Sperm Wars: The Science of Sex
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Sperm Wars: The Science of Sex

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  1,167 ratings  ·  103 reviews
If you've ever looked upon sperm as a little army of white-coated soldiers setting off to sack and pillage a barely pregnable fortress . . . well, you'd be right, according to this fascinating new book. Dr. Robin Baker, who has studied sperm and cervical mucus in much greater detail than anyone would've thought necessary, has come to some startling conclusions: that less t...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 28th 1997 by Basic Books (first published 1964)
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Manny
'Hello Tom.'

'Oh, hello Mrs. Harding. I'm sorry, my parents aren't at home...'

'Laura. I told you last time to please call me Laura. We worked out that I was only eight years older than you, remember?'

'I'm sorry... Laura. They've gone to...'

'Yes, of course. They've gone to the premiere of the play that I have been looking forward to all week, except that my bloody husband had to cancel and go to a terribly important meeting when the bloody taxi was already standing outside. Sometimes I wonder why...more
Callum
Well this book was always going to split the field, what with it's open, frank and polemical discussions of rape and prostitution. This is a fascinating text that is well worth reading with an OPEN MIND.

There are conjectures made that seem to disgust some reviewers on this website. What they seem to consistently miss, however, is that our views on social conduct and our sense of right from wrong is a remarkably recent cognitive development when viewed on an evolutionary timescale. So these conje...more
Jonatron
Oct 09, 2009 Jonatron rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jonatron by: the "Human Evolution" Myspace group
I had been asking sex questions on a human evolution group, and was told more than once to read Sperm Wars. "It explains everything." The book focuses heavily on infidelity, which I really didn't want to think about at the time, and explains the biological basis of sexual behavior. I was a little worried about "knowing too much"; that this knowledge would depress me and ruin my sex life. I bought a copy and lost it before reading it.

Recently, it came up in conversation again, and, feeling more a...more
Claire
Sperm Wars made me realize how evolutionary biology got such a bad rap. Through this book, Robin Baker alternates sexual scenes with explanations of how the physical battle to procreate that happens internally can lead to seemingly irrational, immoral, or simply puzzling behavior, ranging from infidelity, to why the desire of when and how the female has an orgasm changes, to why group rape occurs.

Baker provides information on how sperm ratio differs in different sexual contexts, what role the c...more
Brad

Ok, I have nothing against softcore porn. I hate unsubstantiated psuedoscience. This book crams the two together. I want my science porn free. I want my science to cite sources. I want my science to be free of cultural agenda and bias. Alas, Baker failed me thrice. Much of what he describes is substantiated scientific theory that has been presented properly in other works. Some is rampant speculation. The porn that begins each chapter adds NOTHING to the topic at hand; not even detailed case stu...more
Nick
Oh my gosh this is cuckold porn disguised as a biologists view of the social realities of reproduction.

Even in his preface he admits there are many biologists who will view this book as a complete work of fiction, but the first time I read that did not have the same impact it had as when I was done.

The entire book is comprised of "examples" he gives about sexuality, and he then explains his point of view on what "transpired" in his imagination, he explains they are not "real" situations, but are...more
Katy Stauber
It would have been interesting except some basic research indicates that most of the premises upon which this book was written are total crap. Very much of the 'women are evil cows after our vital essence' ideology with some penis envy overtones presented as scientific fact. Totally ridiculous book to have been written in this century.
Alyssa
This is the worst pseudo-scientific book I have read since The Naked Ape. It's hard to believe it can be called non-fiction. The copy I was given seems to be a vanity publication. The research seems opinion based and is not scientifically documented at all in the book. There are no references or citations and the fictionalized case studies are nothing more than soft porn. I wasn't surprised to find out that Dr. Baker has been completely discredited by his colleagues in evolutionary biology. I wo...more
Jon Finkel
Nov 15, 2007 Jon Finkel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in love, sex, or science
Absolutely fascinating. I learned so much I don't know where to begin. Did you know that 99% of sperm's primary function is to do battle with other mens' sperm inside the woman, and that only 1% is capable of fertilization? The woman's orgasm is her way of helping the sperm of the man she prefers. 10% of children's real dad isn't the man who thinks he's the father. Just an amazing scientific work, well written, funny, and informative.
Alex Harmon
This is one of the most fascinating books I've read in the last few years.

