How Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So Stories: Evolutionary Enigmas

How Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So Stories: Evolutionary Enigmas

by David P Barash, Judith Eve cor
     
 

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So how did women get their curves? Why do they have breasts, while other mammals only develop breast tissue while lactating, and why do women menstruate, when virtually no other beings do so? What are the reasons for female orgasm? Why are human females kept in the dark about their own time of ovulation and maximum fertility, and why are they the only

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Overview

So how did women get their curves? Why do they have breasts, while other mammals only develop breast tissue while lactating, and why do women menstruate, when virtually no other beings do so? What are the reasons for female orgasm? Why are human females kept in the dark about their own time of ovulation and maximum fertility, and why are they the only animals to experience menopause?

David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton, coauthors of acclaimed books on human sexuality and gender, discuss the theories scientists have advanced to explain these evolutionary enigmas (sometimes called "Just-So stories" by their detractors) and present hypotheses of their own. Some scientific theories are based on legitimate empirical data, while others are pure speculation. Barash and Lipton distinguish between what is solid and what remains uncertain, skillfully incorporating their expert knowledge of biology, psychology, animal behavior, anthropology, and human sexuality into their entertaining critiques. Inviting readers to examine the evidence and draw their own conclusions, Barash and Lipton tell an evolutionary suspense story that captures the excitement and thrill of true scientific detection.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This husband-and-wife team, respectively an evolutionary biologist and a psychiatrist specializing in women's health, have written a delightful, thought-provoking volume on perennial questions about female biology. Each of five chapters centers on one question: why do women menstruate? why is ovulation hidden? what's the evolutionary function of the female breast? is there an evolutionary explanation for the female orgasm? and why does menopause occur? Barash and Lipton acknowledge there are no definitive answers to any of these questions. What they do so very well is offer numerous hypotheses along with ideas on how to test them. For example, they propose that the female orgasm might, among other possibilities, facilitate fertilization, serve as a copulatory reward, encourage monogamy or reduce infanticide. Along the way, they present a large amount of accessible information about biology, psychology, physiology and anatomy. Even more important, they demonstrate how scientists work to create and assess hypotheses while having a great deal of fun. They also show how science slowly but inexorably pushes back the darkness surrounding complex issues and how evolutionary theory can help us understand all aspects of human biology. Photos. (May)

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Library Journal

Barash (evolutionary biologist & psychology, Univ. of Washington) and his wife, Lipton, a clinical psychiatrist specializing in women's health, have written several books considering men and women in the light of evolution (The Myth of Monogamy; Making Sense of Sex); here, they concentrate on females. By examining the many explanations, which they call "just-so stories," for various female enigmas (menstruation, ovulation, breasts and hips, orgasm, and menopause) and putting forth the research that may or may not support those explanations, the authors present an intriguing exercise in how evolutionists think and develop their ideas. Older titles addressing these female characteristics include Sarah Hrdy's Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species and Elaine Morgan's The Descent of Woman, but this new title updates the research and incorporates some new ideas. Recommended for larger university and public library collections of women's studies materials.
—Margaret Henderson

MetaPsychology - Hennie Weiss

The book is well written and even though evolutionary biology can sometimes be difficult to comprehend, the authors do a good job in describing and explaining the various hypotheses encountered. The examples they use shed light on complex biological and evolutionary traits and adaptations.

MetaPsychology
The book is well written and even though evolutionary biology can sometimes be difficult to comprehend, the authors do a good job in describing and explaining the various hypotheses encountered. The examples they use shed light on complex biological and evolutionary traits and adaptations.

— Hennie Weiss

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231518390
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
06/05/2009
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
File size:
991 KB

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What People are saying about this

John Alcock

David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton unabashedly demonstrate the pleasure of using evolutionary theory to help make sense of some puzzling aspects of the anatomy, physiology, and behavior of women. The authors' enthusiasm for their subjects and for the process of science is contagious. An excellent book. Refreshing in the extreme.

John Alcock, Arizona State University

Pepper Schwartz

How Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So Stories is a joyride of intellectual discovery. I felt as if I were at a dinner party with exceptionally knowledgeable and lively conversationalists whose creativity and intellectual detective work so totally engaged me that the hours passed like minutes. After only a few pages I wanted to play their game—the marshalling of evidence to see what combinations of data and scholarly pyrotechnics would solve such interesting mysteries as why women menstruate, why women's ovulation is hidden, and why female orgasm exists. The authors are admirably humble about their conclusions, and their logic is fascinating and convincing. How Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So Stories deserves a big audience, and I salute the authors on creating an intellectually ambitious book that is as gripping as a novel. This is education that goes down so easy the reader may not notice. It is also full of provocative ideas and counterintuitive reasoning. Is this a groundbreaking, attention-gripping, intellectually brilliant, and paradigm-changing book? Unequivocally. It is all that, and more.

Pepper Schwartz, author of Prime: Adventures and Advice on Sex, Love, and the Sensual Years

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Meet the Author

David P. Barash is an evolutionary biologist and professor of psychology at the University of Washington. An early pioneer of sociobiology, he is the author of twenty-four books, including, with Judith Eve Lipton, The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People.Judith Eve Lipton is a clinical psychiatrist specializing in women's health and, with David P. Barash, the author of Gender Gap: The Biology of Male-Female Differences and Making Sense of Sex: How Genes and Gender Influence Our Relationships.

Columbia University Press

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