The 10th-anniversary edition of the book that radically re-evaluates the origins and nature of human sexuality.
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.
In this groundbreaking book, however, Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá argue that human beings evolved in egalitarian groups that shared food, child care, and, often, sexual partners. Weaving together evidence from anthropology, archaeology, primatology, anatomy, and psychosexuality, the authors show how far from human nature monogamy really is.
With intelligence and humour, Ryan and Jethá explain how our promiscuous past haunts our contemporary struggles. They explore why many people find long-term fidelity so difficult; why sexual passion tends to fade even as love deepens; why homosexuality persists in the face of standard evolutionary logic; and what the human body reveals about the prehistoric origins of modern sexuality.
Shocking, enlightening, and ultimately inspiring, Sex at Dawn offers a revolutionary understanding of why we live and love as we do.
‘The essential corrective to the evolutionary psychology literature, Sex at Dawn irrefutably shows that the urgent sexuality apparent everywhere in human society and that requires layers of religious, social, and psychological suppression was a constant feature on the African savanna. The more dubious its evidentiary basis and connection with current reality, the more ardently the scientific inevitability of monogamy is maintained — even as it collapses around us. Darwin and science have been corralled into fomenting useless, irrational guilt. Drs Ryan and Jethá make all this as transparent as glass, and do it with style.’
Stanton Peele, PhD, author of Love and Addiction
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‘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.’
Frans de Waal, author of The Age of Empathy
‘Turns everything you thought you knew about sex on its head. A bold and unashamed assessment of the plentiful scientific data that illuminate the true origins and nature of human sexuality. Funny, engaging, and superbly written.’
Dr Julie Holland, author of Weekends at Bellevue
‘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.’
Dan Savage, author of the internationally syndicated sex-advice column Savage Love and The Commitment: love, sex, marriage, and my family
‘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.’
Steve Taylor, author of The Fall and Waking From Sleep
‘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.’
Tony Perrottet, author of Napoleon's Privates
‘The writing is engaging, the material covered is appropriate, and really it is the best non-technical summary I have read of the relevant issues.’
Todd K. Shackelford, PhD, professor of psychology at Florida Atlantic University, and editor of Evolutionary Psychology
‘Sex at Dawn is for anyone interested in human behaviour, whether they have a science background or not.’
‘Just the book to discuss at a dinner party with the local fundamentalists.’
Lucy Sussex, Sunday Age
‘This book 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.’
‘The authors of this remarkable book paint a picture of prehistoric man as a hunter-gatherer, and also as irredeemably polygamous.’
Alan Gold, Good Reading
‘Sex At Dawn has helped me understand myself and the world so much more clearly.’
Ilana Glazer, co-creator of Broad City
‘Controversial and fascinating.’
‘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.’
Eric Michael Johnson, Seed
‘This is a provocative book, and a thought-provoking one. It challenges many popular theories, flatly contradicts others, and contends that — brilliant though Darwin was — his ideas on sex and procreation were a bit askew. Readers will form their own opinions, although the authors are persuasive polemicists ... In short, this is a book which will polarise and incite some fascinating debates.’
Graeme Barrow, Bay of Plenty Times
‘A healthy relationship with sexuality can be a strong positive influence on overall emotional and physical well-being. But understanding human sexual drives and needs and adapting them to social constraints and moral and religious precepts is tricky. Sex At Dawn challenges conventional wisdom about sex in a big way. By examining the prehistoric origins of human sexual behaviour, 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.’
Dr Andrew Weil, author of Why Our Health Matters: a vision of medicine that can transform our future