Methods of settling disputes: war or sex?

August 24, 2006 | By | 5 Replies More

We all know about war:  male-dominated animal species — from humans to bighorn sheep — settle their disputes with combat.  But bonobos — a matriarchal primate species  — settle their disputes with sex.  Of course, humans sometimes do this too — it’s called make-up sex — but bonobos use it for everything.  They use sex the way humans use apologies.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I think this makes a good case for supporting a change in the human social hierarchy.

Of course, Christian conservatives wouldn’t like it.  A female-dominated society that settles disputes with sex would send evangelicals into paroxysmal fits.

Still, using sex to settle disputes would seem to have many benefits.  It would certainly be a lot cheaper than the military system we have now — just think of all the useful social programs that could be funded instead (or tax cuts, if you’re a Republican).  Plus, the Pentagon would always have plenty of volunteers.


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Category: American Culture, Psychology Cognition, War

About the Author ()

Grumpypilgrim is a writer and management consultant living in Madison, WI. He has several scientific degrees, including a recent master’s degree from MIT. He has also held several professional career positions, none of which has been in a field in which he ever took a university course. Grumps is an avid cyclist and, for many years now, has traveled more annual miles by bicycle than by car…and he wishes more people (for the health of both themselves and our planet) would do the same. Grumps is an enthusiastic advocate of life-long learning, healthy living and political awareness. He is single, and provides a loving home for abused and abandoned bicycles. Grumpy’s email: grumpypilgrim(AT)@gmail(DOT).com [Erich’s note: Grumpy asked that his email be encrypted this way to deter spam. If you want to write to him, drop out the parentheticals in the above address].

Comments (5)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Be careful with that sex suggestion. The conservatives are still in shell shock over the recent FDA decision to allow the over the counter sale of Plan B (morning after pill) to all of the degenerate, immoral, unchaste hell-bound people who might use it. After all, the availability of Plan B might actually tempt someone to have sex without trying to have a baby.

    And here YOU are talking about sex as a substitute for war! For shame! I don’t know where I just read this comment (it might have been on this site): Would you rather have your children watching two people having sex or have them watch a person killing another person in a fit of violence? I’ll bet there are lots of people out there who would choose the latter, based on the easy availability of graphic violence on television.

    So if we’re going to use sex as a substitute for war, make sure it’s private sex. We’ll need to keep the kids busy watching lots of television violence just to prevent them from accidentally seeing anything harmful.

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    It really is a puzzle to me why so many social conservatives in America will complain that sex on television promotes promiscuity, and many of these same people will also complain that we need to build more prisons to deal with all the violence in our society, yet they will say virtually nothing about the glorification of violence on television, in movies, in video games, in televised sports, in news programs, etc. They sit in silence while fictional scenes of people shot in the head, run over by trains, blown up by terrorists, etc., invade their homes, but seeing Janet Jackson's nipple sends them into apoplectic fits. I just don't get it.

    I would have thought America's so-called "Pro-Life" conservatives would want more sex and less war, but obviously that's not the case. Just another leftover from our Puritan ancestors, I suppose, who left America with a legacy of paranoia about everything from sex to vacations. No wonder America spends so much of its wealth on bombs (i.e., more military spending than all other countries combined) while Europeans (whose ancestors rejected the Puritan lifestyle) spend their wealth on wine and long vacations. No wonder they have fewer homocides and fewer people living in prison. Maybe America should re-examine the sources of its social norms with an eye toward changing them (see

  3. Deb says:

    While I'd like to agree with anything bad you might say about pro-life conservatives, I don't think it is quite true that they don't want censorship of violence. Think back to the efforts to rate or ban explicitly violent rap music and video games. Social conservatives do want censorship- of nearly everything except bible stories and Leave it to Beaver.

    Even war censorship- we don't see the toll it is taking on the Iraqi people, we don't see the hundreds of flag draped coffins coming back. It's not being censored because of the violence, of course, but it is still the conservative effort to keep us in the dark.

  4. grumpypilgrim says:

    Deb has put her finger on exactly the issue. Indeed, social conservatives do want censorship. They want to put themselves in the position of reading and watching everything they wish, then telling everyone else what we can and cannot read and watch. "Let us think for you," they say…just like all totalitarians do.

  5. Jason Rayl says:

    Hardline conservative (and I really think we need a new label–these folks are NOT conservative in any traditional sense, but quite radical in certain things. I would never call Oliver Cromwell "a conservative", for instance) intolerance of so-called promiscuity is not about the sex. In my opinion, it is about the freedom of association implicit in open, lively sexual contexts. Anything that gives a woman the ability to say "I've had enough of you, I'm leaving" is repugnant. I think many of them would be quite at home with the Hareem concept. They want people welded to their circumstances, unable to move at will. This gives control and a false sense of stability.

    Besides, there really is a punitive aspect to their approach–if you do X then Y should happen to you—hence their aversion to all forms of birth control and divorce. This is also why a great deal of violence doesn't get proscribed, because it's inherently punitive–"justice" in a crude sense.

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