THE SEXUAL CODE: Understanding the Social Behavior of Animals and Men by Wolfgang Wickler

THE SEXUAL CODE: Understanding the Social Behavior of Animals and Men

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This book is predicated on the axiom that animal behavior significantly parallels that of humans, though Wickler doesn't spell it out as clearly as did his teacher, Konrad Lorenz, or members of the Desmond Morris-Robert Ardrey School. Instead he grinds a special axe: the papal ban on birth control makes false assumptions about what is ""natural"" -- to which he counterposes two inconsistent arguments: that man should master nature, and that ""bonding"" rather than ""reproduction"" is preeminently ""natural"" behavior, so whatever serves pair-bonding is ethically good. Wickler further argues that sexual behavior is closely connected with social behavior and ranking order; for instance the genitals can be exhibited as a signal of appeasement or aggression. Behavior is said to determine the structure of organs, in what seems to be a rather Lamarckian view. Thus we -- or the Pope -- ""cannot deduce bonding 'purposive norms' for the future use of these organs"" from their form. All this is developed through a range of examples and speculations in a popular manner which sometimes lacks minimal rigor or betrays ethnocentricity. Wickler assumes one position is typical of all copulating humans; he constantly jumps from animal to man, comparing, for instance, the social significance of the female breast. Regardless of the validity of his animal theories, it is spectacularly fallacious to posit biological determinants to the effective exclusion of social and economic ones in trying to explain human behavior. Whatever the intrinsic interest of his animal data, the book will justly be criticized as tendentious in its invocations of ""natural law"" and utterly misleading in its attempts to explain ""bonding"" among humans without reference to human society. It should also be noted that, while Wickler goes overboard in eschewing Teutonic pedantry, he is capable of speaking of ""a final solution to the problem of overpopulation""!

Pub Date: March 10th, 1972
Publisher: Doubleday