Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch

Book Review: Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha

Sorry about the radio silence.  As I said over on another  blog, I thought I could keep up my blogging schedule while we moved, and I was delusional.  Yeah, I’ve spent most of my waking time, not at work, unpacking, sorting through crap, and trying to decide what to get rid of.  You collect a lot of stuff in 17 years of marriage.

Excellent book!

Marriage, this brings me to the subject of this book review, Sex at Dawn:  How we mate, why we stray, and what it means for modern relationships, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha.  I am first and foremost, a nerd.  So when something interests me, I research the hell out of it.  Sex interests me, ergo…

So I picked up Sex At Dawn when the paperback made its appearance at my local University Bookstore, and dove in.  I’ve since read other reviews of the book that have attacked it for being snide or sarcastic.  Honestly, I thought the writing style was entertaining, engaging, and that the authors said several things that I’ve spent most of my adult life thinking really hard at the establishment.

The book tackles the problem of the Evo-Psych point of view that women have lower libidos, and that women give sex to get love, and all of that crap that essentially says women are whores who put out for security and good genes and that men must “spread their seed.”  They take on the idea that monogamy is natural to our species.  It also tackles the myth of our war-like behavior being inherent, often justified by our “similarities” to our close cousins, the Chimpanzees of Gombe where Jane Goodall has done most of her research.  Not that I’m dissing Jane Goodall, but there are some problematic aspects to the war-like nature of chimps. They also posit that human beings, much as bonobos and chimpanzees evolved engaging in sperm competition, meaning that females mate with many males and the sperm fight it out inside the female.

I will state for the record that I am no anthropologist.  I took some classes in college, but as we all know, a little knowledge can sometimes be a dangerous thing.

I’m struggling with how to encapsulate the book.  They talk about the fact that monogamy just doesn’t seem to work for most people.  For centuries, segments of the human race have punished adultery and fornication in some of the most grotesque ways imaginable, with death and torture, and yet, they have not managed to stamp it out.   More and more marriages end in divorce, and contrary to the NOM folks, you cannot blame that on the queers.  Ryan and Jetha then begin by looking at the sexual behavior of our closest relatives, the bonobos and chimpanzees, and our physiological similarities and differences relating to sex.  They discuss testes size, and the shape of the human penis, as well as the positioning of the female sexual organs and sexual vocalizations, and the whys of male infidelity.

They also talk about why, if women have such low libidos, has there been such a focus in the past medical treatment of women, on subduing the obviously anything but low libidos of female patients?  The first vibrators were monstrous huge things that were quite obviously not meant for home use.  Doctors frequently diddled their female patients to orgasm to relieve “hysteria,” and not for their own lascivious reasons either, it would appear.  Not to mention the alarming frequency of clitorectomies (performed in the US into the late 1950s and early 1960s).

If I found any lack in the book, it was that the chapter on infidelity focused almost solely on male infidelity.  After chapters explaining why they viewed female sexuality as optimized for sex with groups of men, I found this lack disturbing.  The author’s note that it would have taken too much space, given the complexity of female sexuality, kind of a cop out and a let down, honestly.

Other than that, I found the book well-written, entertaining to read, and informative.  It is exhaustively footnoted, and is probably going to spawn a whole new reading list around the Polimicks household.  I found their reasoning to be pretty straightforward.  I do not yet know the background material well enough to say for sure whether or not they engaged in cherrypicking, but I do find their argument compelling.  Very compelling.  I highly recommend it.

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This entry was posted on July 21, 2011 by in Featured Articles, Fun, Media, Misogyny, Reviews, Sexism.

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