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Steve Jones does it again
on 30 September 2002
If you haven't read 'the language of the genes' by the same author then I thoroughly recommend it. 'The language of the genes' is wider ranging but more tight and lucid than this one and is an undoubted 5 star book.
Having said that Y is a cracking read which takes the author's ruminations on the nature of masculinity way beyond his specialist area of genetics.
Steve Jones has a real talent for rendering fairly difficult scientific concepts both interesting and digestible, even for a science dullard like myself.
The book contains a leg crossing chapter on circumcision (which he contends, rather controversially, is a form of ritualised child abuse) as well as castration and other forms of mutilation. The hard facts about erection are revealed, as well as discussions of new research into sexual behaviour, penis size and sperm donation.
Aside from the welter of sexual statistics from the animal kingdom, eg the Zebra who emits half a gallon of sperm in a single ejaculation, Jones contextualises human sexual behaviour and anatomy by comparing us with our animal cousins and draws some surprising conclusions about the innate sexual nature of humankind.
This book is really the antidote to the kind of woolly 'Men are from...' type pop-psyche nonsense that abounds these days. Jones presents the facts as he sees them based on current research and avoids drawing spurious conclusions. His discussion of the genetic basis of Homosexuality seems to end with a kind of 'but we're still not really certain at the moment'.
Of course Steve Jones is a man and so am I so there is an inevitable bias, but this seems like an exceptionally even handed discussion of masculinity, if Jones isn't certain then he leaves the questions open, and the book is all better for it. Y doesn't contain the kind of radical central thesis that propels a book to the top of the bestseller lists, but for those interested in a readable account of the research as it stands it is indespensible.