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Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships

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Overview

In this controversial, thought-provoking, and brilliant book, renegade thinkers Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá debunk almost everything we “know” about sex, weaving together convergent, frequently overlooked evidence from anthropology, archaeology, primatology, anatomy, and psychosexuality to show how far from human nature monogamy really is. In Sex at Dawn, the authors expose the ancient roots of human sexuality while pointing toward a more optimistic future illuminated by our innate capacities for love, ...

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Overview

In this controversial, thought-provoking, and brilliant book, renegade thinkers Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá debunk almost everything we “know” about sex, weaving together convergent, frequently overlooked evidence from anthropology, archaeology, primatology, anatomy, and psychosexuality to show how far from human nature monogamy really is. In Sex at Dawn, 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

When published in hardcover, this provocative tome about human sexuality was greeted by enthusiastic reviews and firm denunciations. In Sex at Dawn, Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá argue that the human urge to sexually stray is built into our evolutionary makeup. To make their points, they draw on evolutionary research about our primate cousins, but also on recent studies of human behavior. Make no mistake though; this is not just a Darwinian discourse: The Spanish husband and wife team maintain that old trade-off between man's protection and possessions in exchange for a woman's fertility and fidelity are now collapsing. New thoughts on monogamy.

Dan Savage
“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.”
Andrew Weil
“Sex At Dawn challenges conventional wisdom about sex in a big way... This is a provocative, entertaining, and pioneering book. I learned a lot from it and recommend it highly.”
Eric Michael Johnson
“Sex At Dawn is a provocative and engaging synthesis... that has the added benefit of being a joy to read.... A book sure to generate discussion, and one likely to produce more than a few difficult conversations with family marriage counselors.”
Frans de Waal
“You clearly have an exciting book on your hands, whether people agree with it or not: these are issues that will need debating over and over before we will arrive at a resolution.”
Steve Taylor
“A wonderfully provocative and well-written book which completely re-evaluates human sexual behaviour and gets to the root of many of our social and psychological ills.”
Tony Perrottet
“One of the most original books I’ve read in years, Sex at Dawn manages to be both enormously erudite and wildly entertaining—even, frequently, hilarious. . . . A must-read for anyone interested in where our sexual impulses come from.”
Stanley Krippner
“This paradigm-shifting book is a thoroughly original discussion of the origins and nature of human sexuality... These authors have a gift for making complex material reader-friendly, filling each chapter with humor and passion as well as dozens of revolutionary insights.”
Stanton Peele
“Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha have written the essential corrective to the evolutionary psychology literature...”
Newsweek
“Funny, witty, and light ... Sex at Dawn is a scandal in the best sense, one that will have you reading the best parts aloud and reassessing your ideas about humanity’s basic urges well after the book is done.”
Newsweek
“Funny, witty, and light ... Sex at Dawn is a scandal in the best sense, one that will have you reading the best parts aloud and reassessing your ideas about humanity’s basic urges well after the book is done.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061707810
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/5/2011
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 68,125
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Ryan, PhD, is a research psychologist. He lives in Barcelona, Spain.

Cacilda Jethá, MD, is a practicing psychiatrist. She lives in Barcelona, Spain.

