Debate Guide: Nonhuman relatives

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Our research page explains this potential analogy and points to sources. This article addresses how to use the analogy carefully.

Our animal relatives, particularly primates engage in masturbation and casual homosexual behaviors. This much is pretty well-known, although somewhat hidden from nature documentaries and popular literature as it is considered "awkward". However, animals, particularly primates, also sexually induct their young in ways that would often be described as incestuous by human standards. Yet, no harm is done, since there is no moral shame or iatrogenesis.

Indeed, such complex but common behaviors would appear to serve an adaptive evolutionary function in these species. So, in human terms, what has been observed? Various primates engage in behaviors including:

  • Incestuous mating with juveniles (both sexes, sometimes for reproductive purposes).
  • Intense relationships involving male-juvenile male fondling.
  • Oral sex between younger and older males.
  • Fellatio to completion, including eating the semen.
  • Motherly baby play.
  • Masturbation and mounting with infants.
  • Child - child and child - parent faux - mountings.
  • Adult - pubescent lesbian relationships.
  • Adult male - infant female babysitting that involves masturbation and thrusting.
  • Adolescent anal sex (to ejaculation).
  • Sexualized greetings as normal interactions.
  • Studly, penetrative behavior in very young infant males.
  • Multipositional homosexual mounting and masturbation during juvenile/adolescent wrestling games.
  • Infant initiation of intercourse and fatherly acceptance of mother-son cunnilingus.

This would seem to suggest that "primitive" human societies in which similar behaviors were observed are not an outlier.

Of course, one could employ an irrelevant argument by saying that other animals can behave in savage and unethical ways (sometimes involving rape of infants). However, this is not proof of an innate trauma mechanism underlying voluntary interactions. Indeed, as a supposedly "civilised" species, we should have the added benefit of being able to make an ethical distinction on the basis of harm. If our ethics are compatible, the behaviors are potentially compatible.

Excerpt Graphic Library

The EGL on Broader Perspectives has some relevant information. Just open the graphic, right click/save and reproduce by uploading in short-form media to bypass character limits.