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10 mins

Christopher Ryan: Don’t Take Sex So Seriously – Transcript

Read the transcript of Caitlin’s interview with psychologist and the author of Sex at Dawn, Christopher Ryan.
by Natallia Darozhkina | May 3 2018

Ben Schuman-Stoler: Welcome to Simplify. I’m Ben Schuman-Stoler.

Caitlin Schiller: And I’m Caitlin Schiller. Simplify is 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.

Ben: In today’s episode, we’ll hear Caitlin’s conversation with co-author of Sex at Dawn, Christopher Ryan. Sex at Dawn is a book that explores humans’ sexual evolution—and where we come from in terms of our ancient ancestors. And it’s not what you might think!

Caitlin: Right? We’re not pterodactyls on the inside!

Ben: Which is good, even though you can do an impression of a pterodactyl.

Caitlin: I can, but maybe we’ll save that for later…

Ben: Good. Thank God. Okay, but so Sex at Dawn, the book has gotten this reputation as a scandalous book about sex, I think it’s fair to say? But today’s episode isn’t about scandalous intercourse, or tips and tricks or anything like that. It’s about sex, but not really sex as you might have expected. This is sexual evolution and evolutionary psychology.

Caitlin: Yeah, chimps and bonobos!

Ben: Bonobos! I actually had to look that up, because I know about them – they’re like monkeys, but I wasn’t exactly sure about the differences between bonobos and chimpanzees. So real quick to clear the air: bonobos are believed to be the closest living relative of humans.

They’re found only in Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo. And this is something interesting I learned about why that’s important – because it’s hard to reach for both political reasons and geographical reasons. So, like, humans studied and understood bonobos a lot later, which is why we don’t really hear about them that much. And it’s why we don’t understand that much about them, which is super important as we’ll find out today.

Caitlin: Right! Because, behaviorally, we are actually much more bonobo than we are chimp. Ryan goes into depth about that in this conversation—specifically, how we have a semi-secret primate relative, what that means for our present, and what we might not have realized about our sexual past because of it.

Ben: Yeah, like, I still don’t totally understand: we’re siblings? Are we cousins? Are we brothers? So I’m curious to hear about where we’re at with the monkeys.

Caitlin: Yeah, family is confusing. So this is about sexual revolution. And a more expansive understanding of this history can help you breathe a little easier. Plus, at the end, Ben and I will be back and we will compose a book list for further reading around the conversation that Christopher and I have.

Ben: Yeah, let’s get into it! Here’s Caitlin Schiller and Christopher Ryan. See you guys in The Bookend!

Caitlin Schiller interviews Christopher Ryan

Caitlin: Would you mind introducing yourself?

Christopher: My name is Christopher Ryan. I’m co-author of Sex at Dawn, which I published together with my wife, Cacilda Jethá, who’s a psychiatrist from Mozambique, and I do a podcast called Tangentially Speaking.

Caitlin: Great, thank you. And so I wanted to ask you, you’ve done tons and tons of talks and interviews and a TED Talk about the research in your book. What do you not get to talk about enough?

Christopher: Man! Well, as far as sexuality, I think I get to talk about everything as much as I could possibly want, and then some. I never thought I would get tired of talking about sex, but sometimes I do feel that way. But, I guess, part of the book that maybe I feel needs more attention is the parts that aren’t really directly related to sexuality.

In the center of the book, there’s a part where we talk about other parts of life: economics, and politics, and raising children, and things that are only sort of tangentially related to sexual interaction. And a lot of people wrote to me and said that was the most interesting part of the book for them. And I was aware of that because you can’t talk about the way a society handles sexuality without at least acknowledging that everything’s interrelated.

So, the way our ancestors handle sexual interaction was part of a suite of behaviors that included egalitarianism, and women’s autonomy, and status equal to men’s, and the way they treated children, and spirituality, and all sorts of other aspects of life. So my next book is an expansion of that material. And that will be out probably later this year. It’s called Civilized To Death.

Caitlin: Wow, that is a great title, I have to say. I think that one of my favorite quotes from the book––I don’t think I can directly quote it right now, I have a bookmark in there somewhere–– but it was “in matriarchal societies people get laid a lot more often.”

