- you'd figure the dudes would be the deviants getting a little thrill from the bonobo boots-knocking. Turns out it's the fairer sex that's biologically amenable to a little monkey love.
Maybe Joshuah's especially interested in the topic of women and beasts because he's BearMan. But really, interesting study isn't it? Strange to think of the folks who dream up these studies and carry them out. Anyway, I think Joshuah and the scientists are reading too much into this study. Female sexuality is complicated and different from male sexuality. Why just test the subjects with pornography? I'll bet pictures of all sorts of things would produce a response on the vaginometer but would leave the penisometer unaffected.


chuck b. said...

It's wrong, wrong, wrong to proclaim "Medical fact!" after one study. This drives me nuts (even when it's done in jest--I have no sense of humor about this).

A new fact never arises from one study! Anyone saying that it does promotes scientific illiteracy, sows doubts about the relevance of science, and needs a good slapping around.

reader_iam said...

Oh, good lord: Primate Porn. My, we're having a sexy day of posting around here!

I'm afraid to think of what your next post will come up with.

Now, where did I put those old, ratty flannel jammies? Sounds like a good night to hunt them down.

; )

reader_iam said...

By the way, do I get points for not joking about some of my old college roommates' bar-closing pickups here?

Ann Althouse said...

Chuck: I get that way about law when someone asserts they know the clear answer to some difficult queston

Frothmistress: Yes. Exactly.

Reader Iam: I am trying not to talk about Pajamas. Although I did once hear a funny story about a little girl who said "Boys have penises and girls have pajamas." Which makes me think maybe somebody -- not me! -- could write a nice parody called "The Pajama Monologues."

Troy said...

Makes me think these women were not intelligently designed.

Vaginal Pulse Amplitudes -- as if there's not enough to make men feel inferior now we have to worry about how many VPA's we inspire? What's a good score on that sucker? Is the measurement proportional to the size of the diamond? DeBeers commercial -- Vivaldi strings... pigeons flying away from some European square... as woman whispers -- "my VPA is off the charts!"

She can get from 0-60 in 5 seconds!

Tom T. said...

There was a book out a few years ago called The Woman and the Ape, which seems relevant to this topic. Amazon's editorial review notes, for instance, "Escaping to an Eden-like nature reserve, Madelene [the woman] finds an empathy with Erasmus [the ape] that develops into a wild sexual liberation."

Joe Giles said...

Went on a cruise last year (trapped on a small boat with people for a week -- you get to know them better than you wish) and it was readily apparent that some of the women married apes.

I'd say it was most apparent out by the pool.

reader_iam said...

Ooh, I was definitely not thinking of THOSE pajamas, but rather the old joke about what women's choice in nightwear means.

(The Pajama Monologues ... hmmmm.)

But that's not why I came back to this thread. You will not believe what link I came across elsewhere within minutes of leaving here.

Stalin had a plan for creating half-man, half-ape super warriors and experiments were actually carried out.

I feel I'm being theme-chased through the blogosphere! If my hair were short, it'd be standin' on end from all the cracklin' synapses.

I give up: King Kong, take me away!!!!

Harkonnendog said...

I question this study's validity. What if the female ape was the ape equivalent of Roseanne Bar and the male ape was the ape equivalent of Johnny Depp?

Did they even consider that? Or are these racialists???

richard mcenroe said...

Are women sexually interested in apes?

I take it you never met my first sergeant and his Mrs.

richard mcenroe said...

Troy -- "Makes me think these women were not intelligently designed."

Once heard a crusty old writer declaim, "men and women are just wired differently!"

I added, "and their plumbing sucks."

This was not received with the hilarity anticipated.

Ann Althouse said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ann Althouse said...

Slac: You're right! Very astute!

Harkenodog: LOL.

Richard: I think it's very funny!

XWL said...

The HuffPo fella may have violated Prof. Althouse's rule of female superiority in reporting sex differences, but the article he links to manages to spin the facts in that direction:

Barbara Bartlik, a psychiatry professor at Cornell, said she was not alarmed by the women's response to the nonhuman stimuli.

"I don't know why this has surprised everybody that women get aroused watching humans and animals," she says. "Animals, because of the way they function in an uninhibited manner...can be very arousing to look at when they copulate."

