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Christopher Ryan: Monogamy Is Not Human Nature

Jenny Asarnow
02/24/2011 at 8:00 p.m.

Christopher Ryan says there's a standard narrative about human sexuality — that people are naturally monogamous — and it's completely wrong. He says humans are one of the most promiscuous animals on the planet. Ryan is a psychology Ph.D. and, along with his doctor partner Cacilda Jetha, he studies the prehistoric roots of human sexuality. Ryan says in the standard narrative, held as fact by many scientific and religious institutions, women trade sex and faithfulness for men's resources. While Ryan says that may be true in many societies, including our own, it's anything but human nature. Before humans invented agriculture, they roamed the planet for almost 200,000 years in small groups and shared everything including food, childcare, breast milk and sexual partners. Christopher Ryan says sex for humans isn't about reproduction at all; it's about building social bonds.

Christopher Ryan is co-author of The New York Times bestseller "Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality." He spoke at the Elliot Bay Book Company in Seattle on October 26, 2010.

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