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Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships | [Christopher Ryan, Cacilda Jetha]

Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships

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....
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Audible Editor Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

“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!)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    ovb 02-07-13
    ovb 02-07-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Nice, enjoyed it but one point of view"
    What made the experience of listening to Sex at Dawn the most enjoyable?

    It give a nice overview of the topic from a different view
    Although not all "evidence" is not as solide as the present it.

    and f the evidens not suite it is ignore or twiste

    regardless it is a great listen and i enjoyed this audiobook a lot

    i read an other reviewer "good but not great" i follow him/her in the review.

    but good is good enough for me ... it was not boring nor trying to convince you (too hard)

    Recommended


    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jay WICHITA, KS, United States 12-28-12
    Jay WICHITA, KS, United States 12-28-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Very good listen!"

    I would recommend this book to everyone wanting to understand males, females, sex and marriage. This book helps explain where human sexuality comes from and why we have the issues we do today. It doesn't recommend a solution, just explains how we have arrived at this point. The understanding of how and why we "are" is key to helping us solve our marital issues.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Heather Mauro Colorado Springs, CO 06-04-12
    Heather Mauro Colorado Springs, CO 06-04-12 Member Since 2013

    HRM

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    "Who knew prehistoric sex could be funny?!?!"
    What did you love best about Sex at Dawn?

    I truly loved listening to this book. It was witty, insightful, and just a fun listen. I was afraid this was going to be sort of dry and boring (think Anthropology 101) but it wasn't...I was very pleasantly surprised!


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Sex at Dawn?

    There's a part in the book where the authors discuss the topic of this book with another anthropologist and the guy says "what are you going to do close your eyes and imagine". I thought that was great. They took a very realistic approach to the subject by saying, "hey we don't have all the answers..but here's what we got". Combined with the research and the tongue-in-cheeck humor. It made for a very likable and compelling read!


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M. Yinger 06-04-12
    M. Yinger 06-04-12
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    "Kudos to Ryan and Jetha"
    What made the experience of listening to Sex at Dawn the most enjoyable?

    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.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ben United States 05-23-12
    Ben United States 05-23-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Revealing"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Reece Salt Lake City, UT USA 05-19-12
    Reece Salt Lake City, UT USA 05-19-12
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    "Endlessly Fascinating! Every human should Read!!!"
    Would you listen to Sex at Dawn again? Why?

    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.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Neil 04-27-12
    Neil 04-27-12 Member Since 2010
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    "A fun and interesting twist on "history""

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carl West Palm Beach, FL, United States 11-14-10
    Carl West Palm Beach, FL, United States 11-14-10 Member Since 2015
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    "Mind Blowing."

    One of those books that will change the way you think about yourself and others. Well read and performed. Intensive research. A science book that reads like a thriller. Amazing.

    22 of 34 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jason SEATTLE, WA, United States 06-16-13
    Jason SEATTLE, WA, United States 06-16-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Great Book"
    Would you recommend Sex at Dawn to your friends? Why or why not?

    Yes, it gives a sense of our instate sexually and causes you to examine a subject that is not easily talked about.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes, I was engaged and captivated the entire time.


    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vadim Maitland, FL, United States 12-25-12
    Vadim Maitland, FL, United States 12-25-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Scientific study of the origins of modersexuality"
    Would you listen to Sex at Dawn again? Why?

    There's a lots of interesting facts that might be worth to hear again


    What other book might you compare Sex at Dawn to and why?

    I haven't read anything in that field before so I can't compare but to my taste it looks like PhD grade scientific study that was simplified for general public


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Quote of one of the respondents about cheating on his wife when he describes change in his perception after that as everything around became for him vividly colorful and food tasted better.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. But topic is ever so interesting that reader will not want to drop and walk away forever from this one I think


    Any additional comments?

    The authors made a pretty simple and smart statement in the beginning that they want to just to start conversation on that particular topic and in the end it didn't sound to me like they certain about their own assumptions but reader who's interested in the topic will find useful sufficient factual base of the book

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
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