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on 24 February 2013
i thought this would help me understand sex and dating....instead it brought insight to my life!, the first few chapters are tough but its so incredibly interesting thought provoking and by the end its like your heads been turned round and suddenly your looking at everybody else who is left upside down.......ive bought several copies for friends and family, people need to read this, for there own piece of mind! really its like hearing something which suddenly makes sense of everything around you, and has given me such piece of mind and understanding. great advances have been made in anthropological study and of human society and when you hear it...its clear as day why people are so confused and oppressed by recent social constructs which serve only to make people unhappy. please read this book and recommend it to everyone you know too!
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on 24 March 2011
I bought this book to try and understand why personal relationships are in such a crisis in our society. Whilst it's clearly - and unashamedly - written with an agenda in mind, it is very well researched and fully embedded in academic anthropology, containing many references to other academic publications.

Don't let that comment make you think it's a dusty publication, though. Anything but; the writing is lively, eminently readable and witty throughout. I enjoyed it as a read as such, but beyond that it put forward the alternative view to what the authors call the "standard narrative" of how intimate relationships work, very successfully. I found many answers and insights that as well as satisfying my curiosity, enable me to understand my own feelings and behaviours better than I did before I read the book. I shall be recommending it to friends and may even buy a few more copies to send to a few people close to me.

Be clear, this book explores, sets out and justifies views on attitudes and societal 'givens' that will challenge many people who ascribe to conventional viewpoints about intimate relationships and sexual behaviors. If you don't want these views and values challenged - don't read this book. On the other hand, if you are beginning to wonder why things just don't fit into the "standard narrative" for you - order a copy NOW. Standard wisdom is not necessarily right.
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on 31 August 2012
Once in a while a book comes a long and hits you in the soft bits. "Sex at Dawn" is a non-fiction book, but as enrapturing as any page turner. Despite the humour aimed at sexual double standards, an erotic sheen emanates from its pages.

So what does this book try to establish? 1. Monogamy and marriage are not necessarily the same 2. That humans' DNA and physical traits do not predispose them to monogamy 3. That hunter gather communities were peaceful and not marred by the squabble over resources and women that we see amongst "civilised" peoples.

"Sex at Dawn" succeeds with one and two. Monogamy and marriage are not the same. How one defines fidelity is very much how one person and their spouse/mate see it to be. Sex has both a functional purpose as well as a romantic purpose and a lustful purpose. Balancing all of these can be hell. Especially when one takes in to consideration statement 2: That humans are not monogamous gibbons or swans (swans aren't really that noble). Humans are horny chimps and bonobos in suits.

Three however - hum. To claim the rather anachro-anarchistic view that private property/agriculture creates wars, often at the expense of hunter/gatherers is problematic, but not without some foundation. It's an argument in need a book of its own. I felt the authors were stretching things a little here. But the book is so funny, well written and addictive that I was quick to forgive. It's also a more sensible view that the ridiculous "killer ape gene" theory bandied about, with its smacks of reactionary genetic determinism.

I would recommend reading this book to any adult of the Western world. It has the potential to spark something off. Not because it's hugely original - there are a few books out now that dare to mention polyamory and "ethical sluttery." But this is book is so daring and convincing that it might release a few people's inner bonobo.

14/04/13 I added a link to a video review I made of the book: [...]
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on 16 February 2014
Authors Chris Ryan and Cacilda Jetha prove what we all suspect - humans are not monogamous. The book shows scientific facts (no assumptions) researched thoroughly. If it wasn't for my aging eyes (I'm 30 but I don't wear glasses even though I should) I would definitely read it in one go. A fantastic read and eyeopener! I suspect that after reading this book (even though you probably won't change much in your day to day life) you'll have more understanding of human behavior. Suddenly you'll know the basis for most failed relationships and marriages.You will also be blown away by information about sexual life of different cultures (quite a few very interesting examples, proving the point).
Great Kindle price on Amazon! Can't miss it!
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on 20 August 2013
... who makes a habit of indulging in the type of review upon which I am about to embark. But there comes a point - at least one - in everyone's life where some of the personal tenets by which one has hitherto existed are obliged to take second place to a stronger force. And that stronger force is reverence. For the first time in my life. A reverence of such utter clarity and profundity that I fair wept at the words contained within this book's pages.