Christopher: Yeah, that’s paraphrasing it. Yeah, and it’s also… I mean we also sort of made a point to talk about how matriarchy doesn’t look like the inverse of patriarchy. So a lot of scientists who have looked at the data or, you know, anthropologists or travelers who have been with societies that we might refer to as matriarchies didn’t recognize them as such because they were looking for societies, in which women dominate men in ways that are sort of the inverse reflection of the way men often dominate women.

And what we find is that that isn’t how women wield power. And so it’s often unrecognizable to scientists, because they’ll be looking for women to be oppressive in the way that men often are in patriarchal societies. And in fact, what happens in societies where women’s social standing is equal to or ––we might argue–– a little higher than men’s is that the societies are far more collaborative, and relaxed, and rather than using violence for one gender to dominate another they’re using different levers of power to avoid dominance.

And this aligns very closely with discussions of bonobos and chimpanzees, our two closest primate relatives in the sense that chimpanzees are male dominant species. And we see things that are very recognizable as male dominance, things like, what appear to be coerced sexual interaction or rape, we see violence, lots of violence between males, we see the young being harassed, sometimes killed by males. And then, if you look at bonobos, you don’t see any of those things. You see, there’s never been an observed case of rape or murder between bonobos in the wild or in captivity, and they are female-dominant species.

But Frans de Waal summed it up really well ––he’s a primatologist who studied both species extensively–– and he said that chimps use violence to get sex and bonobos use sex to avoid violence. So in the female-dominated societies where the females aren’t being harassed, they’re much more sexually receptive and obviously things are better for both sexes.

Caitlin: Well, it seems to me that one of those central conceits of your book is that sex isn’t about reproduction?

Christopher: Yeah, not primarily.

Caitlin: So then can you talk about what sex is about, if it isn’t reproduction.

Christopher: I mean, to understand what that means it’s important – you know, most people don’t know a lot about the sex lives of other animals, but in fact, almost all mammals only have sex when the female is ovulating, meaning when the female is likely to get pregnant. So you know, pandas, for example, which we’re always hearing about in the news and, you know, their tortured sex lives, I think, female panda only ovulates, like, a few days a year, three or four days in a year.

Caitlin: It’s a lot of pressure on those days.

Christopher: Yeah, exactly. If you have a cold, you’re in big trouble.

Caitlin: Or a headache, my God.

Christopher: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, so most ––and when I say most I’m saying all mammals except a very few exceptions, four or five exceptions––have sex only for reproductive purposes. And that makes sense because if you think about it, when you’re having sex, you’re vulnerable. You’re vulnerable to predators, there’s increased risk of disease transmission, you’re spending energy that could be spent searching for food, or taking care of young, or, you know, other sort of more practical applications. So, why would a species be having sex, when it’s not going to result in pregnancy?

What you find, for example, is in gorillas, let’s say, very closely related primate to humans. Gorillas have sex somewhere between 10 and 15 times per birth. And that’s typical of mammals, whereas humans have sex upwards of a thousand times per birth. Typically.

Caitlin: Wow.

Christopher: Right, and so obviously you’re doing something a thousand times per success. That’s not the function of that activity, right? So why do humans have sex, if not primarily for reproduction? The argument we make in Sex at Dawn is that sex has been co-opted in our species for social purposes – it bonds the social group together. So we take care of one another’s children, we share food, we share access to all resources.

So having an open, interactive sexual network fits into that, because we’re sharing everything else. And by the way this isn’t controversial, this idea that hunter-gatherers share access to resources and were politically egalitarian and so on. This is all standard anthropological understanding of hunter-gatherers.

The only thing that we did in Sex at Dawn that was controversial is we said, “OK, then why would sexuality be the one exception to this?” If hunter-gatherers are taking care of each other’s children, sharing their food, sharing access to the spirit world, and resources, and shelter, and everything else they had, why would their sexual partners be the one thing that is being hoarded and considered private property? And it just makes no sense when you look at the actual configuration of hunter-gatherer societies.

