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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

Earphones Award Winner (AudioFile Magazine)

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

"A surprisingly non-titillating book about sex among prehistoric people makes for a terrific audio adaptation...With their straightforward approach, the narrators show professionalism and authority in this anthropological discussion of sex." (AudioFile)

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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Performance
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  •  
    Vadim Rockville, MD, United Statese 12-25-12
    Vadim Rockville, MD, United Statese 12-25-12
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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 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    peter Houten, Netherlands 04-01-12
    peter Houten, Netherlands 04-01-12 Member Since 2005
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    "Ground breaking insights"

    If you love to have your firmly held believes shaken/challenged, this is probably your kind of book. I can smell out people that have done their research and these authors fit the bill. They first explain the standard narrative with good arguments, that make you say:"Yeah, that must be right" and then they debunk them. They must have had many discussions about this with other people, before writing the book, because they know all the standard objections that pop up in your head and have a good response. I'm not totally on board with everything, but they definitely have a good point.
    I continue to be amazed about the cultural nonsense that is pumped in our brains, seemingly always resulting in a more violent society, while simultaneously giving you the idea it's getting more peaceful thanks to these same moral prophets (prepare to get Steven Pinker and Thomas Hobbs debunked). For thousands of years our presidents,priests and politicians have tried to eradicate private property, prostitution and promiscuity. All it resulted in was which hunts, massive wars, concentration camps and bloodshed and it always seems to come back.
    The only philosophical problem I saw was the idea that early foragers
    - did not have private property
    - did have compulsory sharing
    - were egalitarian
    The word sharing implies property (would you like to have some of MY apples). There is no such thing as public property, because the public does not have hands to control property. There are people who claim control of property in the name of the public, but that is the same scam as those claiming control of property in name of god.
    If they had compulsory sharing, there was someone coercing and someone being coerced, this is contradictory with egalitarian. They continue by saying this probably extended to sexual relations as well. But if you have compulsory sharing of partners, there is rape going on, which they would deny, I think.
    What they meant is that there was a strong urge to share a lot and remember who reciprocated, to increase chances of survival.
    Other than that, a great brain tickler that explains a lot of relation ship trouble going on in the world today and in a wider sense a lot of conflict and wars.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matthew Ottawa, ON, Canada 01-03-11
    Matthew Ottawa, ON, Canada 01-03-11 Member Since 2015
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    "Fascinating!"

    Really interesting, and unlike many semi-scientific books, isn't just a boring repetition of the same points 50 million times. Great read!

    8 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Porc 12-22-10
    Porc 12-22-10 Member Since 2015
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    "An Important Book with a disappointing reader"

    I just finished this book and I can say that I was deeply impressed with the scholarship, thoughtfullness and bravery that they had in writing it. I want to get more people I know to read it, just so that I can discuss whether they agree or disagree and how much.

    That being said, I didn't like the reader of this audio-book format of it at all. She seemed smarmy and annoying and she made many sections feel cliche male-bashing, which were probably nothing more than than a playful presentation of their research when it's read from a printed copy.

    11 of 21 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dax New York 11-20-17
    Dax New York 11-20-17 Member Since 2015
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    "Fantastic"

    So many things to walk away from this book I’m glad I now know. Since life is all about expectation management it’s great to be able to understand what the odds are that we are up against as a species. The fact our biology does not align with our culture makes you feel a lot less pressure to conform and less stress. The writers definitely did their researchI wish all humans would read this book as high school text. -Cheers, Dax Martinez-Vargas

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher M. Kaplan 11-17-17
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    "Anthropology text"

    This book was not what I expected however still excellent. A deep dive into the canon of anthropology and how it just gets it wrong. I like how this book just makes it clear where the research turns a blind eye to the facts and reveals that we are maybe not who we think we are and that perhaps there’s another way for us to Live.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan 11-14-17
    Ryan 11-14-17
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    "Worth every minute"

    Phenomenal book. A book worthy of being on everyone's 'Must Read' list. Being scientifically based, it has some dry moments where it's necessary to give the reader background facts, but listen through them because there is always something worth it coming up right after.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    chris f 11-06-17
    chris f 11-06-17 Member Since 2013
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    "definitely worth giving some thought to"

    the book over all was good. it got Kind of slow when looking at some of the ancestral comparisons between apes and Humans but the latter part of the book was great.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paganach 11-01-17
    Paganach 11-01-17
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    "Engaging narrative, well performed."

