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Sex Twice A Day

December 22, 2013

Marriage, Sex, Sexuality

Sex at Dawn

When I first read Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships (henceforth referred to as Dawn) everything appeared to fit into place. It seemed to tie together all the random thoughts I have had over the years about marriage, the nature of sexual jealously and the role of the sexes. Clearly I was not the only one. Soon after Dawn was published in 2010 it became a New York Times bestseller and Dan Savage, the most widely read sex columnist in the USA, called it “The single most important book on human sexuality since Kinsey.

Dawn argues that we are born naturally polyamorous although we are everywhere in chains of our own making. Dawn describes how, before the arrival of agriculture,  we lived in small, peaceful nomadic groups sharing everything, including sexual partners, and having frequent promiscuous sex which served to strengthen social bonds within the group because it was impossible to assign paternity. It was only with the arrival of agriculture and private property about 8,000 years ago, that monogamy arose, although in constant conflict with our genetic and cultural heritage. Dawn also seemed to explain a variety of puzzling questions such as why female vocalizations during sex are louder than those of men – to advertise female availability and receptivity to other males in the group.

Thank goodness some friends persuaded me to read Sex at Dusk: Lifting the Shiny Wrapper from Sex at Dawn (henceforth referred to as Dusk) a book specifically written to answer the claims made in Dawn. Dusk provides something that was missing from Dawn, despite of, or perhaps because of Dawn’s popularity, a scientific foundation. According to Dusk, marriage, mate-guarding and jealousy arose even in isolated hunter-gatherer tribes, casting doubt on Dawn’s claim that marriage is just a cultural accident. Inter-tribal marriage accomplishes two goals, according to Dusk, it prevents incest and permits the acquisition of in-laws and their accompanying resources and goodwill. Based on solid evolutionary science Dusk concludes that in a world of scarcity “female reproduction is very much about converting resources into offspring”  i.e. strictly recreational sex is the exception, not the rule.

Dawn says we are basically promiscuous bonobo chimps at our core but Dusk points out that even female bonobos discriminate among partners in subtle ways. Casual sex of the type Dawn advocates may become our present but according to Dusk it certainly is not in our human past. As for those copulation calls, Dusk offers evidence that female primate cries during sex are not simple invitations but rather brags about mating with high-ranked males. So there it is. Dawn is almost all about sex and not much about children, but evolution is concerned about reproduction to the exclusion of everything else. Can’t a guy have any fun?

________________

“Literature is mostly about having sex and not much about having children; life’s the other way round.” David Lodge

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About Malcolm Greenhill

Malcolm Greenhill is President of Sterling Futures, a fee-based financial advisory firm, based in San Francisco. I write about wealth related issues in the broadest sense of the word. When I am not writing, reading, working and spending time with family, I try to spend as much time as possible backpacking in the wilderness.

View all posts by Malcolm Greenhill

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49 Comments on “Sex Twice A Day”

  1. unfetteredbs Says:

    Mmmmmm. I’m not sure what to say to you. Will you over analyze my ” tone” ( smirk) ? Cheers Malcolm

    Reply

  2. Bill Hayes Says:

    “Can’t a guy have any fun?” As Woody Allen said…”sex without love is an empty experience, but as empty experiences go, it’s the best there is!”

    Reply

    • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

      Love the quotation. Looks like Woody might have known what he was talking about when he spoke about empty experiences. I was just reading that Mia Farrow has admitted that Frank Sinatra may have been the father of Ronan, the son that, more than twenty years ago, she told Woody he had fathered.

      Reply

      • Bill Hayes Says:

        Yes, I read about that. She leaves Sinatra – a man of huge charm and international prestige and joins up with Woody – a skinny New York nervous interlectual – she then has a few trists with Sinatra and passes off the love child as the product of their union. Sometime later, Woody weds Mia’s adopted daughter, nearly a quarter of his age.

        Did it never occur to him to make a movie of this senrario?

