Sex at Dawn - How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships


How much do I want to read more? 7/10

That's interesting. What our ancestors, our evolution, tells us about our sex behaviors?
Can we look outside the box of our beliefs imposed by our society, religion, and other conditioning?


Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.

-- KAHLIL GIBRAN

PREFACE - A Primate Meets His Match

I felt something changing inside me. My chest seemed to swell, my shoulders to broaden. My arms felt stronger; my eyesight sharpened. I felt like Popeye after a can of spinach. I glared into the underbrush like the heavyweight primate I now knew myself to be. I’d take no more abuse from these lightweights.

Another Well-Intentioned Inquisition

We didn’t descend from apes. We are apes.

There’s good reason marriage is often depicted and mourned as the beginning of the end of a man’s sexual life.
42 percent of American women suffer from sexual dysfunction.
Hundreds of Catholic priests have confessed to thousands of sex crimes against children in the past few decades alone.
In 2008, the Catholic Church paid $436 million in compensation for sexual abuse.

Although we’re led to believe we live in times of sexual liberation, contemporary human sexuality throbs with obvious, painful truths that must not be spoken aloud.
The conflict between what we’re told we feel and what we really feel may be the richest source of confusion, dissatisfaction, and unnecessary suffering of our time.
why are men and women so different in our desires, fantasies, responses, and sexual behavior?
Why the pandemic spread of single-parent families?
What causes the death of desire?

We’ll show that human beings evolved in intimate groups where almost everything was shared—food, shelter, protection, child care, even sexual pleasure.
contemporary culture misrepresents the link between love and sex. With and without love, a casual sexuality was the norm for our prehistoric ancestors.

women’s seemingly consistent preference for men with access to wealth is not a result of innate evolutionary programming, but simply a behavioral adaptation to a world in which men control a disproportionate share of the world’s resources.

the amount of time our species has spent living in settled agricultural societies represents just 5 percent of our collective experience, at most.
So in order to trace the deepest roots of human sexuality, it’s vital to look beneath the thin crust of recent human history.

The shift to agriculture, wrote author Jared Diamond, is a “catastrophe from which we have never recovered.
Several types of evidence suggest our pre-agricultural (prehistoric) ancestors lived in groups where most mature individuals would have had several ongoing sexual relationships at any given time.

A Few Million Years in a Few Pages

A few million years ago, our ancient ancestors (Homo erectus) shifted from a gorilla-like mating system where an alpha male fought to win and maintain a harem of females to one in which most males had sexual access to females.

We believe this sharing behavior extended to sex as well.
our hominid ancestors have spent almost all of the past few million years or so in small, intimate bands in which most adults had several sexual relationships at any given time.

in other words—the core element of the standard narrative—tends to be diffuse in societies like those in which we evolved, not directed toward one particular woman and her children, as the conventional model insists.

“The origins of farming,” says archaeologist Steven Mithen, “is the defining event of human history—the one turning point that has resulted in modern humans having a quite different type of lifestyle and cognition to all other animals and past types of humans.”
The most important pivot point in the story of our species, the shift to agriculture redirected the trajectory of human life more fundamentally than the control of fire, the Magna Carta, the printing press, the steam engine, nuclear fission, or anything else has or, perhaps, ever will.

“While hunter-gatherer sex had been modeled on an idea of sharing and complementarity, early agriculturalist sex was voyeuristic, repressive, homophobic, and focused on reproduction.” “Afraid of the wild,” he concludes, “farmers set out to destroy it.”

Land could now be possessed, owned, and passed down the generations. Food that had been hunted and gathered now had to be sowed, tended, harvested, stored, defended, bought, and sold. Fences, walls, and irrigation systems had to be built and reinforced; armies to defend it all had to be raised, fed, and controlled. Because of private property, for the first time in the history of our species, paternity became a crucial concern.


PART I - On the Origin of the Specious

CHAPTER ONE - Remember the Yucatán!

The function of the imagination is not to make strange things settled, so much as to make settled things strange.

-- G. K. CHESTERTON

It was early spring, 1519. Hernán Cortés and his men had just arrived off the coast of the Mexican mainland.It was early spring, 1519. Hernán Cortés and his men had just arrived off the coast of the Mexican mainland.
Cortés proclaimed that from that day onward, Yucatán and any gold it contained belonged to Spain, and so on.

You Are What You Eat

the Europeans were convinced the Aborigines were starving to death. Why? Because they saw the native people resorting to last resorts—eating insects, Witchetty grubs, and rats, critters that surely nobody would eat who wasn’t starving.
That something feels natural or unnatural doesn’t mean it is.

Like those early Europeans, each of us is constrained by our own sense of what is normal and natural. We’re all members of one tribe or another—bonded by culture, family, religion, class, education, employment, team affiliation, or any number of other criteria. An essential first step in discerning the cultural from the human is what mythologist Joseph Campbell called detribalization. We have to recognize the various tribes we belong to and begin extricating ourselves from the unexamined assumptions each of them mistakes for the truth.

Undoubtedly, some readers will react emotionally to our “scandalous” model of human sexuality.

CHAPTER TWO - What Darwin Didn’t Know About Sex

We are not here concerned with hopes or fears, only with truth as far as our reason permits us to discover it.

-- CHARLES DARWIN, The Descent of Man