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59 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brick on brick was this house built;belly on belly torn asunder
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...
Published on December 12, 2005 by Luc REYNAERT

versus
9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun but definitely coasting.
I love Desmond Morris. He has a possible answer and explanation for everything even if they sometimes verge on Kipling's "Just So" stories. They are defendable and always intriguing. As he has aged, his analysis and discussion have become thinner but the kernels are still there. I can't help wondering whether this book did not have a somewhat cynical basis. While any...
Published on February 11, 2007 by A. D. Demiray


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59 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brick on brick was this house built;belly on belly torn asunder, December 12, 2005
By 
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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
4.0 out of 5 stars A great evolutionary, social and sexual story, September 1, 2006
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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. The buttocks of the devil was also said to take the form of a second face, which witches were said to kiss. This is the point in history where the expression "kiss my arse" entered our lexicon. According to Morris, it originated in an early Christian practice!

This book may not be for everyone, but if you have an interest in the evolutionary purpose of anatomical variations between males and females, stories about the history of fascination with different areas of the female anatomy as well as trends in female fashion and ornamentation, then most likely you will enjoy this volume.

The book is basically a good story about the development of the female form, the aesthetic aspects of it, and the role of its different regions in sexual signaling and the history of why women's bodies have been such an object of attention in all cultures.

Although I haven't mentioned this specifically, there is also good scientific content such as what female attributes correlate to health and fertility, why symmetry is important and why breasts developed into larger structures when early humans started walking upright. The book even points out minor, but interesting differences between males and females such as the index finger being the second longest finger in 45% of females. This same chapter on the hand also goes on to discuss the origin of the custom of the ring finger used in the marriage ceremony.

I put a lot of detail in here to give readers a feel for the type of content and basic approach of the book. There is nothing in here that is condescending to women in my opinion. It is a celebration of the female form through the eyes of a zoologist who is also an artist and fan of cultural history.

I recommend this book highly, although it is not as good as some of his others such as the Naked Ape. Nonetheless, it's quite good and well worth reading.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed look at the most amazing creature on earth, February 17, 2006
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.

//wiredweird
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating look at the most fascinating creature, August 19, 2007
By 
Roy Massie (Birmingham, AL United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Naked Woman: A Study of the Female Body (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. If a slight difference in anatomy indicates being female, then culture tries to take that attribute to an extreme to produce the super feminine, perhaps super-sexy woman.

In the biological category, Morris brings his background as zoologist to bear as he repeatedly demonstrates the principle of neotony in both men and women. Briefly, neotony is the preservation of some child-like or adolescent characteristics through the lifetime. These are expressed differently in men and women but humans have the greatest degree of neotony of any animal. There are plenty of insights into men in the book, but the emphasis is on the more subtle and complex woman.

Morris also does not shy away from describing the mistreatment women have endured through the ages. Modern day cosmetic surgeries are placed in historical perspective. Most of the alterations have been going on for a long time, but it was cruder, riskier and sometimes crueler in the past (and sometimes still today). While there is more material on Western female trends, the author makes an effort to be global in all considerations.

This is not a science book. It is an interesting and well written study for the popular audience. This might matter to some readers looking for a high quality of argumentation in the case Morris presents, which is quite good overall. Sometimes though, in providing evidence for a broader point, the book confuses cause and effect. For example, in the chapter on hands and the wonderful dexterity women possess: "Take a look inside any factory that involves, say, the intricate assembly of the tiny working parts of electronic equipment, and you will see rooms full of agile female hands." - p 127. True, but having women fill the factory has more to do with exploitation at lower wages than their manual dexterity (which is generally superior to men). If the jobs paid three times as much, men would likely occupy them even with less suitable natural skills - that is about harsh economics, not biology acting as cause to the effect Morris observes. In another example, in the buttocks chapter, the fact that female buttocks contain more fat than males leads to the assertion - "the fact that it is gender-linked automatically makes it a female sex signal" - p224. Really? Automatically? Of course the buttocks are sexual, but having smaller more nimble hands is also gender-linked, yet they are not automatically considered a sexual signal, nor should they be. This just seems to be careless wording, but it illustrates a little too much zeal to drive home the sexual nature of women. These are not big issues, but do not expect the book to be tightly argued on a consistent basis. It is fascinating and educational, but not necessarily designed to sail through a critical review.

Finally, there is always the possible objection that Morris being human is susceptible to bias in favor of his own species when he assesses subjective female qualities. Perhaps a male aardvark would conclude the female aardvark is the sexiest creature on the planet. I think Morris does a nice job making his case in this regard and it is not an easy point to overcome ones own bias. Of course, I'm quite biased myself as a life long fan of human females, so who knows? Perhaps the female carpenter ant really should win, but not in my book and certainly not in Morris'.