However, Bartlik was surprised that the men did not have the same response as the women.

"I would wonder if the men weren't concerned about being labeled as homosexual or perverse by being interested in these things, and therefore their erections were inhibited," she said.

Allow me to translate, 'women are better than men since they don't place value judgements on their sexual responses.'

And any study that only looks at 36 people should be taken with a huge dose of salt. (plus small studies tend to be performed on grad students and semi-professional study participants so they are generally far from representative of humanity as a whole)

XWL said...

I guess you could add a "Brokeback Mountain" angle, also.

Women seeing the film will get a pulse on their 'vaginometer' just because it's hot people (and primates) grinding on each other, whereas those poor homophobic straight men fight their natural impulses to find all bodily friction stimulating and keep their 'penisometer' from picking up a scintilla of a reading.

(I added this post just to gratuitously use the terms, 'vaginometer' and 'penisometer')

And one other take on the study, which others have already hinted at here, maybe women see less difference between male humans and male chimps, than men see between female humans and female chimps.

And then there's that whole Stalin's super soldier human/chimp hybrid angle that Reader_IAm already linked to. (Did they use turkeybasters, or do things the natural way?)

tiggeril said...

Whoa, whoa, whoa. A sample size of 36 people? And this got published?

What's happening to science?

Ann Althouse said...

And don't you think the men who volunteer to watch porn with a device attached to their penis bear a different relationship to the average man than the women who volunteer to watch porn with a device attached to their vagina?

Note: I've never typed "penis bear" before. Well, you know about me and BearMan. I just can't stop thinking about him!

reader_iam said...

The article mentions monkey sperm and experiments failing, so I think we're supposed to assume artificial insemination, although interestingly the article doesn't say that ... so are we just being discreet?

You'd assume A.S., but then again, this was Stalin, a true beast. I'd put absolute NOTHING past him.

Btw, this is a darn bizarre comment to be typing while watching the "Heaven" special that Ann inadvertently sucked me into watching. (Not that I'm BLAMING you, Ann, I'm only sayin'.)

reader_iam said...

Actually, Ann, to be precise, your other thread and the glass-blowing visual metaphor in the special itself.

I'll stop tangling your threads now.

amba said...

Ann, you must know that there's a whole subset of gay men who call themselves "bears."

And there's a movie, no, a book? about a woman who falls in love with a bear . . . does anyone remember?

Anyway, I bet you would get a sexual response from a lot of women watching dogs or cats or deer or cattle or birds copulating. Nothing special about monkeys. It's one of those things, like yawning, recognized and "contagious" across species. And it's how most kids first learn about sex, or did when more kids lived on farms. The only thing that surprises me is the men not responding. Maybe it's their tendency to fetishism: their sexual response more often gets fixed on rather narrow cues. (Why??)

Then again, some men's fetishism must be fixed on bestiality. I can't believe it's women patronizing ALL those sites.

Paul is a Hermit said...

Say it ain't so, Ma'am!

KaneCitizen said...

"Are women sexually interested in apes?"

Comments from Dr. Susan Block (Sex Therapist and Finalist, Great American Think-Off, 1998):

But back to the apes. I just go ape over those apes! But then, I always have. Especially imaginary human-ape hybrids that take that 98% genetic similarity which real chimps have to humans, and turn it up to 99.8%. My long-time favorite was big old King Kong who loved Fay Wray with a passion that scaled the Empire State Building. Even at the age of five, when I first saw the King on the tube, I knew I wanted a lover who lusted for me like a big powerful animal. I couldn't sleep a wink that night, fearing and half-hoping that King Kong's huge hairy hand would come reaching into my bedroom window for my irresistible pajama-clad self, spiriting me away to the jungle to play mysterious animalistic games. The next morning, I drew a secret series of cartoons of a giant hairy King Kong capturing and caressing a tiny, smiling Fay Wray. This was my first venture into comic erotica. I never showed anyone. When my brother found it, I freaked. We both knew it was porn. Ape porn.

Doug said...

Well, then, maybe we'll have an opportunity to find out if these unions can be fertile.

Eli Blake said...

