Fascinating info on the biochemical basis of lust, romance, and attachment, as well as well-reasoned hypotheses concerning the bio-history of the humaFascinating info on the biochemical basis of lust, romance, and attachment, as well as well-reasoned hypotheses concerning the bio-history of the human brain and the evolutionary usefulness of such things as promiscuity, jealousy, and serial monogamy. The author does, however, engage, at times, in blatant guesswork and she tends to approach the topics in the book with a more romanticized outlook than I would have like, but it was still an excellent read....more
Though it contained very little that I didn't already know, this book was enjoyable. Well-written, approachable, and wide-ranging, I would highly recoThough it contained very little that I didn't already know, this book was enjoyable. Well-written, approachable, and wide-ranging, I would highly recommend this book to any who are looking for an introductory text on the biology of human sexuality....more
This was a neat book. Since it was writen a while ago many of the concepts in it are based on a slightly outdated understanding of evolution, but, othThis was a neat book. Since it was writen a while ago many of the concepts in it are based on a slightly outdated understanding of evolution, but, other than that, it was an interesting take on possible future human forms. Again, like the other books about alternate evolution, this book offers great fodder for weird creature development....more
This was absolutely fascinating, though the author could have benefited from an editor with sharper eyes and a sense of literary asthetic. Great theorThis was absolutely fascinating, though the author could have benefited from an editor with sharper eyes and a sense of literary asthetic. Great theories and hypotheses on why our species has two genders, rather than only one or three+ like many species, and why we produce sexually instead of some other way. I liked it....more
Well-researched, though dry, read. I can't say that I agree with every little detail of his interpretations aqs applied to the modern world, but he seWell-researched, though dry, read. I can't say that I agree with every little detail of his interpretations aqs applied to the modern world, but he seems dead-on for the most part. His writing style is a little pedantic, which makes reading this book a bit of a time commitment, but I enjoyed it overall. I would, however, probably not read it again unless I had to, being that it is somewhat dull....more
This was a fairly comprehensive, and therefore long, overview of a gay and lesbian perspective on history over the last 150 or so years. While the autThis was a fairly comprehensive, and therefore long, overview of a gay and lesbian perspective on history over the last 150 or so years. While the authors made a point of covering gay issues from all over the world, most of the history was a bit Eurocentric, so that was a little disappointing. Then again, it was already long and being any more broad in scope would have simply made it longer, so maybe it was a good choice to limit most of the coverage to Europe and the United States. Overall this is a good book for grasping many of the root concepts concerning gay rights and gay identity, though it does read a lot like a text book and, therefore, may not appeal to some people....more
This book was awful. Ostensibly an anthropological/sociological analysis of BDSM, it was nothing more than a poorly organized collection of the authorThis book was awful. Ostensibly an anthropological/sociological analysis of BDSM, it was nothing more than a poorly organized collection of the author's own pet hypotheses and pseudo-psychological takes on the subject, made all the more annoying by the fact that he expressed his all-too-subjective views as objective facts. On top of all this the editing was atrocious and the author's attempts at humor were awkward and stilted, making for a tiresome screed that was truly a chore to slog through. Seriously, I want those hours of my life back....more
What a delightfully acerbic little book! The title is a smidge misleading, though, as Kipinis rails not against the emotion of love per se, but againsWhat a delightfully acerbic little book! The title is a smidge misleading, though, as Kipinis rails not against the emotion of love per se, but against the American institutions surrounding love and its proper pursuit and maintenance (and it is aimed squarely at a U.S. audience). Kipinis argues that labeling monogamous life-long pair-bonding as the “natural” relationship dynamic is more than a little odd, given that this “natural” state can only seem to be maintained by ceaseless effort (“Successful marriages take work!”), scores of exogenously enforced religious and social taboos, and a smorgasbord of both institutionally provided benefits (tax breaks, hospital visitation rights, inheritance, etc.) and potential threats (broken pre-nup agreements, potential loss of child custody, legal fees, etc.); and the omnipresence of both philandering and divorce argues against this “natural” state, too. While she does overstate her case quite frequently (it is a polemic, after all), she does make quite a few good points, and her ability to turn a phrase is excellent. And though Kipinis does do a good job of taking our current institutions to task, she neglects to offer any viable alternatives, though I suspect that was intentional; the whole point of a polemic like this is to spark critical thinking in its readership, and there’s no better way to do that than to show them the flaws in the current system and let them ponder possible solutions and alternatives themselves. A fun, quick, and scathing read; well done, Kipinis, well done....more
