Sex at Dawn by Cacilda Jethá and Christopher Ryan made me happy to be an insomniac. I would wake up at 3am and gleefully reach over my slumbering spouse for the book I’ve been waiting for all my life. However, Sex at Dawn isn’t a treatise extolling the virtues of polyamory as some of you may be thinking, it is a treatise honestly exploring human sexuality from prehistoric to present day and how our current culturally enforced relationship structures are failing us and why.
I have had an interest in alternative relationship structures since I was a teen. Around the same time I started mouthing off at people about the slut/stud sexual double standards I also started mentioning the fact that monogamy doesn’t work and it seemed obvious to me humans were setting themselves up for disappointment by believing in a fairytale. I had no idea at the time that fairytale was backed by religion and science with no regard to reality. The world seemed to me to be at odds with itself. In 2003 I encounter the bonobos through Natalie Angier’s book ‘Woman’, then I discovered sex educators like Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross, I discovered Riane Eisler’s Sacred Pleasure and I started to feel there were voices of reason out there that made sense to me. That confirmed I was not a freak for being a woman with a very high sex drive who enjoyed masturbation. These voices contradicted the dominant paradigm that bases itself on theories of biological determinism for patriarchy and monogamy but Sex at Dawn is not only the nail in the coffin for those theories for me but is the crematorium too.
Through each of these new discoveries the cloak of internalised shame that shrouds a woman’s sexuality, (and mens too I have discovered) was shredded and discarded. However it can be incredibly hard in a relationship to have the courage of your convictions when your spouse holds the view that is backed by the dominant hegemonic belief system. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting I get together with monogamous people and try and convert them to my way of thinking that is an exercise in harmful futility. I mean when your spouse believes that sexual freedom is a rational choice of necessity but must always equal hurt and jealousy then the environment around that is always pessimistic. Sex at Dawn gave me a lot more hope that sexual freedom need not conjure even a modicum of jealousy, hurt or anger if we are prepared to work to be the one dictating our own emotions and our programming rather than allowing our culture to dictate it all for us to our personal detriment.
I remember the first time someone told me about secondary emotions. It was such a relief to know that I needn’t continue to suffer from them. The most salient of these being the two most destructive Anger and Jealousy. Anger and jealousy are a mask for fear and powerlessness that make us falsely feel more active and in control when we are vulnerable and insecure. We have been set up to accept these secondary emotions as primary reactions to sexual infidelity. They are not. We have been socialised to behave this way by a culture that has hegemonic heterosexual monogamous paradigms regarding sexuality that bear no resemblance to our true nature as humans. This paradigm was perpetuate by religious/political and scientific propaganda that Sex at Dawn wholly, eloquently and compassionately debunks with the most well informed interdisciplinary referencing on human sexuality I have ever had the pleasure to read. I usually find it a turn on to think of people I love and am attracted to having sex with other people. On the occasions when I also experience jealousy I can use my arousal to salve my ego. Specifically I masturbate over the situation and peoples that have caused me to feel jealous. If I could I would love to actually watch it but this is often more than other people are comfortable with. So this is what I do to bit by bit eradicate a destructive and futile emotion from my repertoire. So you can imagine I was delighted to read in Sex at Dawn that it could be far more natural to human nature to experience arousal in place of jealousy and I took from this that my method could quite likely be successful for others too who suffer from jealousy and wish to avoid that in the future.
I could go on for hours about all information and scientific, sociological and anthroplogical enlightenment in Sex at Dawn as it is incredibly comprehensive in covering human sexuality and those who have claimed to know it’s innate nature over the millenia but your time would be far better spent reading it yourself…I give it my highest recommendation as a must read for all humanity.