And when, you know, in Sex at Dawn we lay out a lot of evidence from anthropological research and first contact situations, and, you know, travelers and so on, showing that in fact before missionaries come in and shame everybody into this sort of crazy unnatural behavior that we recognize in the Western, in civilized societies –– what you find is a very free relaxed sexuality, whether you’re talking about the islands of the South Pacific, or the first people Columbus came into contact with, or, you know, trappers and Jesuit missionaries and 1600s in Canada and all over the world. So the aberration is the way we look at sex and our sexual partners as private property. That’s what’s different in human behavior – the sort of standard for pre-agricultural people is much more relaxed, and open, and autonomous approach to sex.


Ben: Hey guys, it’s Ben! I’m interrupting real quick just to say that this is Season 3 of Simplify, which means we have two other seasons. And if you’re new to Simplify: welcome! Make yourself at home! But there’s plenty of other episodes for you to check out on everything from psychology, business, how to listen, sex, relationships, even food – which we like a lot here. So, go check it out. You can find the rest of the episodes on Alright, let’s get back to the rest of the interview with Christopher Ryan and Caitlin Schiller.

Interview Contd.

Caitlin: Civilized To Death ––that’s what your new book is called–– it sounds like it’s coming out of really current issues. Is that where Sex at Dawn came from too? What were you thinking about or concerned with then that prompted that book to come out?

Christopher: Yeah, I think the sort of origins of Sex at Dawn were probably the Bill Clinton–Monica Lewinsky situation. And I was just perplexed by the fact that that seemed to be a totally consensual situation, and yet both of them were being humiliated publicly, as well as Hillary, for doing something that seems to me to be relatively innocent. I didn’t really see how anyone had done anything horrible there.

And so I kept thinking about that and I read a book called The Moral Animal by Robert Wright that came out around that time. And it was like the new science of evolutionary psychology. I read that book and it seemed to make perfect sense to me. It explained that men and women have different reproductive agendas, and women forever have been trading fidelity for protection, and status, and meat or whatever from men. And it sort of laid out this very Darwinian understanding of how men and women have evolved differently because women have very few opportunities to be pregnant and give birth in their lives, whereas men can have thousands of children. You know, the whole sort of sperm versus ovum ratio argument.

And It explained everything so cleanly. And at that time, I was living in San Francisco, and I was surrounded with a lot of very smart, outspoken, politically-aware women. And so when I told them about this great book I had read, most of the women just sort of rolled their eyes and said, “Oh man, that’s such Victorian male bullshit.” They said, “Chris, that’s ridiculous, you know, this idea that women have sex to get things from men. That only happens because it’s the only way we can get things, you know. That’s not why we have sex by nature. We like sex, it feels good. You know, I can have more orgasms than you can, you know.”

So I went back and I started looking at the research that Wright had been talking about in his book. You know, I started looking up his sources. And that’s when I first came across bonobos. And I’d never heard of bonobos, most people had never heard of bonobos. So here are these bonobos, which are just as relevant to any discussion of human nature as chimpanzees are, because we share the same amount of DNA with bonobos as we do with chimpanzees. And yet Wright’s book and then most of the other books that I had read are full of references to chimpanzees: the violence, the male dominance, the warfare, and all this kind of stuff, but have very little reference to bonobos, if they mention them at all.

So that struck me as very strange. Like, wait a minute, this is science and yet here are two relevant examples, and they all talk about one and they leave the other unmentioned, that doesn’t make sense. That’s not science, that’s politics.

Caitlin: Why did that happen? Why were bonobos stricken from the record?

Christopher: Well, I think on one level because they’re embarrassing to scientists because they’re so hypersexual. In fact, I think it was Frans de Waal who told me about, I think it was National Geographic sent a film crew to Congo to do a story about bonobos. And they went to, there’s a rehabilitation center there, where they raise babies whose mothers have been killed by hunters. And so they had all these bonobos in a big area there. And the film crew set up and and they said, “Well, OK. You know, why are they all having sex? You know, when they stop having sex then we can start filming.” And the primatologist said, “Well, no, you don’t understand. They have sex all the time.” And the film crew were like, “Well, but we can’t show this on television.” And so they ended up flying to Congo for nothing.

