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The Naked Woman: A Study of the Female Body Paperback – February 20, 2007

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The Naked Woman: A Study of the Female Body + The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal + The Human Zoo: A Zoologist's Study of the Urban Animal (Kodansha Globe)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; First Edition edition (February 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312338538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312338534
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #363,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Undeniably the quintessential observer of the human condition, best-selling Morris casts his discerning eye upon the feminine form in this top-to-toe tour of all things female in a continuation of the inquiry he began with the seminal The Naked Ape (1967). Scrutinizing everything from hair to feet, Morris explores the evolutionary, cultural, and biological traits and tendencies that have caused woman to become the creature she is today. Morris is positively giddy with admiration for his subject, stating that the human female is "far more advanced" than her male counterpart, the result of evolutionary developments that make her the "most remarkable organism" on the planet. And yet, Morris avers, woman has not come far enough--at least in some global cultures, where male domination runs counter to human biological imperative. Thus, each chapter, which correlates to body parts as subtle as the brow and as expected as the breasts, examines how each characteristic has been shaped by social authority. Always entertaining, Morris takes a complex subject and cogently dissects it in fine detail for a critically enlightening experience. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


The Naked Ape
"Stimulating . . . thought-provoking . . . [Morris] has introduced some novel and challenging ideas and speculations." --Natural History Magazine
"[Morris'] study of the Human Animal is original, provocative, and brilliantly entertaining. It's the sort of book which changes people's lives." --Sunday Times (UK)

More About the Author

Desmond Morris was born in 1928. Educated at Birmingham and Oxford universities, he became the Curator of Mammals at London Zoo in 1959, a post he held for eight years.

In 1967 he published The Naked Ape which has sold over 10 million copies worldwide and has changed the way we view our own species forever.

An accomplished artist, TV presenter, film maker and writer, Desmond Morris's books have been published in over thirty-six countries.

Customer Reviews

Nonetheless, it's quite good and well worth reading.
Patrick D. Goonan
Sex is considered in nearly aspect of every part as Morris presents the female human as the most sensual and sexual creature on the planet.
Roy Massie
I was rather disappointed to see it regurgiated here as "whole facts", rather than just a currently popular bit of psuedo-science.
Charismatic Creature

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Luc REYNAERT on December 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Desmond Morris's book is more a medical, technical, gynaecological, symbolical description of the female body.
The text lacks the humour, the unexpected comparison or the brilliant exposures of 'The Naked Ape'.

But, besides a 3000 year old Sumerian joke, one can still learn a lot about 'the most remarkable organism on the planet': e. g., why tongue-piercing can be very dangerous; why the base of the spine is called sacrum; why the display of bare buttocks should drive away evil spirits; why legs reaching to the armpits are sexually attractive; why tears are bactericides; why Golden Lotus feet are sexually attractive in China; why hair is a species flag; why men's interest in women's breasts is not infantile?

Or, what is the origin of belly dancing, the importance of the development of opposite thumbs, the law of Shifting Erogenous Zones, the function of eyebrow movements?
And, what symbolize blond hair, pubic hair, ears, a tiny waist and cheeks?

The author stresses rightly the importance of religion in gender matters: 'In ancient times the great deity was always a woman. But, she underwent a disastrous sex change. The benign Mother Goddess became the authoritarian God the Father.'

A totally other religious affair is the circumcision of women: 'A leading Moslem theologian has issued a fatwa against anyone opposing circumcision, ordering the death penalty on, at the very least, 85 % of the entire human race (non-Moslems).'
Desmond Morris castigates rightly 'the male diplomats and politicians of the United Nations and other such impotent organizations, who take refuge behind convenient phrases like 'showing respect for local traditions and customs'.'
As he states: ' The real reason of reducing woman's sexual pleasures is the fact that it helps to subordinate them to their tyrannical male partners.'

This book is a very worth-while read.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Patrick D. Goonan on September 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book by Desmond Morris is written from a space of deep appreciation. The following quote from the book captures the spirit is was written in well:

"Every human female has a beautiful body. The brilliant end point of millions of years of evolution, loaded with amazing adjustments and subtle refinements, it is the most remarkable organism on the planet."

The book is organized into chapters by body region. It starts with the hair and ends with the feet. Each chapter talks about the evolution of a particular area of the body, its significance in sexual signaling and presents interesting customs and social practices that have developed throughout history associated with that area.

For example, in the chapter on feet, Desmond Morris points out feet are a gender signal. Women's feet are smaller and narrower. This seems pretty obvious, but he goes on to discuss how the shoe is a symbol of the female genitals and cites the nursery rhyme "The Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe" as an example of this creeping into the unconscious mythological arena.. He also goes on to explain foot fetishes and how people leave a scented trail when they walk barefoot. He points out that some tribal people can use this scent to identify who walked down a given path and approximately when!

The chapter on buttocks follows a similar approach and talks about how display of the buttocks became a symbol of both something offensive and sexually arousing. For example, he talks about how apes have flat behinds, whereas humans have round ones because of their upright posture. The prominent human derriere was reputed to be something the devil could not replicate when he took human form and that early Christians displayed their buttocks to ward off evil spirits.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Desmond Morris, a zoologist, turns his analytic skills to that most remarkable of life forms, the human female. He describes this beautiful being, point by point, with clear-eyed affection. From the hair down to the feet, Morris contrasts woman's anatomy to man's, and also to the corresponding features of our cousins among the apes. He carries out these comparisons without showing preference to the male or female phenotype - or maybe just a bit of preference in her favor.

Physical features go with social effects in many cases, sometimes with multiple, contradictory effects. I found Morris's sociological statements a bit less well-founded than the plain observations of physical fact, but interesting none the less. Throughout the book, I couldn't help note how he described so many features as mating-related signals. Sex signalling is certainly important to the human animal, but I wonder whether he sometimes forced sexual meaning onto development differences that are genuinely incidental.

A few items left me disappointed, such as Morris's descriptions of the four basic tastes - ignoring the recent addition of umame to that list. I had to wonder about a few other points as well, like the assertion that the term "hen party" derives from the mideastern get-togethers in which women apply henna skin decoration for special occasions.

On the whole, though, it's an enjoyable and frank look at the most wonderful creature in existence: woman.

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Roy Massie on August 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
Do these questions interest you...

How did mouth kissing among humans begin?
How unique in nature are all those female facial expressions?
Are teeth different in men and women and if so, why?
Which part of a woman is highly erotic in the East, but much less so in the West?
What is the least erotic body part of a woman?
What is the origin of an audience clapping their hands in applause?
How many women have more than two breasts and how many might they have?
How and why do women have strong sexual signals on both sides of their body?
What is really behind constant changes in modern female clothing styles?

If so, this is the book for you. Morris provides a comprehensive head to toe survey of the female human from a zoological, sociological and historical perspective. Each chapter covers a body part of a woman like the eyes, lips, neck, feet, etc. etc. In fact, one third of the books content is on the parts of the head.

The same pattern is followed for each body part to give great insights into its historical and sociological views up to the present time. Fashion trends are next, then biology/anatomy and the sexual significance. Sex is considered in nearly aspect of every part as Morris presents the female human as the most sensual and sexual creature on the planet. In short, the book makes the case that nearly everything about a woman, physical and non-physical, is ultimately about sex in some way, mostly directly.

As an example, the social-historical pattern of trying to produce the super-feminine is extensively documented. Whether it is smaller feet, larger breasts, fuller lips or longer necks, nearly everything has been, and is being, tried.
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