The Primate Diaries

Sexy Beasts at Seed Magazine

Author’s Note: The following is an excerpt from my review of Sex At Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality. For additional information see my posts Reexamining Ardipithecus ramidus in Light of Human Origins, Those Cheating Testicles, or Who’s Your Baby? as well as Helen’s Lament and the Origins of Forbidden Love. Christopher Ryan also blogs at Psychology Today.

i-e97929c17b0427f44398eac1c4758efe-Beasts_HS.jpegWhen we think of the first swinger parties most of us imagine 1970s counter-culture, we don’t picture Top Gun fighter pilots in World War II. Yet, according to researchers Joan and Dwight Dixon, it was on military bases that “partner swapping” first originated in the United States. As the group with the highest casualty rate during the war, these elite pilots and their wives “shared each other as a kind of tribal bonding ritual” and had an unspoken agreement to care for one another if a woman’s husband didn’t make it back home. Like the sexy apes known as bonobos, this kind of open sexuality served a social function that provided a way to relieve stress and form long-lasting bonds.

For the husband and wife team Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá in their new book Sex At Dawn, this example is one of many that suggests the human species did not evolve in monogamous, nuclear families but rather in small, intimate groups where “most mature individuals would have had several ongoing sexual relationships at any given time.” We are the descendants of these multimale-multifemale mating groups and, even though we’ve constructed a radically different society from our hunter-gatherer forebears, the behavioral and psychological traits our species evolved in the distant past still manifest themselves today. Ryan, a psychologist, and Jethá, a psychiatrist, argue that understanding human sexual evolution this way helps to explain our species’ unique creativity inside (as well as outside) the marriage bed. It may also shed light on why fidelity has been such a persistent problem for both men and women throughout recorded history.

Read more at Seedmagazine.com.

Comments

  1. #1 caligirl
    July 1, 2010

    Interesting…a group of people I hung out with in my mid 20s all seemed to have slept with one another at some point (they had known each other since college). “Jane” went out with “Jeff” for a year but then broke up and Jane slept with “Jack” and Jeff went out with “Joan” for awhile and then slept with “Jenny” etc. It all seemed really incestuous and I only dated one person from the group. Currently everyone is in their late 30s, we are all still friends and have all married people from the outside and have started families, and, as far as I know, all the sleeping around has stopped. Everybody is still pretty close and get together regulary for family oriented parties. This research could explain a lot.