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Sex at Dawn

How we mate, why we stray, and what it means for modern relationships

By Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 11 key ideas
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Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá

Sex At Dawn argues that the idealization of monogamy in Western societies is essentially incompatible with human nature. The book makes a compelling case for our innately promiscuous nature by exploring the history and evolution of human sexuality, with a strong focus on our primate ancestors and the invention of agriculture. Arguing that our distorted view of sexuality ruins our health and keeps us from being happy, Sex At Dawn explains how returning to a more casual approach to sex could benefit interpersonal relationships and societies in general.

Key idea 1 of 11

Find out why long-term relationships suffer from monogamy.

Are humans monogamous by default? Does the standard “boy-meets-girl”narrative come naturally to us?

Many evolutionary psychologists think so. But take a moment to consider how many men have put their careers, family life and happiness at risk just for a single, meaningless, extra-marital fling. (Think Bill Clinton.)

Consider how, in some countries, women are stoned to death for adultery, yet the urge to pursue sexual variety outside a lifelong partner has persisted since the dawn of mankind.

From this perspective, it seems strange that countless individuals in human history have risked their lives and possessions for something that is believed to be “unnatural” to our species.

Yet the standard assumptions about womb-to-tomb monogamy, the weaker female libido and the nuclear family (consisting solely of mom, dad and kids) persist.

With more marriages failing than ever, and the media decrying the new “hook-up” culture, it’s time to ask: What is the reality of human sexuality? And, how did it come to be?

Sex At Dawn attempts to answer these questions. The following blinks will demonstrate a fascinating and plausible alternative view on the evolution of human sexual behavior.

In these blinks, you’ll learn:

  • why monogamous relationships tend to be doomed from the outset,
  • how casual sex was crucial to our ancestors’ survival,
  • why women moan loudly during sex, and why they take longer to reach orgasm,
  • how agriculture ruined our health and happiness, and
  • how the sexual and social behavior of our ancestors is similar to that of chimps and bonobos today.
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