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Environment & Science

Bonobo expert Amy Parish talks sex and feminism at the Natural History Museum

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Professor Amy Parish says evolutionary science has only been telling one side of the story, and feminists ought to be worried.

Until now the big name in evolutionary theory - the species known as our "closest relative" - has been the chimpanzee. But Professor Parish and a new wave of anthropologists are pointing out that bonobo chimps, another species closely related to the common chimp, are equally related to us. In fact, genetically, it's a tie.

But there are significant differences between the two species. Chimps are known for their male-bonded clans, their dominant male figures, and their aggression. Bonobos are much more peaceful than common chimpanzees. Their communities are female-dominated, and they counter the chimps' violent tempers with raging hormones. Ferocious, unfettered hormones. Bonobos have more sex, in more ways, and for more reasons, than most humans can imagine.

The differences are real, and at a speech and interview at the Natural History Museum, Parish said that bonobos should be given their rightful seat at the evolutionary table. She says human evolutionary theory can and should be revised to accommodate meaningful female bonds, possibilities of female dominance over males, and hunting and meat distribution by females.