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Sex, Time, and Power: How Women's Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution

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Why did big-brained Homo sapiens suddenly emerge some 150,000 years ago? The key, according to Leonard Shlain, is female sexuality. Drawing on an awesome breadth of research, he shows how, long ago, the narrowness of the newly bipedal human female's pelvis and the increasing size of infants' heads precipitated a crisis for the species. Natural selection allowed for the ada Why did big-brained Homo sapiens suddenly emerge some 150,000 years ago? The key, according to Leonard Shlain, is female sexuality. Drawing on an awesome breadth of research, he shows how, long ago, the narrowness of the newly bipedal human female's pelvis and the increasing size of infants' heads precipitated a crisis for the species. Natural selection allowed for the adaptation of the human female to this environmental stress by reconfiguring her hormonal cycles, entraining them with the periodicity of the moon. The results, however, did much more than ensure our existence; they imbued women with the concept of time, and gave them control over sex--a power that males sought to reclaim. And the possibility of achieving immortality through heirs drove men to construct patriarchal cultures that went on to dominate so much of human history. From the nature of courtship to the evolution of language, Shlain's brilliant and wide-ranging exploration stimulates new ways of thinking about very old matters. "A masterpiece of ideas and a unique contribution to our understanding of gender and history, sexuality and evolution." -- Jean Houston [Note: includes Reader's Guide]


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Why did big-brained Homo sapiens suddenly emerge some 150,000 years ago? The key, according to Leonard Shlain, is female sexuality. Drawing on an awesome breadth of research, he shows how, long ago, the narrowness of the newly bipedal human female's pelvis and the increasing size of infants' heads precipitated a crisis for the species. Natural selection allowed for the ada Why did big-brained Homo sapiens suddenly emerge some 150,000 years ago? The key, according to Leonard Shlain, is female sexuality. Drawing on an awesome breadth of research, he shows how, long ago, the narrowness of the newly bipedal human female's pelvis and the increasing size of infants' heads precipitated a crisis for the species. Natural selection allowed for the adaptation of the human female to this environmental stress by reconfiguring her hormonal cycles, entraining them with the periodicity of the moon. The results, however, did much more than ensure our existence; they imbued women with the concept of time, and gave them control over sex--a power that males sought to reclaim. And the possibility of achieving immortality through heirs drove men to construct patriarchal cultures that went on to dominate so much of human history. From the nature of courtship to the evolution of language, Shlain's brilliant and wide-ranging exploration stimulates new ways of thinking about very old matters. "A masterpiece of ideas and a unique contribution to our understanding of gender and history, sexuality and evolution." -- Jean Houston [Note: includes Reader's Guide]

30 review for Sex, Time, and Power: How Women's Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution

