Drinking coffee, listening to Trent Reznor’s new EP on my iPod, looking for anti-gay wingnuts to write about, and then I find paydirt.
Vanessa Woods is an evolutionary anthropologist based out of Duke University, and the author of a new book called The Bonobo Handshake. In her work, she “studies the cognitive development of chimpanzees and bonobos at sanctuaries in the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
Vanessa is not the wingnut we will be lampooning. No, the wingnut came out of the corn in response to a post she wrote about the behavior of the misunderstood bonobo, which included this:
Bonobos have gay sex. For bonobos, sex is a mechanism to reduce tension. And you can’t talk about two females rubbing clitorises together until they orgasm in documentaries, intelligent design classes, or to right wing demographics who believe homosexuality is unnatural.
Bonobos are not considered to be family friendly, despite the fact that children can see people cut up, blown up and shot before 8pm on television.
When it comes to scientists, even scientists who I like and admire, only ever refer to ‘our closest living relative, the chimpanzee’. There is never any mention that we have TWO closest living relatives, the chimpanzee and the bonobo.
Read that whole post, because it’s fascinating that right-wing politics and culture are so out of touch with and frightened of reality that they’re unable to acknowledge the existence of animals who refuse to hear the good news of forced heterosexuality. Vanessa goes on to explain how important it is that we study bonobos because they share 98.7% of our DNA, yet have evolved as a species almost entirely without war, without conflict, and without violence in general, unlike most of their primate relatives, homo sapiens included.
So wouldn’t you know a local wingnut pastor in Durham felt the need to respond to Woods with a letter. This “bonobos have peaceful gay sex all the time!” thing has confused Pastor Wes from the Bahama Baptist Church!
I think we would probably differ on the implications of your research regarding the naturalness of homosexuality, but as I stated, it is very interesting.
Of course they would differ. Vanessa studies it from an educated scientific perspective, while the pastor is only able to work with his biases and old dusty books about religion.
With sin, I believe what Scripture says, when it states that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Not only are there individual sins, but also a corruption due to sin. One of these particular sins listed in Scripture is homosexuality.
Bonobos didn’t give each other reach-arounds until that damn Eve obeyed the talking snake.
I have a four-year old son named Owen who loves animals. He stays up at night with a flashlight looking through books in his bed, and says things like, “I’m doing research on whales.” You guys would instantly connect :).
When I read your article about bonobos, I of course, thought of Owen. He would love them. But, I had to ask the question, “Am I comfortable with him learning about bonobos and their behaviors?”
Male killer whales ride each others’ dorsal fins all gay-like. Better make sure Owen doesn’t hear about that, either. Better yet, make sure you don’t expose him to any book-larnin’ at all.
If I’m honest, I would say my first reaction was to shield him from these animals because of their behavior. This wouldn’t be uncharacteristic for us, since there are lots of animal behaviors that are difficult for a four-year old to understand (i.e. mating, violence, etc…). However, what’s different about this particular behavior is that in an orthodox biblical position, homosexuality is a sin… but animals don’t sin.
But if animals don’t sin, but they’re gay for each other, what does this mean?! How will we rationalize this, in light of everything we, without any evidence, believe to be true about the world and…oh yeah. Told you he was going to get around to…
It seems to me that this behavior reveals a sense of brokenness in the natural world. Paul spoke of the unnaturalness of homosexuality, “men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men…”(Rom. 1:27). So, what he says is unnatural, now looks to be natural! But, just as natural disasters aren’t normative, neither is homosexual activity within animals. The creation itself is marred with the effects of sin (i.e. death).
The missing verses of Genesis, where that wretched Eve woman took the first bite of the fruit of the Naughty Tree, which set off a chain reaction of bonobo ladies learning how to scissor and bonobo gentlemen suddenly having the urge to help a buddy out ten or twelve times a day.
Vanessa Woods’ reply was a very respectful version of “Um, dude, I study bonobos, and this is what they do. I’m sorry that you’re worried about the moral implications of their peaceful use of sex for fun and conflict resolution, but whatever floats your boat?”
I should point out, of course, that Poe’s Law is very much in effect here, as this is extremely difficult to tell apart from one of my favorite The Onion pieces of all time, “Transgendered Sea Anemone Denounced As ‘Abomination’ By Clergy.”
So there’s your morning wingnut. Homosexuality exists throughout nature not because it’s part of the natural order, but because a silly, easily led lady took some fruit from a talking snake. Duly noted!
(h/t Jesus’ General, who wrote one of his famous letters to Pastor Wes as well)