It’s clear that stories of chimps ripping off human faces and appendages with ease has not resonated with internet meatheads. They’re probably still fixated on the characterization of chimps that has dominated in the popular imagination for the better part of a century: Tarzan cradling his loyal pal Cheetah, a chimpanzee, in the long-running franchise, or footage of primatologist Jane Goodall studying placid and playful chimps in their natural habitats. This imagery makes chimps appear mostly harmless. And, to be clear, they certainly can be. But when they’re threatened, even the strongest man would have a hard time winning a fight against one.

But this misconception about chimps isn’t just the fantasy of internet tough guys, said Sarah Bell, a Ph.D. candidate studying human-wildlife conflict in Sierra Leone and founder of wildlife conservation organization Pan Verus Project.

“The idea is not a new one and is very reminiscent of ‘orangutan boxing’ or ‘kangaroo boxing’ which are both very ugly and cruel sports,” Bell said via email. “The people I work and live with in Sierra Leone don’t have the opportunity to see chimpanzees as anything other than things that live in the forest that could kill them if they chose. They all describe chimpanzees as ‘very fearful’ creatures, even though no one in living memory has been attacked by one.”

Even the average notion of what sort of chimp one would hypothetically take on is skewed. Bell noted that most of the chimps we see in television and movies as funloving vehicles for comic relief are actually young chimps stolen from their mothers. “You’ll never see a fully grown adult chimpanzee being used in films because it’s just too dangerous,” Bell said. “Anyone who has ever actually observed fully grown chimpanzees, and especially fully grown wild chimpanzees would never assume they could ‘take on’ a chimpanzee,” said Bell.

I asked Sandeep Kumar, a Portland-based psychotherapist, about why men are deluded by delusions of their physical strength. In an e-mail, Kumar suggested that the anonymity of the internet and social media encourages this kind of “my dad is bigger than your dad” bravado, but is doubtful of its sincerity. “I don’t think any of these men who claim to be willing to take on a chimp would truly do so without someone standing by with a tranquilizer gun,” Kumar wrote.

But one thing did give Kumar pause: claims that martial arts experience could adequately prepare someone to fight a chimp. “I’ve spent over a decade studying several martial arts, and I would do everything I could to never be in a situation with a wild animal,” Kumar noted.

He continued: “The animal will fight to the death if threatened, and might not be the first time it has had to do so. Most people haven’t killed anything more than an insect. Sure, the human might ‘win’ the fight, if walking away from an elective fight having lost a finger or appendage is a ‘win.’ Survive, maybe, but isn’t the ability to [do more than just survive] one of the aspects that we claim separates us from the animal kingdom?”

Common sense, as well as Bell’s extensive research, confirms this. “This isn’t the kind of fighting style men are accustomed to, [so] you wouldn’t just get to fight a chimpanzee who also wanted to show off his strength without permanently damaging you.”

Chimps do not have a concept of fighting below the belt. Not only that: They’ll happily take the fight there, literally. According to Bell, during an attack, chimps tend to go for the face, hands and feet, and genitals first. “Chimpanzees have been known to tear off people’s faces and leave men with a little less manhood than they had before the encounter,” Bell explained. “The chimpanzee would be fearing for its life, so it would do everything in it’s—very impressive—power to incapacitate the threat.

So much for Tyson getting a punch in. Hard to have much fight left if a chimp rips your dick off first.

But why this desire to even entertain such dangerous face-offs in the first place?

“As a student of evolutionary psychology, there may be something pressing about the possibility of our species going extinct and the desire to prove that we are still top of the heap,” Kumar suggested.

Bell came to a similar conclusion. “I think that humans, in general, have an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mindset when it comes to animals, and I am sure that to some men the idea of a ‘them’ being physically superior is upsetting,” she wrote. This is part of a larger problem: thanks to man’s neverending quest for dominance, Western Chimpanzees are considered critically endangered.

“[Chimps] have seen an eighty percent population decline since the 1990s,” Bell wrote. “They are threatened in a large part by habitat loss, but also historically, by the wildlife trade. [...] The demand for chimpanzees as pets, tourist attractions, and even as bushmeat is really catastrophic for wild populations...”

It’s ironic, then, that men dream of fighting a beast they’ve already cornered. A one-on-one battle might not end well, but with human weaponry and greed comes the most destructive show of dominance of all. The average bro drumming up hypothetical scenarios of dominating a chimp is mostly harmless, but ignorance about animals can have real-life consequences. If Bell’s e-mail taught me anything, it’s that when it comes to chimps, the moniker “don’t start nothin’, won’t be nothin’” rings true. So my message to the aggro men of the internet is this: Drop the intricate scenarios of beating a chimp to a pulp and donate some money to a wildlife foundation instead. The chimps—who can absolutely kick your ass—will thank you.

(Updated 3/3/22 with new details)