September 2, 2010

"Megan McArdle Really Hates Sex at Dawn"...

... is a funny title for an article, written by the author of "Sex at Dawn," which book title he declines to put in italics or quotes in his article title. I thought it would be interesting to discuss sex at dawn, in the literal sense, but I find myself confronted with an author who's miffed at a blogger who's dissing his book:
Her comments begin strangely, with the admission that she's "in the middle" of the book. Note the urgency to condemn it publicly, even before reading the damned thing! 
Oh, blah! I hate this criticism. McArdle is blogging, not doing the official book review for the Atlantic. A rule against criticizing books you haven't finished would overprotect authors, since you shouldn't finish a bad book, and it would also underprotect authors, since the critics wouldn't disclose that they hadn't read the whole thing.

But bloggers... bloggers can open a book to a random page, read one sentence, cogitate furiously, then open up their laptops — maybe right there at Borders, where they picked up the book they didn't buy — and tap out a free-association blog post saying anything that occurs to them and publish — using the WiFi they didn't pay for either. It's not the slightest bit strange. And it's not unfair either. It is what it is, and we know what it is. It's blogging.
And boy, does she lash out:

•    "It reads like horsefeathers . . . like an undergraduate thesis,"
•    "breathless rather than scientific"
•    "cherry-picked evidence stretched far out of shape to support their theory,"
•    "they don't even attempt to paper over the enormous holes in their theory."
Ouch! And that's just the first paragraph. 
Eh! There are only 4 paragraphs. By the way, "their theory" — if I can trust McArdle — is that "people are naturally polyamorous." The dispute continues with McArdle and the author (Christopher Ryan) throwing shit at each other in a fight about whether people are like bonobos. I'm just saying "throwing shit at each other" because that's how bonobos fight, and people are like bonobos, right? Not right? Advantage McArdle!!!!!

Anyway, as you've probably figured out by now, the book is not about sex at dawn — the practice of having sex upon first awakening in the morning — but sex and evolution — "dawn" in the sense of "the dawn of man."

So where am I going with this? It's a blog post. I'm a blogger. I'll go where I want, which is where I always go when this subject comes up, and I don't feel safe in this conversation no more...

54 comments:

TRO said...

Personal experience (and television and movies aside) - sex at dawn isn't very good until after you both brush your teeth.

ironrailsironweights said...

The most important thing to know about sex: is she shaved or full-flavor? Tragically, the answer is almost always clear these days.

Peter

Marshal said...

Is this "people whose idea of research is to cherry pick to reflect their preconceived ideas" theme day?

deborah said...

I wonder what the Briggs-Myers would say about sex at dawn...I mean morning sex. I imagine even a thoroughly introverted man would be up for it.

Scott M said...

'll go where I want, which is where I always go when this subject comes up, and I don't feel safe in this conversation no more...

I believe it's spelled, "no mo'". Wakeup sex is infinitely more gratifying if you can slide back to sleep afterward. If you have to get up for work afterward, it's more like a marathon jogger grabbing a quick drink from an outstretched hand.

Good sex, of course, has many outstretched hands.

Marshal said...

"Personal experience (and television and movies aside) - sex at dawn isn't very good until after you both brush your teeth."

You just have to be smarter about the position you choose.

MadisonMan said...

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

I am reminded of this great Dorothy Parker quote.

deborah said...

Aw, Peter, you missed the opportunity to use 'clear cut.' You're slipping.

sonicfrog said...

TRO.... No, No, No.... Sex and toothpaste clash!!!!

(though it depends on what you use it for I suppose)

Scott M said...

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

"Of the sparkling wines, the most famous is Perth Pink. This is a bottle with a message in it, and the message is 'beware'. This is not a wine for drinking, this is a wine for laying down and avoiding."

JayC said...

To actually focus on the book: "Sex at Dawn" is one of those evolutionary psychology books that tries to demonstrate that every human behavior the author feels strongly about is caused by biological evolution.

It's mostly an exercise in cherry-picking (no pun intended)

In McArdle's comments, someone makes the point that using bonobos as a model for humans doesn't really work. Bonobos and chimps are more closely related to each other than either is to humans. However, bonobos and chimps are very different.

If bonobos and chimps can't be used to predict each other's behavior, why should they be used to predict human behavior?

snyderman said...