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Table of Contents

Preface: A Primate Meets His Match (A note from one of the authors) xi

Introduction: Another Well-intentioned Inquisition 1

A Few Million Years in a Few Pages 10

Part I On The Origin Of The Specious 17

1 Remember the Yucatán! 19

You Are What You Eat 20

2 What Darwin Didn't Know About Sex 25

The Flintstonization of Prehistory 31

What Is Evolutionary Psychology and Why Should You Care? 36

Lewis Henry Morgan 42

3 A Closer Look at the Standard Narrative of Human Sexual Evolution 46

How Darwin Insults Your Mother (The Dismal Science of Sexual Economics) 48

The Famously Flaccid Female Libido 51

Male Parental Investment (MPI) 52

"Mixed Strategies" in the War Between the Sexes 55

Extended Sexual Receptivity and Concealed Ovulation 58

4 The Ape in the Mirror 61

Primates and Human Nature 64

Doubting the Chimpanzee Model 67

In Search of Primate Continuity 69

Part II Lust in paradise (solitary?) 79

5 Who Lost What in Paradise? 81

On Getting Funky and Rockin Round the Clock 83

6 Who's Your Daddies? 90

The Joy of S.E.Ex. 93

The Promise of Promiscuity 98

Bonobo Beginnings 101

7 Mommies Dearest 105

Nuclear Meltdown 109

8 Making a Mess of Marriage, Mating, and Monogamy 113

Marriage: The "Fundamental Condition" of the Human Species? 115

On Matrimonial Whoredom 119

9 Paternity Certainty: The Crumbling Cornerstone of the Standard Narrative 124

Love, Lust, and Liberty at Lugu Lake 126

On the Inevitability of Patriarchy 131

The March of the Monogamous 134

10 Jealousy: A Beginner's Guide to Coveting Thy Neighbor's Spouse 138

Zero-Sum Sex 141

How to Tell When a Man Loves a Woman 146

Part III The Way We Weren't 151

11 "The Wealth of Nature" (Poor?) 153

Poor, Pitiful Me 158

The Despair of Millionaires 161

Finding Contentment "at the Bottom of the Scale of Human Beings" 163

12 The Selfish Meme (Nasty?) 166

Homo Economicus 166

The Tragedy of the Commons 169

Dreams of Perpetual Progress 172

Ancient Poverty or Assumed Affluence? 173

On Paleolithic Politics 176

13 The Never-Ending Battle over Prehistoric War (Brutish?) 182

Professor Pinker, Red in Tooth and Claw 183

The Mysterious Disappearance of Margaret Power 187

The Spoils of War 190

The Napoleonic Invasion (The Yanomami Controversy) 194

The Desperate Search for Hippie Hypocrisy and Bonobo Brutality 197

14 The Longevity Lie (Short?) 200

When Does Life Begin ? When Does It End? 202

Is 80 the New 30? 204

Stressed to Death 208

Who You Calling a Starry-Eyed Romantic, Pal? 210

Part IV Bodies In Motion 213

15 Little Big Man 215

All's Fair in Love and Sperm War 219

16 The Truest Measure of a Man 225

Hard Core in the Stone Age 231

17 Sometimes a Penis Is Just a Penis 233

18 The Prehistory of O 244

"What Horrid Extravagancies ofMinde!" 246

Beware the Devil's Teat 252

The Force Required to Suppress It 253

19 When Girls Go Wild 255

Female Cofulatory Vocalization 255

Sin Tetas, No Hay Paraíso 259

Come Again? 262

Part V Men are from Africa, Women are From Africa 269

20 On Mona Lisa's Mind 271

21 The Pervert's Lament 280

Just Say What? 285

Kelloggs Guide to Child Abuse 288

The Curse of Calvin Coolidge 293

The Perils of Monotomy (Monogamy+ Monotony) 293

22 Confronting the Sky Together 306

Everybody Out of the Closet 311

The Marriage of the Sun and the Moon 311

Author's Note 313

Acknowledgments 315

Notes 317

References and Suggested Further Reading 351

Index 383

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 100 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(53)

4 Star

(24)

3 Star

(13)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(8)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 101 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 1, 2010

    Fantastic!!! Hard to Put Down!

    This book is fantastic!!! Sure to catch on... A fascinating eye-opener that addresses questions about human sexuality that we've nearly all come across -- it may finally answer things you've always wondered about!

    It takes a close look at the origins of our prehistoric past to examine the sharing, egalitarian nature of the communal groups we evolved in, and how far we've come so far from that now in our modern, often conflicted constructs.

    The evidence is carefully researched, and the stories are captivating - taking you across history and across the globe as well, recounting fascinating anecdotes on sexual practices from cultures all over the world and examining the many surprising alternative approaches there have been to the same core issues. And it's all explained in language that's sharply intelligent -- and still fun, clear, and easy to follow.

    This brilliant debut -- by a husband/wife team, no less! -- sheds light on how understanding the way human sexuality evolved is critical to answering questions about our lives today. Why is long-term sexual monogamy so difficult for many couples? Why do middle-aged men risk so much for meaningless flings? What do our own bodies tell us about our sexual evolution?

    This book takes you on a journey that covers topics from the Origins of War to the peaceful, sexy nature of our close Bonobo cousins. If you've never picked up a text on evolutionary psychology, this is the perfect book to explain some fascinating concepts. If you're curious to travel a road that whisks you across the world to learn about exotic cultures and across time to explore our promiscuous past - you might enjoy this immensely. You could just come away knowing more about human nature - and about yourself as well!

    12 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2012

    not a great read so far

    I bought this book because of good reviews. I am about a third through it. Not a very well written book. It doesnt flow well. Also so far arleast book focusses on proving todays take on human sexuality and monogamy wrong. This is done mainly through authors interpretations of various things. It is really not very scientific. There is no evidence to back authors theory yet. So far, there are so mnay flaws in authors argument, i am wondering if i should continue reading or not.

    5 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2011

    About Time someone could say it, and back it up.

