A few years back I was asked to write an article about whether sex could ever be used to end an argument. At the time I was dead set against it… and then I found the bonobos.
Deep in the heart of the Congo Basin lives a tribe of chimpanzees unlike any other ape or monkey species in the world … in fact, unlike any other species in the world, period.
The bonobo chimps are so different for one particular reason: there is no conflict in their tribes – no fighting, no warring, no subjugation of one head honcho chimp over another. The reason for this is a simple one. Instead of fighting, the bonobos have sex. Lots of it.
Bonobos are the only non-human animal to engage in face-to-face genital sex and French kissing, while enjoying in all the other pleasures, including oral sex and same-sex loving. They fill their time practicing this in all kinds of Kama Sutra positions for just about any reason, from relaxation to relieving tension and breaking up a spat. Hell, they say hello with a quick hump.
They are the closest living relation to humankind, but although we have the brainpower and the tech, they have the peace and the good feels, and I’m left to wonder, is it because there’s no time for anger when you’re too busy making whoopee? Is sex a good way to manage or avoid conflict all together?
The other day, after a particularly delightful lovemaking session, my partner suggested that the next time we came close to arguing we should rather get naked and cuddle (we had spent the morning in a grump with each other). At the time it seemed like the perfect idea.
Pleasurable bonding behaviours such as touch and sex release all kinds of crazy happy hormones and place the focus on shared intimacy and togetherness – as opposed to the angry rift that forms and ‘others’ during an argument, where it invariably becomes a case of ‘you’ against ‘me’ as opposed to ‘we’.
Maybe by doing so, you bypass all the miscommunication and misunderstanding that led to the argument in the first place
But anger usually masks vulnerability – maybe you felt you and your needs weren’t heard or considered and this makes you feel hurt and defensive. And the last thing you might want to do, in my world at least, is make yourself more vulnerable by expressing a further need to connect physically.
However, maybe by doing so, you bypass all the miscommunication and misunderstanding that led to the argument in the first place. Maybe you come to meet at a shared level: physical pleasure and a language of love that isn’t easy to confuse.
Hell, you could even call it angry sex and shag out all your mad energy so that you don’t have the oomph to argue further.
Pink once told The Advocate about how she ended a six-hour fight with her husband by choosing sex over an extended screaming match. ‘It’s usually that you feel vulnerable, that you feel powerless, that you feel out of control, that you feel scared,’ she said of arguing. ‘I’m a pit bull, but I’m a toothless pit bull. I will totally attack, but I just really wanted you to rub my tummy. Why when I bite you do you not understand that I just want you to rub my tummy?’
Maybe her and the bonobos are on to something.
I suppose it’s like hitting the pause button on a verbal parry and taking a step back to remind yourself why you’re with this person in the first place. We tend to get carried away with making ourselves right in the heat of a argument. So right, in fact, that sometimes all that is left in your mind is ‘me’. And in the reality of the ‘us’ situation that is a relationship, this can be detrimental.
Taking a moment to hit the pause button and walk away from conflict to think about the situation before making it worse is a policy I fully support.
But maybe I could learn a thing or two from the bonobos and Pink. Next time the man and I hit the pause button on a tiff, I’ll take in some cuddles while we wait for the next round.