The Female Monkey and the human female
Rational of my choice
In many aspect, it could not be denied that there some similarities between humans and animals. Different studies confirm that there are indeed similarities among existing species including the human being. Citing the study done by T.H. Huxley (1863), Peter Bowler & Iwan Rhys Morus stated, “Huxley argued that the degree of similarity meant that humans had to be classed as primates and hence, by implication, must share common ancestry with the apes” (p. 155). In view of this, I chose female monkey as my chosen species in relation to human females because of the degree of similarity between humans and non-human primate.
Facts about e monkey in general
There are common facts about monkey. In the general sense, monkey belongs to the three groups of primate which shares six basic features which are also shared by human beings namely: grasping hands, nails, fingerprints, forward-facing eyes, eye sockets and large brain. In contrast with other animals, monkeys communicate using vocalizations, facial expressions and body movements. This same expression used by human beings in communicating their thoughts feelings and intentions. They also express affection as well as make peace by grooming each other but are seriously threatened by the loss of their habitat particularly those that live tropical forests. They are also susceptible disease such as tuberculosis, hepatitis and simian herpes B. There are more facts about monkey in general that are common between male and female, however, in view of the topic above, this paper is constrained to deal particularly on the female monkey in relation to human female.
Characteristic of a female primate
In her discussion of the characteristic of the female non-human primate, Meredith Small pointed out that in relation to choosing male partner; female primate makes a smart and “discriminating choice” (p. 110) for their own reproductive benefit. Small cited that while female primate cannot just point to any male primate as her chosen one, “they can make decisions based on the cues provided by males” (p. 110). Like human female being courted by interested males, monkey as non-human primate makes a decision to refuse or to accept a male applicant. Small cited further,
“It’s sometimes impossible to tease out preference initiated by the female. We never know what’s going in her head or even whether she’s thinking about an array of males at all. How would we know if she prefers male A or male B unless she makes a move toward him? It’s much easier, however, to spot refusals, which are also an indication of female preference and choice” (p. 110).
One of the most common issues in human female’s sexuality is the so called sexual harassment. Often this is committed in the form of sexual advances by male in higher rank, in the work place. But sexual harassment does not happen only among human females, it also happens in the Old World primates. According to Peter M. Kappeler and Carel Van Schaic, sexual harassment among primates happens when male primates desires to mate with a female primates who is with the dominant male. In this case, the dominant male attacks the female primate. Kappeler and Schaik puts it,
“…there is abundant evidence for harassment of fertile females by males when the females is not actually mating or even near another male, moreover, if the dominant males are not near the fertile female, lower ranking males are also expected to employ harassment” (p. 139).
They pointed out that dominant male tend to attack the female “to prevent the female from mating with a third male while he is engaged in fighting” (p. 139).
The most common issue among this non-human primate regarding sexual harassment is infanticide. Kappeler and Schaik explain, “Infanticide often happens when the former dominant male, the most likely sire of most infants even in multi male groups, is eliminated” (132). Infanticidal attacks are done by male primates who are likely to mate with the female primate. However, Kappeler and Schaick cited that a female primate can expect protection from a dominant male. They noted “dominant males are effective protectors of infants as long as they are not ousted or incapacitated. Females should therefore be expected to mate preferentially with these powerful males whenever females are confronted by males who are unlikely sires” (p. 132).
The situation of the female non-human primate puts her at the status of the human female who is regarded as the weaker vessel and is often the object of males’ carnal desires. Non-human female primates therefore like the human female, are often victims of the exploitation of the stronger males whose interest is to make her sexual partner. Kappeler and Schaik noted,
“Primate males are thought to use rules of thumb such as the quality of their sexual experience with the female; that is, the mating frequency, relative to attractivity – her stimulus value to male, weighted for mating frequency with other males the interval between mating and births…” (p 132).
However, dominant males are not always successful in his attempts to have sexual interaction with female. Citing Sandra Andelman, Small noted that dominant males “were successful only 42 percent of the time they had tried to have sexual interaction” (p. 110).
Female primate in relation to human female
From the given facts above apparently female non-human primates relate to human female in the context of sexuality. In the first place, human female sexuality is often the focus of male desires making women as object of men’s carnal desires. The attitudes shown by male primates to protect female from infanticidal attacks from other males is conditional, that is, the female primate will provide him sexual experiences. Here the male dominance is the focal point. Because females are weaker than male, they are simply to provide companionship and sexual experience to stronger males in exchange of the protection they afforded. This relates to human females especially in the context of male dominance and macho image. Because women are weaker, their roles are simply to bear children and to rear them. Their domains are the home. Peggy Reeves Sanday points out that in Nigeria, “Hausa women must not hold political office; they are legal minors and their proper is in the home…when married they are secluded inside the compound” (p. 35).
As in the female primate, the issue of women as weaker sex is highly exploited. Sanday noted the case of women in the tropical forest of South America, wherein “Females are completely excluded from all formal positions of leadership and all religious offices” (p. 37). Apparently, there are similarity between the role of female primate and the human female in their respective groups. Females are subject to male dominance. There seemed to be a universal arrangement that females are inferior to male. The attitudes therefore of men to women especially in the context of their sexuality are by nature suitable particularly because humans are also primates. The distinction however between humans and primates, is that humans had superior intelligence and his capability to know what is right or wrong, put him above all other creatures.
The issue of macho image to impress women therefore is by nature common between human primates and non-human primates and may have originated from these non-human primates. Furthermore, as what we can observe from the female primate, her inability to defend herself, often instinctively compels her to turn to a stronger male primate for protection. Often, we do not judge this because we have established notion of the stronger males. However, when women are compelled to the same, we judge it as weakness. We failed to see that by nature, females tend to turn to those who are strong when they are threatened by something stronger than her. But there had lots of changes that had taken place in human society. The tremendous intellectual human advances had caused enormous changes on both males and females. The various efforts initiated by women of strong character through different movements highlighting women’s right have changed the role that women played in the society while non-human primates may still be the same as ever.
Non-human female primates relates to human females in many ways particularly in the context of sexuality. As we have seen, female by nature is weak and usually dependent on strong males. If our view of women sexuality still hold on to the male dominant concept, and that women sexuality is weak, we are still just like the male primates whose interest is simply to fulfill their desires. Humans both males and females have gone along way already and although we could still see traces of similarities between human female and female primate, it is fact that we have a sophisticated understanding of our sexuality, and that basically, there is nothing that we men are better than women. It will remain true that men are stronger than women, but it does not mean that women are dependent on men. There is equality between them in terms of privileges, rights and opportunities.
Bowler, Peter J. & Morus, Iwan Rhys Making Modern Science USA: Univerity of Chicago, 2005
Kappeler, Peter M. & Schaik, Carel van Sexual Selection in Primates UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004
Sanday, Peggy Reeves Female Power and Male Dominance UK: Cambridge University Press, 1981.
Small, Meredith Female Choices USA: Cornell University Press, 1993