TED Blog

At TED2013, Christopher Ryan offered a surprising view of modern relationships. Photo: James Duncan Davidson At TED2013, Christopher Ryan explains the evidence that, before the dawn of agriculture, humans had overlapping sexual relationships. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

In today’s talk, Christopher Ryan, the co-author of Sex at Dawnwith Cacilda Jethá, takes a deeper look at the standard narrative of human sexual evolution we’ve long upheld: men provide women with goods and services in exchange for women’s sexual fidelity. According to this model, Ryan points out, the war between the sexes is built into our DNA.

[ted_talkteaser id=1931]But based on their research, Ryan and Jethá have quite a few bones to pick with this narrative. Ryan explains that our sexual patterns are an outgrowth of agricultural models—which accounts for only about five percent of human history. For the other 95 percent, human sexuality was “a way of establishing and maintaining the complex flexible social systems, networks, that our ancestors were very good at.” In hunter-gatherer…

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