I heard about it from sex advice columnist Dan Savage. I hold his opinions in high regard and he thinks “Sex At Dawn” is the best book on human sexuality since the work of Alfred Kinsey was released.
“Understanding is a lot like sex; it’s got a practical purpose, but that’s not why people do it normally.” This is a quote by Frank Oppenheimer the authors use launch into just how much men and women enjoy sex.
The authors attempt to explain the development of human sexuality as humans evolved and the impacts this ancient hardwiring has on modern man. The case made is very convincing and well supported as well as entertaining to read. From the book: “… the percentage of our lives we human beings spend thinking about, planning, having, and remembering sex is incomparably greater than that of any other creature on the planet.” and ” No group-living nonhuman primate is monogamous, and adultery has been documented in every human culture studied – including those in which fornicators are routinely stoned to death.”
It’s not really big news these days that both women and men have sex as a core interest. But only about 10,000 years ago as we began to settle down and start farming did we lose the fluidity of our sex lives. Womens’ sexuality was denied and mens’ was frustrated.
Though lost in prehistory, ancient practices are inferred from observations of present day hunter-gathers and the primates closest to humans, bonobos and chimps. Social interactions and physical similarities and differences are used to build their case.
I’ll digress for a minute. The other day I was chatting with a friend about a book called “Living the Good Life” by Helen and Scott Nearing. It’s a good book about a couple making a go of “back to the earth” living during the thirties in rural Vermont. Anyway, I’d read it as a teen and while it was full of interesting insights on their lives, one glaring omission was that there was no mention of sex. Not that anything juicy was expected, more that since they covered all aspects of their lives, a missing aspect stood out. I was a sexually inexperienced teen but to not cover sex in some way seemed odd. What I’m getting at with this digression is people assume sex is part of life and when it is ignored where it’s appropriate then that comes across as strange.
With the insights from “Sex At Dawn,” we can better understand many of the undercurrents and rip tides beneath the surface of our modern lives. What to do about it will probably fill more books to come.