Caitlin: That’s so puritanical.

Christopher: Right. So, part of it is that that they’re so hypersexual and people are so puritanical, including scientists, that they just don’t want to talk about it. But, I think, the other reason is that bonobos undermine the dominant narrative of human nature and human evolution. And so the narrative is so important, as I said before, it’s not science, it’s politics. And a lot of this discussion of human nature and human evolution is very much politicized, but in a way, that’s unacknowledged. So, so many of these things are being presented as, well, that’s just the way it is, that’s, science says this. But when you really start to look at it, no, science doesn’t say that, patriarchy says that, you know, a racist Western view of the world, colonialist view of the world says that. This is a very politicized discussion.

Caitlin: You say that sex isn’t used just for reproduction, sex is used to sort of social lubrication. Another thing that you say in the book that I really enjoyed was, “Don’t take sex so seriously.” What does that mean for society as it is today?

Christopher: You know, one of the fundamental motivations for writing Sex at Dawn for Cacilda and me was to address a lot of unnecessary suffering around sexuality and relationships. And, you know, as a psychiatrist she came into contact with many people who were suffering from, you know, various forms of trauma related to their own sexuality or to relationships. And the problem that we found is that the premise that people are working from is fundamentally inaccurate.

So if your premise is that human beings have always lived in little nuclear families and mate for life and that when you find your one and only partner, all your interest and appetite for other sexual partners will evaporate, if that’s your premise and you find that a year or two into a relationship you’re having dreams or fantasies about other people, then your conclusion will be that either there’s something deeply wrong with you, or your partner, or that your relationship is flawed.

So, working from that premise, people are making horribly destructive decisions for themselves and for their children and social fabric. A more accurate premise is, we believe, that human beings evolved in relatively promiscuous intimate social groups where people were having sex with different partners at different times, sometimes, different partners in the same week, sometimes, you know, over their lifetime certainly different partners. And that this sexual activity happened independent of intimacy and friendship. And so there could have been, for example, a very deep unique relationship, and that relationship could last a lifetime, but that doesn’t mean that that’s the only sexual partner that a person had. These things are happening in two different tracks.

So if you work from that premise, then you might say, “Oh, I’m having fantasies about someone else, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with my marriage. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with my husband. Doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me. It just means I’m a human being.” And so it’s totally understandable.

Now that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to have an affair, doesn’t mean you’re going to get out go to orgies or be swingers, or it doesn’t imply any particular behavior. It simply gives you a different way to understand those appetites. And I think that part of the problem with the modern world is that 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. So yeah, that’s what I’m trying to say, that our fundamental understanding of what kind of an animal we are is wrong and that needs to be addressed before we can really get into the symptoms of that misunderstanding.

Caitlin: Yeah, and maybe we’re just more bonobos, or as much bonobos as we are chimps.

Christopher: On the level of DNA we share exactly the same amount of our DNA with chimps and bonobos. So, anytime I read that, you know, “the human’s closest ancestor – the chimpanzee…” –– my head explodes, because that’s one of our closest ancestors. But on the other side, sometimes people say, “Oh, at Sex at Dawn they say that we’re closer to bonobos than the chimps.” –– that’s also inaccurate.

The way I think of it is, like, bonobos and chimps are my twin brothers. So they’re very, very closely related to one another, but their next closest relative is me, right. That’s why we share the same amount with the two of them. But in very sort of important fundamental ways behaviorally we are closer to bonobos. For example, a female chimp would never let another chimpanzee –– male or female–– hold her baby, because infanticide is quite common among chimpanzees. Whereas a bonobo mother will let other, females particularly, hold her infant within hours of being born. It’s very common. Now, you know, you go to the supermarket, and you see a woman, and she’s got a baby. And, “Oh my God, what a beautiful baby!” It’s quite likely that that woman will let you touch and hold her baby – that’s not unusual for humans.

