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am 29. Oktober 2013
This was a lucky find. I really just wanted to see what Amazon would spit out if I searched "Sex". After I'd read the accessible part of the introduction online I immediately bought the E-Book and went to it.
Topic: The topic is everyone's favourite topic: Sex. Sex and what could be considered "natural" sexual behaviour. The authors set out (and succeed gloriously in my eyes) to replace the standard picture of human sexual behaviour. Usually the story runs like this. Man impresses woman by beating all competitors in some way (or just rapes her). Man impregnates woman, guards her (or rather his offspring) fiercely, while trying to get as many lucky shots on the side (male adultery). Woman prostitutes herself for social security to one boring but rich guy, then tries to get knocked up by the "bikers in the bar down the road" (female adultery). This is called mixed-mating strategy and stems from our will to proliferate our genes. Monogamy is still also somehow supposedly part of all this. Sounds horrible and weird? Luckily Ryan and Jetha present a heap of very different arguments why this is not "natural" human behaviour, insofar as we didn't act like this for a very long time of our history. All the misery began only 10 000 years ago when we settled down and began to acquire and defend our property...
In fact, the idea of a brutal, poor (etc.) "state of nature" is so comprehensively destroyed that I recommended "Sex at Dawn" for this reason alone to my philosophy undergrads.
This is a (more or less) scientific book, not a guidebook, which is just as well. The fact that we were more like happy, stressfree bonobos just 10 000 years back doesn't erase our upbringing or our culturally imparted values. Just because I now believe that our ancestors didn't know jealousy the way we do, doesn't mean I stopped being jealous. But it can start you thinking about the (pitiful?) state of your emotional surroundings and the ways in which we frame them. So while this is not a philosophy book, it definetly is a philosophical book in the best possible sense.
Style: The authors write a fluid, light style which makes the book an enjoyable read indeed. They can turn a phrase without ever being flippant for the sake of it. Even if you aren't a psychiatrist (Jetha) or a psychologist (Ryan) or anyone working in the fields of evolutionary biology/psychology/anthropology you'll still be able follow every turn and each of the many well presented arguments.
Verdict: Brillantly written, brillantly argued, and in regard to the obvious importance of the topic to our life and happiness, this book is a must-read. It will change your view of human nature, even if some of the details might turn out to inaccurate. If you read one book this year, let it be this one.