Melissa's Reviews > Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

Sex at Dawn by Christopher  Ryan
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Apr 24, 12

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Read from April 04 to 22, 2012

I loved this book, and I think it is a very important book to read if one is interested in having a happy life without suffering the kinds of relational problems we've all witnessed play out time and time again. This, along with Tristan Taormino's Opening Up and Dan Savage's podcast, and you're well on your way to a happier life with a lot more sex in it. YAY!

But what I loved the most about this book was not necessarily about sex. It was Part III which discussed the pre-agricultural lives of humans (around 10,000 years ago). Sex at Dawn picks up right where the novel Ishmael by Daniel Quinn left off! I read Ishmael around a decade ago and it permanently changed my perspective about human development. It was where I first heard this idea that as soon as humans switched to agricultural systems -- growing food instead of hunting or gathering it -- they guaranteed that the world's population would climb until there was no land or resources remaining. This book goes into a great deal more detail about this idea, showing how the ability to store food and other items leads inextricably to violence, how a larger population means shorter lives with greater stress, disease, and bloodshed, and, ultimately, how monogamous marriage systems did not have relevance before there was anything to pass along familial lines.

So fine, you may say. Now we have agriculture, and patriarchy, and stuff to pass on to our kids. Shouldn't we have permanent monogamous coupling? Well, that all sounds fine and good except that we're not evolutionarily built for it. If monogamy is the "natural" thing, why does our biology protest against it so strongly? The authors bring up studies (that, really, feel pretty "duh") that show us things like that men desire sexual variety even if they love their long-term mate very much and that women's sexual desires are so expansive and fluid that we are best satisfied with the help of multiple men (at the same time, preferably). Between our hidden ovulation, ability and desire to have sex throughout the reproductive cycle regardless of fertility, and extravagantly vociferous copulations, it is in women's nature to have multiple partners as much is it is in men's -- which might explain the hard work that has been put into repressing female sexuality by those who have proscribed sex as a moral outrage.

Sex isn't a moral outrage. It's the best thing we've got! Since we live in this long-agricultural, post-industrial wasteland, I, for one, think we should get down to making love, not war. A really great way to get started on this goal is to read Sex at Dawn, and tell your friends, lovers, and potential lovers to read it. You know, a lot of people don't read, though, and you can pretty much never get them to read any book, even if it's one that argues that they should be having a lot more sex with a lot more people. So, where's the documentary crew? Someone get that guy who made a movie version of The Botany of Desire in here to turn this into an entertaining documentary that is available on Netflix Watch Instantly. And do it with a quickness! I, and my potential lovers, are not getting any younger here!
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