        Reply

  3. Iris Weaver Says:

    Hey, dude, you can have all the fun you want (as long as your wife approves)!

    After having given this subject much thought over the years, I have decided that humans come in with many different types and desires regarding sex. Just as some animals are poly, and some are monogamous, and some are…whatever, I think that some humans absolutely are monogamous, some are unchangingly poly, and lots are somewhere in between.

    It never occurred to me until I read your blog that there might be a particular way of sexual mating that has to do with our biological species. But since it’s so hard to figure out, I think I’ll just stick with my premise.

    Thanks for an interesting post.

    Reply

    • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

      Iris, it’s strange but if you were examining the behavior of, say, a leopard, there would be very little that could not be explained by biology. However, we humans like to think of ourselves as above this type of analysis.

      Reply

  4. Mikels Skele Says:

    Yeah, it’s dusk, I’m afraid. Damn that pesky science! 😉

    Reply

  5. Michele Seminara Says:

    Hi Malcolm. With or without scientific evidence to the contrary, ‘Sex at Dawn’ sounds too good to be true to me, human nature being what it is! Thanks for another great post, I love the way you mix it up. 🙂 Have a fun Christmas!

    Reply

  6. NicoLite Великий Says:

    I have thought about this kind of thing very much. There are not only different types of people, with different sexual habits and preferences, but our personal habits and preferences develop as well, dictated by our circumstances, environs, age, and cultural background, and our receptiveness towards these factors, i.e. our personality and biology. I certainly don’t have enough “data” to formulate a comprehensive theory.

    Reply

    • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

      Nico, thank you. Dawn gave the impression of basing its conclusions on the latest scientific findings but actual scientists thought otherwise. The problem is often that a book that does not address scientists in their own language and in their own publications is often ignored by scientists. In my opinion this is a big mistake as it allows intelligent lay readers to reach the wrong conclusions.

      Reply

      • NicoLite Великий Says:

        I’d say the intelligent lay reader is most likely to take it with a grain of salt, but yeah, it is a shame, also that scientists often don’t bother to publicize books for the intelligent lay reader, save for Stephen Hawking’s (rather successful) attempts with explaining time and the universe for the general public. I’m not saying dilettantes shouldn’t write about their world views, but left up solely to them, we’re not going to get much smarter in that area any time soon

        Reply

  7. Ishaiya Says:

    Interesting article Malcolm. I have to agree with the premise that humans are not naturally monogamous, it is social conditioning that makes us so, but as all of us are inevitably affected by our social conditions it is often difficult I think to separate conformity from free will. The two are often confused, however our choices in life are important, particularly when it comes to personal happiness and with whom we choose to share it. Our polygamous nature can certainly enjoy long periods of monogamy. I think the term polygamy can be greatly misinterpreted. We may be monogamous in practice, but I think mentally we certainly aren’t, and I’d challenge anyone to prove otherwise.

    Have a great Christmas and New Year my friend!
    M

    Reply

    • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

      Thank you. I like your distinction between being monogamous in practice and polygamous in our imagination. I think my wife could live with that 🙂 Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year too.

      Reply

  8. Casey Says:

    Well…hmmm…

    Most of the male friends I’ve been close to have been unable to stay monogamous and they quietly cheat on their wives. As my therapist once told me, most women by the time they are in their 40s, they stop having sex with their spouses for various reasons.

    I’m poly, currently choosing monogamy.

    Reply

    • Casey Says:

      There’s been 32 famous triads among highly intelligent figures.

      http://www.booksarepeopletoo.com/archives/767

      I have known, from my own informal study, that the likelihood of alternatives to monogamy increase with intelligence.

      Reply

      • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

        Thank you. That was an education. I thought I knew something about some of these figures but clearly my education left something to be desired.

        Reply

      • JonKalb Says:

        Casey, This list is very interesting, but many or perhaps most are not what modern polyamorists would call a “triad.” The modern polyamorists’ term for a group of three where, for example, a woman is romantically involved with two men, but the men are romantically involved with each other, is a “V.”

