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Like a Virgin: How Science is Redesigning the Rules of Sex [Kindle Edition]

Aarathi Prasad

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"Think of her as the female equivalent of Brian Cox making science accessible for the masses... Entertaining and provocative, this promises to change the way you think about sex." Stylist "A fascinating examination of a future that may not be too distant, as well as an account of historical misconceptions about conception." Kirkus Reviews "[Prasad's] elegantly written romp through the science and history of conception is conceivably as much fun as you'll ever have thinking about sex without working up a sweat." Publishers Weekly


Most cultures tell the tale of a maiden who gives birth untouched by a man, and in the wild there are plenty of creatures – turkeys, Komodo ‘dragons’, and the ‘Jesus Christ’ lizard (which even walks on water) – that take various approaches to making babies without having sex. Soon, humans will have that option, too.


In Like a Virgin, biologist and science writer Aarathi Prasad examines inconceivable ideas about conception, from a Renaissance recipe for creating a child (bury semen in manure for forty days) to the search for a real-life virgin mother in the 1950s. She then takes us to maverick, cutting-edge labs that are today inventing sex-less reproduction, from manufactured eggs to artificial wombs and beyond. Like a Virgin delivers an astonishing exploration of the mysteries of sex and evolution – past, present, and future.


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 450 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 288 Seiten
  • Verlag: Oneworld Publications (1. August 2012)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ASIN: B008PU8T00
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Aktiviert
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Aktiviert
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #135.431 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 3.9 von 5 Sternen  8 Rezensionen
3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen Badly needs proofing. 27. Dezember 2012
Von Damian - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition
I was gifted this from a friend who also agreed with the fact the book is in bad need having somebody read over it and carrying out a spell and grammar check. I made it half way through chapter 2 and had to put it down, it was just far too infuriating for me. Two stars is being generous, if I'd have read the rest of the book then maybe it would have been enlightening, I just didn't have the patience for it though.
3 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen MAYBE NOT SCIENCE FICTION 23. Oktober 2012
Von Mona G. Affinito - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
For everyone who believes that "one man, one woman" is a simple statement, I wish there were a requirement to read the first sections of this book. For everyone who thinks that pregnancy is nothing but a woman carrying a fetus around in her abdomen for nine months, I wish there were a requirement to read this book.

I confess I would not pass a test on its contents. Maybe the very fact that it is laden with complicated, detailed, though fascinating information has something to do with the fact that I am the first to write a review. Nonetheless, I think reading, or at least scanning, it would profit anyone who has an opinion about sex, whether it applies to choices on the abortion issue or attitudes about homosexuality, or even just why we do it. If nothing else, it would force one to be aware of the complexities of fetal development, pregnancy, childbirth, and gender determination. Knowledge has taken us way beyond dichotomous thinking.

In many ways, even though it's not obviously the intent of the author, it is a demonstration of the extent to which we resist scientific evidence which contrasts with what we would like to believe. Fortunately, when facts do break through and evidence is accepted, it leads to additional - in this case fascinating - discoveries.

I would warn any potential reader who follows through to the end, however, that a strong willingness to accept ambiguity is essential, as it is for any scientific report. That's the exciting thing about science. Rarely, if it ever happens, does one arrive at a final answer. The excitement lies primarily in the questions and possibilities raised.

You might want to avoid reading through to the end if you have a hard time tolerating change, because the book heads in the direction of gestation outside the female body. It seems like science fiction but it is presented as serious business. To the extent that the content is ultimately validated and expanded, I have no doubt the impact of the discoveries he describes would lead to active and heated discussions regarding ethics and future research. As a psychologist I'd want to see many questions raised, explored, and studied.

As for the content, it was somewhere around 1827, with the discovery of human eggs, that old beliefs about the father's contribution were abandoned - and then only with difficulty. The view until that time was that the sperm implanted a fully formed embryo into the womb, the function of which was to provide a safe haven for its growth. As for the process of impregnation, the belief that any descriptions of the interaction of the sexual organs were pornographic kept the focus on the 1680 text "Aristotle's Masterpiece,' long after empirical evidence demonstrated its errors. The US was a bit ahead of the UK which banned more modern texts until 1960.

There follows more fascinating detail than I can describe here with full accuracy. There are, for example, the more frequent DNA mutations in sperm because of the more frequent divisions. There is the mother's epigenetic contribution to variations. There is the father's protective contribution of placental material that moderates the battle between the needs of the mother's body and the fetus. All of this, at least as I read it, making clear that it is not a simple matter of one XX or XY combination coming together. It isn't just the Y chromosome that makes a difference for development of a male; it's having the right bits of the Y chromosome. In fact, he gives the example of males (though infertile) with an XX structure. Even before the egg begins to divide, it seems, there are external influences.

