When a pregnant gorilla goes into labor, her mate paces back and forth nearby. He is alert, engaged, and fierce, ready to attack and destroy anyone or anything that may cause his female or his baby harm. As a mama gorilla labors, she knows it is safe to be as vulnerable as she needs to be; her protector is there.
We human females aren’t all that different than our friends in the ape family. After all, we share about 98% of the same DNA. And as sentient mammals we’re hard-wired to take the matter of childbirth quite seriously, as we should: the survival of our species depends on it.
Females of all species enter what is likely to be the most vulnerable chapter of their adult lives when they conceive, grow, and deliver a baby. This is a time when hormones surge, when bodies transform, and where we can’t physically kick-ass in quite the same ways as before (let alone tie our own shoes).
Pregnancy, delivery, and child rearing are times where, despite our feminist philosophies, we find ourselves in our most vulnerable state, requiring protection and support more than ever before, wishing for a good “gorilla.”
Now, a “gorilla” doesn’t need to be a husband, or a man at all. A gorilla can be a partner, a family, a community of friends, or a village.
Gorilla energy conveys the message: “Come hell or high water, I’ve got your back.”
Not in the, “Just call me if you need anything,” kind of way. More like, “I am right here, I’m not going anywhere, and I am already on it.”
Every time a woman has sex, she is biologically hard-wired to respond as if she may become pregnant. This is true even if she’s using contraception, even if she’s infertile, and even if she’s engaging in the kind of sexual practices that don’t carry the risk of pregnancy. Contraception, oral sex, same-sex coupling, and other such delightful and brilliant practices have all helped us take control of our fertility, true, but it is still our biological hard wiring as women to feel that we may become pregnant when we engage in sex.
It’s no wonder, then, that so many women – especially those with adrenal stress, burnout, and fatigue – don’t want sex.
If sex means another baby might follow, and if a woman is already beyond taxed with work, social obligations, and caring for another child (or a manchild), her libido will ramp down. Our culture puts unrealistic standards on women for many things, including feminine beauty, being a spouse, and parenting. There are so many things that stress our reserves.
Furthermore, if a woman feels that her partner is a crappy gorilla, if she feels like her partner doesn’t have her back, then she will want sex even less.
Taking out the trash, doing the dishes, helping with the kids, picking up the dry cleaning without her having to ask, and letting a woman sleep in on the weekends are all therefore acts of foreplay.
This is not metaphor: it’s biology.
Anything that conveys to a woman that she is safe, any act that shows her she doesn’t have to do it all herself, any confirmation that her “gorilla” has her back – these are all, biologically speaking, outrageously sexy and good for the survival of our species.
Take a look at your relationship with your female partner. Are you her rock? Does she know it? Do you make it absolutely clear to her that you will protect her and that she is secure, whether it’s physically, financially, or emotionally? Or does she have to do just about everything herself?
If you help with chores, do you do them on your own, or does she have to nag you? When’s the last time you cooked dinner? Is there money in savings, or do you refuse to make a budget? Do you handle any of your baby’s pediatrician appointments? Do you stand up to your mother when she nitpicks your partner’s mothering style? Do you freeze like a deer in headlights when your baby cries, or do you pick him up, look your partner in the eye and say, “Sweetie, you rest now. I got this,” even if you’re terrified? Even if you have no idea what to do with a screaming baby?
Talk to the woman in your life and ask her what she needs. When she tells you, try not to get defensive, but rather tap into a deep, ancestral strength within yourself.
This is a kind of biological birthright: your inner gorilla.
Bio: Those who know Dr. Erica Zelfand appreciate her down-to-earth attitude, upbeat personality, and commitment to educate, inspire, and empower. She approaches healing radically differently than most other doctors, trusting in the true brilliance of the human body and spirit. She firmly believes that dark chocolate, foot rubs, and orgasms are all very good for one’s health. She helps overwhelmed and exhausted mothers reclaim their va-va-voom and energy through her work at vitalmamas.com.
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