Sex at Dusk, Sex at Dawn, Selfish Genes: How Old-Dated Evolutionary Ideas Are Used to Defend Fallacious Misogynistic Views on Sex Evolution

Sep 1, 2019

Ryan and Jetha's 2010 book "Sex at Dawn" caused a huge controversy within the academic community, with several papers, commentaries, and even a whole book, "Sex at Dusk: lifting the shiny wrapping from Sex at Dawn" published in 2012 by Saxon, being written to attack it. However, when one reads the so-called 'scientific' publications that were produced after, and as a reaction to, Sex at Dawn, one can see that the major controversy is not really about monogamy vs polygamy, as the general public tends to think, but about our 'sexual nature' being mainly polygynous (1 male having several females) as argued in Sex at Dusk, vs multimale-multifemale (each female and each male having various partners of the other sex) as argued in Sex at Dawn. In other words, both models assume that it is mainly part of our 'human nature' to have a male copulating with several females: what hit the nerve of people, with the publication of Sex at Dawn, is mainly its idea that it is also part of our 'nature' to have a female having the sexual drive/desire to copulate with various males. What is particularly interesting is that Saxon published Sex at Dusk mainly as if it were an analysis of the evolution of sex in humans based on 'accurate', 'deep knowledge' of evolutionary biology, an idea often accepted in the few book reviews published about this book, which considered the book to be a 'scientific rebuttal' of the 'pseudo-science' of Sex at Dawn. However, despite the crucial importance of the subjects debated in these books for discussions on human evolution, and the huge repercussion of these debates for the media and broader public, puzzlingly no publication has examined so far, in detail, if the 'evolutionary framework' followed in Sex at Dusk is truly a reflection of a 'deep knowledge' of current evolutionary ideas. In this paper I will show that a careful analysis of Sex at Dusk shows that the book instead uses old-dated, extremist adaptationist 'selfish genes' evolutionary ideas that were popular 5 decades ago but that have been more and more discarded since then. In fact, Sex at Dusk has nothing new or progressive: it is just one more repetition of misogynistic narratives/just-so stories that have been strongly contradicted by empirical data in the last decades. That is, Sex at Dusk-written exclusively to attack Sex at Dawn, a book precisely aimed to put in question such old-dated, misogynistic tales-just confirms the premonition made in works such as Ackerman's Natural History of Love: that due to a powerful combination of strong biases and the use of antiquated fallacious evolutionary ideas, such narratives will in fact likely not "change very soon".