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Sex at Dawn Audiobook

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

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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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  •  
    Objective Reviewr 06-13-12

    Likes audio books

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Don't waste your time. Don't waste your $."

    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.

    2 of 4 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 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ben 05-23-12
    Ben 05-23-12 Member Since 2012
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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 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Reece Salt Lake City, UT USA 05-19-12
    Reece Salt Lake City, UT USA 05-19-12 Member Since 2017
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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 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CO Cyclist 04-27-12
    CO Cyclist 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 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tisa VICTORVILLE, CA, United States 08-17-11
    Tisa VICTORVILLE, CA, United States 08-17-11 Member Since 2017
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    "Argumentation and anthropology at their best."

    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.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Teri Houston, TX, United States 08-09-11
    Teri Houston, TX, United States 08-09-11 Member Since 2007
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    "A fresh view of accepted "norms""

    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.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    tyler San Diego, CA, United States 07-29-11
    tyler San Diego, CA, United States 07-29-11

    camptyler

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    "Didn't know what to expect. Great Listen!"

    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.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Howard San Diego, CA United States 07-17-11
    Howard San Diego, CA United States 07-17-11

    TaxProf

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    "God awful"

    I gave up after 90 minutes. The authors paint theories with which they disagree in cartoonish strokes and then assert their conclusions without any supporting data or argument. Perhaps it gets better but would anyone with anything to say really spend the first hour and a half wasting the listener's time? And the occasional turn of phrase the authors think is clever is anything but. Just a really, really bad book. Try the Selfish Gene, the Blank Slate, the Red Queen (by Matt Ridley), or anything by E. O. Wilson.

    4 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. 06-19-11
    C. 06-19-11 Member Since 2012
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    "Rather boring"

    I am surprised by the overly positive reviews for this book. The basic idea presented is interesting alright (but not that new), and it probably rings with the feeling of being trapped in current societies sexual rules and restrictions. But the book is very repetitive and focuses too much on picking a fight with established theories of human sexuality instead of presenting arguments for the "new" theory. I guess this would have been good as a 2 hour lecture, there is not enough substance for a 10 hour book. I stopped half way through, to turn to a better use of my time.

    4 of 8 people found this review helpful

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