Ann, great point about blogging. It is what is, she/he who chooses not to acknowledge or understand that core fact deserves what they get.

deborah said...

Scott M said...

"Wakeup sex is infinitely more gratifying if you can slide back to sleep afterward. If you have to get up for work afterward, it's more like a marathon jogger grabbing a quick drink from an outstretched hand."

This one definitely goes in the book, Althouse. Well played, sir.

Ironclad said...

Oh wow, Ray Davies is playing a National Resonator guitar in that clip - and it is 1970! Those have not gotten really popular until the last few years.

Can't beat the tone from those babies - although I can't imagine what kind of nightmare it would be to try to mike one of those for straight amplification.

And that factoid is better than this topic. Yeah Kinks!

deborah said...

snyderman said...

"Ann, great point about blogging. It is what is, she/he who chooses not to acknowledge or understand that core fact deserves what they get."

I don't get your meaning, will you please clarify?

TRO said...

"TRO.... No, No, No.... Sex and toothpaste clash!!!!"

Well, I suppose if kissing isn't important one can do without, but again, my experience is even the most desirable woman isn't immune from morning breath.

Call me a stickler but I prefer my gals to smell sweet.

Expat(ish) said...

Would English bonobo's have teeth like Ray?

-XC

traditionalguy said...

Sex is too important to be left to authors who write books to prove it is always OK to be an animal.

TRO said...

Than again, there's always Sex at Dawn Over the Seringeti . .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xat1GVnl8-k&feature=related

Dead Julius said...

Oh it's the "can you tell the real me, can 'ya?" question again.

Personally I like to skip that track entirely. The next song on CD1-- the title track Quadrophenia-- is better, but CD2 is really where it starts rolling:

Why should I care? Why should I care? Girls of 15, sexually knowing...

Pretty soon I'm out of my brain on the train and all is good with the world. Usually this involves some sort of cannabis but it is not
essential.

The Rock is sublime. The emotional storm is brewing. Can a bonobo feel this? You don't see bonobos playing the Super Bowl forty years later, do you?

By the time you finish off with Love, Reign O'er Me, you realize that loving monogamy (no matter how temporary or serial) is a better choice than fucking every possible chic:

Only love can make it rain...

How you live your life is a CHOICE. Who the fuck cares about what bonobos do when we individually decide our own fates? Bonobos don't rock like this. Stop arguing about monkeys, people! Listen to the music instead:

Oh god I need a drink of COOL COOL rain...

Christy said...

The new Mrs. Suderman will appreciate sex at dawn much more about the time she and her husband hit their mid 40's.

Robert Cook said...

"To actually focus on the book: 'Sex at Dawn' is one of those evolutionary psychology books that tries to demonstrate that every human behavior the author feels strongly about is caused by biological evolution."

And how else might human behavior be explained? We are nothing but the result of biological evolution.

As for the human/bonobo comparison, humans are basically just monkeys in spacesuits, flinging shit back and forth at each other, fighting over turf, status and grubs.

Lem said...

But bloggers... bloggers can open a book to a random page, read one sentence, cogitate furiously, then open up their laptops — maybe right there at Borders, where they picked up the book they didn't buy — and tap out a free-association blog post saying anything that occurs to them and publish — using the WiFi they didn't pay for either. It's not the slightest bit strange. And it's not unfair either. It is what it is, and we know what it is. It's blogging.

Its a stream of consciousness made flesh .. if you will.

Dont fear the blog.

sonicfrog said...

...humans are basically just monkeys in spacesuits, flinging shit back and forth at each other, fighting over turf, status and grubs.

This is, BY FAR, the best explanation of politics I have ever seen! I,m stealing it!!!!

madawaskan said...

OK what the hell....

I've always hated how hippies thought they discovered "free love".

Please. That's older than dirt naps.

deborah said...

Lem said...

"But bloggers... bloggers can open a book to a random page, read one sentence, cogitate furiously, then open up their laptops — maybe right there at Borders, where they picked up the book they didn't buy — and tap out a free-association blog post saying anything that occurs to them and publish — using the WiFi they didn't pay for either. It's not the slightest bit strange. And it's not unfair either. It is what it is, and we know what it is. It's blogging.

Its a stream of consciousness made flesh .. if you will.

Dont fear the blog."

Bang!

JayC said...

