Sex, Time, and Power

Sex, Time, and Power

How Women's Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution

Book - 2003
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No clear and compelling explanation currently exists for the sudden emergence of big-brained Homo sapiens 150,000 years ago. Here, Leonard Shlain proposes an original thesis that argues that profound changes in female sexuality hold the key to this mystery. According to Shlain, bipedalism, narrow pelvises, and enormous fetal heads precipitated a crisis for our species. Mothers faced a grave death threat in childbirth. To compensate, women lost estrus and its urgency to copulate, but gained veto power over sex. Drastic reconfiguration of their reproductive cycle, particularly the new feature of heavy menses, allowed women to discover the dimension of time and with it the insight that sex caused pregnancy. Men used foresight to become the planet's most dangerous predator but they suffered terror when they learned they were doomed to die. Inventing religions and afterlives to ameliorate the knowledge of death, men then learned the part they played in impregnation. The concept of paternity drove men to create patriarchal cultures designed to control women's reproductive choice. But the insights, first discovered by women, also created the conditions for two people to love each other more deeply and longer than any other animal. Throughout Sex, Time, and Power, Shlain offers carefully reasoned and certain to be controversial discussions on subjects such as menses, orgasm, masturbation, menopause, circumcision, male aggression, the evolution of language, homosexuality, and the origin of marriage. Written in a lively and accessible style, Sex, Time, and Poweris certain to generate heated debate in the media and among readers interested in human evolution and the history of sexuality.
Publisher: New York : Viking Penguin, 2003
ISBN: 9780670032334
Branch Call Number: 306.7 Shl
Characteristics: xx, 420 p. : ill


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Apr 21, 2011

The problem with Shlain’s argument is that it is not consistent with the findings of many epidemiological studies. If early “hunter-gatherer” Homo sapiens relied on meat as their main source of iron, the bodies of modern humans would be well-adapted to meat-eating. A number of studies – such as those by Dr. Colin Campbell, Dr. Dean Ornish, and Dr. Joel Fuhrman, among others – have demonstrated that humans live longer, healthier lives on average if they do not eat meat. Heme iron is found in meat, but non-heme iron is found in plants, and is well-absorbed by the human body if it is needed. Heme iron, on the other hand, is always absorbed by the human body, whether or not it is needed, which can cause severe problems for those afflicted with hemochromatosis, Canada’s most common genetic disorder. Shlain’s book may be some consolation to those wishing to explain the existence of both omnivorousness and patriarchy, but it is heavily reliant on mythology about “hunter-gatherers” that is purely speculative. Since doctors are not required to obtain training in nutrition, it is not surprising that a doctor would write a book of this nature.

John W Toole Apr 21, 2011

One of the most fascinating books I've ever read, on the subject of "what it means to be human."

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