PARAGONS OF SEX:
The Natural History of Human Sexuality
(a work in progress)
Why do humans have hundreds of times more sex during a typical lifetime than any other animal? Why does most of that sex take place at infertile times in the female reproductive cycle, when it cannot possibly result in conception? Why does each act of sexual intercourse last dozens of times longer in humans than it does in any other higher animal? Why do the breasts play an important role in human sexuality, whereas in other animals the mammary glands function only to provide milk for the young? And why do humans—unlike any other animal species—have a universal desire to hide from the sight of other humans in order to feel comfortable while having sex?
Paragons of Sex traces the origins of the unique sexual behavior of our species as a vital element in human evolution, and it suggests that our open-ended sexual behavior evolved as a means for maintaining close, cooperative relationships between adult males and child-bearing females—relationships that are essential to the uniquely human division of labor between foraging females and predatory males. The development of continuous sexual behavior made it possible for male and female humans to pursue radically different food-getting strategies, yet at the same time to maintain stable, intimate relationships that included the continuous sharing of food with each other and their offspring. This type of sexual relationship—and this kind of ecological symbiosis—exists nowhere else in the animal kingdom.
Paragons of Sex explains how this symbiotic relationship first appeared when prehistoric humans evolved upright posture and bipedal locomotion—and when the use of tools and weapons became essential to human survival. These developments created a maternal burden of such tremendous size and scope that the human mother became essentially unable to raise her offspring to maturity without the continuing protection and nutritional support from an adult male. The male propensity to protect and share food with a sexual partner is common among many other primates, and by making it possible for this sexual partnership to be open-ended, the human female secured a consistent male partner who would remain bonded to her for several years at a time.
But if continuous, open-ended sexual behavior is central to human life, why do so many human societies place severe restrictions on sexual behavior? Why are agrarian and militaristic cultures typically focused on suppressing the sexuality of women? Why are the children in modern, civilized societies freely allowed to witness scenes of humans killing each other but strictly prohibited from witnessing scenes of humans having sex? And why do husbands and wives often lose interest in sex after the first few years of marriage?
After comparing the sheer volume of sex which make humans entirely different from other animal species, PARAGONS OF SEX describes the attitudes and behaviors common to the sexually permissive societies of hunters and gatherers that survived into the 20th century. Many of these cultures were studied by anthropologists when their cultures were still permissive about sexual behavior and before they were influenced by the sexually repressive customs of Western civilization. Their stories are eye-opening.
Paragons of Sex also identifies two major factors in the cultural history of civilized societies as important sources of sexual repression: the need for families in agricultural societies to arrange the marriages of their children and the destructive potential of sexual rivalries in warlike societies. The sexually repressive values and attitudes that now dominate traditional organized religions, agrarian societies, and totalitarian states can be traced back to one or both of these critical factors.
Paragons of Sex then moves on to consider the power of sexuality in modern life.
Why will people risk their wealth, their reputations, and in some cases their lives in the pursuit of an illicit sexual relationship? What does it mean to marry for “love”—and why is modern marriage a mass of contradictions? How have modern cultures adjusted to the realities of the “sexual revolution”? What has brought about the growing acceptance of sexual relationships outside of marriage and between same-sex couples? And finally, why has our own sexual culture become dramatically more permissive over the past hundred years, and what is the likelihood that modern society will continue on this path of sexual liberalization into the foreseeable future?
Synthesizing the findings of behavioral biology, prehistory, world ethnography, and modern psychology, PARAGONS OF SEX paints a picture of the vital role played by sexual relationships in promoting stability and continuity in family relationships and ultimately in human society as a whole. Along the way, it provides surprising new answers to some age-old questions, and it confronts the problems and opportunities faced by civilization as it evolves from a sexually repressive past into what seems increasingly likely to be a sexually permissive future.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1 - Beyond Reproduction: Humans Take Sex to a New Level
Chapter 2 - The Human Family: A Unique Sexual and Economic Symbiosis
Chapter 3 - The Female Breast as Sex Object: The Human Fusion of Nurturing and Sex
Chapter 4 - Sex in Abundance: The Sexual Cultures of Hunters and Gatherers
Chapter 5 - Agriculture and Abstinence: Celibacy, Virginity, and Sexual Repression
Chapter 6 - Dominance and Submission: The Unspoken Dimension of Sexual Relationships
Chapter 7 - Ties That Bind: The Psychological Dependencies of Traditional Marriage
Chapter 8 - Fidelity Versus Promiscuity: The Eternal Human Dilemma
Chapter 9 - Sex in Modern Society: Adolescent, Premarital, and Homosexual Relationships
Chapter 10 - Sex in Future Society: The Waning of Sexual Repression