In retrospect I am really amused at some of the reviews for this book on this site and elsewhere from women who are, for lack of a more adequate term, butthurt over the contents of the book. Sure, if taken from a certain misandrous point of view the stories written by the author can be seen to be very damning towards women. The trick is that these women (and some self-hating men) seem to be stuck in a (probably religious)...more
Mark
Here's an explanation of the hangover after the free lovin' 60's, and where you got that red hair!


So far it seems a bit gratuitous, just partly credible & somewhat unfair to women. Would be a weak echo of the selfish gene, except that SW anticipates that book by decades. On the plus side, huge points for boldly, (if somewhat clumsily) exploring a new genre space, including titillating and episodes which behavior he then ties into the sperm wars.

----------------------------------------------...more
Ilana
Baker did his best to show various "reproductive strategies" without moralizing sex. Evolution of "whatever works," human behavior as strategies leaning towards better reproductive success. I love this kind of thinking.

This is a great introductory book to evolutionary psychology. Just be careful not to get too attached to the conclusions. Baker takes some observable facts (vagina's PH is hostile to sperm, and vaginal mucus is a sponge barrier blocking the sperm from the egg) and explains his f...more
Kelly
This is a very silly book about a very interesting topic - why human sexual habits evolved to be the way they are. Unfortunately, absolutely no evidence is presented for any of his ideas (the author sort of lamely suggests reading another of his books if you want the hard facts, as though there is no possibility that the general public could handle meaningful scientific argument). As with most theories of how human behaviors evolved, there's a lot to critique and question, but we never get a cha...more
Jacob O'connor
I promise I'm almost done with these books. Even my review may be offensive to some, so be warned.

This is another of the evolution books I brought out to research my paper.

Baker has best answer I've found to why we masturbate. He argues that self-stimulation is a biologicalimperativewith a very particular design. It helps us regulate our semen quality to maximize both our chances of procreation as well as ourchancesof outcompeting a rival's ejaculate if our mate has been unfaithful. The way it...more
Marybeth
Not really sure what the big deal is. There isn't anything here that isn't in any standard textbook on human sexuality (or at least nothing substantiated). I have trouble thinking of this as a 'science book'; not one footnote, no bibliography, only a back cover allusion to the author's many publications during a 16 year career as a university lecturer.
Sean Goh
If one reads this book with an uncritical mind, you will be apt to find it very interesting, with many conclusions that make sense.

Yet it must be noted that this book lacks references, and anecdotal conjectures (for the evidence, read my other science-heavy publication!) aren't quite the same as scientific hypotheses backed by evidence.

A simple search disproves one of the more interesting claims (sperm specialisation) http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/197/1/..., so there.

Baker's main thread seems t...more
Andrew Calderon
This book has NO REFERENCES. None. It has controversial theories and sexual vignettes (albeit some interesting ones) that root our sexual instincts and relationship behaviors in purely biological terms. That isn't a novel approach: what is novel is the purported contrivances the female body has evolved to collect sperm; his perspective on homosexuality; and his contention that female bodies are constantly trying to foment sperm wars within themselves. It's all highly cerebral and not very scient...more
Mauri
Very Interesting. My only complaint that it gets hard to read the case studies as the book goes on, since they refer to previous cases by number only, and you have to remember that Case 34 was the one with the orgy (and so forth)
Audra
Oct 02, 2007 Audra rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who has sex
What DIDN'T I learn from this book?! If you want to find out why your body and your brain are often at odds, read read read this book.
Nick
Not being an evolutionary biologist by trade, I don’t have a single, scientific leg to stand on as I write this, so there’s my disclaimer… but:

There’s something dodgy about this book. Some of the arguments seem absolutely sound, some do not. For instance, there appears to be an illogical standpoint on condoms. To suit the argument, the man’s body can either detect wearing one, or not. There are others where I wonder if too complex a set of behaviours are being put down to biological imperatives,...more
Kumar McMillan
The behavior of human sperm is fascinating: only a small percentage are actually fertile enough to inseminate an egg. The rest exhibit complex features that apparently exist to block or kill the sperm of other males inside the same woman's body.

