As an organiser of milongas, and a lover of science, I collect a lot of field research data on the group of primates known as Homo Sapiens. I know we don’t like to compare ourselves with monkeys. We are the snobs of the family, so we refer to ourselves as humans. But the science is quite clear. We share 99% of their DNA, spiced up with some Neanderthal. Primatology is presenting the slightly uncomfortable truth that we are very much like our distant cousins. However, there are no observed chimpanzee tango events reported yet. So why do homo sapiens dance tango?
I recently read Different, by the Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal, who basically explains we’re not that different. We walked out of our family of gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos 6 million years ago, so they don’t expect us to write anymore, or call every week. I have been wondering how primatology helps to explain the evolutionary advantage of tango. In his fascinating account, De Waal describes the hierarchical structure of hominoid communities, their friendships, jealousies, affairs, heartbreaking Shakespearian tragedies, fashions, games, cooperation, #metoo politics, and raising of kids. But no plausible explanation for couples’ dancing presented yet.
Primatologists no longer think primate communities are solely dominated by big bullying males. Jane Goodall describes female coalitions, humoring the big guy… Not unlike my situation at home. Unlike chimps or gorillas, Bonobo men are pathetically trying to impress by running past, while dragging a tree branch. Clearly, they’re not providing an evolutionary advantage of protection. Bonobo groups are, in fact, matriarchies. The boys make the noise but are not taken too seriously by the Bonobo alpha woman. She runs a hippie community where everybody happily has sex with everybody all day while feeling good about themselves. They are literally high, up in the trees, not threatened by snakes, crocodiles, or lions. Is this a relevant finding? El Attico in Helsinki is on the fifth floor…
The female role in the mating process is not the demure, subdued, passive role that early 20th-century scientists preferred to see. Primatologists now know that female apes like sex for sex’s sake. De Waal tells priceless anecdotes about a macaque female, hitting a male over the head, urging him to pay attention and follow her. He also observed covert cabeceos, leading to secretive encounters behind the bushes. Female chimps check out their ass in the mirror and may adorn themselves with fruits or snake intestines, to be noticed. A long grass, innovatively stuck in an ear as an accessory, becomes quite the fashion for all other chimp ladies in the group. There is some evidence that apes most likely don’t understand the cause-and-effect relationship between sex and babies. Pregnancy is probably too long a period for that. To them, sex is as harmless as a little dance or two. Or three. Or a hundred.
Now, you ask, how does all this explain tango? More research needs to be done, but purely for the sake of scientific progress, I’ll share some field observations that may give you clues. One: several women have shared with me their opinion that’ tango is probably better than sex’. Two: the risk of getting pregnant during a tanda appears to be negligible! This all needs to be confirmed empirically, but with these two clues, you should be able to figure it out for yourself.
Published: 14 Oct 2022 @ 07:52