Sex at Dawn

Sex at Dawn : the Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

3.97 (27,305 ratings by Goodreads)
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"Sex at Dawn challenges conventional wisdom about sex in a big way. By examining the prehistoric origins of human sexual behavior the authors are able to expose the fallacies and weaknesses of standard theories proposed by most experts. This is a provocative, entertaining, and pioneering book. I learned a lot from it and recommend it highly." -- Andrew Weil, M.D.

"Sex at Dawn irrefutably shows that what is obvious--that human beings, both male and female, are lustful--is true, and has always been so.... The more dubious its evidentiary basis and lack of connection with current reality, the more ardently the scientific inevitability of monogamy is maintained--even as it falls away around us." -- Stanton Peele, Ph.D.

A controversial, idea-driven book that challenges everything you (think you) know about sex, monogamy, marriage, and family. In the words of Steve Taylor (The Fall, Waking From Sleep), Sex at Dawn is "a wonderfully provocative and well-written book which completely re-evaluates human sexual behavior and gets to the root of many of our social and psychological ills."
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Product details

  • Hardback | 416 pages
  • 157.99 x 235.71 x 33.27mm | 544.31g
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • Illustrations; Illustrations
  • 0061707805
  • 9780061707803
  • 57,743

Back cover copy

Since Darwin's day, we've been told that sexual monogamy comes naturally to our species. Mainstream science--as well as religious and cultural institutions--has maintained that men and women evolved in families in which a man's possessions and protection were exchanged for a woman's fertility and fidelity. But this narrative is collapsing. Fewer and fewer couples are getting married, and divorce rates keep climbing as adultery and flagging libido drag down even seemingly solid marriages.

How can reality be reconciled with the accepted narrative? It can't be, according to renegade thinkers Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethå. While debunking almost everything we know about sex, they offer a bold alternative explanation in this provocative and brilliant book.

Ryan and Jethå's central contention is that human beings evolved in egalitarian groups that shared food, child care, and, often, sexual partners. Weaving together convergent, frequently overlooked evidence from anthropology, archaeology, primatology, anatomy, and psychosexuality, the authors show how far from human nature monogamy really is. Human beings everywhere and in every era have confronted the same familiar, intimate situations in surprisingly different ways. 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.

With intelligence, humor, and wonder, Ryan and Jethå show how our promiscuous past haunts our struggles over monogamy, sexual orientation, and family dynamics. They explore why long-term fidelity can be so difficult for so many; why sexual passion tends to fade even as love deepens; why many middle-aged men risk everything for transient affairs with younger women; why homosexuality persists in the face of standard evolutionary logic; and what the human body reveals about the prehistoric origins of modern sexuality.

In the tradition of the best historical and scientific writing, Sex at Dawn unapologetically upends unwarranted assumptions and unfounded conclusions while offering a revolutionary understanding of why we live and love as we do.
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Review Text

" Sex At Dawn has helped me understand myself and the world so much more clearly." Ilana Glazer, co-creator of Broad City
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Review quote

"Sex At Dawn has helped me understand myself and the world so much more clearly."--Ilana Glazer, co-creator of Broad City
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About Christopher Ryan

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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Rating details

27,305 ratings
3.97 out of 5 stars
5 37% (10,165)
4 35% (9,683)
3 18% (4,900)
2 6% (1,609)
1 3% (948)

Our customer reviews

With eyes of scientific scrutiny, this book endeavors to re-investigate and re-evaluate the current claims made by anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists that the human race are, by instinct, monogamous. This exciting and sometimes surprising book, is a logical analysis of both the complexity and variety of sexual relationships that humans have and the assumptions made by many that have investigated this field of research. The authors start by detailing some of the assumptions and misinterpretations that researchers past and present have made about prehistoric humans. They argue that this has led to the creation of "scientific myths" where social, historical and cultural context are mixed up with what is instinctively human. These myths, which the authors term a "Flinstonization of Prehistory", are debunked with scientific elegance and humor, and a refreshing and scientifically rigorous approach to the origin of modern human sexuality begins to unravel. This central aspect of human nature is an important issue for us to understand rather than assume and it is relevant to virtually all aspects of our lives including power, status, wealth, war, crime and autonomy. I am delighted to see that Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha have sought to scientifically analyse and communicate the nature of human sexuality minus the more
by Lauren Kress
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