  1. 5 out of 5

    The Center for Sexual Pleasure & Health

    I was a little nervous when I picked up Leonard Shlain’s Sex, Time and Power. The book is close to 400 pages and didn’t strike me as exactly a beach-read. As I started really delving into the book, I continued to have problems with Shlain’s reasoning and style. The book explores how gender and sexuality has shaped human evolution, differentiating us from our ancestors lower down on the food chain. While usually anything about gender and evolution has me punching my own face, this book was genera I was a little nervous when I picked up Leonard Shlain’s Sex, Time and Power. The book is close to 400 pages and didn’t strike me as exactly a beach-read. As I started really delving into the book, I continued to have problems with Shlain’s reasoning and style. The book explores how gender and sexuality has shaped human evolution, differentiating us from our ancestors lower down on the food chain. While usually anything about gender and evolution has me punching my own face, this book was generally more informative than offensive. So much evolutionary theory is applied today to excuse male promiscuity, violence and dominance, while implying that women are naturally inferior. These explanations, flowing out of newspapers, websites, and Cosmo, fail to recognize the societal causes of gender discrepancies and were obviously written by groups of people who have never heard of Judith Butler. Shlain does manage to recognize that these are only theories and that society plays a huge role in constructing our gendered world. Shlain also situates himself really well, stating at the beginning of the book that he is an older, white doctor, a privileged position that he needs to acknowledge. This privilege tends to seep into his writing, where he often seems to be relying on cultural assumptions without actually examining whether or not they are true. The entire book works under the assumption that men are aggressive, women are passive; men want sex, women want love; men are dedicated to thought, women are dedicated to nature. Though he does present the whole hunter versus caregiver caveman-days scenario that explains part of the truths in these statements, he fails to recognize that today these statements are far from true. The women I know defy these feminine gender stereotypes, showing that these traits are not our biological destiny and might be a lot more complicated than Shlain asserts. He essentializes gender in a dangerous way that seems to overshadow his obviously good intentions. My other main problem with this book was the writing style. It was very apparent to me that this book was written by a doctor. Doctors are great, don’t get me wrong. I encourage them to write many books, as long as they don’t emulate Slain in his attempts at literary style. Shlain obviously tries to make up for his scientific background by weaving complicated metaphors with big words and ridiculously contrived imagery. It’s like he went on Yahoo Answers and searched for “how to write a book” and then packed every moronic suggestion into each sentence. Had the book been half as long it would have been twice as enjoyable. Though he was trying to make the book readable and enthralling to the lay person, he ended up alienating through his endless search for emotive language in situations where straight scientific language would have been sufficient. Calling a woman’s period her “monthly music”- Oh, brother. He also employed one of my favorite tropes, comparing a woman’s g-spot to a mystical unicorn. Attention people: stop comparing women’s sexuality to mythical creatures. Why does that happen so much? In all this book, though full of interesting evolutionary tid-bits, read as sexist and essentializing. It only touches on homosexuality and has no mention of intersexuality. I found the discussions of why women menstruate and female sexual maturation fascinating, but they were overshadowed by the implications that men are naturally more clear-headed and stronger leaders, which are absurd. If one is willing to overlook Shlain’s wordiness and sexism, this book is an interesting read for anyone interested in human evolution.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bastard Travel

    This book was polarizing. For me. Personally. I was polarized. One camp of my consciousness was thrilled by the actual physiological science he rolled out early on. The chapter about iron was fantastic, and I am still reeling from how nutritionally efficient meat is. All those amino acids! That sweet, non-chealated iron. Mmm, girl! And then, the animus and anima. Wheeling out Jung! A bold move, since he was sort of a quack, brought fake-astrology (the Myers-Briggs) and the whole "collective unco This book was polarizing. For me. Personally. I was polarized. One camp of my consciousness was thrilled by the actual physiological science he rolled out early on. The chapter about iron was fantastic, and I am still reeling from how nutritionally efficient meat is. All those amino acids! That sweet, non-chealated iron. Mmm, girl! And then, the animus and anima. Wheeling out Jung! A bold move, since he was sort of a quack, brought fake-astrology (the Myers-Briggs) and the whole "collective unconscious" to the table, but I'll sit it out. Okay, everyone's got male and female mental traits. A little divisive, a little dated, kind of... sexist... but you're an elderly white evolutionary shrink! Grain of salt applied, chapter ultimately enjoyed. The other camp spoke up at this point, as Shlain became progressively more paternal and presumptuous. By "spoke up", I mean emitted a high-pitched keening for the latter half of the book. The Adam and Eve narrative was ludicrous. I know it was metaphorical, I know it was supposed to represent the presumed twists and turns that took us from anarchoprimativist utopia to patriarchal feudalism, but it was just... so... fuckin'... silly. Most of what I take issue with is the supposition that Adam just "FELT IN HIS GUTS" that he shouldn't fuck his daughter. Mr. Shlain, have you ever seen a sexual abuse statistic in your life? Even a single chart? Because I got some real bad news about our allegedly innate taboo, buddy. It doesn't make sense for a hunter-gatherer tribe to start trading women like chattel because one furry Einstein figured out that incest makes mutants and Joffreys. It also doesn't make a whole lot of sense to expect that the phantom menstruation, being tied to the cycles of the moon, taught women to tell time, which led to men understanding mortality and becoming existentialists. You are making some serious logical leaps here, and the "evidence" (by which I mean conjecture) just doesn't hold up. I went from profound excitement to embarrassed discomfort with about a quarter of the book left, when he started throwing around "patriarchy"... but even that, I isolated. I might just be desensitized to the word, because of tumblr! No, I felt I played ball with a remarkable degree of patience. It wasn't until the epilogue I became legitimately angry. This ballsy motherfucker actually suggested that the reason we stopped worshiping goddesses is because of the development of an alphabet. He thinks it caused the parts of our brain responsible for written language processing to develop more than the parts attached to verbal processing (biology isn't a fan of that hypothesis, either), and since those parts of the brain were "more male", this led to the development of Christianity and it's surly father-gods. What the fuck? Dude, you mentioned the Athena cult as an example of goddess worship. I promise you, the Greeks had a fairly sophisticated alphabet. Stories were written down, believe it or not! Have you ever heard of... well, it's obscure, kind of underground, you probably never heard of it... "Homer"? He wrote a couple of pretty popular stories, utilizing -- remain seated, please -- an alphabet. And even from the implied defense of "structural changes to bodies and brains take a longer time to evolve", you are NOT getting enough time in for that significant a change. It's not gonna happen. So, friends and neighbors, if you decide to read this book, you'd be best served by stopping at the chapter entitled "Fathers/Mothers". After that, everything gets insultingly bad. Still, not a total wash, I learned a lot about nutrition and menstruation. And you can, too! In the first half of this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Siobhan