We share with bonobos lots of sexual traits, for example, bonobos are the only other mammal ––other than humans–– that have sex face to face. All other mammals are, you know, rear entry. So bonobos look in each other’s eyes when they have sex. They hold hands. They kiss. You know, there’s a lot of sex and food interaction, you know, sort of common human dating behavior is going out for dinner, right? So behaviorally we’re far closer to bonobos than we are to chimpanzees, but in terms of DNA exactly the same.

Caitlin: We’re getting to the end of our time here, in fact, already over what I’ve booked you for. Would you mind if I ask you two more questions that you can answer as quickly or as incompletely as you want to?

Christopher: Sure.

Caitlin: Okay, this one is super super easy, and it’s just what books are you reading?

Christopher: I just read Lost Connections by Johann Hari and had him on my podcast last week. And that’s fantastic and ties in very much to what we’re talking about, because I don’t know if you’re familiar with his work his first book was Chasing The Scream which was about addiction. And 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. So that ties in very closely to what I’m arguing, which is that we have strayed away from the way that we were meant to live, the way we evolved to live. And so when we do, we suffer. Whether it’s obesity because our diet and our activity habits have strayed too far from the hunter-gatherer diet and activity, or it’s something less tangible, like depression or addictive behavior, because we’ve moved away from small intimate groups of people who know each other very well and take care of each other. So we see this trauma all over, and so I think Lost Connections was a very interesting book.

Caitlin: Hmm that is now on my to-read list. And then the last question is, if you could leave people who have listened to your interview today with one idea that you would hope that they would seriously ponder, and you think could be beneficial to them, what would it be?

Christopher: It would be that the famous Hobbesian line about what life, human life was like before the advent of the state ––in other words before agriculture–– is wrong in every way. Before the advent of the state human life was not solitary, not poor, not nasty, not brutish and not short. So everyone knows the line, you know, “Oh, life before the state was…” —most people just know nasty, brutish and short, but the full five is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. That’s wrong in every respect.

Caitlin: Why do you think people believe it so much? Is it just because we want to believe that we’re getting better and better?

Christopher: Yeah, most people believe it just because it’s so ubiquitous. But the other reason is, yeah, we want to believe that things are getting better. We have a bias toward a belief in progress and, you know, it’s almost sacrosanct to suggest that things aren’t getting better.

Caitlin: Thank you so much.

Christopher: Sure. Thank you.

Caitlin: Look forward to your new book.

Christopher: Thanks.

The Bookend

Ben: Welcome to The Bookend, where we end… with books. But first, let’s talk about the interview for a second.

Caitlin: I still can do my pterodactyl noise.

Ben: Please, don’t. I don’t think the microphones would survive.

Caitlin: Me neither.

Ben: So, why did we want Christopher Ryan on the podcast?

Caitlin: Well, because he wrote this book—Sex at Dawn—that was really the first of its kind. It caused this huge stir when it came out in 2010, and it’s still held up as a curiosity, as this “counter-intuitive must-read book on sex.” There’s something a little bit, like, occult about it, I think, or about its image! I have, personally, this vivid memory of seeing it on a friend’s shelf at a party, and this particularly copy was black, and the cover features a painting of a female body from navel to mid-thigh, demurely crossed legs, and a leaf held over her mons. It looked… kind of like, magical and somehow illicit? That’s how I felt about the content before I read it, and realized “Oh. This is a bunch of science.”

Ben: What did you think it was?

Caitlin: I wasn’t totally sure. I just knew that it had, like, this reputation for being… maybe scandalous is the wrong word, but controversial, I guess, is the word I’m looking for. Controversial. So I figured it was packed full of, like, illicit kama sutra things, which is acutely uneducated assumption that I made before I even looked at the content. So please, don’t hold that against me, Christopher, or anybody listening. I quickly realized I was wrong and I judged a book by its cover.

Ben: But then, so we got Christopher Ryan on here. And also because, I mean, even if we didn’t learn a lot of kama sutra stuff from the book, like the book is extremely important in terms of understanding who we are and how we can actually live better. So now, that you got to talk to him, like, what do you remember about it? What stood out in the interview?