    Very readable, with a wry wit and a no nonsense approach to human and ape sexuality. This book is very well researched, and spends a fair bit of time on debunking the conventional wisdom. I suspect that it might be a bit scary to take on the established views on such a hot button topic, but the author manages to insert enough humor to help defuse the tension.

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Read

    This book was fascinating. His theory seems very plausible and he presents it in a very entertaining way.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2013

    Well argued, provocative and w Well argued, provocative and entertainingly written

    This book was compulsively interesting, well documented and genuinely fun to read. You'll feel alot better about yourself and unsettled about the supposed benefits of civilization after reading it.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2013

    Tmi

    Did not like

    4 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2013

    Dgtdsyhsgyv

    This book is awesume!I have thoght sex is fantastic,I had 12 children.

    3 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 23, 2013

    Great fun to read and very stimulating. Despite the denunciatio

    Great fun to read and very stimulating. Despite the denunciations of the patriarchialists and those insistent on the biological imperative of monogamy, the authors provide a vast number of exceptions and reanimate the concept of primal omnigamy. Would that Western Civilization would catch on!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 27, 2012

    Just one of the greatest books I have ever read. This should be

    Just one of the greatest books I have ever read. This should be mandatory reading for anybody who wants to be in a relationship. Just so fantastic. I could not recommend this book more.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2012

    Compelling argument

    This book changed my life. Well, not really. It more just confirmed what's painfully obvious to anyone who's paying attention and not caught up in one of a million contemporary hang-ups: people were not meant to be monogamous. Not men, not women, not gays, not bisexuals, not straight people, not Westerners, not Asians, not Africans.... No one.

    The fact that they had to write a book about this, contradicting America's moral authorities with the only thing that makes them burn (science), is a testament as to how so many people can accept a ridiculous idea without examining it.

    It's not a technical book. I'm not an anthropologist but I understood the argument. While some of the humor is a bit American Pie, the argument is proved. The most scathing criticism I found of this book is that anthropologists don't really say that humans are by nature monogamous, which doesn't do anything to disprove the main point.

    The perspective isn't "Be a slut" but more "Do whatever you want, but realize what humans were doing for 95% of the species existence is probably not how you're trying to live your life." The tone itself is a useful antidote to sexual moralizing.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 14, 2012

    LOVE! A new perspective!

    I loved this book. I normally don't read non-fiction but I loved the sarcastic tone sprinkled throughout this novel. I am open minded, so to read a different perspective on this topic was refreshing. Their ideas are not forced onto the reader, they are merely presented with facts to back them up. Finished this in about a week. And honestly I would have finished it sooner but I actually took a day or two in between reads to think about what I have just read.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2012

    Gdsjddjcjucvh

    Hfeundjhchbehbhhhhhuhrudhfjfhfiwjdjcjdjdodksjqjwidkfododoskdkxjdjcjvidufurjsifosoqkwjskwkdkskskfkdkdkf

    3 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 27, 2011

    Very interesting and thought provoking.

    If you have ever thought of why people act the way they do when it comes to relationships and human social interaction then this would be the book to read. It is very well written with a lot of resources that you can look at yourself to see where the authors find their information. It is not written in a dry form like some other books written on this topic, but written like a person looking for answers. This book will open your mind at why we look at sex as we do and why over time we get bored with a long term partner and could warder off looking for something new (this goes for both sexes). It takes a look at why monogamy is failing with people separating without working on underlining issues or not looking at options at keeping their relationship intact. This is look from both a physical as well as psychology view. There is so many different topics in this book a review cannot cover them all. It is a book better read with the reader drawing their own conclusions on what the author's message is and what he wants the reader to know.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2013

    SEX

    SEXSEXSEXSEXSEXSEXSEXSEXSEXSEXSEXSEXSEXSEXSEXSEXSEXSEXSEX!!!!!..............sex........................i have had 20 children............the rooms smokin when me and my guy do it...hard.................im 15............BUT WHO CARES!!!SEX IS MY BABY!!!!!!!!!

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 29, 2012

    Read it!

    Read it!

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2012

    This book asks and answers questions that I have often wondered

    This book asks and answers questions that I have often wondered about. It does so with class and humor, educating the non-scientist with clear explanation and wit!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2014

    To ashley

    Sure il have sex look for ryan and reply as soon as possible

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2014

    Ashley

    Nook sex anyone

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2013

    Htgrew

    Gijjybn

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2013

    Boring

    This book goes over and over the same situations. It justifies present behaviors by comparing humans to animals and small cultures. If you want to justify your bad behavior, enjoy.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 101 Customer Reviews

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