Christopher Ryan is co-author (with Cacilda Jetha) of Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality.
From his Q & A with Thomas Rogers at the Barnes & Noble Review:
You paint a bleak picture of the state of marriage in the West, particularly in the United States. What makes it so bad?Visit the official Sex at Dawn website.
Marriage in the West isn’t doing very well because it’s in direct confrontation with the evolved reality of our species. What we argue in the book is that the best way to increase marital stability, which in the modern world is an important part of social stability, is to develop a more tolerant and realistic understanding of human sexuality and how human sexuality is being distorted by our modern conception of marriage. Certainly growing up in the '70s and '80s there were very few kids I knew whose parents weren’t divorced at least once. The economic, emotional, psychological cost of fractured relationships is a major problem in American society — with single mothers and single-parent families.
You argue that much of this misery stems from changes that occurred when humans developed agriculture, around 8000 B.C. What happened?
The advent of agriculture changed everything about human society, from sexuality to politics to economics to health to diet to exercise patterns to work-versus-rest patterns. It introduced the notion of property into sexuality. Property wasn’t a very important consideration when people were living in small, foraging groups where most things were shared, including food, childcare, shelter and defense. It makes perfect sense that sexuality would also be shared — why wouldn’t it be when paternity wasn’t an issue?
When you have agriculture, men started to worry about whether or not certain children were theirs biologically, because...[read on]