I will try not to overstate things. I realise that the authors must be accustomed to correspondence of this type and I detest sycophancy (although please let me assure you that nothing I say should be regarded as being anywhere near to such). But I must congratulate them; they need congratulating - that is not meant to sound patronising; they DESERVE congratulations. The wisdom, intelligence and downright common sense behind their writing shine through every page. They might be humble and 'scientific' enough not to state blindly that everything they say is correct but I am not subject to the same barriers and I can tell you that it ALL makes perfect sense and IS correct.

And above all, they have been true to Nature. We, as a species, are becoming more and more divorced from the rawness - the beauty - of Nature. And we are suffering tremendously as a result. And increasingly so. It was Jung who wrote, “Too much of the animal distorts the civilised man; too much civilisation makes sick animals.” Perfectly put. How true. And that is what we are becoming: sick animals. “Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret” – a principle with which I KNOW the authors would heartily concur.

Their book has given me hope. Although I have ALWAYS had great belief in my own normality (i.e. I am the standard by which all others must be judged - if I feel/think a certain way about various issues then I KNOW that most of the heterosexual female population feels/thinks the same) and an enormous inner strength in the face of hypocrisy, disingenuousness and complete stupidity, it is so very comforting to realise that EVERYTHING I have naturally and instinctively felt and KNOWN TO BE TRUE about human sexuality (male AND female) could never be merely a figment of my warped imagination !

I have been told by friends that I should start a sect. They mean it tongue-in-cheek and also with a fair degree of derogatory undercurrent but they have a point. For many years now I have been trying to tell those around me a lot of what I have always naturally known about sex, much of which I have found within the pages of this book. I have met with resistance – verbal and physical – because of my outlook on life when it comes to sex; I have been insulted, shunned and ostracised because I refuse to – I AM UNABLE TO – conform to the “standard narrative”.

I feel it is my DUTY to try to educate and inform those around me about the TRUTH concerning our sexual desires. I tell them sex is the greatest gift that we have been given as a species (yes, even greater than the gift of speech or heightened intelligence, in my opinion) and that we should be true to ourselves. I tell them how when I’m thirsty, I drink; when I’m hungry, I eat; and yet when I want to make love I am obliged to consult social mores or religious teachings before deciding what I am allowed to do ! I tell them that if they feel shackled by religious beliefs they are blind ! After all, I ask them, who do you think made you ? Do you accept the way they made you ? If you have faith, why do you not have faith in the way they made you ? What greater respect and worship could you be giving your creator than by BEING TRUE to the way he/she/it made you and GIVING VENT TO YOUR NORMAL, NATURAL SELF ?! (I don’t include people with clearly “abnormal” (by any right-thinking person's definition) proclivities, of course – I refer to the HUGE MAJORITY, those who believe we should try to make people happy throughout our lives and not force our sick will on others.)

I don’t know why or how I know the things that I do – things that nearly all of those people who live to be 100 would never have the insight, liberation or courage to admit; things that I have yet to find properly echoed by anyone around me – but I have never doubted them. And now I have something I can point to in support of my ideas, thoughts and feelings: the writers and their immensely wonderful book. I thank them. From the bottom of my soul.

And yet, it is almost a double-edged sword ! Although I was filled with “At last” feelings and a sense of relief that I am not a lone, honest voice in the sexual wilderness I also felt a strange – I can’t adequately describe it – yearning, a huge frustration that EVERYONE wasn’t reading what I was reading ! I had almost a sense of anger that those nearest and dearest to me hadn’t read it also and couldn’t share my passion. At last this book would give form to all that I had been trying to instil in them for so long – as well as so much more besides, of course – and yet they didn’t know it ! I want them ALL to know. And NOW ! Never before had I felt such a sense of intense urgency ! And I felt so powerless. So impotent. But then, I guess, as my husband tells me, that is how a lot of men are becoming: weak, sterile, powerless and impotent. And a lot of that is down to the topics they discuss in this book.

