Human Nature

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 47–79

The evolution of sexuality in chimpanzees and bonobos

  • Richard W. Wrangham

DOI: 10.1007/BF02734089

Cite this article as:
Wrangham, R.W. Human Nature (1993) 4: 47. doi:10.1007/BF02734089


The evolution of nonconceptive sexuality in bonobos and chimpanzees is discussed from a functional perspective. Bonobos and chimpanzees have three functions of sexual activity in common (paternity confusion, practice sex, and exchange for favors), but only bonobos use sex purely for communication about social relationships. Bonobo hypersexuality appears closely linked to the evolution of female-female alliances. I suggest that these alliances were made possible by relaxed feeding competition, that they were favored through their effect on reducing sexual coercion, and that they are ultimately responsible for the relaxed social conditions that allowed the evolution of “communication sex.”

Key words

Primate sexuality Bonobos Chimpanzees Communication Social relationships Female Alliances 


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Copyright information

© Walter de Gruyter, Inc 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard W. Wrangham
    • 1
  1. 1.Peabody MuseumHarvard UniversityCambridge

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