by Valentine Low
July 10 2010
If the footballer Ashley Cole was repeatedly unfaithful to his wife, Cheryl, he was not being a “love rat” or any of the other abusive epithets heaped on the heads of men who cheat on their wives.
Instead he was merely paying the price for the way that human beings have denied their essential nature for thousands of years. Mankind was not born to be monogamous, according to a controversial new book, and the divorce statistics are there to prove it.
In Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, which has provoked a vigorous debate in the US, Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá argue that forsaking all others till death us do part goes against men and women’s natural inclinations. “The campaign to obscure the true nature of our species’ sexuality leaves half our marriages collapsing under an unstoppable tide of swirling sexual frustration, libido-killing boredom, impulsive betrayal, dysfunction, confusion and shame,” they write.
It is, apparently, all farming’s fault. Before the human race turned to agriculture, during the hunter-gatherer days, people lived in groups where everyone had sex with everyone else and shared the responsibility for child-rearing, according to the book. Then, in about 8000BC, men started worrying about which children were theirs so that they could pass on their accumulated property to them. “Suddenly, women lived in a world where they had to barter their reproductive capacity for access to the resources and protection they needed to survive.”
The evidence for this, Ryan admitted to The Times, was circumstantial but in his view compelling. It ranges from the size of men’s testicles to what he referred to as the “copulatory vocalisation” of the human female — what the rest of us might call a Meg Ryan moment from When Harry Met Sally.
Man, said the writer Ryan (no relation), has large testicles, relatively speaking: not as large as chimpanzees’, but larger than those of gorillas. This is related to how the different species mate. A male gorilla mates by defeating all the other males in his group and winning the right to be the alpha male who mates with a harem of females.
Gorillas, therefore, are large and ferocious, but only have small penises and testicles because their sperm does not have to compete with that of other males. Chimpanzees, on the other hand, are highly promiscuous, and compete on the level of the sperm cell — hence the large testicles. Man, said Mr Ryan, is much more like a chimpanzee than a gorilla.
As for the Meg Ryan vocalisations, Ryan said that they were a way for women to let other potential mates know that they might get their turn soon. Along with women’s capacity to have multiple orgasms, he said, it was “another suggestion of multiple-male, multiple-female sexual interaction”.
Ryan insists that he has nothing against marriage and perhaps that is just as well, since his co-author, a psychiatrist, is also his wife of ten years — and this year his parents will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
“We are not a couple of hippies advocating free love with a naive Rousseau-ian view of prehistory,” Ryan said. “Our ambition is that the book will lead to more marital stability because people give each other a little more leeway and have more understanding of where these feelings come from.”