Depends on the animal used.

According to Western tradition:

Wyoming: Where the men are men and the sheep are scared.

reader_iam said...

Re: Susan Block':

[E]ven at the age of five, when I first saw the King on the tube, I knew I wanted a lover who lusted for me like a big powerful animal. I couldn't sleep a wink that night, fearing and half-hoping that King Kong's huge hairy hand would come reaching into my bedroom window for my irresistible pajama-clad self, spiriting me away to the jungle to play mysterious animalistic games.

I'm sorry, but does anyone actually believe this?

If, indeed, she at age five "wanted a lover who lusted for me like a big powerful animal," there's a whole other issue looming here: the veritable elephant in the room. Need I spell it out?

In that case, for her sake, whether she'd want us to or not, we shouldn't--as we all say these days--validate her denial of some sort of (to leave room for scale and variety of incident[s]) an experience that's grossly inappropriate, at best.

(And we shouldn't, under any circumstances, prescribe that attitude for others.)

If in fact she DID NOT experience what she said but rather is making a statement for effect, symbolic or otherwise--or is "exploring her artistic imagination as a way to get to an artistic truth" [quotes purely mine] or whatever:

How F***** dare she?

For those of us who actually went through--(as I learned decades ago to discreetly put it) "inappropriate experiences," that kind of exploitation is the icing on the cake.

And I should respect the wisdom of today's politically correct feminists"--because, why?

reader_iam said...

"inappropriate experiences" should have been "unfortunate experiences." That was the phrase I was taught.

Sorry so vehement: but I hate this type of bullshit above almost all others.

Robert said...

It's disturbing to think that people ever considered breeding humans and apes. I wrote about how its even more disturbing today than it was back then.

You have to wonder if this kind of thing wasn't part of the impetus for the popular rejection of Darwin.

Finn Alexander Kristiansen said...

I'm sorry but animals having genitals at all really bugs me. There is a field near my house and I always see rabbits out there in the twilight (and I don't even live in the country), and it annoys me that bunnies are getting some.

So if women are indeed subconciously digging apes, (which I highly doubt), it would annoy me even more.

Though I believe in intelligent design (and dare not post on that other thread), I think animals having genitals, and getting more sex than me, is the single strongest proof that there is no intelligent design in this world.

More to the topic, I once read a story by T. Coraghessan Boyle (I think) that had a woman with an ape in a plane. Ewe. Ewe!

Also, I once read that some women researchers (or their assistants) had been sexually violated by the gorillas they were studying. Again, ewe!

Dad29 said...


"Porn" is used for these experiments because that was the Kinsey method.

And that was self-justification, not 'scientific' inquiry. Like economics, 'behavior' is not easily quantified into a neat set of "iron laws" which are mathematically probable.

Of course it's possible that this 'experiment' was merely voyeurism-with-notes.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm just remembering the old news story about Koko the gorilla being obsessed with the breasts of her caretakers, which I wrote about here. So this ape-human attraction works the other way too.

And then there are all those women who go and live among the apes. If you stop and think of yourself as being, basically, an ape -- I mean really surrender to the thought and think deeply -- it's quite profound.

bill said...

Disturbing primate story. May 1998, Outside Magazine ran a story about Biruté Galdikas. A protege of Louis B. Leakey, she ran a camp in Borneo to study orangutans. The article makes Galdikas sound like Mr. Kurtz from "Heart of Darkness."

Warning: very disturbing excerpt:

The most astonishing incident resulting from the aggressive tendencies of Galdikas's ex-captive orangutans took place when an ex-captive male named Gundul attacked a Dayak woman who was working as a cook at Camp Leakey. In "Reflections of Eden," Galdikas describes how she tried in vain to pull Gundul away. She continues, "I began to realize that Gundul did not intend to harm the cook, but had something else in mind. The cook stopped struggling. 'It's all right,' she murmured. She lay back in my arms, with Gundul on top of her. Gundul was very calm and deliberate. He raped the cook. As he moved rhythmically back and forth, his eyes rolled upward to the heavens."

As in Yeager's story of Rico's attack, Galdikas, in her reaction to the rape, seems almost unbelievably blasé. "Gundul was behaving like a normal subadult orangutan male," she writes. "Nonetheless, his behavior was worrisome."

