When I drew this cartoon I was simply trying to be funny, but when I recently pulled it out of the archives for this commentary series (I’m hoping to do one a week) I realized it had quite a lot of truth to it.
The remote is simply another symbol of power. Maybe I’m stretching this too far, but if you can switch the channels, you hold sway over the entire chimp watching audience. The female chimps may even “do you” if you turn to their favorite show. That is a lot of power…
On my current book list is Sex and War by Malcolm Potts and Thomas Hayden (a very engaging read) and Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence by Richard Wrangham & Dale Peterson (which I grabbed because of Sex and War). They both explore our distant cousins the chimpanzees and how they mirror our tendencies towards violence. We’re not talking about simple mating spats or hunting parties, but sadistic violence which goes overboard–brutal force to emphasize dominance. In some cases, chimps have been known to bite the testicles off of another competing chimp. As a whole, chimps seem to recognize the importance of their balls when it comes to mating and to take away a pair is to eliminate a competitor.
It’s always bothered me when I’ve heard women say, “If women ran the world, there would be no wars.” The problem is, women have been put in positions of leadership and have approved of military violence. Women are, however, not the dominant leadership if you look at who’s in charge atop most goverments. Their influence is growing though. Generally speaking, according to the books I’ve been reading, it may be true that if women ran the world there would be less war–I stress “less war” and not “no war” because humans in general are imperfect, regardless of gender. You will always have exceptions.
The question is, is violence inherently male? Sex and War seems to indicate as a general rule that it is; mainly because of the biological imperative to reproduce. Males are concerned about quantity and females are concerned about quality (they have to invest more time in a child, therefore they are choosy). Power means sex and sustaining necessary food and water for survival and the survival of your offspring. How do you get power? You beat the hell out of the other guy to claim the available females within your group or you slaughter another group and steal their women. In some instances, you beat the women themselves so they submit.
Sad to say, this is what has been witnessed and recorded amongst chimps and seems to eerily parallel human male behavior. The good news is that with humans we are constantly getting one over on biology by finding nonviolent avenues to satisfy our natural urges. Society has put limits on what we can or cannot do so that the survival of the group becomes more important than one guy just getting to bang every girl he wants to. Because we’re bloodthirsty by nature, we entertain ourselves with sports, movies and video games that mimick violence. What else is football but war on a confined field?
The other interesting research about violence is that once you give women increasing equality, a society becomes less violent. There are probably a variety of reasons for this, and you can read them for yourself by far more knowledgeable authors than I, but from what I can gather it has to do with a balance of power between the sexes. Commonsense suggests balance of power is what every society needs when it comes to government, this would also be true with gender.
Bonobos (also called pygmy chimpanzees), for example, who are also our distant cousins, are relatively peaceful primates. Why? Because the females are not isolated like female chimpanzees who often forage for food on their own. They show solidarity. If a male bonobo gets too aggressive against one female, other females show support and drive him off. In this manner, they have, for a lack of better wording, brought testosterone levels down.
If females balance out the power struggle, because they do not have the same male drive to hump every thing in sight in order to spawn as many heirs as possible, then the males basically have to calm down. Oh, but, did I mention that bonobos love sex? This may also be a mitigating factor. The more easily available sex, the less violence. Why fight when you can fuck and there’s a willing female? It sounds like I’m suggesting that if all human women bent over there would be no wars but it’s not quite that simple. I think it means that sex is easier to get when females have power (though it may not seem like it if you’re a teenager). And we’re not always talking about direct intercourse either. Bonobos get off by rubbing genitals and other sexual activity that doesn’t lead to procreation. It’s all about getting off so you don’t feel like spilling blood. More sex, more female power, less war is a pretty good formula.
Keeping that in mind, which nations do we see that are less violent? They appear to be ones where women have rights, even if equality is still a work in progress.
It still is a balance of power and women should not make the mistake that if they ran the world there would be no wars. Power corrupts and we can find all kinds of minor and some major examples of violent women who do it for the sake of money and love–both of which have to do with obtaining security which is a female drive. Men are more about risk, women less so. I think the tide will begin to change though as more women enter sports and the military. As a result of increasing power, I think women have and will become more sexually aggressive–which men like. All in all, I’m pretty optimistic that violence will decrease and sex will increase. If only we could get Muslim fundies to wake up to that fact. Better to get laid here and now, then blow yourself up in hopes of a paradise with virgins.