I love the book and recommend it for both men and women. It is too explicit for children. These age recommendation things are always tricky, but I would recommend a minimum age of 17 and preferably a little older. Apart from that caveat, enjoy learning about women like you've never learned them before. Five stars for being daring enough to take on the subject in such an interesting way.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good, but with flaws, December 7, 2005
By 
Some Dude on Amazon (Oak Hill, VA United States) - See all my reviews
If you're interested in human anatomy and behavior, and you've got a few hours to kill, you could do much worse than to read this book. This is a head-to-toe guide to human female anatomy, with an emphasis on how it differs from that of the other great apes, and how it differs from that of human males.

The good: The book is complete. When I said "head-to-toe" I meant those and everything in between. Morris writes on why the differences exist among human females, human males, and great apes at large, and also offers a brief catalog of how said differences have been enhanced or altered over the course of human history. If you've ever lain awake wondering what colors of lipstick were available to Roman ladies, this is the book for you.

The bad: I was a bit irked that Morris never acknowledged that some of the anatomical features of women exist in men too. We stand upright, have opposable thumbs, and use pretty much the same facial expressions as women, so why not mention it? Morris also has a bad habit of not being clear about which of his statements are his theories and which are not; he does give a list of references but doesn't say which contained what. The bits about women being more highly evolved than men are a bit silly.

Despite the fact that the bad list is longer than the good, I would recommend this book. Do keep in mind that not all of the photos included could be shown during the Superbowl without causing a stir, so be careful where you read.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Way to Spend a Few Hours, January 5, 2006
Desmond Morris approaches his subjects with a deep understanding and an amusing writing style that makes for a very enjoyable way to get educated. In this book he takes on the female human body, which he calls "far more advanced" than her male counterpart, the result of evolutionary developments that make her the "most remarkable organism" on the planet.

While it would be fun to argue these points, you have to remember that women's bodies have to be able to support two beings, and that women tend to live several years longer than men.

His comments on society have the ring of an outside observer reporting with amusement. For instance the big flack from the FCC about Janet Jackson's 'wardrobe malfunction' when compared with other societies where women typically go topless. Then again, every culture has such taboos and Mr. Morris is an excellent observer to point them out. He views culture from the point of view of a zoologist and anthropologist.

Mr. Morris deserves his status as a best selling author. This is a highly entertaining and informative book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT BOOK, July 9, 2007
I found this to be an excellent book which every woman should read to have a far better understanding of her body. Too many women don't understand their bodies and thus cannot appreciate their capabilities.

This is also a book that every man should read to gain a
better understanding of the Female Body. This knowledge
makes a man much more able to give a woman far greater satisfaction while making love.

A great number of divorces result, directly or indirectly, from an unsatisfactory sex life. Generally,
this is due to a lack of knowledge on the part of one or both partners.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and 'ah ha!' provoking, September 5, 2007
This review is from: The Naked Woman: A Study of the Female Body (Paperback)
This book is a fascinating look at the origins of the numerous aspects the modern female physical state tends to mimic. Morris moves quite literally from head to toe explaining how attractiveness and beauty have come to be considered what they are today, and why it is that the modern female has been physically and psychologically shaped by her ancestral biology and by social trends to wish appear the way she does. A 'must read' for anyone interested in the idiosyncrasies of what makes the female to be considered attractive and/or those with a fascination of how biology shapes who and how we are in our day and age.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just keeps getting better., March 25, 2006
By 
P. J. Wheeler (Brisbane, Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
As a fan of Mr Morris for many years it is good to see him turn his attention to some of the most important matters in society today. This book has more humour and humanity than many of his earlier works making it easier to read especially for those of a less scientific persuasion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a bit sexist, but fun to read, January 28, 2010
This review is from: The Naked Woman: A Study of the Female Body (Paperback)
ok, so.....after reading "the naked man", I just had to pitch in my vote for "the naked woman".

Morris is pragmatic in his approach, basically splurging on the "sex sells" theme for all the nitwit buyers who just like the cover. However, his evident mastery of long-term biological study over many years is quite impossible to quash, even wading through all the obvious chauvinistic media hype which serves to induce popular belief. Morris can rewrite sexual biology backwards, forwards, chronologically and probably during the REM stages of his sleep. I think it is obvious he very much enjoyed writing this book, and did so with as much flavor as his previous books, although this one is far more leisurely written. I have to say, as a very straight and liberated woman...This book is for you.
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The Naked Woman: A Study of the Female Body
The Naked Woman: A Study of the Female Body by Desmond Morris (Paperback - February 20, 2007)
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