Sex at Dawn

By Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha

A pioneering and controversial book which challenges the way we perceive sex, marriage, monogamy and family, Sex at Dawn is a fascinating account of the origins of our relationship to sex. Delving into history, at least 10 000 years ago, to the beginning of agriculture, the authors suggest that we were not always a monogamous society.

How could agriculture and sex be linked?

Prior to the advent of agriculture, hunter-gatherers traveling and living in groups was normal; they had multiple sex partners and no-one cared about paternity. They shared everything, from clothing to food and caring for the children even if they were not their own.

The rise of agriculture during the hunter-gatherer period began to instill a sense of ownership since property was divided or claimed amongst individuals. In order for them to maintain ownership of land, they needed someone to care for it if they no longer could. This created a need to settle down with one partner with whom they could have children and who would eventually become the caretakers of the land.

Land ownership changed the way the pre-agricultural society behaved, to the point where we began to suppress our instincts and adapted to a new lifestyle with a family unit and no longer a shared society.

Ryan believes that theories around evolution are biased in relation to sex because we want to maintain a ‘civilised’ society. We have adapted our evolutionary story by projecting current society’s lifestyles onto our ancestors.

Criticized and praised, by academics, columnists and authors, Sex at Dawn could be one of the most important books written about human nature and sex. It is well researched, entertaining and really makes you think about what else history may have adapted to better suit modern times.

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