Paleo Sex

Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality is an in-depth look at human sexuality, mores, and behaviors in our prehistoric hunter-gatherer ancestors. The book is well-written and though-provoking and overturns many perceptions of human life in pre-history.

First the authors (Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha) dismantle the Hobbesian/Malthusian view we hold of prehistoric life. That is, that our ancestors lived shorty and nasty lives, overwhelmed with famine and misery.

In fact, citing studies of human remains from that time period, they found that humans were not under-developed and unhealthy but, rather, were quite healthy and lived lives of relative plenty and ease.

Hunter-gatherer males were on average, 5’9″ to 6′ tall with females averaging at 5’5″ to 5’7″. Examination of their bone densities showed very little of the diseases that came later to agricultural societies and that hunter-gatherers had better diets with a wider range of foods than their agricultural brethren (unlike farmers, hunter-gatherers could easily pick up and move on to where more and better food could be found).

Furthermore, hunter-gatherer societies were more egalitarian precisely because humans were a small portion of the total population of life-forms on the planet. As a result, there was no shortage of food and resources for these small bands of humans to fight over.

There being no necessity for ownership as we understand it now, hunter-gatherer society was marked with a more open sexual environment where woman’s sexuality was not owned by anyone else and the group ethic allowed for sexual freedom that has only been seen in human society recently in the past 30 years or so.

The authors do caution that we should not view prehistoric life through misty romantic lens. Like life in any time period, there were challenges for all people. However, they do make the claim that a pre-historic life of relative plenty and health puts our current linear view of history and “progress” on its ear somewhat.

It makes us question what we hold important now and possibly even wonder if the biblical story of Adam and Eve being thrown out of Eden may well have been an allegory of the shift from a hunter-gatherer egalitarian society to a hierarchical agricultural society.

Get Over it, Guys

Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men is a fascinating essay on the changing nature of men in American society. It is a generalized view which omits some very important exceptions ¬†but well-worth consideration.

The primary focus is that, as women are finally making headway in the workplace, the role of men is changing from primary head of household to equal partner, or less. As men, especially in the middle and working-class bracket see their jobs change or disappear, this essay states that men have either lost their ability to navigate change or never really had the ability in the first place; essentially being a missile that cannot change course once it is fired.

The most interesting example was how women went about the college admissions process more efficiently and completely, managing the entire process while male candidates often passively followed along while their parents (primarily the mother) did all of the work.

OK, with that said, there are some important exceptions to this rule that point to an issue beyond gender in this widening gap between men and women. And using the college admissions example, we can see the root cause. The assumptions set for men’s behavior is lower than that for women. Part of that is that women were held back and so men were allowed to coast while women had to work harder to reach parity. With the recession and consequent changes in the labor force and economy, women’s disciplined approach is paying off while men are falling behind.

So what can these men do to gain parity? Well, for one, instead of hiding in macho fantasy they can truly “man up” and take a look at themselves, their true strengths, and the world around them; and move forward. Embrace reality and do what they have not done before. Be strong, loving, and wise. Just like women.