Sex, Time, and Power

Sex, Time, and Power

How Women's Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution

Book - 2004
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As in the bestselling The Alphabet Versus the Goddess , Leonard Shlain's provocative new book promises to change the way readers view themselves and where they came from.

Sex, Time, and Power offers a tantalizing answer to an age-old question: Why did big-brained Homo sapiens suddenly emerge some 150,000 years ago? The key, according to Shlain, is female sexuality. Drawing on an awesome breadth of research, he shows how, long ago, the narrowness of the newly bipedal human female's pelvis and the increasing size of infants' heads precipitated a crisis for the species. Natural selection allowed for the adaptation of the human female to this environmental stress by reconfiguring her hormonal cycles, entraining them with the periodicity of the moon. The results, however, did much more than ensure our existence; they imbued women with the concept of time, and gave them control over sex--a power that males sought to reclaim. And the possibility of achieving immortality through heirs drove men to construct patriarchal cultures that went on to dominate so much of human history.

From the nature of courtship to the evolution of language, Shlain's brilliant and wide-ranging exploration stimulates new thinking about very old matters.

Publisher: New York :, Penguin,, 2004.
ISBN: 9780142004678
Branch Call Number: 306.7 SH
Characteristics: xxii, 420 pages, 10 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm


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Apr 21, 2011

The problem with Shlain’s argument is that it is not consistent with the findings of many epidemiological studies. If early “hunter-gatherer” Homo sapiens relied on meat as their main source of iron, the bodies of modern humans would be well-adapted to meat-eating. A number of studies – such as those by Dr. Colin Campbell, Dr. Dean Ornish, and Dr. Joel Fuhrman, among others – have demonstrated that humans live longer, healthier lives on average if they do not eat meat. Heme iron is found in meat, but non-heme iron is found in plants, and is well-absorbed by the human body if it is needed. Heme iron, on the other hand, is always absorbed by the human body, whether or not it is needed, which can cause severe problems for those afflicted with hemochromatosis, Canada’s most common genetic disorder. Shlain’s book may be some consolation to those wishing to explain the existence of both omnivorousness and patriarchy, but it is heavily reliant on mythology about “hunter-gatherers” that is purely speculative. Since doctors are not required to obtain training in nutrition, it is not surprising that a doctor would write a book of this nature.

John W Toole Apr 21, 2011

One of the most fascinating books I've ever read, on the subject of "what it means to be human."


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