Exhaustively researched and elegantly written, Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment is both a wonderfully detailed history of the infamous TuskExhaustively researched and elegantly written, Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment is both a wonderfully detailed history of the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment and an incisive analysis of the effects of institutionalized discrimination on marginalized segments of a population. From the ingrained racism that led many early 20th century doctors to believe that blacks and whites respond differently to various diseases (despite a complete lack of supporting evidence) to the blind faith that many in the early- to mid-century had in medical researchers to police themselves responsibly and ethically to the tendency of the Tuskegee Experiment’s directors to willfully blind themselves to the ethically questionable nature of their endeavor, this book provides an excellent and chilling lesson both on how cultural environments and personal foibles can unknowingly influence something as ostensibly objective as scientific inquiry, and on the absolute necessity of the placement of ethics as the foremost consideration in all biomedical research. Jones follows his historical critique of the Experiment with a treatment on the effects of the Experiment’s legacy on the early years of the AIDS crises, which I found particularly eye opening. After reading the history of the experiment and seeing the disturbing parallels, in both cultural perceptions and in institutional reactions, between syphilis early in the century and AIDS later in the century, the fact that conspiracy theories popped up among many black and gay people in the wake of AIDS makes more sense to me now than it did before (not to say that the theories themselves make any sense, simply that the emotional impetus behind them is understandable). This book is a must-read for any burgeoning scientist and should be required reading in all research ethics classes....more
This book was fascinating. Regnerus takes information from two very large national studies, the National Survey of Youth and Religion and National LonThis book was fascinating. Regnerus takes information from two very large national studies, the National Survey of Youth and Religion and National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, as well as some info from a few smaller bits of research, and subjects it to some rather involved statistics and some rigorous criticism, resulting in the revelation of some very interesting and often surprising data. Many people tend to view the effects of religion on things such as sexual attitudes and bahaviors as simple and obvious, but Regnerus' critique shows that they are far more likely to be comlex and counterintuitive. While written with the intention of mass-consumption in mind, Regnerus writes in a fairly acedemic mannor, which makes the book dry and frankly dull at points. The breadth of data collected and the depth of balanced schaloastic inquiry, however, both make the tiresome parts well worth plowing through. Most people with an opinion on the religion/sex interaction in our society would benefit from reading this book, as just about anyone-religious, athiest, or agnostic-is likely to have at least one, and probably many, preconceptions about the whole thing overturned by the time they're finished reading....more
Once again Pinker has produced another great book (though I think "tome" has the cadence to better convey the work's sheer size). Exhaustively researcOnce again Pinker has produced another great book (though I think "tome" has the cadence to better convey the work's sheer size). Exhaustively researched and cogently presented, Pinker makes a convincing argument for the decline of violence in the world over the past few centuries. As with his other books, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined reveals Pinker to be one of the modern day's great thinkers and polymaths, as he demonstrates a greater-than-passing familiarity with disciplines as diverse as history, philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, and literature. Starting with a brief tour of the history of human cruelty, Pinker then dives first into the sociohistorical events that he views played the largest parts in pacifying (and continue to pacify) our species. He then follows up with a wonderfully thorough treatment of human psychology and neuroscience, illuminating clearly and point-by-point how our own wiring and heuristics can influence us towards the path of angel or demon, depending on the context. Pinker wraps up his work with a concise summary of how he views that his previously enumerated sociohistorical trends have been playing the right way to the right parts of our brains, helping to gear us away from the senseless brutality of our past.
Pinker's recognition of the fact that the overall decline of violence in the world is likely due to multiple factors is refreshing, given that most who have tried to tackle the subject attempt to explain our historical pacifying trend as the result of only one or two causes. Pinker brings up many of these alternate views, describes their reasoning in detail, and then meticulously explains why he doesn't see them working (in particular, he does a wonderful job of deconstructing the idea that legalized abortions lowered violence in the U.S., which was first popularized by Levitt and Dubner in Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything). Pinker also doesn't shy away from saying he doesn't have all the answers to all the details of violence's decline, though in such cases he still puts forth numerous hypotheses. An excellent book for anyone to read....more
This is quite a provocative work. Though a self-admitted member the gay bareback “subculture”, Dean manages to expound upon the potential motivationsThis is quite a provocative work. Though a self-admitted member the gay bareback “subculture”, Dean manages to expound upon the potential motivations of gay men who habitually eschew the use of condoms while neither condoning nor condemning said behavior. Dean attacks his topic psychoanalytically, which, despite being plagued by the non-falsifiable “just so” cognitive maneuvers that are typical of such an approach, very cleanly places the topic of gay bareback sex into a scholastic space of non-judgment, a necessity for one attempting to achieve honest insights into such an emotionally charged topic. Also, unlike many who psychoanalyze, Dean is very good about using appropriate qualifiers such as “perhaps”, “could possibly”, and “influence”, rather than “is”, “are”, and “cause”, and that alone earns this work a full star.
Dean’s arguments for the motivations that drive barebacking are intriguing, though occasionally contradictory, and do a decent job of de-pathologizing an admittedly risky sex act for the reader. He also makes a well-reasoned argument against identity politics as undemocratic and isolating, using Delany’s contact/networking distinction to good effect. He wraps up the book by arguing that networking is the more democratic, and therefore desirable, of the previously stated dichotomy and that gay bareback culture embraces an ethos of networking more so than contact, thus implying a fairly homogenous moral core to gay bareback culture. I find this last bit unconvincing, not least because I disagree that a shared set of behaviors automatically equates to a “culture”. I also didn’t like that fact that Dean threw off his largely successful non-partisan position, which he maintained throughout the rest of the book, by basically implying that bareback sex is some kind of grand and morally justifiable practice in democracy.