    Excellent overview of research from multiple disciples, collected and discussed in an engaging narrative. Thought provoking. The narrator does a great job!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. D. Selders Toledo, Ohio USA 10-30-17
    S. D. Selders Toledo, Ohio USA 10-30-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Redefining modern views of sexuality"

    The authors did a fantastic job of writing this well-researched book so that the average reader can understand the sometimes complicated material. Occasional humor punctuates very strong ideas, with plenty of nods to the research and work of others throughout history. The narration of the audio version is well done, very clear and patient when it comes to some of the more scientific writing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Ekaterina Banina
    5/27/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Good ideas presented in a suboptimal way"

    First of all, I surely learnt a lot from the book as most readers would do. It presents a lot of varied material supporting the theory of human natural promiscuity. In particular, the evidence presented in the last few chapters was very convincing.
    what I didn't like, however, was the tone of the writing and the narration The book was full of scientific facts, but the style of delivery is far too casual and borderline disrespectful to the "standard narrative" or most other scientific theories. Comments like "Really?" (delivered in a characteristic tone) undermined the substantially of the evidence the authors were presenting it was very unnecessary Challenging the status quo is a hard task and is probably best tackled with less emotion and more common sense.
    overall, however, I'm glad I've finished the book (even though I paused midway as the middle third of the book seemed to be repeating itself over and over).The book has definitely left me with some new thoughts and knowledge and I will be coming back to some examples from the story to better understand life, sexual and romantic relationships.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    England
    1/20/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Thought provoking and controversial"

    An excellent, alternative explanation for the sexual condition we find ourselves in. It made me realise just how taboo and unmentionable the subject still is.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Patrick
    London, United Kingdom
    2/13/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Incredible read"
    If you could sum up Sex at Dawn in three words, what would they be?

    insightful, inspiring, honest


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

    when the author blew Steven Pinkers latest book out of the water with his incredible arguments.


    What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

    beautiful balanced female voice, although it was a male who wrote the book. fascinating effect


    Any additional comments?

    GET THIS BOOK!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Sarah
    11/10/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "finished in 3 days!"

    Great book. Couldnt put it down. Eye opening and although a little bit corny in places gave me great overview for the debate on human mating systems.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Anonymous
    6/26/17
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    "*Extremely Interesting*"

    So much information. I WILL DEFINITELY BE LISTENING AGAIN TO ABSORB ALL OF THE LESSONS.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • jason oleary
    6/11/17
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    Story
    "Buy it, it's fascinating!"

    Witty, informative and totally fascinating. An alternative view on the somewhat Victorian ideas we are taught on Sexuality and our ancestors behaviour.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • marc.lavelle3
    5/29/17
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    Story
    "nice alternative spin on human sexual narrative"

    A must for anyone interested in anthropology with a lash of sex. I really want to dive deeper into the subject after reading (well...listening, but whatever).

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Andrei S.
    5/13/17
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    Story
    "Not just about sex, but also social history"

    A very interesting book telling the story of how society evolved with so many fixed ideas that influence everything from science to basic human emotions. The authors break apart basic myths and look at the root of each scientific theory and how many of these theories have been skewed by what people wanted to see. I highly recommend this book, although I know some people will struggle to accept it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mark Judge
    3/18/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent!"

    I enjoyed this book immensely, I especially liked the way it all came together at the end.

    This book has helped me gain a better understanding of myself and that's why I gave it full marks.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Faruk Sissala
    12/28/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Life changing book."

    This book is simply amazing and eye opening.
    A must read for everyone.
    Be prepared though.. because your deepest beliefs may be challenged.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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