“It’s time we moved beyond Mars and Venus, because the truth is that men are from Africa and women are from Africa.”
This TED Talk by Christopher Ryan may challenge a lot of our perspectives on sexuality; but it may also be very freeing to discuss this concept out in the open with the Good Men Project crowd. His goal, and I think it’s visible in his argument, is to “…finally put to rest the idea that men have some innate, instinctive right to monitor and control women’s sexual behavior. And we’ll see that it’s not only gay people that have to come out of the closet. We all have closets we have to come out of. Right?”
It’s tough to approach sexuality and social norms without sounding moralistic, but I actually think his basic point is valid and valuable: if we are programmed to be sexual omnivores, then let’s calm down a little on our sexual/moral xenophobia. Have a look, tell me what you think in the comments.
Ryan addresses our anthropological evolution as sexual beings by comparing us to our closest species relatives – the Chimps and the Bonobos, as a backdrop against which Ryan can debate Darwin – whom he both respects as a “a great genius, a wonderful man, a wonderful husband, a wonderful father,” and also as “a world-class Victorian prude.”
As Ryan says, “Our fight is not with each other, our fight is with an outdated, Victorian sense of human sexuality that conflates desire with property rights, generates shame and confusion in place of understanding and empathy.”
Ryan seems sincere when he addresses sexual pairing as a bonding choice, quoting Edward Wilson, who “says we need to understand that human sexuality is first a bonding device and only secondarily procreation.”
“…to argue that our ancestors were sexual omnivores is no more a criticism of monogamy than to argue that our ancestors were dietary omnivores is a criticism of vegetarianism. You can choose to be a vegetarian, but don’t think that just because you’ve made that decision, bacon suddenly stops smelling good.”
I have always been the monogamous type, but if I’m honest, I know this is completely a choice based on bonding and not at all based on procreation. In other words, the bacon still smells good sometimes.
Ryan’s argument is that I shouldn’t feel shame for the evolutionary traits that influence my desires… since I can’t control those. I can only control my actions. This seems to be his point laid bare.
“I think it was Schopenhauer who said, a person can do what they want but not want what they want. And so what I’m arguing against is the shame that’s associated with desires. It’s the idea that if you love your husband or wife but you still are attracted to other people, there’s something wrong with you, there’s something wrong with your marriage, something wrong with your partner. I think a lot of families are fractured by unrealistic expectations that are based upon this false vision of human sexuality.”
Some other excellent quotes from this speech:
“Humans and bonobos are the only animals that have sex face-to-face…”
“…humans are among the only species on the planet where the female is available for sex throughout the menstrual cycle…”
“If you’re the kind of guy who has a beer fridge in the garage, you expect a party to happen at any moment, and you need to be ready. That’s what the external testicles are.”
“The human, some of you will be happy to hear, has the largest, thickest penis of any primate.”
“…we’ll finally put to rest the idea that men have some innate, instinctive right to monitor and control women’s sexual behavior. And we’ll see that it’s not only gay people that have to come out of the closet. We all have closets we have to come out of. Right? And when we do come out of those closets, we’ll recognize that our fight is not with each other, our fight is with an outdated, Victorian sense of human sexuality that conflates desire with property rights, generates shame and confusion in place of understanding and empathy. It’s time we moved beyond Mars and Venus, because the truth is that men are from Africa and women are from Africa.”