    I would have given it four stars for the originality of ideas presented and its compelling questions, but there were tangents that made me cringe. The book is exploring the question of how women's sexuality shaped humanity. Interesting no? It goes back to early human existence and describe what Shlain calls a "sex for meat" arrangement. Women realized the link between sex and pregnancy, and since there was such a high mortality rate among them (due to now larger human heads), they developed veto I would have given it four stars for the originality of ideas presented and its compelling questions, but there were tangents that made me cringe. The book is exploring the question of how women's sexuality shaped humanity. Interesting no? It goes back to early human existence and describe what Shlain calls a "sex for meat" arrangement. Women realized the link between sex and pregnancy, and since there was such a high mortality rate among them (due to now larger human heads), they developed veto power over sex. They developed a hidden and reduced estrus to compliment this veto power. They also, according to Schlain, realized the concept of mortality in full. Human female sexuality does have incredibly unique features to that of all other female creatures (orgasms just to name one), and these features beg some explanation. Also, begging answers are our significant powers of foresight and lingual dexterity. Shlain is up to the task. But parts where he delves into a made-up "monologue" of early man's discovery of paternity as told by some "Adam" made me want to throw the book at the wall. So, yeah, mixed feelings.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    From my last status update, on page 129 of 448: That's it. I'm done. I can't force myself to read another chapter of paternalistic drivel from the privileged viewpoint of an old white American male physician. While some of his physiology has merit, the conclusions he draws from it do not. Oh, did I mention that he's a devoted Freudian? And that his writing style is so florid, egotistical and repetitive that any random passage could be a contender for the Bulwer-Lytton Prize? The author promises th From my last status update, on page 129 of 448: That's it. I'm done. I can't force myself to read another chapter of paternalistic drivel from the privileged viewpoint of an old white American male physician. While some of his physiology has merit, the conclusions he draws from it do not. Oh, did I mention that he's a devoted Freudian? And that his writing style is so florid, egotistical and repetitive that any random passage could be a contender for the Bulwer-Lytton Prize? The author promises that if the unwary reader can survive his tortuous prose, that he will Reveal All in Chapter 13. (Along the way, he takes potshots at any researchers' works that do not support his thesis). I will confess that I skipped ahead; it wasn't worth it. By that point I just wanted him to lay it all out in point form. I await the feminist take-down of this book. I'd be tempted to write one myself, but I can't subject myself to any more of this dreck. I recollect reading Ashley Montagu's work as "fawning pedestalitis", but this book deserves it more. By elevating Gyna Sapiens to the position of Great Mother, he puts her in the traditional subservient place of docile nurturer.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Thielen

