Book Review: ‘Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality’ by Cacilda Jethá and Christopher Ryan

3star

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In deciding to read this book, my goal was to understand the current zeitgeist of alternative sexual and romantic lifestyles that seem to present themselves more frequently in modern entertainment. For example, the new Netflix show Easy has a scene where a character is reading Sex at Dawn, and the whole point of the show is to explore some of the alternative lifestyles that everyday people are living. I already had an idea as to what the main crux of this book would be, which is that our prehistoric ancestors were most likely non-monogamous and sexually liberated, but obviously there had to be more to the book than that. Mainly I wanted to see all of the accumulated evidence that leads the authors to these conclusions.

At first, Sex at Dawn kinda rubbed me the wrong way. The authors subtly proclaimed that this book is as revolutionary as the heliocentric model of the solar system. Doubtful, I thought. The writing style was a bit off-putting too. It seemed too casual for something that was supposed to be scientific and revolutionary. I also found it annoying how often they deemed actual revolutionary scientists and thinkers as wrong, which I thought was bold for these lesser-known authors.

By the end of the book, however, I was better able to accept why the book was written the way it was. The book is about sex, after all, and it was filled to the brim with facts and research backing its claims, so now I feel like the casual, relatable writing style made things easier to digest. And as for the claims that some of the most renowned historical scientists were slightly wrong in their thinking: it actually does make sense that many people, including scientists, would’ve held biases that were products of the times they each lived in.

Sex at Dawn really did challenge my way of thinking and revealed new insights that I didn’t think I’d find in this book. Is it revolutionary? Maybe. I think more time will tell. But I do think it’s left its mark on the collective consciousness as we slowly inch our way towards social and intellectual progress in understanding human nature.

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