Some feminist have claimed that one of the hindrances of female empowerment is that women have to, “sleep with the enemy”, and live with men. Where, men have to advantage of greater size, strength and aggression. But perhaps there might be a way around this, if we give up the patriarchal doctrine that men and women have to live together as a couple.
We can find an alternative to this; if we look to our ape ancestors chimpanzees and bonobos. This is instructive, because both of these species of ape are our closest cousins genetically, because we share 98% of our genes with them.
What is very interesting is that the chimpanzees live in strict patriarchal societies while bonobos are matriarchal. Humans also seem to be patriarchal but it seems in prehistoric times we once lived in matriarchal societies, which suggests that we humans do have a choice about what type of society we wish to live in.
Chimpanzee culture is very easy to understand, it has a strict hierarchal system where the biggest and strongest males are the boss and dominate other males who are not so physically powerful. Though all the males dominate the females who are smaller than the males.
Bonobo societies are more complex as the female dominate the males through a powerful sisterhood. Bonobo males like chimpanzee males are larger than bonobo females but the bonobo females stick together in a powerful sisterhood. The way this works is that if a bonobo male was to attack a bonobo female, all the bonobo females in the same area will come to her defence and attack the lone bonobo male. Because of this, it is the sisterhood that dominate bonobo society and not powerful alpha males like with chimpanzees.
This approach has been suggested by feminists for humans who created the slogan, “the sisterhood is powerful”. But unfortunately sisterhood among human females is not strong enough to overcome male aggression and dominance. To appreciate why, we have to understand more about the bonobo and chimpanzee.
Another big difference between the chimpanzee and bonobo is that the bonobo seems to be sex mad. Most animals only have sex for a few days every year. This happens at the time of the year when most food starts to be available, so that the female is well fed during her pregnancy and when nursing her young. The chimpanzee like most other animals is exactly the same, only having sex when the female is in season. But there are two animals where this is not true, and they are the bonobo and human.
Both humans and bonobos can have sex any time of the year and so are not restricted to seasonal sex. As the result, we find that in bonobo society sex is not only used to fertilize females, it is used as a powerful method of social bonding. Bonobo customs dictate that when two bonobos are in any form of dispute they make it up by having sex together. This doesn’t matter if the two bonobos are a male and female or two males or two females. It seems that in bonobo society there is no demarcation line between heterosexuality and homosexuality, everyone is bisexual.
This suggests that the strong social bonding through sex, greatly enhances feminine power and undermines masculine power. This is because in any animal society the only way females can overcome the greater size and strength of males is through a powerful sisterhood, where females support each other. This means that the sisterhood in bonobo society is possible when females bond, by having sex with each other
So it is interesting that homosexuality is discouraged or even outlawed in most human patriarchal societies. Is this because they want to break up any form of sisterhood among women? It suggests that lesbian sex has a far stronger effect is bonding females together, than homosexual male relationships. It is probably because men’s greater aggression and competitive instincts works against males when trying to bond with other males, even if they are homosexual. While, women’s instincts to love others, is enhanced, when having intimate relationships with other women.
Many feminists have pointed out that one of the reasons why women are powerless is because too many women seem to love men, more than they love other women. The reason for this, might be that in patriarchal societies, women are only allowed have sex with men and are discouraged from having sex with other women.
So where humans in the past like bonobos and women form a powerful sisterhood through lesbian sex? One piece of evidence for this is the clitoris. Patriarchal scientists and religions tell us that sex in only about reproduction, yet the female clitoris is only used for sexual pleasure. The clitoris is not needed for reproduction as a woman can get pregnant without it. This is one of the reasons why some patriarchal religions like Islam cut off women’s clitorises. The clitoris may not be needed for sex between a dominant male and a submissive female, but is essential for sex between two females. So cutting off women’s clitoris may be a way to discourage lesbian sex and so undermine sisterhood between women.
It would be unrealistic to demand all women to become lesbians but bisexuality may be possible. After all, women do complain a lot about the behaviour of men when they live with them. So any woman who has had a bad experience living with men may think about living with another woman, if this is socially acceptable. Another point is that if more women start to live together it means that men will be forced to “up their game”, and please women, if they want to live with them.
So would a return to matriarchy be as simple as simply encouraging women to have sex together? It might be, because it seems to work very well for the bonobo ape. The obvious way women can overcome men’s greater size, strength, aggression and competitiveness is to form a powerful sisterhood. This then is only possible if women can love each other, more than they love men.
Patriarchy works well when it is able to isolate women. We can see this in chimpanzee society where sisterhood between females is almost non-existent. As the result, every female chimpanzee has to fend for themselves alone and has to look for protection from males to protect herself. So being very submissive to please strong males, is the only way a female chimpanzee and her young, can survive in the brutal chimpanzee society.
His is also true of women in patriarchal human societies, who likewise have to learn to please rich and powerful males to have a decent life or become successful. Many actresses even today are interviewed on the ‘casting couch’ to get into films. Businesswomen and female politicians also have to please rich and powerful men if they are to progress in our patriarchal world. While marrying a wealthy man is still the easiest way a woman can gain wealth and power.
The contrast between chimpanzee and bonobo societies couldn’t be greater, where bonobo females can always look for protection from other females. For this to work, it means that the patriarchal idea of marriage has to be broken up. This then would require for women to live in commutes, which is a big advantage for mothers as they can help each other care for their children. Men won’t like this, as it means they will have less access to females and have to be on their best behaviour, if they want to visit any commune to have sex.
So if women are encouraged to find sexual fulfilment with other women, then they will no longer have to, “sleep with the enemy”, and we be free to form a powerful sisterhood with other women. This sisterhood can be used to create women only businesses and political parties so women no longer have to look to rich and powerful men for support and money.
Some women may object to this and claim they are strictly heterosexual and could never have sex with another woman. Yet we know sexuality is flexible. Confine people into prisons and both men and women will have homosexual relationships. This suggests, bisexuality, may be far more commonplace than we realise. People fall into heterosexual relationships because it is considered to be ‘normal’ and it is easier to be one of the flock. Even today, homosexuality is seen as unusual and it takes a strong minded person to, ‘come out’ and openly declare themselves to be homosexual. It also can be equally difficult to be openly bisexual, because people get confused by this.
It is of interest that nearly all patriarchal societies and religions tend to see sex as a ‘sinful’ or ‘dirty’. This is because even submissive women can use sex to influence men. It suggests that patriarchy does see sexual liberation as a threat to it. So if we can learn from the bonobo ape and be sexually freer, it could result in a matriarchal society.