        Reply

    • Casey Says:

      I’d been thinking about this…

      I recall with great fondness the time when I was 24 when I shared an apartment with my friend Greg and was dating my husband (then boyfriend). All three of us spent a great deal of time together and went Greg would come home from dates, he’d wake me up and we’d spend time talking about love and life and giggling into the wee hours of the morning. Though that friendship was non-sexual, I would say that the four months I’d lived with him, the three of us made up a triad. It was a time when I felt incredibly loved – physically by one, but emotionally by two. I think there’s something wonderful about polyamory (which may or may not, include sex).

      If you really want to know more about WHY people might experiment with altneratives to monogamy, I’d read Carl Rogers Becoming Partners: Marriage and It’s Altneratives. You’ll get an inside view to what the individuals who’ve explored different ways of loving.

      Reply

      • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

        I think the kind of relationship you had with Greg and your boyfriend did not require the level of maturity that a polyamorous sexual relationship would have. In another comment you mentioned that you thought there was a correlation between polyamory and intelligence. Did you really mean to use the word ‘intelligence’ or were you referring to something closer to the meaning of maturity? I can’t imagine that the nature and quality of our relationships is determined by something as simple as IQ.

        Reply

        • Casey Says:

          Well, it’s complicated.

          If you were to understand a bit of Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration, I think that the higher the IQ, the more likely for self-selection of moral and ethical values.

          I think people of any IQ can have sex with multiple partners and it not be soulful or meaningful.

          I think those who actually have deeply connected and deeply respectful long-term relationships that are truly edifying and considerate of ALL partners involved tend to be in the higher IQ brackets.

          There’s a distinct difference in the quality of the unions I’m thinking about.

        • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

          Yes, it is complicated. Someone who consciously self-selects their own moral and ethical values is probably also the kind of person that lives too much in their own head. Somewhere in your blog you quoted Nathaniel Branden so you are no doubt familiar with the relationship problems he got into with Ayn Rand.

        • Casey Says:

          Yes, I do.

          I am not particularly a fan of Ayn Rand.

          I do know that jealousy has no place in truly conscious, unconditionally loving relationships, be they mono or poly. Most people can’t handle authentic, unconditional love with one person.

        • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

          I am not a big fan of Rand either.

          Jealousy may have no place in “truly conscious, unconditionally loving relationships” but since we probably experience it because of its evolutionary advantages, it’s an extremely difficult emotion to eliminate, either in one’s partner or oneself.

        • Casey Says:

          I had a reply, but I think my computer ate it.

          There are ways to work through jealousy…but it’s a process.

          When the primary relationship is stable to begin with, the likelihood that compersion (the opposite of jealousy) can develop is better. This works better when both individuals in a couple are open. Who knows when you first get married what kind of person you are, though?

          This of course takes a LOT of open, honest communication and soul searching to navigate this territory and the motivations for opening up to another relationship. It’s delicate to be sure. Is it sustainable over time? I’m not sure. But people change even in monogamous relationships, so to would they in poly relationships. This is where not looking at relationships as a static entity would be helpful.

          But…I’m also talking more from what I’ve read, not from personal experience. There’s actually support groups and websites out there…one just has to look.

        • Casey Says:

          And…I’m not really at liberty to say more because I wasn’t simply speaking of the relationship I had at 24. I’ve had other relationships I’m thinking about but not really wanting to discuss on an open forum. I’m poly, my husband’s not. It’s been painful to negotiate for an open marriage, so in the end, out of my love for him, I opted for monogamy.

        • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

          Thank you for this. Clearly polyamorous relationships work for some but for those already in long term monogamous relationships I suspect your experience is all too common, i.e. the pain of negotiating an open marriage is such that monogamy becomes the lesser evil.

