304 pages, no illustrations
The author is a leading primatologist who offers a provocative new look at the past, present and future of sex, pregnancy, and childcare. Despite our culture's seemingly endless fascination with sex and parenting, the origins of our reproductive lives remain a mystery to most of us. Why are a quarter of a billion sperm cells needed to fertilize one human egg? Why do women, apes, and monkeys menstruate while most other mammals do not? Are women really fertile only during a few days in each menstrual cycle? What's natural in human pairing: monogamy or promiscuity? Does morning sickness have a purpose? What about breastfeeding?
In How We Do It, biological anthropologist Robert Martin draws on forty years of research to trace our reproductive past. He examines the procreative history of humans as well as that of our nearest primate kin, and his analysis of our two-hundred-million-year pedigree reveals what is and isn't natural when it comes to reproduction and parenting. He unearths surprising facts about everything from the average length of copulation in humans (five minutes, the short duration of which may explain why modern men lack the penis bone present in mandrills and macaques) to the increased tips of lap dancers during the fertile phase of their cycle. But this is not just the story of remote reproductive origins. Rather, Martin argues that by understanding how our bodies have evolved we can improve our reproductive choices – how we have sex, how we have children, and how we raise them – and take advantage of modern technology to best promote our, and our children's, well being. Martin explains: Why the rise of C-sections will make vaginal birth a thing of the past; Why taxi drivers have lower sperm counts; How the rhythm method fails and contributes to fetal abnormalities; and, Why the birth control pill is truly natural. We don't and won't live life like our ancestors did. But How We Do It shows that once we understand our evolutionary past, as mammals, primates, and great apes, we can consider what worked, what didn't, and what it all means for the propagation of the human species.
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Robert Martin is the A. Watson Armour III Curator of Biological Anthropology at the Field Museum in Chicago, as well as a member of the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago. He was previously on the faculty of University College London, a visiting professor of anthropology at Yale, a visiting professor at the Musee de l'Homme, Paris, and the director of the Anthropological Institute in Zurich.