In fact, this book should be required reading in every school in the country ! Now THAT really would set the gibbon amongst the bonobos, wouldn’t it ? I have always said that the GREATEST education we can give our children is that of being comfortable, shame- and guilt- free and NATURAL with their bodies. Of course, in this sick world I would more readily be labelled as a paedophile than as a great teacher. Alas, there is none so blind as those who will not see …

With people like these authors around there is still hope for mankind. I firmly believe that optimism, openness, cooperation and TRUTH are the key. The writers have helped to sow a seed that I pray will grow, regardless of those who will try to destroy it. Maybe one day the truth will finally hit home and we can indeed return to a more sexually open and honest way of life and of living. I will continue to do my bit. They have most certainly done theirs. “Gutta cavat lapidem, non vi sed saepe cadendo.”

My most heartfelt felicitations and respect to them both ...

FV
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on 24 September 2013
In this world in the perpetual contest between questions and answers it is the 'questions' that have clearly taken the lead; but Christopher Ryan, in this highly enlightening (and perhaps worrying too in some ways) book, has stuck in a few goals for the 'underdog' and narrowed down the gap.

Sex at Dawn demolishes chapter by chapter our accepted notions about sex, marriage and fidelity. Female sexuality and common and popular male fantasies are also explained... brilliantly.

At another level this work also questions the wisdom of mankind giving up his hunter-gatherer life for that of farm and factory - more food for thought.

I'm not going to say anymore except: buy this book... you won't be disappointed!
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on 1 February 2016
I am not an anthropologist, but I read this book, because I have studied history and am interested in feminist studies. Many of the facts in the book were very interesting. It might have been convincing, if it had not been for the "amusing, light, playful" style that this book is written in. That was a red flag that this is not science. What struck me the most, was the way the author's quoted Karl Marx and the Marxist view of history, as if it was de facto truth, and an unchallenged scientific fact. Far from it, Marxist view of history was developed before archaeology became a strict discipline and source criticism was still under development. Considering what results actual historical and archaeological sciences have brought to light, we should finally be able to drop much Marxist argumentation, especially about ancient history, if it had not been for a continued Leftist political lobby. Interestingly, the idea that women could be shared is in itself a Marxist proposition. Lenin lived with two women following this sexual ideology. After having read some anthropological literature written by archaeologists about the Neolithic Revolution, I have a strong feeling that Ryan and Jetha are pushing an ideological agenda, much like Marija Gimbutas pushed a feminist ideology when reading full matriarchy into the Neolithic. Interestingly, Lynn Saxon wrote a criticism of this book, also pointing out that the sharing of women had been tried by the Soviets in 1917, and the experiment failed, social dysfunction followed in the group. Many internet critics who believe the ideology pushed by Sex at Dawn like to point out that Saxon is a Christian, and that she therefore embodies the "culturally influenced standard theory of human pair bonding", which these authors attack so much. Yet no one points out that Ryan and Jetha's clearly strong, but not openly admitted Marxist sympathies may also have influenced their work.
My other objection is the use of the word omnigamy in this book: while such a thing as group marriage between tribal members (a kind of swinger tribe) clearly exists, it is actually very rare, as Saxon's examples of hunter-gatherer groups living in marriage also suggest. Many of the examples that Ryan and Jetha use to prove omnigamy among our pre-Neolithic ancestors, are not really omnigamy. It is either an open form of marriage between a few partners, but not nearly "everyone" or it is a kind of magical sex rite, that does not continue in everyday life. It is important to make distinctions here, if we truly want to find the truth. Religious behaviour is not "normal everyday behaviour". As anthropologists, Ryan and Jetha should be aware that religious ceremonies are symbolic, they re-enact mythology or influence the world through magic, and are actually disruptive of everyday functioning - that is what gives them mystic power. So, many of the examples in this book may shed important light on variations in human mating behaviour that are influenced by religious or magical beliefs, or economic conditions, but not necessarily the strict thesis of bonobo mating behaviour which the authors advocate. We should thread carefully here, since we have no time machine to go back to ancient times. Ryan and Jetha should have used more strident source criticism, instead of idealizing every form of strange sexual behaviour that they encounter. It is difficult to remain objective, when you are in thrall to a strong ideological world view, and atheists are not necessarily more immune to that, than nice Christian ladies.
The one thing that anthropological studies show us, is that human mating behaviour is almost as diverce as human language and religion. Scientists like to group mating behaviour into monogamy, polygyny, polyandry, omnigamy, etc. but the truth is, that not even these disctinctions hide the same reality. Polygyny looked different for Mongols than Arabs, and monogamy was different for Romans than Christians. Polyandry has also been more common in history than one might think: it was practiced by the ancient Indo-Europeans, who by all evidence were both polyandrous and polygynous at the same time. How this looked in their actual social practice is hard to determine now, for lack of said time machine. The only statement that I would dare to make, is that "human pair bonding" changes with social and economic conditions. There is no evidence for anything else, the way I see it. That leaves the question: since it is undeniably a part of human nature to continually transcend its own nature, through adaptation and civilization, it is still justified to treat the question of marriage and family as a moral and ethical matter, if we do not wish to harm individuals by our social practices.
This is in fact what Ryan and Jetha are invisibly doing: they are pushing the ethical agenda that "open marriage" is better for children and adults, and that "women are sluts, not whores", who are justified in wanting group sex. This is beginning to sound more and more like a pamflet for excusing gang rape. And when the authors quote studies of pornography, then we are in dangerous territory: they say that female brains react to sexual images that their conscious selves reject. Wouldn' t that read like a great defense in court? They do nothing to explain that all test subjects at such experiments react to pornographic images somewhat, because human beings react to the sight of sex.
But that does not mean that they also want the thing they see to happen, since another instinct (the instinct to control fatherhood, which is also important to mothers, or the instinct for physical self-preservation) also act against this first instinct. Perhaps if I was a brain scientist, then I could build a whole theory around the limbic brain and the pre-frontal cortex and all of that. But since I'm not a neurologist, I will leave it at that.
This book is a prime example of how disjointed data that are not even fully understood, can be assembled to push a political agenda.
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on 15 September 2011
Love, marriage, the death of sexual desire and the temptation for adultery is the familiar romantic arc for most peoples relationships in most contemporary societies. Like taxes and death it appears inevitable but is this necessarily the case? The authors of thought provoking, well researched and frequently funny book don't think so. They build a strong case that marriage, "monogamous mating" or the "long-term pair bond" is not how our species evolved and is instead a social adaptation to the recent economic conditions since we transitioned from Hunter-Gatherer to agricultural societies and exchanged the egalitarian culture of the former for the propertied culture of the latter. A social adaptation which causes all sorts of problems and has caused untold misery for our species, from the institutionalised sexual abuse of religious organisations to the charnel houses of foundling hospitals to witchcraft trials to the everyday frustration most people experience during much of their lives.

