Sex at Dawn (Christopher Ryan) - Book Summary

The book Sex at Dawn argues that the worship of monogamous marriages and lifelong fidelity in both Western and Eastern societies is fundamentally incompatible with human nature. It gives evidence of our innate promiscuity by exploring the history and evolution of human sexuality, with a strong focus on primate ancestry and the Agricultural Revolution.

Who should read this book?

  • Anyone who wants to know what the true sexual nature of humanity is
  • Anyone who has ever experienced the stress of trying to be one-on-one with the one they love, and wondering how to live happily ever after in the future
  • Anyone interested in evolutionary biology and psychology

Who is the author of this book?

Christopher Ryan is an author and journalist with a PhD in psychology, having lived in places like Alaska, Mexico, India, and Spain. Co-author, Cacilda Jethá, Portuguese, Indian-born physician and psychiatrist. Ryan and Jethá have been married for many years and have decided not to reveal any private details about their sex life.

1. Humans evolved from small communities and frequent sex

How many people have you had sex with in your life?

Can you count on one hand? Or do you need to take pen and paper to calculate?

In any case, the chances are high that the number you come up with will be much lower than the average achievement of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. In fact, in ancient tribes, and even in indigenous communities today, promiscuity is the norm.


Because the concept of sharing in prehistoric tribes was mandatory – including each other's sexual partners.

Before humans invented agriculture 10,000 years ago, we lived in nomadic, hunter-gatherer tribes. These societies have very small populations, usually not exceeding 150 people. In tight groups like these, the obligation to share food, shelter, and childcare are vital factors for the survival of the group in general and its members in particular.

Sex is also considered public and both men and women engage in intercourse with whomever they feel like. In other words, this is a polyandry-polygamy mating system, and it is an effective method to help people relax, get along, and happily cooperate.

Most of these societies have long since withered away. However, their promiscuous legacy still lingers in the human cultures from that time.

Since the beginning of the agricultural revolution, many cultures and religions have tried to reduce people's sexual desire and promote monogamy, through codes of practice. severe punishment and punishment for promiscuous sexual acts. However, human sexuality is not lost because of that.

For example, the Romans considered monogamy – a lifelong sexual union between husband and wife – as unnatural, even within marriage. Therefore, it is their custom for the bride to participate in sexual parties before the wedding takes place to appease Mother Nature because the girl has chosen to live an unnatural (exclusive) life.

And today, we still see all the tribes still practicing the above ritual. For example, the Warao people of Venezuela and Guyana participate in rituals that allow adults to suspend their official relationship so they can have sex with whoever they want.

2. For ancient communities, promiscuous sex has the effect of erasing the identity of a father

If you've ever heard the gossip in the media, you know, in the Western world, people really want to know for sure who their real father is.

But in some African tribes, the responsibility of raising children is shared between several men – even at the time of conception. The Aché, for example, believes that there are four types of fathers in every child: the one who "puts in", the one who "stirs up", the one who "withdraws", and provides the "essence" to the child. Therefore, Achè women were encouraged to have sex and collect semen from many men.

With this tribe, fatherhood is divided equally and one-night stands is very useful for the sustainable development of the whole village.

Because our ancestors were promiscuous and had no scientific understanding of pregnancy, they had no way of knowing who the real father of the child was. Thus, each man is predisposed to care for and nurture each child, a burden that is shared equally among the group. As a result, food and other benefits are also distributed evenly, increasing the chance of survival for each child born.

Promiscuous sex enhances group solidarity, because it often makes participants happier, happier, and more friendly. The hormone oxytocin is largely responsible for this: sometimes referred to as “a boon,” it is released during sex and produces feelings of closeness and peace.

Furthermore, in tribes such as the Achè, these sexual exchanges take place not only between boys and girls, but also between people of the same sex. In other words, homosexuality is just one aspect of "social sex."

But wait a minute. If everyone is happy sleeping in someone else's bed and sharing the responsibility of raising children is such a great idea, how come we live in dysfunctional and dysfunctional monogamous relationships? lewd sex sentence?

As will be seen in the next section, the cause of this unusual development is agriculture.

3. It is farming that destroys sexual freedom

Although it is still said that agriculture is a great leap for mankind, many scientists today believe it to be the worst disaster that mankind has suffered. When we began to cultivate and domesticate animals, the new, nutrient-poor diet not only destroyed our health, but also adversely affected our sexual and social habits: agriculture facilitated disabilities. bad as possessive, jealous and greedy become common and serious.

Before planting, living here and there, our ancestors did not have much to be greedy. They share whatever food they get so it doesn't go to waste, and because they're constantly on the go, they don't burden themselves with unnecessary supplies.

But farming has created conditions for people to settle down and live in one place, along with the concept of ownership and property. Thus, for the first time in history, the gap between rich and poor appeared, and social problems such as hunger and war emerged.

When human greed is activated, sexual activities and a woman's status suffer great consequences. The idea of ​​possessiveness and subsequent jealousy, quickly extended to sexual and familial relationships.

