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HOW SEX WORKS by Sharon Moalem


Why We Look, Smell, Taste, Feel, and Act the Way We Do

by Sharon Moalem

Pub Date: May 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-06-147965-6
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Moalem (Survival of the Sickest, 2007) explores the social human from a sexual perspective, concluding that the evolution of sexuality can teach us a lot about behavior.

From the earliest records of copulation to the latest medical research, the author examines every aspect of sex and relates it to our bodies’ innate desire to procreate. He spares no subject. Menstruation, fertility, penis size, orgasm, ejaculation and contraception all prove to be physiological sidebars to the evolutionary edict “survival of the fittest,” which the author equates with finding a healthy, virile partner and a secure, loving environment for childrearing. Factors influencing sexual attraction include pheremones, genetic makeup, immune system compatability and even ovulation. Of course, physical appearance also plays a role, but our perception of “good looks” is often shaped by a subconscious agenda. That “tall, dark and handsome” man has more pigment, which means lower folate levels, which indicate healthier sperm. The author argues that even homosexuality could be explained developmentally based on the type and amount of certain hormones present in the womb. Many species engage in homosexual activity for pleasure, he notes, suggesting that same-sex coupling may prove to be yet another piece of the evolutionary puzzle. Some of the theories Moalem presents are controversial, but all are provocative and entertaining, and he is careful to include cultural context when addressing sensitive issues like circumcision or STDs. The result is a volume stuffed with information that avoids getting bogged down in difficult medical terms or complex biological concepts.

An accessible presentation of sex not just as a necessary means to protect our species, but also a vital part of a culture structured around love and pleasure.