The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace Through Pleasure, Part 1

The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace Through Pleasure

Seriously, this is one of the most important books on conservation and sexuality I have ever read.

It is also sobering and seriously depressing.

I initially walked away feeling biology and tribalism has doomed our race.

I will leave this thought here for a while, so let’s move on to a quote from the esteemed text of Dr. Susan Block.

One of the great erotic philosophers of the mid-20th century, Georges Bataille, pointed to an ongoing struggle between sensuous pleasure and shame that creates eroticism. Shame, that awful feeling of self-blame accompanying a perceived failure, or the fear that something we do could be considered disgraceful tends to cripple and inhibit us. But, Bataille maintains, shame is also an essential component of the forbidden boundaries that we find so exciting to trespass, tease, crisscross, break and overthrow out the window.

This book is full of these observations, mixed in with the essential nature of our evolution, and how we cannot escape our more primal past. Who we are, from how we have sex to how we enjoy killing each other over tribal concerns, is all wrapped up in our animal selves. It is both empowering to realize where we came from as a species, and also deeply depressing to realize our heritage and the tragic fate handed down to us by simple evolution.

The above, we need the shame in order to have the erotic, is such a powerful idea that it explains everything when it comes to sex. We need to keep the naughty…naughty, the forbidden forbidden, and we need the freedom to be able to choose and break these rules on a personal and interpersonal way, safe to us, but still maintaining that veneer and social norm. As erotic writers? The above is invaluable advice and insight. As humans? We need the freedom to break these taboos, or else we as a tribe cannot find peace and meaning within our own sexuality, but we need to break them in a safe and acceptable way.

But then, our nature overtakes us. Our environment of dwindling land and resources turns us from peaceful apes into violent ones, and tribalism dictates what behavior is socially acceptable. Shame becomes a weapon to brutalize others in our tribe with, and to get free-love thinkers and others to conform to the most violent and controlling of our societies. Shame becomes a weapon of control and subjugation for those who wish power, and if shame doesn’t work, violence will.

And, in that moment, I realize our tribe is not the peaceful, loving, sharing group of bonobo primates who live on the plentiful south side of the river…but we are the violent, warlike, repressive, scared, and very tribal chimps who live on the barren and harsh north side of this river.

Our dwindling resources, overpopulation, and shrinking world determine humanity’s fate just by our biology alone. Between chimps and humankind, not much changes. If we cannot learn from that, we shall share the same fate, and end up in a tribal world of perpetual war.

If we are not there already.

But there is a dark side to all this progressive peace, love, and commerce. There are backlashes of various kinds, some of them quite vicious, exploding like bombs in different areas of the globe, from the extreme right wings of the world’s most entrenched religions to the international MIC (military industrial complex), the growing American PIC (prison industrial complex), corporate oligarchies, tribal patriarchies, sexually-frustrated youth and attention-seeking psychopaths fanned by a media that gifts them with instant megawatt-attention for their telegenic atrocities.

Relevant? Certainly. A free-love and anti-war progressive manifesto? Definitely. These are dangerous ideas not in their sexual content, but in their societal viewpoint. When you realize the most important power in this world is control, something in your mind clicks and you discover true freedom. Control of your thoughts, control of your viewing habits, your shopping, where you get your news, how you form your opinions, how you feel about sex, everything. Everything in this world is moving towards gathering data on you, and then selling that data to the groups who wish to profit from your viewpoint, reinforce it, and then psychologically control it to cement that tribal relationship.

Now you know why this book depresses me. Everything said is plainly obvious, yet painfully true. Let’s move on, as a bright spot can be found here, but I am not yet ready to share this with you.

We can learn from our primate-like cousins, yet there are differences. The book does a great job in keeping the free-wheeling and wild side of the primates separate from the human side, and it reminds us there are norms and limits in taking this philosophy too far. It is a great reminder, because a lot of things that are fun can be taken too far and become a self-destructive force in our lives. The social and sexual responsibility advocated here is a wonderful thing, in that it both makes us more measured writers, and it also helps in the healing and self-discover-ability process. It also opens the door for fantasies, which as healthy and wonderful things when used to explore.