For the rich, they need to know for sure who their children are so that they can pass on their wealth after death. And the only way the farmer could secure his paternity was to force his wife to be faithful, either by ridicule in public, by beatings, or by using legal institutions like marriage.

In addition, as men took over the farm work, women's skills such as gathering became superfluous, and their role gradually became limited to taking care of the children. When the mother's vocation was confined to housework, a modern idea arose that women's sexual desire was lower than that of men - which is completely incorrect.

4. The level of sexual desire in women is as high as in men and even more complicated

Thanks to upbringing and dogma, it is common to believe that men crave sex more than women – a belief that reflects the inherent notion of modesty and shyness as dominant female traits.

But are they really true?

No. In fact, a woman's sexuality is as strong as a man's—and perhaps even more so.

In a recent study, a group of men and a group of women, both straight and gay, were asked to watch several adult movies and determine to what extent they were sexually aroused. While watching, the scientists attached electrodes to measure blood flow to the genitals, determining how biologically aroused the participants were.

What were the results? Women experience physical arousal just as much as men.

In addition, the study also found that while gay and lesbian men responded strongly to scenes where the actors' genders matched their sexual orientations, heterosexual women were physically stimulated. by a variety of images – even a video of a chimpanzee mating.

Despite these findings, female sexual desire is still inhibited by social pressure.

For example, in the same study, although women were similarly stimulated as men, they tried to mitigate that arousal when asked to describe their current feelings. In other words, they understand exactly what society expects of them (decency) and so adjust their behavior accordingly.

This study shows that women's desires are more diverse than men's, for example women are stimulated by many things; However, they can still control the fire of their love more easily.

This study shows that both men and women evolved to be promiscuous, which makes you wonder what evolutionary history has led to this tendency? Further exploration of our closest primate ancestors – chimpanzees and pygmy chimpanzees – will shed new light on the social/sexual lives of our ancestors' prehistoric communities.

5. “True love” and monogamy cause illness and depression

When you truly love someone, you won't need anyone else in your life, and the experience of being in a relationship with that special person will always be wonderful.

Right? It's a good story, but certainly not true.

Just because we're deeply in love with someone for the rest of our lives doesn't mean we'll continue to want that person.

In fact, because our ancestors evolved to go to bed with whomever we liked, we've been biologically programmed to breed with so many different objects. However, we live in a tug-of-war between the romanticized love stories on the one hand, and the truly monotonous experience of being in a monogamous relationship on the other. The difference between the two can lead to an unhappy marriage.

When we see monogamy as human nature, we often confuse love and sex. Indeed, when the media and even scientists repeat again and again that it is normal for people to love and desire only one person from birth to death, we often misinterpret this phenomenon. The symbol "out of desire" with a partner is "out of love".

But the dangers of monogamy don't stop here. It is especially dangerous for your health.

As studies have shown, men in long-term monogamous relationships experience large drops in testosterone. This is because a man's sex drive and testosterone levels are closely related, so if one goes down, the other goes down too. And it can also lead to deadly pathogens: low testosterone in men is correlated with rates of conditions like depression, heart disease and cancer.

In short, it is nearly impossible to reconcile our evolutionary nature with the noble ideals of society and still be able to live a healthy, happy, and fulfilling life.

The situation may sound dire, but there are things you can do to establish a healthy, happy relationship despite the biases surrounding promiscuity.

6. Open discussion about sex, monogamy, and infidelity is the only social solution

The inconsistency between the socially promoted concept of monogamy and our promiscuous nature has directly led to the collapse of the traditional conception of love.

How can we bridge that disagreement? Like any social issue, we should simply start by having a conversation about it.

First, archaic notions of love and sex should be identified and openly questioned. The perspectives on sexuality and family structure that make up today's popular fictions should be discussed more frequently by scientists and the media. In addition, couples should talk frankly with each other about their sexual desires.

Second, more social acceptance of adolescent masturbation and sexual relationships will be able to support teenagers during their teen years with volatile hormone levels.

Studies show that not being able to enjoy the pleasures of one's own body is strongly correlated with violent behavior towards others – and knowing how to feel physical well-being is even more important past puberty, because then Sex hormone levels are higher than at any other time in life.

So, instead of eliminating any teenage sexual expression, like the condemnation of masturbation in recent years (through religion and school), young people should receive a better education. about sex.

Furthermore, they should also be encouraged to try whatever sexual behavior they feel comfortable enough to engage in. In India, for example, the adults of the Muria tribe built dormitories so that young men could freely explore their sex lives together, unchallenged.

Finally, we need to remember that, while sex is important, we shouldn't overestimate it.

After all, sex is just a biological impulse and a legacy of our ancestors' estrous past. These instincts and behaviors should not be confused with traits of lasting love such as mutual understanding and feelings of emotional and intellectual connection.

The main message in the book

Both men and women are promiscuous in nature, and have evolved to have sex with a wide variety of partners. The monogamous marriage system based on the nuclear family structure is a cultural product and does not conform to our natural characteristics. However, erroneous beliefs about sexual fidelity and “true love” persist, leading to emotional exhaustion and sometimes illness.