In Sex at Dawn, husband and wife team Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá have written a book that questions both modern-day standards of human sexual behavior and the scientific history of our early ancestors. The book first explains and defines what it refers to as “the standard narrative”, the story of how humans evolved from our prehistoric ancestors to be monogamous beings with conflicting biological imperatives for males and females. Then, it goes on to refute this narrative, providing evidence from noted modern scholars like Steven Pinker, Malcolm Gladwell, and Frans De Waal, as well as renowned scientists and philosophers like Charles Darwin, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Hobbes.
Ryan and Jethá write, “Science all too often grovels at the feet of the dominant cultural paradigm.” Indeed, one of the most powerful ideas that Sex at Dawn puts forth is that culture has a way of coloring scientific and historical “fact”. Some of the examples given are quite disturbing, especially when large institutions are clearly engaged in cover ups of our true nature. The authors assert that many sexual myths (for example, that masturbation is some kind of medical affliction) have been repeated and disseminated over the years by religious, health, and state organizations. They take a controversial stance that this “cover up” tactic has also been applied to the non-monogamy of our closest primate relatives and early man. They believe that even if non-monogamy is not the dominant mode of being for contemporary humans, at the very least it should be viewed as a historic basis for our desires and behaviors.
The narration, which alternates between Allyson Johnson and Jonathan Davis, is clear and straightforward, particularly well-suited to this kind of book. Johnson especially makes the information, which can sometimes be dense, easily digestible and relatable. One of the authors, Christopher Ryan, reads the preface, which gives a hint of how he came to be interested in exploring the given subject matter. Through this section, we also get a way to connect directly to the authors and thus, the human (as opposed to the scientific) aspect of the issues discussed.
To claim that this work is exclusively or even mostly about sexual behavior would be a stretch. The book is very holistic, tackling bigger-picture issues of science, culture, history, and philosophy. That said, these large ideas are needed as building blocks for the claims the authors make about sex. Another triumph of Sex at Dawn is the attention the authors have given to presenting material on sex as it applies to men and women equally. Along those lines, another high point of the narration is that it echoes this sentiment through the interchanging male and female voices, reminding us that these ideas apply to both sexes in different ways.
What the book posits exactly is somewhat unclear. The authors themselves admit that they're not exactly sure what to do with all the information they have unearthed. That said, the great strength of Sex at Dawn is that it opens the discourse about human sexual behavior sans many of the taboos that traditionally accompany the topic. Gina Pensiero
Since Darwin's day, we've been told that sexual monogamy comes naturally to our species. Mainstream science - as well as religious and cultural institutions - has maintained that men and women evolved in families in which a man's possessions and protection were exchanged for a woman's fertility and fidelity. But this narrative is collapsing. Fewer and fewer couples are getting married, and divorce rates keep climbing as adultery and flagging libido drag down even seemingly solid marriages.
How can reality be reconciled with the accepted narrative? It can't be, according to renegade thinkers Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. While debunking almost everything we "know" about sex, they offer a bold alternative explanation in this provocative and brilliant book.
Ryan and Jetha's central contention is that human beings evolved in egalitarian groups that shared food, child care, and, often, sexual partners. Weaving together convergent, frequently overlooked evidence from anthropology, archaeology, primatology, anatomy, and psychosexuality, the authors show how far from human nature monogamy really is. Human beings everywhere and in every era have confronted the same familiar, intimate situations in surprisingly different ways. The authors expose the ancient roots of human sexuality while pointing toward a more optimistic future illuminated by our innate capacities for love, cooperation, and generosity.
BONUS AUDIO: Includes a Preface written and read by author Christopher Ryan.
©2010 Christopher Ryan, Cacilda Jetha (P)2010 Audible, Inc
“Funny, witty, and light ... Sex at Dawn is a scandal in the best sense, one that will have you reading the best parts aloud and reassessing your ideas about humanity’s basic urges well after the book is done.” (Newsweek)
“Sex at Dawn is the single most important book about human sexuality since Alfred Kinsey unleashed Sexual Behavior in the Human Male on the American public in 1948.” (Dan Savage)
"My favorite book of 2010...it's the only book I read this year that proved that I was badly mistaken about something." (Peter Sagal, host of NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!)
This explains alot!
