King Kong's Monkey Love

Joshua Bearman wrote a great essay for the LA Weekly on the relationship between man and ape and how our perception of gorillas as being "monstrous, savage, wildly sexual" persists despite all evidence to the contrary. It's called "Monkey Love: Intimacy on the Primate Family Tree."

Josh says: "It is probably the only coverage of King Kong that is based on weird science, meandering from Enkidu, the hairy man-beast in the Gilgamesh epic, to the latest paleontological evidence about Gigantopithecus blacki, the 12-foot prehistoric ape that died out 100,000 years ago, to the re-classification of chimpanzees into the hominidae family, and of course the biological potential for a consummated love between man and ape."

200512151217 Cooper and Schoedsack weren’t entirely off their rockers when they cast Kong and Fay Wray in a “great romance.” Humans share enough DNA and chromosomal similarity with both gorillas and chimpanzees — we’re 99 percent genotypically congruent with chimps — that offspring might be possible, were biologists unscrupulous enough to try it. There’s always suspicion they may have already; for some reason, Japan often gets fingered as the place that has secretly developed primate crossbreeds. And then there was the case of Oliver, a circus chimpanzee who seemed so human — he lived with a family in South Africa, where he liked to feed the dogs and sip whiskey while watching TV — that he was tested for human parentage. He came up negative, but in the end Oliver had to be sold because he developed an overpowering sexual interest in his female owner and woman visitors.

Reader comment: email_name: Jordan Running says: "Your post from today titled 'King Kong's Monkey Love' reminded me of an article I saw yesterday from Seed Magazine titled 'Girls Gone Wild...for Monkeys.' The article is about a study which shows that "while straight men are only aroused by females of the human variety, straight women are equally aroused by all human sexual activity, including lesbian, heterosexual and homosexual male sex, and at least somewhat aroused by nonhuman sex." Wild. Link

Reader comment: John says: "Apparently at least one person tried to crossbreed chimps and humans, in 1926. Clive Wynne has the story in a NYT op-ed. The scientist was Ilya Ivanov of the USSR, and the story involves Africa, Cuba, the New York Times and the Ku Klux Klan."

The young Soviet Union, in its effort to stamp out religion, was determined to prove that men were descended from apes. In 1926, a Soviet scientist named Ilya Ivanov decided the most compelling way to do this would be to breed a humanzee: a human-chimpanzee hybrid.

Ivanov set off for a French research station in West Africa. There he inseminated three female chimpanzees with human sperm. Not his own, for he shared the colonial-era belief that the local people were more closely related to apes than he was. He stayed long enough to learn that his experiment had failed.

Next Ivanov wrote a Cuban heiress, Rosalia Abreu. Abreu was the first person to breed chimps in captivity and had a large menagerie outside Havana. Ivanov asked if any of her male chimpanzees might be available to inseminate a Russian volunteer known to posterity only as 'G."


Reader comment: "Lovecraft wrote a story, now public domain, about a man who married an ape called 'Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and his Family.'" Link