NAKED TRUTH ABOUT
ANIMAL CALLED HUMAN
by Alex P. Vidal
“At twenty a man is a peacock, at thirty a lion, at forty a camel, at fifty a serpent, at sixty a dog, at seventy an ape, at eighty a nothing at all.” BALTASAR GRACIAN
The book that makes some of us feel embarrassed about our animal selves rolled off the press in the year when Bolivian guerrilla leader Che Guevara was captured; and when The Beatles released the album “Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The year when one of the Iloilo Mountain Tiger’s longest-serving members known in Iloilo today as “Mr. Bean” was born.
I’m referring to Desmond Morris’ sensational worldwide bestseller, The Naked Ape, described by Saturday Review as “a startlingly novel idea, brilliantly executed.” No less than Morris himself, the author, who was a former Curator of mammals at London Zoo, admitted that in dealing with the fundamental problems of the naked ape, he realized that he ran the risk of offending a number of people. “There are some who will prefer not to contemplate their animal selves. They may consider that I have degraded our species by discussing it in crude animal terms,” wrote Morris.
“I can only assure them that this is not my intention. There are others who will resent any zoological invasion of their specialist arena. But I believe that this approach can be of great value and that, whatever its shortcomings, it will throw now (and in some ways unexpected) light on the complex nature of our extraordinary species.”
Morris explained that his book was intended to popularize and demystify science.
“There are one hundred and ninety-three living species of monkeys and apes,” Morris alleged. “One hundred and ninety-two of them are covered with hair. The exception is a naked ape self-named Homo sapiens. The unusual and highly successful species spend a great deal of time examining his higher motives and an equal amount of time studiously ignoring his fundamental ones. He is proud that he has the biggest brain of all the primates, but attempts to conceal the fact that he also has the biggest penis, preferring to accord this honor falsely to the mighty gorilla. He is an intensely vocal, acutely exploratory, over-crowded ape, and it is high time we examined his basic behavior.”
“To read Desmond Morris on the sex habits of the naked ape is disconcerting, to say the least” observed the Saturday Review. “Here the detail is specific and clinical...and the naked ape comes out of it looking very animal indeed...you read on with the mixture of discovery and embarrassment...an enlightening, entertaining, disturbing, discomforting, ego-shrinking experience.”
The book tells about man as “a creature who can write immortal poetry, raise giant cities, aim for the stars, build an atomic bomb--but he is also an animal, a relative of the apes--a naked ape, in fact.”
The Naked Ape, serialized in the Daily Mirror newspaper and has been translated into 23 languages, depicts human behavior as largely evolved to meet the challenges of prehistoric life as a hunter-gatherer (see nature versus nurture). The book was so named because out of 193 species of monkeys and apes, only man is not covered in hair.
Morris made a number of claims in the book naming man as “the sexiest primate alive”. He further claimed that our fleshy ear-lobes, which are unique to humans, are erogenous zones, the stimulation of which can cause orgasm in both males and females. Morris further stated that the more rounded shape of human female breasts means they are mainly a sexual signalling device rather than simply for providing milk for infants.
He also attempted to frame human behavior in the context of evolution, but his explanations failed to convince academics because they were based on a teleological (goal-oriented) understanding of evolution. For example, Morris wrote that the intense human pair bond evolved so that men who were out hunting could trust that their mates back home were not having sex with other men, and that sparse body hair evolved because the “nakedness” helped intensify pair bonding by increasing tactile pleasure.
Morris criticized some psychiatrists and psycho-analysts that “have stayed nearer home and have concentrated on clinical studies of mainstream specimens. Much of their earlier material, although not suffering from the weakness of the anthropological information, also has an unfortunate bias.”
Sexually the naked ape finds himself today in a somewhat confusing situation, Morris explained. “As a primate he is pulled one way, as a carnivore by adoption he is pulled another, and as a member of an elaborate civilized community he is pulled yet another.” /MP