        • Casey Says:

          My husband allowed me few things…for a little while…but in the end…he couldn’t bear it. Because I didn’t want to be the source of his pain, just so that I could be happy loving the way I felt was right for me, I made the only logical, loving choice for our family.

          Things may change in the future…I don’t know. I just know that it’s been an area of deep, difficult, growing for me.

          And yes, I’m pretty sure this is more common than people might realize.

          For me, I now pour my love and energy into other creative endeavors. I write a lot of love poetry. I make art, I write love stories…for myself…to remember those I’ve loved I can’t be around anymore. It’s a safe place to express the longings of soul out without hurting anyone.

          Thanks for letting me share this much here. I’m probably going to get off this topic now. It pulls up a lot of grief to talk about it…but thanks for the opportunity to share a little.

        • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

          Casey, thank you once again for giving so much of your time and rich input to this topic. It is much appreciated.

        • JonKalb Says:

          I’ve read, but don’t have good source for, the idea that “kinkiness” is correlated with IQ. The theory is the more intelligent one is, the more likely they are to find conventional sex “boring” and therefore seek out greater variety of experiences.

        • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

          Jon, thank you. If that is the explanation then I don’t find it convincing. Why is intelligence needed to explore unconventional sex? Intelligence is not needed to explore unconventional or’extreme’ sports.

    • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

      Thank you for sharing this as I was hoping to get some comments from someone following the poly lifestyle. I would like to think that your therapist is wrong but I suspect that is not the case.

      Reply

      • Casey Says:

        From my informal queries into the sexual habits of my friends who are in their 40s, I’d say that this is more often true, than not, at least in the sampling I’ve taken of the population ’round here. I’d always found that to be very sad, as a robust sensual/sexual life actually has great physical and emotional health benefits.

        Sometimes it’s not JUST the reduction of the quantity of sex, but the reduction in QUALITY of the connection. I’ve heard a great deal of complaints from my male friends how their wives passively consent, but they aren’t really into it. It becomes a duty rather than a cause for celebration or a soulful connection with a physical component.

        It’s a combination of things: stress from modern living and postpartum hormonal changes and the sexual repression that still goes on (despite the saturation of sex of in the media) and sex is still a powerful way women attempt coerce or punish their men. It’s really sad because they aren’t just punishing their partners, but they are depriving themselves as well.

        I’ve heard tell that sex for men is like talking for women. The sexual conversation is just as valid a means of connection as actual talking. For me, I like a generous dose of both. From what my male friends tell me, this isn’t the case with their wives. It may be different in different parts of the globe, but that’s how it is in my little slice of Midwest suburbia.

        Reply

  9. Tim Starr Says:

    Only twice a day? Reminds me of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgYFzzo5WLM

    Reply

    • Malcolm Greenhill Says:

      Tim, thank you for that weighty intellectual contribution to our discussion 🙂

      Reply

      • Michael R. Edelstein Says:

        Hi Malcolm and Casey,

        You speak of poly relationships causing pain for loved ones. Intuitively this seems to make sense, yet it’s not how humans work psychologically. As Epictetus famously stated: “Men are disturbed not by events themselves, but by their thinking about these events.”

        When you recognize the true source of these emotions, you have significantly greater power in addressing them.

        In my clinical psychology practice I specialize in helping polyamorous individuals overcome these destructive emotions, which include jealousy, hurt, anger, and guilt. I use Epictetus’ teaching as the springboard for my assistance.

        Michael R. Edelstein
        http://ThreeMinuteTherapy.com

        Reply

  10. Daniela Says:

    Very interesting indeed and as it happened I am just reading an interesting article on the similar topic. As for the fun … it comes in just as many ‘shapes and sizes’ as do humans!

    Reply

  11. authorbengarrido Says:

    Malcolm, are you sure those people engaged in extreme sports aren’t at the pointy end of the IQ curve? Contrary to the stereotype, trailblazing athletes tend to be pretty sharp.

    Reply

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