Caitlin: Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that little bit. And I guess, this isn’t like a traditional Simplify episode and that we don’t have a lot of didactic advice, which, I think, is actually kind of cool. But I think, an important idea here is that the story that we’ve been telling ourselves about what kind of animal we are––where we come from, and our sexual evolution––isn’t totally accurate. And that’s spurred us to pathologize what might just come naturally to us, and caused a lot of suffering. We’re part bonobo, man––part of us is always going to want to Netflix & chill with, like, everybody.

Ben: And that’s okay.

Caitlin: And that’s okay. I mean, you choose how you act on that with your partner in a consensual conversation. But, like, that’s a normal part of your human genetic makeup.

Ben: Yeah, it’s like brain opening a little bit for me. OK, well then, I think, we should get to books.

Caitlin: Yeah, let’s just do that.

Ben: OK. So let’s talk about what people should read, if they want to learn more about all sorts of stuff: evolutionary psychology, monkeys, chimps, apes, primates.

Caitlin: Yeah, all that stuff. So, a really good first pick, I think, is the Frans de Waal book, actually that Brian mentions, it’s called Our Inner Ape by Frans de Waal. Ryan mentions de Waal in our conversation—de Waal is this primatologist, and he’s the guy who says that “chimps use violence to get sex and bonobos use sex to avoid violence,” and this book looked at their lifestyles. And it’s also an invitation to really zoom out and consider our modern human conceptions of morality and question “does this really work for us?” based upon what we know about our primate ancestors.

Ben: Yeah. Before this episode, I didn’t know the difference between chimps and bonobos. And now we’re talking about, like, primatology and the exact specifics of how they work in groups, and power females, etc. That’s like learning, man. That’s cool.

Caitlin: Yeah. Learning!

Ben: And one day we’ll also learn how to say “bonobos.”

Caitlin: Gotta keep practicing.

Ben: What else?

Caitlin: So another one is one that Christopher mentions that he just read. It’s called Lost Connections by Johann Hari. And on his recommendation, I picked it up and I’m reading it now. You can’t get it on Blinkist yet, but you probably will be able to soon. And it’s an investigation of the real causes of depression and anxiety. And basically, the thesis is that maybe they’re not fixable with antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds. It looks at flaws in the drug trials for the drugs that are used to treat depression and offers these “real causes of depression”––plus ways to feel better. It has mixed reviews and I’m not entirely convinced of the academic rigor, but I think it’s really interesting and it’s also always, I think, worthwhile to consider the social causes of the things that make us mentally ill and make us unhappy. And if nothing else so far, that’s the thing that I’m getting out of this book, and I think is actually really interesting.

Ben: How do you think it ties into the Christopher Ryan interview?

Caitlin: Well, it ties in that, that he mentioned it as a book he just read and was enjoying or had enjoyed. And I think it also ties in in that it’s a re-examination of something that we took for granted, or we have been taking for granted, which is that you have depression or anxiety because your brain is broken. Because physiologically there’s something wrong with you, and your levels of whatever are not right. And this book instead, challenges that and says, well, maybe some shady things happened to you in the past, or maybe you have inherited trauma from, I don’t know, back from way in your grandmother’s era, and it’s a thing that you have to work through. And it’s not going to get better with a pill – there are other ways to address this, that don’t mean medicating the crap out of yourself.

Ben: But also this idea of, like, understanding and just knowing who you are, knowing where you come from are part of it?

Caitlin: Yeah, I actually think that’s a really, really accurate connection you just made. It’s a new way to think about an old conception that repositions the future for you in a way that might bring relief. So it’s an opening to reconsider something that you assumed was true.

Ben: Right, and there’s something there maybe about why misunderstanding something is dangerous.

Caitlin: Yeah, that too. And the very personal and societal implications that that can have.

Ben: Right. Like, we’re all misdiagnosing so much stuff.

Caitlin: So much stuff.

Ben: Well, OK. Can I transition to a book I had an idea for?

Caitlin: Yes, I would love that!

Ben: I had kind of two books on my mind. One was Our Bodies, Ourselves, which is a book that is a classic about the human body, and my mom gave it to me when I was like 12.

Caitlin: Awww!