In this sense the book reads a bit like an update of Frederick Engels classic "The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State" who suggested monogamous marriage was a means by men to guarantee paternity and thus ensure property was passed down to his heirs and not, say, the filthy servants. The biggest weakness of Engels book today of course is that it is so out of date and much more is known about prehistory, human evolution and biology, the behaviour of other primates and of the variety in forms of social organisation we as a species can exhibit.

There is a lot of science in this book but nothing beyond the non-scientist and everything is properly referenced with a huge bibliography so its easy to use as a launch pad to explore specific areas you might be more interested in. Some other reviewers have questioned the authors accuracy and their integrity but I think that is unfair as the areas I am familiar with are well dealt with. In any case the book is so well referenced its easy to follow up and discover for yourself. Plus any book that covers a large number of fields such as psychology, primatology, anthropology, developmental biology is going to be walking into a minefield of dispute and controversy.

You should buy this book if you're looking for a fresh perspective on human sexual behaviour, it goes so contrary to the standard narrative most scientists in the field hold, never mind that of popular culture. There is also a lot of explicit discussion of sex in this book. I'm a pretty open minded guy (or I thought I was) but some of the things our species gets up to had me nearly spilling my coffee.
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on 5 March 2014
I was already familiar with a lot of the popular anthropology books mentioned and the arguments that are considered in the book. However this puts a different emphasis on much of the material and although many of the ideas are not totally new it brings them together with a very strong and entertaining narrative. The weakness is that although flaws and slippery logic are frequently highlighted in the arguments of others writers, on occasions I think the authors of this book perform some similar tricks. I really enjoyed this book and will probably re-read as I think I didn't quite absorb everything on just one read.
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on 11 July 2012
Well written, easily understood and brilliantly researched. Helps to make sense of so much of our biology and why we evolved the way we have physically; more importantly it explains a lot about human behaviour. It also helps to give us a guide on how we can continue to evolve socially in our relationships by going with, rather than against, our evolutionary history.

Highly recommend it.
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