Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá
Completed: October 19, 2015
Purchased: Barnes and Noble
Eep! Those paying attention will notice that I completed this book almost 2 weeks after book 8. Francis and I had extended visitors from Brooklyn who kept us very busy, but I as of today I have officially caught up. I even managed to avoid buying more books to add to my book queue! However, I do still have my review posts to catch up on.
I purchased Sex at Dawn sometime around 2012. I had always been interested in human sexuality, and was let down that it was rarely touched upon in any human behavior courses that I took during college. There was a time when I considered specializing in sexual disfunction in graduate school. So when I came across this book at a Long Island Barnes and Noble one night, I was very excited to read it. At the time, I was in an unhealthy relationship that lacked emotional and physical intimacy, and I wanted desperately for it to work. Sex at Dawn‘s directness about the futility of long term relationships was a bit too much for my denial to handle. I couldn’t make it past the introduction without crying, so it sat shelved for years.
I’m not exactly sure why this book followed me across 5 moves, while many of my favorite books were donated.
Shortly after we began seeing each other, Francis went on a two-month road trip around the United States. Along the way he began listening to the Savage Love Podcast, a snarky PNW-based sex and relationship advice column featuring Dan Savage. The podcast has become a bit of a joke in our household because of how often Francis quotes it or forces me to listen. I promise that this is relevant.
I added Sex at Dawn to my 52 books challenge knowing that once I began, I would HAVE to finish, no matter what feelings it unearthed. (I mean, I made it through Pedagogy, right?) I was relieved when my reading of the introduction went smoothly. I was even excited to continue! Satisfied, I closed the book and studied the cover for the hundredth time to discover the most prominent review, top center, was a glowing accolade from Dan Savage. My edition also includes bonus content from his interview with Christopher Ryan. Clearly there was a time and place for me to read this book, and I had found it.
Now, on to my review.
I am very happy to have finally read this book. Its arguments are thorough and fact-based. The book itself is readable and not overly-technical. I have some academic background in evolutionary psychology as well as anthropology, and didn’t find this information overly simplified. In fact, most of the information was novel to me. I can’t remember the last time I was exposed to new ideas (book, movie, lecture, etc) and felt so compelled to SHARE what I was learning. It was downright exciting to put this book down after a paragraph and look around eagerly for someone to teach my new fact to. (Surprise answer- it was only ever Francis. We need Oregon friends badly.)
The most crucial component of science is remaining ever-critical, and so I believe the authors would appreciate my skepticism. While the book presents a cornucopia of evidence, it’s hard not to remember the author’s own warning about seeking evidence that supports our preexisting suppositions. I would like to see more literature to support their arguments from additional sources- particularly sources who might have stronger academic qualifications. The puzzle pieces in this book fit together a little too cleanly.
My primary issue with this book is that it urges us to take an open-minded approach to how we view monogamy and pair-bonding, but still perpetuates that sex and relationships are between a male a female. Although it mentions female sexuality it’s impossible to ignore that the vast majority of the emphasis is on men and masculinity. They support that females have a higher sex drive, but still frame female sexuality in terms of males. I also find it disappointing that the authors attribute all of society’s decline to the rise of agriculture, but suggest absolutely no way to improve upon modern society to remedy these issues. The implication is that, short of a mushroom cloud reverting us to a hunter-gatherer society, we’re all totally screwed to be poorly paired and sexually unsatisfied. Since the authors boast their healthy relationship with one another, surely there’s something prescriptive they could add.
Would I read more by this author?: Sure! Although it might sit on my shelf for a while.