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!)
During my life many times I have felt that I was from another planet, or age. Nevertheless, the findings presented in this book truly show the core of our human biology and spirit. We are basically the same species we were a quarter million years ago. While most of our religions are only a few thousands years old. So, we can say that in the latest 5% of our existence in this planet many religions have tried to artificially "reshape" our nature. Even worse, those "teachings" are hard-coded in so many current legislations. How wrong we have been to ourselves!!
This is perhaps one of the best books about sex, with actual empirical and scientific evidence, while philosophical and non fact based research are ignored when possible. Book points out number of fallacies in modern evolutionary psychology theories.
I do recommend to read it to everyone who is older than 14.
With as juicy a topic as sex, you would think that more science books would be attempting to get to the bottom of the origins of our unique sexual behaviors. Some of the ideas that are assumed true by folks like Robert Wright or Steven Pinker are given a more thorough examination here. One example is the idea that men's and women's sexual motives are evolved to be opposed to one another. Another theory is presented, and backed up well enough with research to at least make you reconsider. One argument that I found to be very strong was that men are not evolved to need to be positive about paternity and that sexual jealousy is not innately wired into Them. It sounds crazy at first, but the evidence is very strong. The book busts one myth after another, and shows rather convincingly in many chapters that a move toward monogamous partnerships hasn't been 100% good for us. Then it makes a strong case that monogamy is a relatively new norm. Despite the fact that we are so adamant that cheating is the worst thing ever, it's done with head spinning frequency. While not every argument made in the book will turn out to be perfect, the case the authors make is strong enough to demand more attention. And if nothing else, it's a sexy topic, so you get your money's worth on that alone.
It's high time someone wrote a book that clears the air with regard to the origins of man's sexuality free from the miasma of religious and societal stigma. Well done.
I really enjoyed it. It was well worth listening. I liked learning about the Bonobo apes and how they are very similar to us; especially in comparison to other apes. I really enjoyed the author's voice. The author elaborates clearly regarding the sexual practices and customs of various tribes of people. I learned a lot about anthropology, culture and history from this audiobook.
May be the first truly important book on the subject of sex this century. Ground breaking. Read this book.
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)
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.
The book was very insightful but it. They have a solid thesis and idea but no true downsides about the authors beliefs were included. This is something each reader will have to listen carefully to find the errors and the great insight. I believe the author is right but has too much interest on his/her side of the story for good reason.
Yes, it gives a sense of our instate sexually and causes you to examine a subject that is not easily talked about.
Yes, I was engaged and captivated the entire time.
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