"And how else might human behavior be explained? We are nothing but the result of biological evolution."

How about culture? Or individual choices? We are not merely biological machines.

The author of "Sex at Dawn" uses this theory to "prove" that humans are "naturally polyamorous". This ignores an amazing amount of human history.

And while you certainly spend a lot of your time flinging shit, there are those who both aspire to and sometimes achieve something better.

holdfast said...

I'm just saying "throwing shit at each other" because that's how bonobos fight, and people are like bonobos, right? Not right? Advantage McArdle!!!!!

Now that is why I frequent this blog!

c3 said...

So where am I going with this?

No where

miller said...

a) "If bonobos and chimps can't be used to predict each other's behavior, why should they be used to predict human behavior? " -- this is a GREAT line.

b) "humans are basically just monkeys in spacesuits..." - if so, then so are you, so your arguments are no more valid than that of any other monkey in a spacesuit. Own goal, as they say.

that-xmas said...

Throwing pies into faces is the modern version of flinging feces. That's why the pie in the face routine is funny across all cultures and universally humiliating for the victim.

Youngblood said...

Gunna find my baby
Gunna hold her tight
Gunna grab some crack o' dawn delight
When everything's a little clearer at the break of day
And we know the night is gonna be here anyway

Scott M said...

Throwing pies into faces is the modern version of flinging feces. That's why the pie in the face routine is funny across all cultures and universally humiliating for the victim.

"Phil. If you have any poo, fling it now."

Bob_R said...

From Uncle Bonsai-

Boys want
Sex in the morning
Sex in the morning
When I'm not my best
Boys want
Sex in the morning
Sex in the morning
Tearing at my breast
Boys want
Someone who's winsome
Someone to pin
Someone to undertake
Boys want
Someone to fall on
Someone to crawl on
Someone half awake

Boys want
Sex in the morning
Sex in the morning
Covers at my knees
Boys want
Rotten conditions
Passive positions
I am a trapeze
Boys want
Someone who's sleepy
Someone who's keeping
Nothing in too deep
Boys want
Somebody first hand
Someone to burst
And then go back to sleep

There is nothing I like better
Than a jostle now and then
With the hands under the sweater
And the back that starts to bend
But before my eyes are open
I don't want to have to hide
From a simpleton still poking
With a thimbleful of pride

traditionalguy said...

@ Robert Cook...You need to meet a better class of people.

El Pollo Real said...

Read book at night, reader's delight. Read book in morning, critic gives warning

Robert Cook said...

"How about culture? Or individual choices? We are not merely biological machines."


By and large, we are. Human behavior is remarkly consistent and similar over time and across cultures. One can read plays and novels written 150 or 2000 years ago and one knows the people depicted therein, and can recognize that they are among us today.

Robert Cook said...

"@ Robert Cook...You need to meet a better class of people."

People are the same wherever you go...see my previous comment.

Methadras said...

I'd prefer sex at dawn instead of pistols at dawn. However, I have used my sex pistol at dawn. :D

Methadras said...

Robert Cook said...

By and large, we are. Human behavior is remarkly consistent and similar over time and across cultures. One can read plays and novels written 150 or 2000 years ago and one knows the people depicted therein, and can recognize that they are among us today.


Yeah, I read your shit all the time and recognize that you are still a douchebag.

Robert Cook said...

"Yeah, I read your shit all the time and recognize that you are still a douchebag."

Elegantly put.

Robt C said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DaveW said...

Follow Althouse' link and check the reader comments. Megan is just like Althouse in that she fails to toe the line and therefore she has, shall we say, something of an online following.

This author is responding like a 12 year old. The article is titled with McArdle's name so you know that's where he's going. It takes him 13 paragraphs of this sort of wind-up "But then you get someone who feels so personally threatened by the very idea that they don't give a damn about "your so-called evidence" (they assume you're making it all up anyway)." to even get around to mentioning McArdle.

In fact, though Megan clearly doesn't agree with his ideas, she was far gentler than he is. If anyone is sputtering, red-faced and has veins throbbing on their necks it is Ryan not McArdle. She at least goes straight to the book and criticizes it directly. He has to spend 2/3 of his response in character destruction by proxy before directly addressing what she posted.