They were very critical of other's citings and inferences of research, but at the very end fell into the same trap of citing shabby research and /or drawing poor conclusions.
Likes audio books
I just learned that the selection of zero stars is not permitted on Audible.com. I wonder why.
For page after page the authors gripe about people, human behaviors, and other authors. But they never lay out any credible thesis nor provide actual evidence to support it. They do inform us that we should EAT MORE BUGS. Seriously. I'm not making this up. Many many remarkable books are available on audible.com, so don't waste your time and money on this one.
One good thing about the book: it has SEX in the title. Woo Hoo! Don't fall for it.
I've been using internet keyword search term tools to understand business on the internet since 1997. One thing you learn immediately; filter out sexual search terms. These tool providers have the filters already set up and easily found. Why? Because the top two hundred or so searched words and phrases are sexual in nature and you don't want to waste time scrolling down past them every time you do a search for the high traffic search terms. We are sexual animals. The Victorian narrative musty old cover for timid or unimaginative scientific research in this area. These authors have the courage to tell us that most respected anthropologist 'have no clothes on' when they talk to us about monogamy and our primate nature.
We aren't plants. We are animals. We are primates. We hunted and gathered and women were equally good at getting the tribe fed. The most important thing I got from this book was a tip of the roots view of Patriarchy.
This book truely addresses how cultural bias has drastically effected the the scientific feilds of history, pyscology and evolutionary Biology and anthropology. I cant believe how obvious this information should be and how overlooked it is. The narration is amazing, with plenty of enthusiasm and energy also, cleverly organized, it really absorbs the attention and is easy to sit through.
I will listen to this again! For me at least this was an eye opening experience, and so many things were so new, that I most likely only got 60% of the info. Plus it was written so well I'm looking forward to the experience.
I really enjoyed having my perspective expanded and challenged a bit by this well-written book, and the primary narrator was excellent for the book.
My taste differs from kid books to gory horror books.
I am a christian male who has been happily married for over 33 years. My wife still turns men's heads at 53. Throughout our marriage I have wondered why I have been attracted to other females, when I am so happy at home. Why do so many men married to super star women cheat on their wives (Brad Pitt, Tiger Woods, etc.)
This puts out the argument that we were not meant to be monogamous. Monogamy is unhealthy.
They also show evidence that moving from hunter gathers to an agricultural society is the cause of many of our ill's today. We were not kick out of The Garden of Eden, we were kicked into it.
I am not a bible scholar, but think about this: God wanted us to trust him fully. Perhaps the tree of knowledge was the knowledge on how to grow apples. We started growing crops and not depending upon God. To be healthy we need to eat a variety of foods. Cultivation has lead us to stay in one place and eat the same foods. This leads to vitamin deficiency. A book offered by this club that I have not read yet is called Wheat Belly, which is supposed to be about how wheat makes us fat. Was Cain's sacrifice to God not appreciated because it was grain? Cain and the apple tree are not mentioned in the book, they are what I thought of because this book makes you think, but you have to be open minded.
The book is very entertaining and reminded me several times of Jean Auel's series. She has taken grief sometimes because of her randy cave men. This shows that she may not have showed them as randy enough.
The book is very one sided and it has not convinced me to cheat on my wife or join a commune, but it is a different way to think about our society past and present and I always enjoy writings that challenge the norm. If you can not be open minded about your religion our belief system then you will hate this book. If you like to challenge your beliefs then this is food for thought.
Very well-written argument for the authors' POV about the evolution of human sexuality. Authors claim we took a left turn with the advent of agriculture. Binobo or chimp--that it the question. It is well-researched and references several of my other favorite researchers, including Steven Pinker. It got a second "listen," and that is unusual for this audiophile.
Very well written and researched, the authors question the accepted notion that monogamy is somehow natural for humans. Applys insigts from anthropology, archeology and biology to make the point that our ancestors were most likely non-monogamous. They go a bit off track when they try to attribute our monogamous culture to the market however. The problem is not the concept of personal property, but trying to apply that concept to relationships.
This book was a really enjoyable delve into human sexuality. I got this book not knowing what to expect and was more that pleasantly surprised. The narrator (Johnson) was very enjoyable to listen to and read it as if the author would, if that makes sense.
The book not only gives the author's theories into why we are who we are but also gives endless scientific research to back their claims.
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