No monkey business

Vanessa Woods
Photo provided by Bill Portoghese | The Oswegonian

Bonobos are the most peaceful of the great apes, but their lives are in stark contrast to the war-torn country of Congo, author Vanessa Woods said during her lecture for the Living Writers Series on Wednesday.

“Bonobos live in a female dominated society, which of course makes everything better,” Woods said.

Woods spent six years studying bonobos in a French-speaking Congolese conservatory and saw that sex was the answer to many of the problems in the bonobo society.

“They have sex,” Woods said. “They have sex all the time. They have sex with each other…they have sex across gender, I have seen things with these bonbos that just make my head spin.”

To bonobos, sex is like a handshake, inspiring the title of her book, “Bonobo Handshake.”

Woods said she was inspired to write the stories of two tales that are rarely, if ever heard about. Bonobos, one of the five great apes, are often left out of textbooks. The wars in the Congo and the abused women are rarely heard.

The “Bonobo Handshake” was trying to bring the two stories together. Woods had always wanted to write, but said that it is becoming more difficult to be a writer. But one way that makes it easier is to find another career and write about that.

“It’s getting tougher, not easier, to be a writer,” Woods said.

“The one thing that I would criticize about the writing was that I wrote it,” Woods said. “I’m a white, middle class woman.”

What she wanted was for a Congolese woman to write the story herself.

“Another point is to use people better and stronger than you are,” Woods said. “You need to find someone that you admire.”