Do monkeys use sex toys? Evidence of stone tool-assisted masturbation in free-ranging long-tailed macaques

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Cenni, Camilla
Christie, Jessica B. A.
Van der Pant, Yanni
Gunst, Noëlle
Vasey, Paul L.
Wandia, Nengah
Leca, Jean-Baptiste
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Recent reports on tool use in nonforaging contexts have led researchers to reconsider the proximate drivers of instrumental object manipulation. In this study, we explore the physiological and behavioral correlates of two stone-directed and seemingly playful actions, the repetitive tapping and rubbing of stones onto the genital and inguinal area, respectively, that may have been co-opted into self-directed tool-assisted masturbation in long-tailed macaques (i.e., “Sex Toy” hypothesis). We predicted that genital and inguinal stone-tapping and rubbing would be more closely temporally associated with physiological responses (e.g., estrus in females, penile erection in males) and behavior patterns (e.g., sexual mounts and other mating interactions) that are sexually motivated than other stone-directed play. We also predicted that the stones selected to perform genital and inguinal stone-tapping and rubbing actions would be less variable in number, size, and texture than the stones typically used during other stone-directed playful actions. Overall, our data partly supported the “Sex Toy” hypothesis indicating that stone-directed tapping and rubbing onto the genital and inguinal area are sexually motivated behaviors. Our research suggests that instrumental behaviors of questionably adaptive value may be maintained over evolutionary time through pleasurable/self-rewarding mechanisms, such as those underlying playful and sexual activities.
Accepted author manuscript
Affordance learning , Nonhuman primates , Object play , Sexual behavior , Tool use
Cenni, C., Christie, J. B. A., Van der Pant, Y., Gunst, N., Vasey, P. L., Wandia, N., & Leca, J.-B. (2022). Do monkeys use sex toys? Evidence of stone tool-assisted masburbation in free-ranging long-tailed macaques. Ethology, 00, 1-15.