Why Women Love Apes
Een liefdesgeschiedenis in cultuur en wetenschap
A love story in culture and science
Twentieth-century western culture is full of examples of erotic relationships between dark-haired apes and blonde women: there is a striking connection between woman and ape not only in movies and novels, but also in scientific practice of primatology. In this fascinating study, literary theorist Stine Jensen shows how the roles of ape, woman and man, too, have changed fundamentally throughout the last century.
For example, the famous film classic King Kong from 1933, was born of the nineteenth-century obsession with the rape-ape, but at the same time it presented the ape as an ambiguous creature – both malicious and gentle. Thereafter, mostly female researchers, such as Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas, ensured that the image of the primate changed from killer king to gentle giant. In their endeavours to make primates seem milder these women pushed such issues as the killing of younger troop members and other violence within ape society into the background.
The promotion of the ape reached its peak in The Great Ape Project, initiated in 1993 by a group of scientists pleading for the generic border between men and primates to be abolished and for human rights to be granted to apes. They stressed both the humanity of the ape, as well as the apeness of humans. In films and books from the end of the twentieth century, the ape was even put forward as the new ideal man. In Peter Hoeg’s The Woman and the Ape, for example, the main female character chooses an ape in preference to her husband, rejecting the stigmatising men’s world.
According to Jensen, this emancipation process of ape and woman has led to an identity crisis amongst men: should they act the caveman or should they be sensitive? As a result of the advances between women and apes, the hierarchy of the sexes and the species has started to shift and ambiguity has become the ideal for the future. Jensen has written an intriguing, amusing study, in which the interlacing of culture and science, fact and fiction and truth and fantasy plays a major role.