    Reviews on Amazon.com state that Dr. Shlain is a dynamic speaker and perhaps he is. His writing style is more that a little over the top and the same can be said for conclusion he draws. The chief issue tackled in this book: why do women, alone among female creatures, menstruate and in a monthly cycle and so copiously? Shlain's premise: When ancient females came to understand that this would occur in a cycle that mimicked that of the moon, they began to understand the concept of time - which men Reviews on Amazon.com state that Dr. Shlain is a dynamic speaker and perhaps he is. His writing style is more that a little over the top and the same can be said for conclusion he draws. The chief issue tackled in this book: why do women, alone among female creatures, menstruate and in a monthly cycle and so copiously? Shlain's premise: When ancient females came to understand that this would occur in a cycle that mimicked that of the moon, they began to understand the concept of time - which men then came to understand, too. So menstruation was an evolutionary adaptation by which humans learned to anticipate the future. (He also believes that speech developed as a way for males and females to deal with the most important thing for survival: having sex.) This is well and good although I'm not entirely sure I accept it. Unfortunately, Shlain goes on to come up with some theories that are even more strained: Left-handedness sprang up among primative males because of the advantage it provided to hunters in a group. (The spear was coming from a direction the prey did not anticipate.) Unfortunately, this does not explain why left-handedness sprang up among women, too. And then there's Shlain's belief that baldness came about because it (again) conferred an advantage on male hunters: prey, accustomed to looking for the hairy pate of hunters peering over foliage would be confused by a balding dome. Yeah, right. An interesting read only if you've got time and patience for florid writing and even more florid ideas.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    One of the most interesting books that I have read this year. Long and scientific, it held my interest all the way through. I have discussed some of the author's points with others, and they have wanted to read the book. Why did mankind survive when our women need iron, and could not hunt (children, menses scents, etc.?) Why do women not go into "heat" and do not indicate when they are fertile, when the rest of the animal kingdom gives such clear signals? How did we survive as a species when our One of the most interesting books that I have read this year. Long and scientific, it held my interest all the way through. I have discussed some of the author's points with others, and they have wanted to read the book. Why did mankind survive when our women need iron, and could not hunt (children, menses scents, etc.?) Why do women not go into "heat" and do not indicate when they are fertile, when the rest of the animal kingdom gives such clear signals? How did we survive as a species when our very large heads made childbirth so mortally dangerous? How did all of this contribute to the development of language and the species' sense of time. What human behaviors developed because of the unique challenges to our specific species. Fascinating!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I just finished the book, and the ending moved me and made me feel optimistic. I like using the evolutionary lens to look at how we came to where we are. It makes the current patriarchal structures somewhat understandable, but also shows that we are evolving past any need for them. While I found some of the tangents and various use of creative license a bit meandering and at times cringe-inducing, as a whole this book stretched my perspective and gave me plenty to think about.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Hidalgo

    Though there are several problems with the late Shalin's narrative and data, this book is a brave tour into a subject which he propped open (more books on this topic have been flowing from the presses recently). His hypotheses are super interesting possibilities: 1- Women saved humanity from extinction (by babies with dangerously large skulls) by developing something no other mammal have done: control her "heat" season, and thus ensuing the complicated and crucial art of female/male courtship. Th Though there are several problems with the late Shalin's narrative and data, this book is a brave tour into a subject which he propped open (more books on this topic have been flowing from the presses recently). His hypotheses are super interesting possibilities: 1- Women saved humanity from extinction (by babies with dangerously large skulls) by developing something no other mammal have done: control her "heat" season, and thus ensuing the complicated and crucial art of female/male courtship. This alone has shaped and driven human history, and I kind of agree. 2- That women's need for iron has been a monumental drive for social interactions However, even before reading some of the critical reviews (more informed on science and gender studies than I am), I sensed that the book may propose some risky ideas: as a man, I felt justified and unchallenged! Yet, as long as the reader would seek out some of the scholarly reviews and have the critics' position in mind, this is a very important book to read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    What a fascinating read -- especially for a book that we bought on a whim. The author does a good job of making it clear when he is speculating and when his views are supported by research, which I really appreciate in a "sciency" book. The writing is very readable, with some nice bits of humor sprinkled in there. The thinking is excellent. This will challenge people to think differently about sexuality and humanity. What does a woman reallywant? According to the author, a steak! And, hence, the s What a fascinating read -- especially for a book that we bought on a whim. The author does a good job of making it clear when he is speculating and when his views are supported by research, which I really appreciate in a "sciency" book. The writing is very readable, with some nice bits of humor sprinkled in there. The thinking is excellent. This will challenge people to think differently about sexuality and humanity. What does a woman reallywant? According to the author, a steak! And, hence, the stereotypical "impressive date" meal for generations. Why do we walk upright? Why do we such big brains? And how does the Red Queen fit into all of this? Read to find out!

