Internationally acclaimed sex educator Dr. Susan Block (known widely as "Dr. Suzy") just might hold the key to world peace. Her latest book, The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace through Pleasure, is an impactful, often hilarious how-to guide for humans to learn from the libidinous lifestyle of an endangered species of chimpanzees called "bonobos" who use sex (and lots of it) to resolve conflict.
"Some find meaning in hate and killing and some in love and sex," Dr. Susan Block recently told us. "Bonobos lean decisively towards sex. They're also over 98% genetically similar to humans, so their very existence demonstrates how important good sex, affectionate touch, empathy, reciprocity and sharing pleasure is to our own well-being. Bonobos empower their females more than any other great ape species. They also appear to stay younger longer than their common chimp counterparts. Most importantly, we have not seen a bonobo killing another bonobo in captivity or the wild."
No matter the pedigree of this best-selling author and sought-after TV and radio sexologist, Block's writing is not-at-all pedantic. It is a collection of wildly entertaining anecdotes about her life and therapy practice, spotlighting the shocking similarities between humans and the bonobos, and the ways we might learn about ourselves from them.
The Bonobo Way has many fans, from primatologists to porn stars. "Bravo to Dr. Block for paving the way for a hopefully more bonobo future," says Vanessa Woods, best-selling author of The Bonobo Handshake and Duke University animal researcher. "The Bonobo Way is a playful but insightful glimpse into our sexuality and what we can learn from our closest, perhaps superior, relatives."
"The bonobos have found a better way. Period," said Block's friend, porn actor turned author Howie Gordon. "Basically, the bonobo society has evolved a greater 'peace through pleasure' and that it would behoove all of humanity to sit up and take notice of this extraordinary achievement by our primate cousins. Dr. Suzy's message is loud and clear."
Block grew up just outside Philadelphia in a solid middle-class Jewish family and graduated from Yale with a fine arts degree. This Ivy Leaguer's intellectual curiosity took her as far as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, an ashram in Nepal and Boulder, Colorado's Naropa Institute, as well as to the top of the Golden Gate Bridge. She eventually received her doctorate in philosophy with a major in psychology from Miramar University and an honorary Ph.D. from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality.
Block was just starting her counseling practice when she first saw bonobos on a PBS broadcast of The Nature of Sex; subsequent trips to the San Diego Zoo, with her husband and frequent collaborator, Max Lobkowicz, afforded her the opportunity to study and marvel at the chimps up-close.
"At first, I just couldn't get over how similar they look to us - like hairy people with longer arms," said Block. "Then I saw they have a lot of sex, very much like humans, but without all the pretense, hypocrisy and shame. When I learned they make peace through pleasure, I realized that 'oh my god these close kissing cousins of ours just might hold the keys to a world without war.'"
The Bonobo Way is divided into two parts. Part one is an introduction to the bonobos. It adeptly explains their lifestyle and close evolutionary connection to humans. In the second part, Block lays out the blueprint for individuals and couples who want to expand their sexual repertoire with her highly edifying "12 steps to releasing your inner bonobo."
This is not your typical "12-step program." The first six steps are:
1. See the bonobos, to observe their behavior.
2. Be a bonobo, at least in your mind, so as to enhance playfulness.
3. Release your "inner bonobo" in the bedroom.
4. Engage in more "outercourse" rather than being fixated on
5. Combine food and sex--in bed or on the kitchen table.6. Explore the opposite sex within yourself --your masculine or feminine side
Read The Bonobo Way for the rest, though the 12th Step bears including:
"Save the Bonobos, Save the World." The bonobos themselves are highly endangered in their native habitat in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Block's book is, in part, a call for their conservation.
"Whatever it takes to save the bonobos from extinction, they are worth it," says Block. "After all, they will reciprocate and help us 'save' ourselves through their inspirational example."
Impacting society and influencing government policy might be a tall order for a sex educator, but Block remains the bonobos' most committed emissary and ally. In her private practice she focuses on individual sex therapy and often helps her clients find their "inner bonobo." And on her popular weekly call-in show, her roster of eclectic guests includes Hollywood celebrities, fetish models, porn stars, activists and authors who regularly enlist to the cause.
"It's the new great ape paradigm for humanity," says Block. "For decades, we've used the 'killer ape' model of violent, male-dominant common chimpanzees to explain and excuse human behavior, everything from murder and war to jealousy and bad sex. Bonobos break the old paradigm and give us a vision of what we can be."
Click here to learn more saving the bonobos.
To join the movement of like-minded bonobos go to Block's new community site bonoboville.com.