The only review for this new text on Amazon.
“Whether you loved or hated ‘Sex at Dawn’ by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, you will be pleased to discover a new companion book on the same subject. Provocatively titled ‘Sex at Dusk: Lifting the Shiny Wrapping from Sex at Dawn,’ the new book continues the debate about the origins of human mating. How could that ever be a dull subject?
‘Dusk’ contains not a shred of moralizing, but fortunately author Lynn Saxon hasn’t entirely suppressed her razor wit. Her mission? To restore ‘Sex At Dawn’s’ many omissions to their rightful place so that its readers are not left with a misleadingly fictitious picture of sexual behaviors in other societies.
Saxon’s in-depth grounding in evolutionary biology and natural selection radiates from every page as she diligently retraces Ryan and Jethá’s steps through a host of research — this time with attention to all the relevant facts for understanding human mating. Saxon’s work is right in line with anthropology professor Ryan M. Ellsworth’s review of ‘Sex at Dawn’: The Human That Never Evolved. (He was the sole academic who even bothered to address ‘Sex at Dawn.’) Said Ellsworth:
“The public–in many cases unfortunately, but understandably–is largely educated in science through popular expositions such as this, and therefore it is crucial that researchers in the pertinent fields not ignore such publications or shirk from weighing in on the issues. In this review, I address what I see as biased reporting of data, theoretical and evidentiary shortcomings, and problematic assumptions misleadingly put forth as well-supported hypotheses contained in Sex at Dawn.”
As it turns out, the story of the evolution of human mating is even more interesting with accurate references and solid analysis. For example, Saxon recounts that marriage, mate-guarding and jealousy arose even in isolated hunter-gatherer tribes — casting doubt on Ryan and Jethá’s insistence that marriage is strictly a cultural mishap.
Why would marriage be such a human universal? It allowed our species to overcome the severe, isolating antagonism our male ape cousins express towards males from other communities. Inter-tribal marriage thus accomplishes two important objectives. It prevents incest and permits the acquisition of in-laws (and their resources/goodwill).
Whereas Ryan and Jethá conclude that women are naturally “sl_ts not wh_res,” that is, looking for a good time *all* the time rather than looking for resources, Saxon comes to the opposite conclusion based on solid evolutionary science. Sperm-makers seek to fertilize widely but “female reproduction is very much about converting resources into offspring, and the acquisition of resources can have the same priority in female reproductive success as copulation has in the reproductive success of males.” (Sorry gents.)
Perhaps you believe, like Ryan and Jethá, that concern about paternity must be a recent thing in humans because knowledge of a connection between sex and offspring is relatively recent and requires human intelligence. If so, it would be very difficult to explain common male animal behaviors such as infanticide, mate-guarding, and male parental care. Such behaviors can’t depend on a conscious knowledge of the connection between sex and offspring. As Saxon explains, “Genes are quite capable of being selected without any need for conscious awareness by the individuals they are in of what is going on.”
Have you bought the idea in ‘Sex At Dawn’ that we humans are basically Bonobo chimps at our core and therefore have evolved to engage in promiscuous mating with all and sundry? Well, even female Bonobos discriminate among partners in subtle ways, and much of the sex they have is really “sex,” a brief social ritual influenced by troop politics.
In response to Ryan and Jethá’s hypothesis that promiscuous sex would naturally lead to group parenting, Saxon reminds us that in a world of recurring scarcity, “Selection cannot act in the direction of indifference towards the parentage of offspring requiring parental resources.” Oh well.
‘Dusk’ brims with interesting, thoroughly documented discoveries. The reader may even learn new things about the benefits of pair bonds. For example, you probably didn’t know that when,
“experiments were done where monogamy was enforced in fruit flies. [Once] the reproductive interests of male and female converged on the same offspring and male sperm competition was removed, the semen became less and less damaging to the females. In addition to this, males also evolved to be less aggressive in their courtship, and reproductive output actually increased over what it had been with the sperm competition.”
Does monogamy look a bit more appealing? Of course Saxon agrees that humans fool around, and that many cultures permit marriage with more than one wife (although few hubbies can afford the luxury of additional egg-makers). However, she points out that even though sperm strategy and egg strategy diverge from the get-go (potentially creating a sort of evolutionary arms race between genders), lifetime sexual monogamy permits the interests of both parents to converge on the same offspring for a lifetime. Now, “what harms the reproductive fitness of one sex harms that of the other too and is therefore not selected.”
‘Dusk’ will appeal to anyone with a passion for understanding the rich, complex roots of human sexuality and mating. It’s also the perfect handbook for those with a copy of ‘Sex At Dawn,’ as Saxon has thoughtfully laid out her book in the same order for the convenience of ‘Dusk’ readers who wish to compare its content with that of ‘Sex at Dawn.’
What does all this information mean for humanity? According to Saxon, casual sex of the type ‘Sex At Dawn’ advocates, “may increasingly become our present but it certainly isn’t our human past. And `recreational sex’ is not what creates the future.”
In other words, we may just be passing through a phase of clearing up the gene pool, folks.”