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

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

4 out of 5 (9 ratings)


In this controversial, thought-provoking, and brilliant book, renegade thinkers Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha 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.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 432 pages, Drawings and Halftones throughout
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Inc
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Sociology: sexual relations
  • ISBN: 9780061707810

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Showing 1 - 5 of 9 reviews.

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Review by

I think absolutely everyone should read this book. It is fantastic and I will definitely be re-reading it! I can't recommend it highly enough. Do yourself a favor and check this one out!!

Review by

OUTSTANDING. Turns the idea of monogamy on its head. The authors systematically tackle every mistaken idea about monogamy being "part of our DNA" and prove otherwise. They also make very interesting arguments about agriculture being a terrible mistake for human civilization. This is a revolutionary book that's my new #1 favourite academic book.

Review by

Wedding rings are the world's smallest handcuffs.The author argues that monogamy is not innate to humans...Duh. Why you need a whole book to argue for this is beyond me but apparantly you do. The whole monogamy trip is a side effect of the agriculture revolution and the rise of patriarchal monotheism in my opinion. Women became chattel and baby factories and sex was reduced to its procreative function. It is ironic that these religions think humans are not animals yet reduce sex to the procreative function and teach that we are still animals in this area. Yet, only humans have turned sex into art. To me, you are not fully human unless you are engaging in it for this reason. Until we separate sex from its procreative function, there will always be the double standard.

Review by

This book was thought-provoking, interesting, and funny (which you don't often find with history/social sciences). I could not put it down and read the whole thing in two days. I definitely learned a lot from it and think a lot of people would be better off if they read it.

Review by

A popular science book for people who hate science, <i>Sex at Dawn</i> manages to combine weak arguments with a prose style of such overbearing condescension that I had to grit my teeth to get through it. Everything is couched in terms of facile jokiness or, even worse, of coy euphemism, so that we have the ghastly prospect of a supposedly serious book about sexuality that can talk about a ‘human female's naughty bits’.The basic argument is that evolutionary psychologists, anthropologists and palaeontologists are conspiring to propagate the ‘lie’ that human beings have evolved to be broadly monogamous. The few studies that ‘dare’ to question this narrative are hailed as revolutionary, while the rest of the scientific community is written off as ‘the clipboard-carrying crowd’, who ‘rigidly insist’ on the status quo. Unfortunately this blanket dismissal of an entire discipline succeeds only in fatally damaging the authors' own credibility.The debate over prehistoric sexuality is one that I have followed amateurishly, but with some interest, so I was quite looking forward to seeing what kind of evidence was going to be brought forward. By about page 40 I had realised with a sinking feeling that there wasn't going to be any. Instead, their approach is simply to restate their opponents' arguments in the most ludicrously simplistic terms they can, and hope that will stand for a rebuttal.For instance, there is a mountain of evidence suggesting that prehistoric females were in the habit of ‘bartering’ sex, consciously or otherwise, for access to protection and resources supplied by males. This is a complicated and sophisticated argument, which Ryan and Jethá summarise like so:<i>Darwin says your mother's a whore. Simple as that.</i>After reading that I gave up any hope of finding a serious argument in here.Of the book's other stylistic tics, I will just highlight a few of the more irritating. There is a tendency to ask rhetorical questions as a substitute for actually making an argument: <i>Could it be possible that…? Dare we ask whether…?</i> ‘How many families are fractured by this common, tragic, undetected sequence of events?’ I don't know – do you?? If not, stop asking stupid questions and show me some evidence. (It reminds me of a tabloid headline like ARE IMMIGRANTS CAUSING CANCER?, where the rest of the article amounts to a long admission that the answer is ‘no’.)A few other representative quotations: ‘Sexual monogamy itself may be shrinking men's balls’; ‘<i>Homo sapiens</i>: the great ape with the great penis!’; ‘ancestral females were shameless trollops’; ‘Who's your daddies?’; ‘We've no space for a comprehensive response to this’; ‘Yabba-dabba-doo’. Malthus is introduced, laughably, as ‘Wikipedia's eightieth Most Influential Person in History’.If you're worried about missing the subtle message hidden in all this facile nudge-nudge-wink-winking, have no fear, because <i>they will simply put entire sentences that they consider important in italics</i>. Reading these passages feels like being talked down to by someone who doesn't even properly understand their own arguments. They also repeatedly make the infuriating implication that anyone who disagrees with them is doing so because they're morally offended or out of political expediency.What makes it all so sad is that a book offering some new ideas on hot topics like male parental investment or female sexual receptivity would actually be very welcome. This is not that book. What it really is is a plea for a return to an imagined ‘ancient [sexual] egalitarianism’ where humans – especially men – had repercussion-free sex with multiple partners. I would be more than happy to read a book promoting the benefits of polyamory, but please, don't dress it up as science.<i>Sex at Dawn</i> was condemned by most of the academic community, but it was widely promoted by people like Dan Savage and Peter Sagal, and ended up on the New York Times bestseller list. It doesn't deserve the attention, and I wish I'd done a bit more research on it before I bought a copy. Instead, my advice is to consider the response that a pseudonymous primatologist was moved to write, [book:Sex at Dusk: Lifting the Shiny Wrapping from Sex at Dawn|15892127]. Because my impression of this one is that it's a disastrous blend of wilful misrepresentations with very poor writing.

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