Simplify Human Sexuality: Christopher Ryan Says Embrace Your Monkey Brain Fantasies
Are humans meant to be monogamous? When did we start to view our sexual partners as private property? The authors of one of the most extraordinary — and controversial — books on sexual evolution, Sex at Dawn, studied our primate legacy and explain how it shapes our sexual behavior. In this episode, Caitlin talks to co-author Christopher Ryan about what drove the writing of this book, how sex differs between matriarchal and patriarchal societies, and how we may have the wrong idea about human sexuality.
“We’ve been given a narrative of what kind of animal Homo Sapiens is that’s inaccurate. And so working from that inaccurate baseline we end up making all sorts of decisions that are destructive to us.”
By the end of this episode, you’ll understand why having fantasies about someone other than your partner is completely normal and why we may have been sold the wrong ideas about sex. If that’s not enough, you’ll also find out why bonobos were considered a little too racy for pre-watershed television.
Who’s Christopher Ryan?
Christopher Ryan is an author and journalist with a PhD in Psychology, who has lived in Alaska, Mexico, India and Spain. His Indian-Portuguese wife and co-author of Sex at Dawn, Cacilda Jethá M.D., is a physician and psychiatrist. Ryan and Jethá have been married for years and have chosen not to reveal any personal details about their life together. Chris is finishing a book tentatively called Civilized to Death: Why Everything’s Amazing but Nobody’s Happy, due out in 2018—and he hosts a weekly podcast, called Tangentially Speaking.
Christopher Ryan’s recommended read
1. Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari
The information that our society peddles about depression and its causes are, most likely, quite inaccurate. Lost Connections traces the author’s journey from realizing that his own treatment for depression may not have been fit for purpose, through investigating the deeper underlying causes of depression and anxiety disorders. A must-read for anyone interested in the social causes of mental health issues, and those seeking a means of treatment that goes beyond medication.
Comment from Christopher: “…this book is about depression and anxiety disorders, the sort of epidemic of distress, mental distress that’s sweeping the Western world. And he argues in both cases that addiction and this depression, and anxiety are largely due to social causes – to the lack of meaning and community in the modern world.”
Extra credit reading
If you would like to learn more about evolutionary psychology and our shared primate heritage, check out this book list composed by Ben and Caitlin!
1. Our Inner Ape by Frans de Waal
Frans de Waal is the primatologist Christopher Ryan mentioned to Caitlin. For decades, de Waal studied and observed the lifestyles of our closest primate relatives—chimpanzees and bonobos—to compare and contrast their traits with human behavior. In this book, he argues that our noblest qualities are instinctive, and explains why we have a lot in common with the lesser-talked-about bonobo, as well as with the chimpanzee.
2. Our Bodies, Ourselves by Judy Norsigian & Boston Women’s Health Book Collective
This book is a classic about the human body. It’s a comprehensive guide to all aspects of women’s health and sexuality, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental health and general well-being. It provides practical information on how to find and access health information, and resources to educate women about health care injustices and inspire them to work collectively to address them.
3. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
Homo Deus is a provocative take on humanity’s future: humans made themselves into the gods of planet earth with uncontrollable forces of nature transformed into manageable challenges, and people more likely to die from overeating than from eating too little. This book is about where we are going as a human race. And the same fundamental question comes up: how are we going to protect the world from our own destructive powers?
Simplify is a podcast for anybody who’s taken a close look at their habits, their happiness, their relationships, or their health and thought “There’s got to be a better way to do this.” We talk to bestselling writers, productivity wizards, sex geniuses, and happiness experts to find it for you.
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Who made this?
Your hosts are Caitlin Schiller and Ben Schuman-Stoler.
Stellar research and production assistance by the outstanding Natallia Darozhkina.
Sound and editing by Ben Jackson and Ody Constantinou, who is coming up with a new way to make a toenail clipper.