As the English philosopher John Richter said, “Fantasy rules over two-thirds of the universe, the past and the future, while reality is confined to the present.” Memory, as it filters through the mind’s eye, is a kind of fantasy that gazes backward into the past. Hope and anticipation, fear and desire are fantasies that look toward the future.

To tie philosophy into sex like this is so deeply profound and meaningful that I am recommending this book as a must-read for erotica writers. When your characters have fantasies, or remember past encounters – these are contained in the world of fantasy. Which means, both memories and future fantasies are colored by experience, hopes, and fears. What is happening now, in that ever-present present tense, is reality. When we speak in the hazy worlds of past and future tense, we delve into the world of fantasies. Or fears. And these unreal creations of our psyches can shape both the direction of our lives as well as our characters based on how they view the future or the past based on pure fantasy.

You cannot understand character motivation better than this.

And the scary and mind-blowing part is, this applies to you, sitting out there reading this.

And the observations do not stop there. There are too many to count, and they all have profound meaning and impact, if not for yourself, then for the characters you write.

And then the book delves deeper into fantasies. As we read farther into this book, or should I call reading this book an experience, turning into an almost personal one-on-one sex therapist session with the reader. It speaks of the nature of fantasy and how this is important to us, how dark and negative sexual fantasies can heal over time, and even why we have these dark fantasies in the first place. We get the notion of darker sexual fantasies are ‘exploration’ and ‘play’ to us, and how they are important for us and living, thinking, and loving creatures of this world.

We reflect upon ourselves our fantasies.

As a writer, this again is invaluable stuff, an almost Zen-like experience of discovering your inner sex goddess or god, and you come to realize deeper why you write sex.

And the the danger of sharing these fantasies with others is explored, the next step of taking these thoughts out of your mind and into the open and dangerous world where “spiritual poachers” slut-shame and judge others in social-media torch-wielding mobs. I am sitting here floored, amazed at the socially-conscious and progressive nature of this work, along with its common-sense and responsible approach to the subject of sexuality and fantasy. It keeps the fantasy a fantasy, and advises against taking the fantasy into reality.

Playing pretend is okay. It helps us deal with these thoughts and urges. Taking this into reality where it would become abuse or exploitation is certainly not. But we need the room to share in a safe place, and yet online is again, certainly not. So we search. We reach out in our timid and limited ways. We seek places where we can express ourselves.

I run a near 10,000 strong futanari fiction, transgender and intersex advocacy group on Facebook. People from around the world come there to read, become informed, and reach out to each other. Many members come from repressive cultures where the mere notion or mention of an inter-sexed person is likely undesirable and an uncertain thing. It is a place where information is shared and fantasies are spoken of. So I know a little of creating a safe space. I know how fantasies and information are important. I know the importance of limits and tolerance.

But I also know the wonder of creating a place where people can ask questions and explore fantasies in a safe way. I had one member ask me if he liked intersexed or futanari women – was he gay? I told him he was a beautiful person, and the word gay was a beautiful thing as well. It is a natural thing to be curious, and perfectly acceptable. He thanked me as if a huge load had been taken off his shoulders.

And this happens again and again there, not only between me and members, but between the intersex community that has joined our group and its members.

So I have been doing some of what this book recommends all along, and it is as if I have discovered something which brings the great work we do validation and a new sense of direction.

And I am not even half-done with this book. It is one that while yes, I can read this through Kindle Unlimited for free, I am going to buy to become a permanent part of my library. Part of the proceeds for this book go towards conservation of this gentle and noble primate ancestors to our own kind. Through them, we can be taught a lesson. One of peace and understanding. One of understanding shame and the nature of love. One where we are taken through the nature of love and our own fantasies, and we learn why we have them and how they help us. We get some personalized attention from a sex-therapist that not only applies to ourselves, but to the characters we write for in our books.

And this is where everything turns.

Despite what you see on the news every day, there is hope for us.

Dr. Block talks about her experiences with the bonobos in this book, and her interactions with them at the zoo. She speaks of them putting their hand against the glass of the primate enclosure, and her putting her hand to the other side. There is a connection there that happens, through that glass, and it is very close yet completely safe because there is that glass in place.

