If macaques are this sexually creative, what’s stopping the rest of us?
The COVID pandemic wreaked all kinds of havoc on our sex lives — don’t even get me started on monkeypox — and a lot of us are still trying to figure out how to reclaim pleasure in this hellish world. Balinese macaques, on the other hand, do not seem to be suffering from the same kind of existential libido crisis. A new study found that these playful and inventive primates are even finding ways to use stones as sex toys.
The study, published this month in Ethology: International Journal of Behavioral Biology, followed a group of macaques from 2016 to 2019 to see how they used stones as tools. What the researchers discovered was that the monkeys used stones not just to crack open hard fruits or whatever it is that you might expect monkeys to do with rocks, but also as toys — namely sex toys.
Look, masturbation is a common leisure activity amongst many primates, but this whole stones-as-sex-toys thing is kind of a new discovery. And while you might be tempted to try to explain away these monkeys’ stone sex toys as some kind of evolutionary strategy, the researchers involved in the study don’t think that’s the case. “It's hard to give a very solid explanation, but it really seems that they do it because it feels good,” Camilla Cenni, a researcher at the University of Lethbridge in Canada and co-author of the study, told VICE.
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering how a pile of rocks can be used to get off. Apparently, the monkeys tapped and rubbed the stones around their genitals. It was pretty easy to see whether the male monkeys were turned on while doing so because they had visible boners.
Unfortunately, scientists couldn’t as easily discern how aroused the female monkeys were by the stones. “For females, it's a little bit harder because we don't really have an easy signifier of arousal,” Cenni told VICE. But, researchers did notice that the mature female macaques seemed to be purposely selecting sharp-edged or grainy stones, and hypothesized that those textures may feel more pleasurable.
These particular macaques happen to have a lot of time on their hands to select and enjoy their sexy stones, too. The macaques in the study live in a kind of preserve in Bali, where they’re fed fresh fruits and veggies and kept safe from predators — which means they don’t spend too much time or energy trying to survive. Cenni hypothesized to VICE that having a lot of leisure time could be one of the reasons these monkeys have become so creative about their pleasure.
But she also added that isn’t the only explanation, and we’ll likely never know all the explicit details of these macaques’ masturbatory habits. Still, all of this leaves me wondering if I might be a little more creative about my own arousal if I had a bit more free time to get curious about the potential sources of pleasure around me. Perhaps universal basic income is actually what we need to get the babies booming again.