  10. 4 out of 5

    John

    An amazing book. Read this and Guns, Germs and Steel and you will basically have an understanding of the whole history of the human race and development of society. These two books explain almost all human behavior and history. Deep down we all know the sex for meat thing is true and yet society has found thousands of ways to codify but civilize that bargain in our culture. Every young man and women should read this book to understand what is driving almost all of their behavior. Your success in An amazing book. Read this and Guns, Germs and Steel and you will basically have an understanding of the whole history of the human race and development of society. These two books explain almost all human behavior and history. Deep down we all know the sex for meat thing is true and yet society has found thousands of ways to codify but civilize that bargain in our culture. Every young man and women should read this book to understand what is driving almost all of their behavior. Your success in relationships will depend on it!!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Shroom

    This book was insane! It talks about the act of sex and how women have evolved over time to become the chosers and the source of power in the human race. Women not only live longer, they are responsible for the prorogation of our species and have made evolutionary changes to allow human birth to be possible. It was seriously empowering to read this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jillian

    I have to come back to write a proper review on this book. One of the most fascinating reads of my life. I still refer to it in a variety of discussions on seemingly unrelated topics. Brilliant, and brilliantly written.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Eh?Eh!

    although the main position is simplistic in its assumption by glossing over practicalities of execution the supporting research is fairly solid in itself, should be required reading for dudes

  14. 5 out of 5

    Taylor

    Fascinating. First, let me admit the fact that I got the abridged audio version of this book. Leonard Shlain is such a wonderfully pedantic writer, that I knew in advance (from reading "The Alphabet Vs. The Goddess) that I would read 2/3 of this book and lose my steam. Then I would forever mean to pick it up again and regret that I hadn't finished it. So, abridged audio was perfect. I will let other people, more eloquent than myself, elaborate on the details in Shlain's text, his suppositions, an Fascinating. First, let me admit the fact that I got the abridged audio version of this book. Leonard Shlain is such a wonderfully pedantic writer, that I knew in advance (from reading "The Alphabet Vs. The Goddess) that I would read 2/3 of this book and lose my steam. Then I would forever mean to pick it up again and regret that I hadn't finished it. So, abridged audio was perfect. I will let other people, more eloquent than myself, elaborate on the details in Shlain's text, his suppositions, and hypotheses. I feel, at this time, that it is enough to say that anyone with more than a passing interest in topics such as "the battle between the sexes", reproduction, human evolution, human sexuality, the creation of culture, and similar topics would thoroughly enjoy this book - as long as you also are a fan of big words. Though it took me a long time, start to finish, I listened with delight and curiosity. Shlain gave me lots to ponder.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    Well, with very few reservations, I really liked this book. I had begun the book Art & Physics by the same author with great reluctance and disdain, thinking "oh, how could a surgeon know anything about art?" However, I was pleasantly surprised by the sensitivity and intelligence of his comments. Although on a different subject, I initially approached this book in the same way, but almost immediately changed my tune and found myself already appreciating the transparency of his preface, which mad Well, with very few reservations, I really liked this book. I had begun the book Art & Physics by the same author with great reluctance and disdain, thinking "oh, how could a surgeon know anything about art?" However, I was pleasantly surprised by the sensitivity and intelligence of his comments. Although on a different subject, I initially approached this book in the same way, but almost immediately changed my tune and found myself already appreciating the transparency of his preface, which made the reader all the more eager to go on a journey of ideas with the author. Evolutionary biologists and the like might find some of his ideas a little "soft," but after all, that is how he is presenting them -- as ideas. And he writes in a very engaging style with a goal to communicate to, not stand above, his audience. I think in the end we read books for the pleasure of reading them and engaging with someone else's thoughts, and this is precisely what this book did for me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    I read Shlain's "The Alphabet and the Goddess" earlier this year, a book about how the shift to literacy changed the fundamental way humans thought, giving birth to patriarchal religions, politics, and basically the foundation for modern gender relations and misogyny. In this book, "Sex, Time and Power," Shlain digs deeper into pre-history and forms a theory that a woman's need for iron and her discovery of the relationship between sex and childbirth is actually the root of modern gender relatio I read Shlain's "The Alphabet and the Goddess" earlier this year, a book about how the shift to literacy changed the fundamental way humans thought, giving birth to patriarchal religions, politics, and basically the foundation for modern gender relations and misogyny. In this book, "Sex, Time and Power," Shlain digs deeper into pre-history and forms a theory that a woman's need for iron and her discovery of the relationship between sex and childbirth is actually the root of modern gender relations. Like his last work, I don't necessarily agree with everything he says. I think it's difficult to predict pre-historic biology, but I think he really hit a nerve with the theories in this book. It's one of those books that you wish everyone would read, because his ideas about gender relations are so intriguing. I think he really goes to the root of courtship, marriage and sex, but in a way that's easy for laymen to understand. I would really recommend this book to anyone.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Mcdonald