It is not a wall of steel you cannot see through, mind you, it is unbreakable yet transparent glass.

The glass is both necessary for this interaction to take place, and also allows for this interaction at the same time.

As erotica writers, we are that glass. We show the fantasies people are hesitant to speak or or admit they have, and we allow that connection to happen. We do so in a responsible, safe way. What happens on the other side of the glass from our readers may be reprehensible and socially unacceptable, but we are the writer, we are the glass between these acts and our readers. We let them see through us to things they may never wish to admit or speak of in their normal, everyday lives.

Fantasies seen through the glass of our words are not only safe, they are natural and healthy. We maintain a responsible side as well, being protective and telling readers this is only fantasy and it should not be real life. Yet, we still show. We still let those who wish to experience some things experience them.

In that, we should have hope. It is so easy to say “I quit” and let the psychos and crazies who inhabit the nightly news run the world. To let the dark side win. To stay silent and accept defeat.

But ours is not a tribe who does that. Because I, as a member of this tribe, choose not to. Ours is not a tribe who lets the brainless and violent troglodytes win. Ours is a tribe who says “this is right” and “this is what I believe” even in the face of overwhelming indifference and ignorance. When I leave this world and this tribe, I want my words to make it a more understanding and peaceful place. It is what I wish my legacy to be. So while I am here, I shall speak the things in which I believe, and to bring the world a little closer together through free thought and intimacy, while maintaining that protective and respectful glass wall between fiction and the real.

But being able to see through that wall is our free speech. This speech is our ability to support that in which we believe – even if it a fantasy world where all tribes get along, there is no war, and love and our sexual nature not branded with shame and ridicule. Don’t you want a world like that?

Then speak up.

You get the world you help create.

And if, as writers, this world is supported through our words?

Then let them be heard.

I am not done with this book, and I am only halfway through.

Strongest recommend.

More soon.

4 thoughts on “The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace Through Pleasure, Part 1

  1. Just bought it. I saw the Bonobo Way when it was published a couple years ago and forgot to buy it; thanks for the review. Susan Block is incredibly intelligent, outspoken and a great writer. Can’t wait to start reading it.

    1. This originated as a Twitter challenge to review it from someone who liked one of my other book reviews. I am super happy to have taken this one on, it is really one of our modern mileposts in erotica, sexual, and societal commentary. Thanks again, and I was halfway through and had to stop to write down my feelings. It is great stuff, inspiring.

  2. Great review of a remarkable life-changing book! Full disclosure: I have been working with Dr. Susan Block at her institute since August of 2015. I can not tell you how amazing she is as not only a boss, friend, writer and performer and also my mentor. Thank you Sylvia Storm for sharing the Bonobo Way message. I am really looking forward to reading part 2 of your article.
    I would just like to add that if you haven’t read this book, you really need to. It changed my life, my way of thinking not only about myself and the way I viewed others. Its made me more loving, accepting, perceptive to others and just more bonobo. Thank you Dr. Susan Block for caring so much. XOXXOX Dayton Rains

    1. Thank you, and yes, I am looking forward to completing the book and my thoughts. The beginning of the book hit on so many wonderful topics I had to stop and do that as a first part, once I got into the method part I wanted to stop since I knew it would be hard to separate the philosophy part from the technique. I am looking forward to the second half as well.

      Part of what we do here is make writing more rewarding, personal, and sensual. With the erotica fiction boom ending, there are a lot of writers searching for meaning, and what I try to do is help writers find themselves and their way. The Bonobo Way is just such an insightful and inspiring work I can see it helping many of our readers and writers in finding their inner bonobo, or for the characters they write, and completing that search for inner happiness and sensual completeness.

      And also, the book is a door to an admission of who we are with honesty and no shame. It is a very powerful and wholesome, life-affirming message, and I too thank Dr. Susan Block for this book. I feel like a newfound fan who has been searching for kindred souls all this time, and I have found them here in this work.

      With honor and love, all the best, and thank you for the nice words,
      ~Sylvie

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