Female bonobos shut down violent males. Here's what humans can learn from them.

Who run the bonobos world? GIRLS!

Hey ladies, you know that uncomfortable moment when you're at a bar with your girlfriends and some sketchy dude comes over to hit on one of you?

Maybe this dude elbows his way into your conversation or maybe he leans too close and tries to buy a round of drinks. Then maybe he not-so-subtly drapes a sweaty hand on one of your shoulders? Yeah, it sucks.


Image via iStock

If that sounds familiar to you, then you'll probably recognize what happens next because it's kind of awesome: Your friends close ranks and block the dude's unwanted approach.

Even more awesome? This behavior isn't limited to humans.

Scientists at the Primate Research Institute at Kyoto University have observed female bonobos employing similar behaviors when a female in their group feels threatened by a male.

In fact, according to a four-year study on bonobos (cousins to chimpanzees) conducted in the Congo, female bonobos purposely form all-female groups to keep aggressive males at bay.

Females of all ages from different families would come together in these groups, with the older bonobos looking out for the younger ones by keeping them in the center of a protective circle. Researchers even found that female bonobos from different families were incredibly tolerant of one another, and that female-on-female bonobo aggression was surprisingly rare.

Bonobos females holding each other. Photo via Georges Gobet/Getty Images.

Nahoko Tokuyama, the leader of the study, believes this ability to get along is the key to female dominance in the bonobo population.

In species that display what humans might call "stereotypically gendered behavior," males are more often observed using aggressive tactics to coerce copulation and/or acquire higher social status. This could be anything from a male trying to mate with a female to a male bonobo feeding on a tree that a female bonobo has claimed as hers.

Sound familiar? Yeah.

But in the Kyoto University study, researchers noticed female bonobo grouping together to prevent this kind of male aggression. They called these groups "female coalitions," but you or I might describe them as "deep female friendships."

If there's one thing males in pretty much every species know, it's not to mess with a group of angry women. Photo by Mark Dumont/Flickr.

If one female in a coalition attacked a male for any reason, the rest would follow suit and come to her aid.

According to Tokuyama, 69% of these female coalitions were observed forming after or during an incident of aggressive male behavior.

What's more, female coalitions rarely (if ever) lose to a male aggressor, and because the male bonobos know they can't win, they're less prone to acting out with aggression or violence in the first place.

"Males frequently direct display and charge toward females, but they seldom attack females physically, even though males are bigger," Tokuyama told Upworthy.

A coalition of female bonobos attacking an offending male. GIF via animal coalition/YouTube.

Of course, meeting aggression with aggression might not sound like the best approach to conflict resolution. And this isn't to say that bonobos of all genders are inherently violent either. But these female coalitions have been so effective that they've virtually eliminated violent outbreaks in the bonobo population.

GIF from "Game of Thrones."

Another reason researchers think bonobo groups are less aggressive than their chimp cousins? Sex. Lots of it.

Researchers have observed bonobos engaging in all kinds of sexual acts — not just heterosexual intercourse. They're down with everything from same-sex sex to masturbation to oral sex to group sex and also, uhhh, rubbing each others' genitals as a form of casual greeting when a new group comes into the area.

We humans might be inclined to call that "kinky." But to them, it's just a very, very friendly way of saying, "Hello, how are you today?"

Self-explanatory. Photo by Jaume F. Lalana/Flickr.

Of course, we can't know for certain whether bonobos are actually engaging in this behavior for pleasure.

But whatever the reason, it has helped to decrease the number of tense confrontations between individuals and groups. When everybody's gettin' it on on the reg — for pleasure, not for force — then the whole group is generally calmer and less violent.

Contrast this to the observed behavior of their chimpanzee cousins. They have plenty of sex, but theirs appears to be more about power and dominance than personal or shared pleasure. They're known to engage in rape, murder, and infanticide, and they are more likely to have violent interactions with newcomers.

(Again: sound familiar?)

Anthropological data analyzed by neuropsychologist James Prescott suggests societies that are more sexually open are also less likely to be violent. The key to understanding this correlation, however, is that it's the society as a whole that is more sexually open and not just a small percentage of individuals.

Photo by Ted/Flickr.

So, to bring it back to that guy approaching a group of women at the bar: is there anything we as humans can learn from bonobos?

It's pretty clear the combination of female coalitions of bonobos defending their own, and bonobos of all genders engaging in casual sex seems to have resulted in a less violent ape society. (In this case, let's assume that "sex" means "pleasure and fulfillment.)

While bonobos' behavior doesn't exactly translate to modern human society, it is an important reminder that if humans work to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to feel fulfilled and to feel pleasure on a regular basis, we may find ourselves living in a less violent, less aggressive society.

It's really as simple as that.

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Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign. We don't do PSAs. We also need to update so to explain truth – the nonprofit behind the truth youth smoking prevention campaign – you could also say this in a funny way – best known for sharing the facts about smoking and vaping or pull from some old campaigns. Just layer in a description of truth and who the campaign is., is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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