Under what behaviors and reproductive strategies did humans evolve to developer sperm like this? If you're interested in finding scientific answers to that question then this book will disappoint you. It is a collection of made up erotic stories accompani...more
Chris
This book is both depressing and sobering, but at least it was interesting to realize that many actions that men and women take are not taken because of conscious or rational deliberation, but are rather the result of subconscious and instinctive drives which are then rationalized after-the-fact and according to the actors preferences, morals and ideology. This was deeply unsettling as it appears to chip away at our supposed freedom of choice: why do we do the things we do - it is not because we...more
Broodingferret
This was an interesting read, albeit a bit arduous at times. Baker's thesis is that all human sexual behavior can be explained from a biological stand point, an ambitious view that he doesn't fully succeed in demonstrating. While many of the phenomena he discusses, such as the widely varied orgasmic patterns observed among females compared to the highly predixtible patterns seen among males, can be convincingly attributed to biological causes, others, such as the various cross-cultural taboos ag...more
Jessa
At first I loved the book. So much of the information, both biological and sociological, were things I'd never heard of before. But as the books goes on, repeating certain details to death and gliding over others with little explanation, you realize that many theories are being presented as fact. At least, I can only assume they're theories, because I'm expected to just take it in good faith that all of these interpretations of "studies" are accurate, unbiased, and thorough. Without hard data, o...more
Taka
Interesting but often too roundabout and redundant--


Robin Baker does offer an interesting interpretation of human sexuality, but some points he makes seem to be blatantly assumed than based on solid scientific evidence, such as specifically how men gain information about their mates from oral sex (Scene 10), what mechanism men use to adjust the number of sperm in their ejaculates (Scene 4), and how women's bodies could be said to "manipulate" their emotions to reduce the chances of conception (S...more
Marc
El llibre mira això de la reproducció sexual humana des de la perspectiva de la biologia evolutiva. És a dir, sota la premissa que el comportament sexual humà es basa en estratègies reeixides, i que per tant tot ha de tenir una raó en els mecanismes evolutius. S'interpreta la causa a partir dels efectes. En canvi, el llibre d'en Tobeña estudia les causes per si mateixes, els mecanisme neuronals que ens fan tenir el comportament sexual que tenim. Per dir-ho d'alguna manera, la primera aproximació...more
David Wallace Fleming
SPERM WARS

This was a disturbing book that took a while for me to get through. And I'm not sure why this is the case because (in my opinion) the book is a lot harder on women than on men. THE MORAL ANIMAL in contrast is a book which also derives from similar evolutionary pyschology principles and seems to be fairly hard on men.

Everyone should read this book and yet ...I'm not exactly sure why? Maybe because much of the information that exists between these pages has the ring of truth to it and I'...more
Helen Swanson
While the underlying science of Sperm Wars is interesting, the narratives emphasizing its points are poorly written, unimaginative, deterministic, and sexist. This book achieves the odd combination of being too simplistic (in its depictions of human behavior) and not simplistic enough (in the unnecessary details given in an attempt at characterization). Avoid.
Mel
Some parts of the book was very interesting like the concept of a man inseminating exactly the right amount of sperm in order to have the best chance in the sperm war (battling to get to the egg first assuming all the time that their partner is practicing infidelity) and also the different types of sperm which was fascinating as I thought there was just the one type (Sperm finds egg)!

I was a little disturbed about the way the book based everything on infidelities as normal?!!!####$$$¥¥¥!!! And...more
David
I don't usually enjoy books in the field of science, but this one was an exception, even though at times it was could be rather provocative and distasteful. But wow, a lot is going on 'down there,' and it has a greater impact on our behavior than we would like to think. It also provides reasonable explanations for seemingly strange behaviors (sexual and otherwise). The book is presented in a series of 'scenes' which serve to build upon one another in order to introduce more complicated concepts....more
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Also published as R. Robin Baker
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