Then there are the hormonal effects. Consider the female baby in Peru who began menstruating at the age of 8 months and gave birth to a child at 5 years.

The risks to the mother are real. One fact that struck me was the chance of preeclampsia, potentially fatal, being greater in the first pregnancy, More specifically, the first pregnancy with the father. A woman who has had many pregnancies with the same man apparently acclimatizes her immune system to him, but runs the same risk with a new impregnator as if she had never borne a child. As I read it, the reason is not well understood. I couldn't help but apply it to the issue of rape. By definition, assuming this is not spousal rape, impregnation by force with a strange man, it would seem, increases the chances of preeclampsia.

I've given only a sample here of what I understood him to say in this book. I'm not even exploring the latter part of the book, from which his title comes. There he reports on research that may in the future make it possible for men to carry the fetus or for development completely outside the body. Of course, he reports on all the possibilities in between, currently being practiced for infertile couples, or people wishing to parent without a partner.

On the issue of the "pro life"(anti-choice) position that argues for putting the life of the fertilized egg above all other factors, including the danger to the mother in every pregnancy, I found his point helpful that "sex is not designed for the individual; it is designed to benefit the populations." The choice between "pro-life" and pro-choice is the lifting of group need over the individual. Sorry, but that sounds like the roots of communism in its rawest form - sacrificing individual "good" for the "good" of the masses.

If you are willing to take a journey into facts that will challenge simplistic notions of fetal egg/sperm contributions, or gender development in utero, then risk an exiting trip into ongoing research. Be willing, as well, to challenge the "facts" with evidence That's what ethical science is all about.
5.0 von 5 Sternen Like A Virgin is an incredibly fascinating non-fiction book about how a virgin birth could be possible... 7. Juni 2014
Von AvidAbbie - Veröffentlicht auf
Like A Virgin is an incredibly fascinating non-fiction book about how a virgin birth could be possible. Many ideas are explored, and are attempted to be explained. Many historical figures are also used, for example with the use of (William) Harvey in The Renaissance;
“Harvey believed that all life came from eggs: not just for birds, which was obvious, but for mammals too.”
Harvey offered a different approach than most other scientists, who, at the time, believed that all life came from sperm.

The tale of how Mary produced a child from a virgin birth (without the use of a man/sperm) was also attempted to be explained. No conclusive evidence will ever be made, however, because she has been dead for thousands of years.

We also learn about how men could ever bear children, which is completely fascinating, there are also case studies of where a womb is transplanted.

In order to read this, you need a little bit of knowledge about the human body, for example how the reproductive organs function (and other organs too). Although, if you don't you can still infer a lot of information from the explanations. But many things aren't explained.

While LaV is full of interesting information, it is written dully. Where you're interested in the topic, but the way it's delivered isn't very appealing, and I often found myself engaging in other activities while reading. I read a chapter a day, which is a fair pace for this type of book. However, I found myself becoming bored half-way through.

But, I have to say LaV is really fascinating book, filled with information about fertility, and twins, and many other items- There's even an index in the back. It is also written really well.

Although it's informative, it's very hard for the average person to understand.

I actually ended up spouting off random facts (or theories) to my family whenever they would listen "Hey, did you know that women with more fat are more likely to have girls, and those who are fit, with less fat are more likely to have boys? NO? Well you do now!"
4.0 von 5 Sternen Three and a half 15. Mai 2013
Von Andrew Charig - Veröffentlicht auf
If there were half stars, this would get 3 1/2.

For openers, ignore the jacket hype: this is a serious and interesting book, and that promotional hysteria does not do it justice. And I don't understand one reviewer's objection the the style: I am usually ultra-sensitive to grammatical solecisms, and I found few here.

I find Prasad's tales of anomalies from the history of reproductive science just as entertaining as Gould's and Dawkins' accounts of evolutional oddities, and as exciting. But her explanations are not as complete

* she discusses parthenogenesis at great length, but never mentions haploidy or diploidy, which are at its root

or as precise

* two embryos (p 79) cannot fuse to produce anything but Siamese twins; she may have meant zygotes

* saliva pH (p 98) runs about 6.0 to 7.0, median 6.8 - slightly lower than normal, not higher;

* meiosis (p 101) does not happen in eggs or sperm, but in the cells that produce them.

Picky-picky, admitted. But the major flaw is the lack of figures: she devotes a chapter to a mother and daughter who are identical because they may be nearer clones than relatives, but provides no portraits, and the material she is explaining cries aloud for diagrams and charts but there are none - not a single figure in the whole book.

I have to knock off a star and a half for the downsides, but not two.
3.0 von 5 Sternen Virgin Birth 4. Mai 2013
Von John Hemphill - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
A tour of conception and birth without sex. The book surveys a strange corner in the biology of fish, birds, insects, and mammals. It opens ones eyes to the sheer width of evolutionary solutions which have developed.
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