Ben: You’re supposed to like give it to your kid before puberty basically.

Caitlin: Oh, you got a book!

Ben: Yeah, well, there’s, like, pictures and you’re, like, curious, right, when you’re young? I can read you the…

Caitlin: Lay that commercial poetry on me, Ben.

Ben: It says, “Hailed by The New York Times as a “feminist classic,” and “America’s bestselling book on women’s health,” the comprehensive guide to all aspects of women’s health and sexuality, including menopause, birth control, childbirth, sexual health, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental health and general well-being.

Caitlin: Wow. So it sounds like a good book. What’s the other one?

Ben: So the other book, besides the classic, I was thinking, like, we were talking a lot about the past, about our revolutionary, whatever, story. And I was thinking like, what about the future? And, you know, book last year was a crazy bestseller that everyone was talking about was Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. And it’s a book about, like, where we’re going as a human race. And if we came from Homo sapiens, we’re heading towards this, like, new kind of human, where we’re going to be connected to each other, connected to the Internet and connected to the cloud, and wearing wearables. And we’re, like kind of, not exactly the same type of human being. Like, biologically we’re changing. And that’s even before all the nano-robots are going to go and, like, mess with our bloodstreams and stuff.

Caitlin: I can’t wait for this.

Ben: Oh my God.

Caitlin: Nano-doctors!

Ben: So, that’s the Homo Deus.

Caitlin: Awesome. You know, I hadn’t had that on my list, but I think I need to add it.

Ben: Thanks for listening to this episode of Simplify. It was produced by me, Ben Schuman-Stoler, Caitlin Schiller, Nat Darozhkina, and Ody Constantinou, who, I think, like, is coming up with a new way to make a toenail clipper.

Caitlin: Really?

Ben: Yeah. It’s hands-free.

Caitlin: Oh, I’m intrigued. Alright. Well, if you enjoyed this episode or feel that you learned something really interesting, could you, please, please do us a favor and send it to one person you like. That’s it! If this person would particularly get something out of this episode – even better! But yeah, spread the word! Like I like to say, podcasts are conversations. Use it to start one with someone you like!

Ben: Bonobos! Tell them how you can pronounce that. Yeah, and thanks everyone who’s already subscribed. Shout out to all the podcatchers out there: Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Apple Podcast, Overcast, Google Play. If you don’t have a favorite one, you can also email us, and we can tell you based on what phone what app you should get. New feature for Simplify this year! Caitlin will personally walk you through downloading and installing all of the podcatchers.

Caitlin: The look of abject horror on my face right now. No, I mean if you email me, I’ll email you something back, but it might just forward the email to Ben’s address.

Ben: Anyway, if you do, use those podcatchers, give us a review, give us a rating –– it helps other people find out about us. So thanks.

Caitlin: Yeah, awesome. So, we’re also on Twitter. I’m @CaitlinSchiller and Ben you can be found at –

Ben: @bsto

Caitlin: Awesome. Alright, so rad! Last thing: Simplify is made by the same people who make Blinkist. Blinkist, if you don’t know, is a learning app that takes insights the world’s bestselling nonfiction books and condenses them into these focused little capsules of knowledge available in audio or text that you can listen to or read in just 15 minutes.

Ben: And if you want to try it out, we made another voucher code for this episode. You can get 14 days free if you go to and type in the voucher code (obviously, our favorite word today): bonobo. And yeah, you get 14 more days, if you can pronounce it correctly and tell Caitlin and I how to do it.

Caitlin: Thank you so much for sending in voice memos about the answer to the question “What have you learnt was much easier than you thought it was?” If you haven’t done this yet and you want to, because you want to be on a Simplify mid-roll in the next season, record a voice memo and tell us what you’ve learned is actually simpler or easier than you initially thought it was, and email it to me and Ben: [email protected].

Ben: Cool, then we’ll be back next week with another episode of Simplify. In the meantime, be good. This is Ben…

Caitlin: …and this is Caitlin!

Ben: Checking out.

Caitlin: Checking out.

Ben: See you guys!

Caitlin: Bye!

Read the show notes for this episode here!

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