And as Althouse says, while Megan may or may not know anything about the subject of his book he clearly knows nothing about blogging. He says "I'm not familiar with Ms. McArdle's work, but..." yet he has no problem calling her names for 13 graphs over a 4 graph blog entry. Childish much?

MayBee said...

This author is responding like a 12 year old.

Bonobos never develop past the maturity level of a 12 year old.

Robin said...

Megan did a pretty good job of reviewing the book actually.

stevenehrbar said...

JayC —

I'm happy you liked my comment at Ms. McArdle's blog. I did get a minor thing wrong in my comment there, based on double-checking an out-of-date source; bonobos are tool users. But bonobos and chimps are significantly divergent in their behavior.

By the way, there's a physiological factor against using bonobos-and-chimps even as a composite model. Detailed study of 33 primate species has demonstrated that species testis size relative to boy weight correlates to frequency of sexual activity (big testes are needed to produce enough sperm to keep up) and female promiscuity (because, when multiple males are competing to inseminate one egg, the ones that produce the most sperm have the best chance of winning).

Thus, chimpanzees and bonobos, where males have frequent opportunities to have sex and multiple males will have sex with the same female, have huge testes. Male gorillas, a species in which even the dominant male still only has sex a few times a year and where the females of his harem are usually faithful, have small testes.

And humans? We've got much, much smaller testes than chimpanzees/bonobos (both absolutely and relative to body size), though ones that are larger than gorillas' (also absolutely and relative to body size). You can model this as human males having lots of sex with monogamous females, moderate amounts of sex with females still substantially more faithful than chimpanzee females, or humans rarely having sex with females of chimpanzee-level promiscuity.

In short, male humans are not equipped by evolution to have sex like bonobo or chimpanzee males. We just don't have the balls.

Fred4Pres said...

I am a morning guy, but my wife definitely not...oh wait this is about a book?

Fred4Pres said...

Megan just got married. Not that many women who get married are open to carefree polyamory. At least not in my experience.

They may get there in time if the marriage is not working, but even then it is rarely carefree.

Issob Morocco said...

Nice slip in of the Kinks!!

Christopher Ryan said...

Fair enough to play the "it's only a blog" card, but of course my response was posted on a blog as well, so I guess I should be able to spew whatever nonsense I want too, right? We who fling shit tend to get covered in the stuff ;)

DaveW said...

...while Megan may or may not know anything about the subject...

I take that part back. I've now read through Megan's responses in her thread and she clearly does have a good bit of knowledge on the subject.

One funny thing about this is that after reading Megan's blog on the book I was inclined to buy a copy. I was thinking about it from a Catholic theological perspective. It (the book) is the sort of thing I get questions about during classes I help with every fall and I about half expect to hear questions about it.

After reading that post from the author, no thanks. If anyone asks about his book I'll just refer them to his post and ask if they want to read a whole book written by that person. I certainly don't.

kentuckyliz said...

Dr Bruce Sapolsky is a neurobiologist who studies stress, and spends his summers doing observations of animals on the African savannah.

He observed that baboons on a preserve are provided food and there are no predators (lions). The baboons only have to spend 3 hours a day getting enough calories and nutrients (far less than in the wild). So they have 9 hours a day free to....what?

Invent new ways to aggravate the hell out of each other with social aggression.

Much like modern Western societies, Sapolsky notes.

rob said...

Like Ms MM, and unlike most of the commenters, I am half way through reading Sex at Dawn.
However unlike her, I am hugely impressed.
My perception is that this book is likely to be as important as The Female Eunuch was in the 1960s. Not immediately, but as the massively challenging set of messages it contains sink in to readers who can take the trouble to comprehend. Because the picture it paints of the world makes so much more sense than the logic which we receive from our politicians and schools and churches and the mass media.

Teddy Phufner said...

Here's my response of a review of a critique of an author who is being critiqued by a journalist who the blogger of this website is supporting against the author whose main critique is that the journalist/blogger who criticized the book didn't finish reading the book.

I had trouble finishing to read your post, but keeping that in mind, if you are going to blog on a review of a review in which the reviewed condemns the reviewer for not finishing the reviewed content, you might want to actually help solve the issue by, maybe...., reading the book being reviewed. If ya don't, than you ain't doing anything. And I guess this is the problem with blogging. Too much shit. Not enough substance. So write to express yourself, and not just cause you want to be able to google yourself and find your name.