Lust, monkeys, and human desire

“Females were passive. That was the theory in the middle ’70s. That was the wisdom,” he remembered from the start of his career. Deidrah’s face, always a bit redder than most, was luminous this morning, lit scarlet with lust as she lifted it from Oppenheim’s chest. “The prevailing model was that female hormones affected female pheromones — affected the female’s smell, her attractivity to the male. The male initiated all sexual behavior.” But what science had managed to miss in the monkeys — and what Wallen and a few others were now studying — was female desire.

And science had missed more than that. In this breed used as our astronaut doubles, females are the bullies and murderers, the generals in brutal warfare, the governors. This had been noted in journal articles back in the ’30s and ’40s, but thereafter it had gone mainly unrecognized, the articles buried and the behavior oddly unperceived. “It so flew in the face of prevailing ideas about the dominant role of males,” Wallen said, “that it was just ignored.”…

When he thought about the way science had somehow kept itself oblivious to female monkey lust for so long, Wallen blamed not only preconceptions but the sex act itself. “When you look at the sexual interaction, it’s easy to see what the male is doing; he’s thrusting. It takes really focusing on the entire interaction to see all that the female is doing — and once you truly see it, you can never overlook it again.”