    This book sets out to explore why and when people evolved so far away from other mammals in several key ways, all of which Dr. Shlain ties to the biological differences between men and women. As in his excellent prior work The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image (which holds that there are links between the ascendancy of patriarchy and written language and the descent of matriarchal societies and goddess-based religions), some of the concepts proposed in this book mi This book sets out to explore why and when people evolved so far away from other mammals in several key ways, all of which Dr. Shlain ties to the biological differences between men and women. As in his excellent prior work The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image (which holds that there are links between the ascendancy of patriarchy and written language and the descent of matriarchal societies and goddess-based religions), some of the concepts proposed in this book might seem a bit of a stretch. And they are�whether or not they turn out to be factual. Whatever conclusions the reader comes to, the author exposes the underlying gender biases in so many scientific assumptions; the result is one of those books that cannot help but alter one's perceptions. It's difficult to tell whether this fascinating thinker will be viewed as the next Darwin or as a crank, but there's no denying this is an audacious work in the realm of evolutionary biology.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Why did Gyna Sapiens begin walking upright? Why do human women bleed profusely during menses, but have no estrus period? Why did human language develop? Shlain tackles all these questions and more in this fascinating and broad look at the history of human evolution, and how it's all tied to women's sexuality. Drawing on a wealth of historical and scholarly research, Shlain presents some fascinating explanations and ties his points together seamlessly. He also raises additional interesting questi Why did Gyna Sapiens begin walking upright? Why do human women bleed profusely during menses, but have no estrus period? Why did human language develop? Shlain tackles all these questions and more in this fascinating and broad look at the history of human evolution, and how it's all tied to women's sexuality. Drawing on a wealth of historical and scholarly research, Shlain presents some fascinating explanations and ties his points together seamlessly. He also raises additional interesting questions about the human species and our continued evolution. Intelligent, thought-provoking and intensely readable, "Sex, Time& Power," makes me want to run home and get my copy of "The Alphabet Versus the Goddess" to read immediately. Wonderful!!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    Interesting views. It is hard for me to say why this book rubs me the wrong way, but it does. It seems to be well researched and there are many different ideas presented that do actually make a lot of sense. Perhaps it is the author's tone or the fact that he seems to preach or that it is just not presented in a scientific format, it reads more like a novel. For whatever reason I found myself scoffing at legitimate theories and taking more of what was presented with a grain of salt than I think Interesting views. It is hard for me to say why this book rubs me the wrong way, but it does. It seems to be well researched and there are many different ideas presented that do actually make a lot of sense. Perhaps it is the author's tone or the fact that he seems to preach or that it is just not presented in a scientific format, it reads more like a novel. For whatever reason I found myself scoffing at legitimate theories and taking more of what was presented with a grain of salt than I think I would have otherwise. Maybe I have read too much Sagan and Dawkins and have become jaded. Lots to think about and leaves you pondering long after you've put it down though. Great for a college book club/coffee circle fodder.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Interesting story about how women's periods lead to humans learning to tell the time - and also lead to iron deficient women being dependent on men to hunt for meat for them. It pretends to be scientific but at the crux of the argument lapses into a story which depends on an intelligent creator which intended humans to have foresight and helped them to evolve that way. As a Christian, this doesn't bother me at all. But the author doesn't appear to be aware he's slipped into theology, and blithely Interesting story about how women's periods lead to humans learning to tell the time - and also lead to iron deficient women being dependent on men to hunt for meat for them. It pretends to be scientific but at the crux of the argument lapses into a story which depends on an intelligent creator which intended humans to have foresight and helped them to evolve that way. As a Christian, this doesn't bother me at all. But the author doesn't appear to be aware he's slipped into theology, and blithely continues pretending to have a scientific theory. Very interesting, but a very old story simply re-told slightly for a new generation.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    Haven't finished it, but I'm up to Chapter 4 and it's fascinating. Very powerful. Thought about reserving that 5th star for when I'm done, but I can't bring myself to do it. What if it impact's someone's reading decision against it?! (GASP!) Written by a surgeon, who is obviously in command of the English lexicon. Not for the average 7th grade reading level, by any means! However, it's not at all verbose, and reads quickly if you are able to read uninterrupted, or if you also elicit similar vocab Haven't finished it, but I'm up to Chapter 4 and it's fascinating. Very powerful. Thought about reserving that 5th star for when I'm done, but I can't bring myself to do it. What if it impact's someone's reading decision against it?! (GASP!) Written by a surgeon, who is obviously in command of the English lexicon. Not for the average 7th grade reading level, by any means! However, it's not at all verbose, and reads quickly if you are able to read uninterrupted, or if you also elicit similar vocabulary in a regular manner. It also helps to have gained some maturity and life experience since I last tried to read it almost 10 years ago in my mid-20's.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Micha

