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Sex, Time and Power: How Women's Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution Hardcover – August 18, 2003
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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This book sets out to explore why and when people evolved so far away from other mammals in several key ways, all of which Dr. Shlain ties to the biological differences between men and women. As in his excellent prior work The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image (which holds that there are links between the ascendancy of patriarchy and written language and the descent of matriarchal societies and goddess-based religions), some of the concepts proposed in this book might seem a bit of a stretch. And they arewhether or not they turn out to be factual. Shlain contends, for instance, that women essentially invented the concept of time due to their experience of menses. Whatever conclusions the reader comes to, the author exposes the underlying gender biases in so many scientific assumptions; the result is one of those books that cannot help but alter one's perceptions. A consistently engaging writer, Shlain traces the course of his own evolving ideas with what might be called a didactic wit: bold statements are first writ large, then Dr. Shlain reveals how he came upon them, frequently with colorful anecdotes that show these are questions he's been wrestling with for many years. It's difficult to tell whether this fascinating thinker will be viewed as the next Darwin or as a crank, but there's no denying this is an audacious work in the realm of evolutionary biology. --Mike McGonigal
Shlain makes brilliant use of his medical expertise in his highly original and intellectually stimulating inquiry into human sexuality and its role in the shaping of civilization that he launched so boldly in The Alphabet versus the Goddess (1998). Here he takes an evolutionary approach to solving the conundrums of misogyny and patriarchy, guiding his curious, perhaps skeptical, certainly riveted readers through well-grounded and intriguing speculations about the purpose of such seemingly impractical, even dangerous traits as bipedalism, menstruation, the perils of childbirth, and the helplessness of infants. Shlain's reflections on human nutrition and women's greater need for iron lead to a fascinating theory about courtship and hunting, which, in turn, generates the hypothesis that the evolution of language was sparked by the delicacy of sexual negotiation. And menses, this daring thinker believes, may well be the source of our perception of time and our unique ability to conceive of and plan for the future. Lucid and compelling, Shlain asks startling and crucial questions about human nature and presents truly imaginative and mind-stretching answers. Donna Seaman
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While there are a lot of facts presented, the author does not claim to present an absolute scientific truth, but rather an informed guess. He pieces together facts, like a puzzle, in order to build a coherent theory of what might have happened. I felt that he invites the reader to entertain his ideas, measure them and dare to disagree or rearrange them into possible new constellations. It seems like, more then anything, his intention was to start a dialogue, a conversation on the subject of male/female dynamics and this book is what he brings into the conversation.
I don't think his ideas were meant to be entirely factual, I think this is a brave theory that combines facts with playful speculations and opens the way for more exploration into the subject while daring others to complete, complement or even correct his perspective.
Although dense, this is is an easy and enjoyable read. I learned new things and also got a lot of food for thought as this book provided me with some possible answers(as incomplete as scientific scrutiny might find them) that entertained a question that I have asked myself for a long time.
I would recommend it to anyone who's been interested in the subject or enjoys a good, creative theory.
And as we age, we become the protector and wisdom-stower upon our progeny. Even if you can't or don't have children, the answers to life's whys? are interesting enough - why is there "marriage" - one man, one woman. And how did THAT get passed along as our accepted form of mating, why not one husband and lots of wives?
And I never would have dreamed that the woman's monthly cycle has such a huge impact on....so many things! Fascinating stuff.....!