Book Review: Sex at Dawn

If you’re a fan of Dan Savage, you’ve probably heard Dan talking about this book on his podcast, Savage Love back in 2010.    In the book, authors Christopher Ryan, Ph.D. and Cacilda Jethá, M.D. explore “The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality.”

Covering everything from the form and function of the modern human, to the ways that we act in relationships, Sex at Dawn turned the study of human sexuality upside down.  Through observing and drawing parallels between modern humans, and our evolutionary cousins, the Bonobo chimpanzee, the authors draw the conclusion that modern humans have a difficult time with monogamy because we are genetically engineered towards multiple partners.

On the website for Sex at Dawn, a chart by Franklin Veaux maps the different relationships that modern humans engage in.  The overlap is fascinating.

Although it may seem that the authors are advocating for non-monogamous relationships, they claim that is not their purpose.  An excerpt from the FAQ on the website for Sex at Dawn:

So you’re recommending the everyone should have an open marriage or not get married at all?

Definitely not. We’re not recommending anything other than knowledge, introspection, and honesty. In fact, as we say in the book, we’re not really sure what to do with this information ourselves. We hope Sex at Dawn advances the conversation about human sexuality so people can focus more on the realities of what human beings are and a bit less on the religious and cultural mythologies concerning what we should be and should feel. What individuals or couples do with this information (if anything) is up to them.

It took me longer than I expected to read Sex at Dawn, because each page has information that borders on revelation.  I found myself having to stop frequently just to absorb each new piece of information.  I am normally the type of person who breezes through books, but I simply couldn’t do it with Sex at Dawn.  The authors did an amazing job at fully researching the topic, and presenting it in a way that is entirely accessible to those of us who are not in the academic field.

If you are struggling with any sort of infidelity in your relationships, read this book.  If you found yourself suddenly no longer attracted to a partner after going off of hormonal birth control, read this book.  If you are curious about how and why the modern human body and sexual organs are shaped differently than every other species, read this book.

If you’d like to support Nice Girls, you can purchase Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality through this link.  As an Amazon Affiliate, I will receive a small amount of the price of your purchase.  Thanks!

Posted on September 21, 2012, in Book Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hi! I just wanted to point out an attribution error. You say, “the authors have mapped the different relationships that modern humans engage in.” It is fascinating, but it’s not by the authors of Sex at Dawn. It’s by Franklin Veaux. (See upper right corner of chart.) He runs a terrific website about polyamory at http://www.morethantwo.com/. I’m a fan. Cheers!

  2. Hi. I wanted to add that while Sex at Dawn raises some important points about the holes in the idea of humans being naturally monogamous, a few anthropologists have pointed out that it doesn’t tell the entire story and may try too hard to swing the pendulum the other way. What’s needed is a better synthesis in order to understand the conflicting erotic tendencies that exist within human beings. We are a species capable falling deeply in love, but with a simultaneous proclivity for novelty. Thanks.

  3. I love Sex at Dawn and think it makes the non-monogamy conversation more accessible for people who never would have considered the idea. Also, nice blog!! For more sex-positive fun stuff check out my blog,

    http://www.hunterrileysexeducation.com

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