    Recommended to me by my Italian Cinema professor, this is definitely one of the best academic books I could recommend a person. It wasn't difficult to read, but you learned a shitload of things from it about... everything, really. He explains how it was women who taught us about time and thus mortality, and it's knowledge of death that spurns us in just about everything and... It covers so much, I can't even begin to say, except that it's definitely worth reading. It's sciencey, it's abstract, a Recommended to me by my Italian Cinema professor, this is definitely one of the best academic books I could recommend a person. It wasn't difficult to read, but you learned a shitload of things from it about... everything, really. He explains how it was women who taught us about time and thus mortality, and it's knowledge of death that spurns us in just about everything and... It covers so much, I can't even begin to say, except that it's definitely worth reading. It's sciencey, it's abstract, and it can probably be applied to every damn aspect of your life.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    This book suggests that the catalyst that propelled our species into homosapians was female sexuality. It's a very interesting concept, one that isn't often considered in discussions of evolution. I also feel like I learned way more about vaginas than I ever wanted to know. It's a very interesting book, but I think that he makes too bold of a claim in suggesting that it was purely (or even mostly) female sexuality that caused our species to evolve. Also the book waxes too poetic for a scientific This book suggests that the catalyst that propelled our species into homosapians was female sexuality. It's a very interesting concept, one that isn't often considered in discussions of evolution. I also feel like I learned way more about vaginas than I ever wanted to know. It's a very interesting book, but I think that he makes too bold of a claim in suggesting that it was purely (or even mostly) female sexuality that caused our species to evolve. Also the book waxes too poetic for a scientific subject. Bottom line - worth reading but requires a grain of salt.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    All human beings should be required to read this book. YOU must read this book. It is not fiction except for historical re-enactments meant to help present assumptions about pre-historic times. Written by an MD/PhD, his ideas are unbelievably insightful and informative. So many Americans are ignorant of the history of U.S. culture, this book begs the queston whether much of humanity is ignorant of its own evolution. You must read this book cover to cover!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Scott Oesterling