Jamie said...

I recall that Carl Sagan, in - sorry, can't remember if it was in Cosmos (the book) or Broca's Brain or another - had a close sexual encounter with a dolphin. He was engaged in that new-age-y activity, "swimming with the dolphins," when a male dolphin made it abundantly clear (to him - Sagan didn't share the details) that he'd (the dolphin, that is) rather be engaged in a less new-age-y activity.

Carl Sagan chalked it up to his (Sagan's) "smoothness." I always found him pretty smooth, I admit.

Side note: I find it difficult to write cogently about same-sex encounters. I always need too many clarifying parentheses.

tiggeril said...

Well, that's something to read before coffee.


Bryan said...

"brokeback Mountain"? How about "Razorback Mountain"? BadaBUM!

Bryan said...

I'm sorry, I meant "Silverback Mountain". Razorbacks are of course, pigs. So much for comic effect.

Sean Gleeson said...

Cf. "Heavy Petting" by Peter Singer (cited by Wesley Smith in the Weekly Standard):
In support of his thesis that this distinction is irrational, Singer writes of attending a conference and speaking to a woman who had been sexually assaulted by an orangutan while visiting an animal rehabilitation center. When she called out for help, the operator of the facility, a woman named Birute Galdikas, told the distraught woman not to worry because orangutans are not well endowed. (The animal lost interest before completing the assault.)

This lack of concern deeply impressed Singer. "Galdikas understands very well that we are animals, indeed more specifically, we are great apes. This does not make sex across the species barrier normal, or natural, whatever those much-misused words may mean, but it does imply that it ceases to be an offense to our status and dignity as human beings." In other words, bestiality is fine, for those who are attracted to that sort of thing, because it merely constitutes two animals rubbing body parts.

Wade Garrett said...

Ann - you know how, every so often, you start a thread about what searches people enter into Google in order to arrive at your site? How long do you think it'll take before somebody searches for "vaginometer" and ends up at your blog?

Wade Garrett said...

I always knew that Jane Goodall was just a slut.

Ivan Lenin said...

So, apes are the male equivalent of blondes?

Freeman Hunt said...
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Chilled_Renos said...

Just goes to demonstrate that women ARE just like men...they can think with their twats! All it takes is to go a few rungs down the evolutionary ladder and Bobo makes the glass ceiling gladiatrix the most satisfied customer this side of the jungle. Eat your heart out Darwin!

tigerlilly10 said...

You would get more sex out of the average bonobo than some men these days. Its all about the animal instinct thing really.
They look like they are having a damn sight more fun than people and they don't have any violence.
Why are humans so scared of the most natural thing on earth

Anonymous said...

I arrived on this post after googling primate porn, because I wondered if there had been any scientific studies to see what effect watching porn might have on gorillas. This after just having finished masturbating thinking about watching gorillas mating while at the same time I was having sex and they were watching me too. The vast majority of the things I like to fantasize about (and things that get me off the most) are things that are outrageous and will probably never happen, but that's what make them exciting to think about. (like having sex in a glass elevator in New York City at night) I'm a creative person and the crazier and more vivid the scenario, the better.

There is something titillating about it to me, perhaps the taboo nature of it. But I'm also sure it has something to do with their uninhibited nature. Animalistic sex (which to me, just means pure, carnal, no emotion involved sex) is a huge turn on for me, personally.

Sure it may have only been 36 people, but that doesn't mean the study has no validity. I'm sure it wasn't an easy task to get people to hook up a "vaginometer" and watch monkeys having sex.

Being a very sexually open person, and obviously curious about the science behind it, I don't know that I would have participated in a study like that.

The King Kong story with the 5 year old I found fascinating. I was very sexually aware at a young age also, and I in no way would discount this story. Children are very imaginative and I was definitely imprinted sexually at a young age by many things, such as discovering my dad's playboy collection in the basement.

Just my honest 2 cents.

Thanks Ann for a fascinating blog post.

Unknown said...

I am male but bisexual. and I went to this zoo, and I saw two chimps mating and that did (slightly) arouse me. so its not just females that have a response.

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