By Dr. Christopher Ryan and Dr. Cacilda Jetha, Harper Perennial 2010
Dr. Christopher Ryan beautifully and passionately described prehistoric sex with many academic citations. In the introduction he states, “Our cultivated ignorance (about human sexuality) is devastating.” I heartily agree. Then, Chapter 2: What Darwin Didn’t Know About Sex. Perhaps it is not the anthropologist’s job to investigate the power and malleability of the human mind, yet the human mind is both. Nor, perhaps, is it their job to investigate more deeply the nature of love, than to pass it off as hormonal brain chemistry. However, in dealing with sex, we must look at both.
Dr. Ryan points out we all write from our own perspective, based on our experience and prior teachings. He notes, “Hobbes took the madness of his age, considered it normal, and projected it back into prehistoric epochs of which he knew next to nothing.” By the same token, Dr. Ryan writes within the long standing, politically imposed sexual paradigm of pleasure and/or procreation, then limiting pleasure to orgasm. I write from mine.
There are many ancillary responses occurring with or without orgasm or even sexual contact. Sexual emissions (“ejaculation”) in both male and female are a separate, but an associated physiological response and the human female has three sources where the male has but one. Transcendence or “altered brain chemistry” is another, which may also occur without sex. Orgasmic bioluminescence is reported not only by modern women but also referred to in ancient sacred Shamanic texts as “Dragon’s Fire/Breath.” Then we have Napoleon Hill’s “transmutation,” where “the combination of love, sex and romance can raise a man from mediocrity to the altitude of genius.” This transmutation was first noted in The Epic of Gilgamesh, 2600 BC, so it is nothing new. Further, it is probably genetic in nature, so transmutation is a good word. It is not known how these experiences affected the ancients. No one to my knowledge ever reported observation of a “glowing bonobo.” And how would we know if a bonobo had a transcendent sexual experience? Humans are a little different.
Dr. Ryan has no doubt love was present in the prehistoric era, but blows it off, leaving to believe, as Dr. Helen Fisher, it is simply “brain chemistry.” This excludes all other forms of love by omission. He also points out the Speculum Doctrinal, around 1250 AD, abjures a man for loving his wife too much, then goes on to say some modern love songs are examples of stalking. Perhaps. Humans throughout history are known to screw up an anvil with a rubber mallet.
He mentions primal behaviors of love, such as grooming, gazing and nourishing without labeling them as behaviors of love. Both erotic and non-erotic touching is also a behavior of love. I’ve never seen a bonobo, but I’ll bet a nickel they are touchy-feely. He does talk about mating cries which, according to Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society, humans extended into language. We can express both a desire to “mate” and love.
He pointed out in the hunter-gatherer age, “women typically breastfeed each child for five or six years.” Later Ryan states, “Considering its almost total lack of muscle tissue, the female breast wields amazing power.” The female (and in one case, male) breast is an organ of nourishment. Nourishing is a behavior of love. Could we men be subconsciously looking for love, yet denying it due to the pleasure/procreation paradigm?
Dr. Ryan also limits his discussion of sexual behavior to primates, stating only bonobos and humans have sex for pleasure. This is based on ovulation cycles. Bottlenose dolphins (tursiops truncatus) apparently, may be another species. Then again, in the Kama Sutra the yab yum (female on top of male sitting) is a bonding exercise where gazing is the mechanism rather than orgasm. This gives a different aspect to lap dancing. Perhaps dolphins, who are as monogamous as gibbons, have sex for bonding?
Although Dr Ryan discusses pair bonding, he does not mention attachment; as different a human behavior as absorption is a different physical behavior from adsorption. I was pleased to see his discussion on MHC, a woman’s nose and the deleterious effect of birth control pills. As wild speculation, suppose a woman’s nose could also smell beyond our male immune-compatibility and by his smell, determine her ability to transmute him, based on his genetic make-up? We only learned of woman’s ability to smell MHC a few years ago. Hill said it takes love. If it were just sex and romance 99.99% of all the men on this planet would be geniuses. Sadie Hawkins Day might have been a good thing.
Toward the end, he speaks to “variety is the spice of life.” He views it as doing the same thing with different women. Do we ever consider doing different things with the same woman? He also points out the malleability of the human mind where a woman walks out on a cheating husband as though she were reading from a script. We could also call it brainwashing. It is neither good nor bad. There could be many other conditions. What is “bad” is the fact we are programmed and this is the tip of the iceberg.
Oh, the angst of a poet! One over riding, unstated thesis comes through this book: a Greed Based Civilization is a disease, responsible for more premature human deaths than any other cause. Who knows? GBC might be an STD. Love might be the cure, and the future of evolution.
Copyright Art Noble 2012