    The author has some tangents that detract from the presentation of his ideas. He does examine some interesting adaptations in human reproduction - occult ovulation, heavy blood loss, and the placenta. However, his writing style is a diservice to the reader. He really could have benefitted from a more aggressive editor (or one at all) or a co author. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in the topic, but it is not a casual read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Frank Pacosa

    Her is a man who thinks outside of the box, big time. Women's hidden menstrual cycle was evolutionarily selected to keep track of time and power. Gotta read it to see how he gets there. This story has legs. Can't believe I haven't heard more about it. But alas the patriarchy will have none of it as he shows in his The Alphabet vs. The Goddess. Her is a man who thinks outside of the box, big time. Women's hidden menstrual cycle was evolutionarily selected to keep track of time and power. Gotta read it to see how he gets there. This story has legs. Can't believe I haven't heard more about it. But alas the patriarchy will have none of it as he shows in his The Alphabet vs. The Goddess.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Dwyer

    Speculative, but essential.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

    Maybe a little outdated at this point but very interesting nonetheless!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Steven Kaminski

    Book with an interesting argument that female sexuality drove innovation in human evolution. He cites in a book a LOT of anthropological data and science to support the argument he is making. - When we look at chimps genetically we share 98.4% of the same genes. So what led us to evolve differently? - This book gets into why women often get their periods at the same time. Often that also fits into the cycle of the lunar calendar. Many calendars in ancient societies were based off of what? A woman' Book with an interesting argument that female sexuality drove innovation in human evolution. He cites in a book a LOT of anthropological data and science to support the argument he is making. - When we look at chimps genetically we share 98.4% of the same genes. So what led us to evolve differently? - This book gets into why women often get their periods at the same time. Often that also fits into the cycle of the lunar calendar. Many calendars in ancient societies were based off of what? A woman's period. It was a consistent measure of time for societies that may have not been as literate. - A woman's greatest loss over her lifetime will be of iron due to childbirth, menses & other events. In older societies what today we consider 'hazardous material' the placenta was often eaten by the woman after childbirth because the blood and nutrients were equal to two blood transfusions. - Primates engage in 'sexual signalling' which tells males when a female is ready to reproduce. A female chimp will mate on average 138 times with 13 different males before a birth. With humans this signalling is masked leading many scientists to believe that humans are the 1st animals to use sex for recreation. - Language is one of the most crucial of evolutionary steps in our development and many scientists believe that language was used to facilitate play for sex. Interesting presentation in this book that made it very readable. The author who is a doctor gets deep into the science but keeps it interesting through story...

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ulrich

    Hopelessly outdated. It would be interesting as a historical curiosity except that it is not that old, it is just that poorly researched. The depth, or rather lack thereof, of Shlain's meticulous data gathering is best exemplified (in my opinion) by the author's statement that the ominous "Ides of March" refers to the new moon, which is scary like menstruation and also lasts three days; unfortunately, a cursory search on any internet-capable machine reveals that the Ides are either the full moon Hopelessly outdated. It would be interesting as a historical curiosity except that it is not that old, it is just that poorly researched. The depth, or rather lack thereof, of Shlain's meticulous data gathering is best exemplified (in my opinion) by the author's statement that the ominous "Ides of March" refers to the new moon, which is scary like menstruation and also lasts three days; unfortunately, a cursory search on any internet-capable machine reveals that the Ides are either the full moon or always the 15th and 17th of particular months. He states at the outset that he will make sweeping generalizations, and then proceeds to make absolutist statements that are without exception utterly groundless. This book reads like a drug-fueled rant by a dottering old fool who thinks he is progressive for pretending that his theory centers on the agency of women when the entire book is written from the point of view of men and all about men taking action. There is no flow, no sense of a natural progression through the chapters. And, to top it all off, this book that he hopes will break your mind hasn't got a single new idea in it! Read something written by a person who is actually active in the field they are writing about.

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