Sex Abuse and The Chimpanzee Lecture
This lesson/lecture is amazingly effective at getting students (as well as adults) to reflect on how they respond to social/sexual interactions and how biology plays a hand in sex abuse. It is culled from a wide variety of readings but you can find most of these ideas in two books: The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (1991); [and even more importantly]: Why Is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality (1997). Both by Jared Diamond the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel.
This post is part 4 of a 5 part series on sex abuse education and what I try to teach my students. Part 1 is about Mixed Messages. Part 2 is about my personal experience with sex abuse in Hollywood. In Part 3 I examined a common misunderstanding of the law (Attractive Nuisance), empathy and social norms. Part 4 (The Chimpanzee Lecture) is my biology teacher’s reason for not being surprised at the misunderstandings or power plays that lead to sex abuse. I have used this lesson in my classroom when teaching about sexual relations. Part 5 is about how Hollywood ‘romantic movies’ actually teach men to abuse women in order to be loved.
This is not about blaming or excusing anyone.
This is not about declaring any one gender or opinion right (i.e. I’m not trying to say that the girls should learn to act or feel like guys or vice versa). It’s about understanding the biological differences in what we feel and what needs to be taught to everyone. This is not intended for those broken souls who are incapable of learning. There will always be those humans who are so crazy, or so convinced that the way they see the world is the way everyone else does or should, that they are not bound by any social norms. But we’ve got to start somewhere and these are things which need to be taught.
As I said before: I do have my own experiences and a few suggestions which I offer here. Make of this what you will. I believe that if we don’t share as much information as possible we won’t ask the right questions; and if we don’t ask the right questions we won’t arrive at the right answers. So I offer these experiences (which I also discuss with my students in the classroom) as additional information in our mutual quest to teach everyone to treat others with dignity and respect.
What got me started on teaching this lesson.
I started developing this lesson after trying and failing to get our girls to think about how they were dressing. It got so bad [see Naive Sophistication] that, one day, in frustration, a female administrator came over the school PA system and said, “You girls have got to start covering up. This ain’t no barbecue and we don’t need the meat!” I used The Chimpanzee Lecture in my life skills classes, my financial planning classes, and any time a student asked a personal/social/sexual question in which I thought this lesson would be helpful.
I always give the following warning to my students. This warning concluded my last post (Attractive Nuisance): we ignore biology at our peril. Having equal rights socially does not mean we have the same goals biologically.
I quoted Rosalind Wiseman from her excellent book The Guide:
Girls are “…trying to achieve the impossible by pleasing both girls and straight guys,
two groups with competing agendas.”
So what does biology teach us about what those competing agendas really are?