Since Darwin's day, we've been told that sexual monogamy comes naturally to our species. Mainstream science – as well as religious and cultural institutions – has maintained that men and women evolved in families in which a man's possessions and protection were exchanged for a woman's fertility and fidelity. But this narrative is collapsing. Fewer and fewer couples are getting married, and divorce rates keep climbing as adultery and flagging libido drag down even seemingly solid marriages.
How can reality be reconciled with the accepted narrative? It can't be, according to renegade thinkers Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá. While debunking almost everything we "know" about sex, they offer a bold alternative explanation in this provocative and brilliant book.
Ryan and Jethá's central contention is that human beings evolved in egalitarian groups that shared food, child care, and, often, sexual partners. Weaving together convergent, frequently overlooked evidence from anthropology, archaeology, primatology, anatomy, and psychosexuality, the authors show how far from human nature monogamy really is. Human beings everywhere and in every era have confronted the same familiar, intimate situations in surprisingly different ways. The authors expose the ancient roots of human sexuality while pointing toward a more optimistic future illuminated by our innate capacities for love, cooperation, and generosity.
With intelligence, humor, and wonder, Ryan and Jethá show how our promiscuous past haunts our struggles over monogamy, sexual orientation, and family dynamics. They explore why long-term fidelity can be so difficult for so many; why sexual passion tends to fade even as love deepens; why many middle-aged men risk everything for transient affairs with younger women; why homosexuality persists in the face of standard evolutionary logic; and what the human body reveals about the prehistoric origins of modern sexuality.
In the tradition of the best historical and scientific writing, Sex at Dawn unapologetically upends unwarranted assumptions and unfounded conclusions while offering a revolutionary understanding of why we live and love as we do.
Christopher Ryan, PhD, is a research psychologist. He lives in Barcelona, Spain. Cacilda Jethá, MD, is a practicing psychiatrist. She lives in Barcelona, Spain.
"The writing is engaging, the material covered is appropriate, and really it is the best non-technical summary I have read of the relevant issues."
– Todd K. Shackelford, Ph.D.Professor of Psychology
"Turns everything you thought you knew about sex on its head. A bold and unashamed assessment of the plentiful scientific data that illuminate the true origins and nature of human sexuality. Funny, engaging, and superbly written [...] "
– Julie Holland, M.D., author of Weekends at Bellevue
"A wonderfully provocative and well-written book which completely re-evaluates human sexual behaviour and gets to the root of many of our social and psychological ills."
– Steve Taylor, author of The Fall and Waking From Sleep
"You clearly have an exciting book on your hands, whether people agree with it or not: these are issues that will need debating over and over before we will arrive at a resolution."
– Frans de Waal, author of The Age of Empathy
"This paradigm-shifting book is a thoroughly original discussion of the origins and nature of human sexuality [...] These authors have a gift for making complex material reader-friendly, filling each chapter with humor and passion as well as dozens of revolutionary insights."
– Stanley Krippner, Ph.D.
"Sex At Dawn is a provocative and engaging synthesis [...] that has the added benefit of being a joy to read [...] A book sure to generate discussion, and one likely to produce more than a few difficult conversations with family marriage counselors."
– Eric Michael Johnson, Seed Magazine
"One of the most original books I've read in years, Sex at Dawn manages to be both enormously erudite and wildly entertaining – even, frequently, hilarious [...] A must-read for anyone interested in where our sexual impulses come from."
– Tony Perrottet, author of Napoleon's Privates
"Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá have written the essential corrective to the evolutionary psychology literature [...] "
– Stanton Peele, Ph.D.
"Sex At Dawn challenges conventional wisdom about sex in a big way [...] This is a provocative, entertaining, and pioneering book. I learned a lot from it and recommend it highly."
– Andrew Weil, M.D., author of Healthy Aging
"Funny, witty, and light [...] Sex at Dawn is a scandal in the best sense, one that will have you reading the best parts aloud and reassessing your ideas about humanity's basic urges well after the book is done."
"Sex At Dawn is the single most important book about human sexuality since Alfred Kinsey unleashed Sexual Behavior in the Human Male on the American public in 1948."
– Dan Savage