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Showing 1-10 of 621 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 797 reviews
on October 5, 2014
Brilliant, funny, brave book about human sexuality that occasionally strays too far into academia in an attempt to defend its central theses: Human beings were much much better off living as nomadic tribes in polygamous or polyamorous relationships. No going back now, though. Well written but probably too long by half, citing endless examples to make its case when a few would do just nicely. But rare to find a book on a topic this weighty to be so conversational in tone and funny.

PLOT SPOILER: Sadly, while the authors make a brilliant argument for polygamy, they offer no route to achieving it. Short of an apocalypse, I suppose.
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on September 23, 2016
This book, and a few others I've read lately, have explained so much to me about why I, a 40yo married man, am feeling the way I have. So insightful.
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VINE VOICEon June 4, 2014
Without denying the seriousness of the authors's intent, "Sex at Dawn" is one of the most entertaining books I've read in awhile. The authors, Cacilda Jetha, a medical doctor, and Christopher Ryan, a psychologist, argue that human beings are not inherently monogamous and that our collective civilizational effort to shoehorn people into life-long pair-bonds goes against our biological heritage and has led to much unnecessary misery. They stake this claim on a considerable amount of reading into recent anthropological, primatological and genetic research; specifically, they say that, as humans share roughly 99% of their DNA with chimps and bonobos, and as neither of those species practices monogamy (and in fact no primate, except the gibbon, does), our own genetic inheritance tends towards polyamory. In fact, they trot out examples from such indigenous cultures as the Mosuo in China to argue that pre-historic humans were most likely not monogamous: widespread promiscuity promoted bonding among members of extended hunter-gatherer clans, reduced inter-group tension, and promoted sperm competition as females had sex with multiple male partners and rival sperm competed for the right to fertilization.

It's not hard to understand why "Sex at Dawn" has been embraced by sexologists while primatologists and anthropologists have been noticeably cooler in their reception.The book is like a bomb thrown not only against the very notion of monogamy but also against the standard narrative in anthropology that pair-bonding is universal in human societies because women trade sexual access for food and protection. The authors make little effort to conceal their impatience and irritation with this 'standard narrative' and, indeed, much of "Sex at Dawn" reads as though it were written by an exasperated zealot (or over-ambitious grad student) who can't fathom why everyone else remains so in the dark. At the very least, it's not boring.

But the book should probably be taken with more than a few grains of salt. First of all, "Sex at Dawn" rehashes an already well-worn Enlightenment-era belief in the uninhibited 'noble savage,' uncorrupted by the restraints of civilization. Rousseau was, of course, a proponent of this and Diderot's "Supplement to the Voyages of Bougainville" pretty much encapsulates Ryan and Jetha, albeit with more wit. As others have pointed out, there are instances of monogamous indigenous peoples too that the authors don't really consider. Also, they don't really respond to one of their central theses: if the adoption of agriculture was such a disaster (sexually and in terms of quality of life) for human beings, why did they persist with it? If agricultural village settlements forced human beings into a monogamous corset, why then did they persist with it for 6,000 years before the advent of the first civilizations?

Finally, Ryan and Jetha stake much of their argument on asserting that 99% of human being's DNA overlap with that of bonobos, the most sexually promiscuous primates. Yet, we share the same percentage (99%) with chimps who are more territorial, aggressive, and somewhat less promiscuous than bonobos. Essentially, by privileging bonobos Ryan and Jetha over-correct previous writers's (like Jared Diamond) tendency to focus on our chimp heritage: we really need a book that tries to relate both our chimp and bonobo genetic backgrounds together.

Still, for a book so steeped in academic research, it's a blast to read, except when the authors start to consider the implications of their own argument. Having spent 300 pages explaining how monogamy is so unnatural and sexual exclusivity is probably the main cause of marital failure (in their view), they then shy away from any prescriptive advice. They don't quite want to push marriage over a cliff and advocate polyamory (for males, anyway; they're even more reticent interestingly enough on the implications of their argument for female behavior) but the logic of the book tends in that direction. But, as Freud argued, we are stuck with civilization and its neuroses whether we like them or not. Thus, they can't quite advocate free love (not as long as we have private property, anyway) but they insist that marriage is a botch too. For all its strident confidence in our biologically-driven amorality, "Sex at Dawn" ends by waffling all over the place.

I did love reading it, however, even when I recognized that the authors were pushing their case too far. At the very least, it gets you thinking about why so many marriages and pairings fail, why cheating is so rampant, and whether there is indeed an evolutionary legacy that is inimical to our social arrangements (rather than just instances of individual moral failure).
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on February 25, 2014
According to the authors, casual sex was the norm for our prehistoric ancestors in terms of ongoing, nonexclusive sexual relationships. The authors suggest that we tell ourselves a false story about the naturalness of monogamy and married sex, which creates unrealistic expectations, sexual frustration, boredom, and betrayal. Their central concern is that we expect “…that romance and sexual attraction can last a lifetime of coupled togetherness despite much hard evidence to the contrary” (p. 41). This book open a discussion for a new understanding of our sexual selves. It was an enjoyable read and well-researched book, written with a light and humorous touch.
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on January 24, 2017
Packed with facts and anecdotes, this book explains a lot. How we feel is largely a product of evolution and getting some of the context of that evolution separate from social strictures is illuminating.
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on March 16, 2016
This is a book that I had heard a lot about before I bought it!! It is definitely relevant to what we are dealing with in our current society. It is a bit long winded at parts, but overall a very thought provoking book, and a good conversation piece for your relationships. I'm definitely glad that I read it!
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on January 21, 2014
I would encourage anyone to read this. From young to old, Sex at Dawn brilliantly shows that we are primates, and we act as such. Gives incredible insight into human sexuality, and why monogamy can be so difficult. No matter if you are a young single 20 something or in your 50s with a life young partner, this book will educate and help you to better understand our behavior as well as our most primal urges. Read it and improve your understanding of the human condition.
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on December 6, 2016
Fantastic read. A book that everyone should try. It may offend your sensibilities, but the authors make very sound arguments for their point of view about the history of human sexuality.
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on March 16, 2017
Very interesting read!
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on August 17, 2016
Provocative. Turns the world of western human sexuality on its head.
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