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How sex works : why we look, smell, taste,…
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How sex works : why we look, smell, taste, feel, and act the way we do (original 2009; edition 2010)

by Sharon Moalem

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1286158,104 (3.6)8
Neurogeneticist Moalem takes us on a trip from prehistory to the forefront of cutting-edge medical research, and through a bedroom or two, to tell the story of how human sexuality has developed over time. This book challenges common perceptions about our bodies and presents astonishing discoveries from the frontiers of science as it traces the transformation of sex across species and through time to its current role in human societies. Find out the answers to such provocative questions as: Can the birth control pill influence the type of men women are attracted to? What do men and honeybees have in common when it comes to sex? When are women most likely to cheat? From the composition and function of human sex organs to the fascinating biochemistry behind sexual attraction, How Sex Works presents captivating new ideas and surprising answers to questions about contraception, fertility, circumcision, menopause, STDs, homosexuality, orgasms, and more.--From publisher description.… (more)
Member:CPK
Title:How sex works : why we look, smell, taste, feel, and act the way we do
Authors:Sharon Moalem
Info:New York : Enfield : Perennial ; Publishers Group UK [distributor], 2010.
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How Sex Works: Why We Look, Smell, Taste, Feel, and Act the Way We Do by Sharon Moalem (2009)

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And here I was hoping it would be more like a guidebook. Author Sharon Moalem (who is a he, despite the name) has written what could be considered an update to Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask. There a lot more evolutionary psychology and biology than there was in EYAWTKASBWATA, though. Moalem isn’t presenting his own research, but reviewing studies from a lot of other authors. Full of interesting little results (the age of puberty in girls depends on the amount of hip fat; the first self-service items in American drug stores were menstrual pads (supposedly because women were too embarrassed to ask a male clerk for them, and then leading to a lot of other self-service items); there are at least 20 different theories attempting to explain female orgasm) but also more detailed discussions of things like intersex conditions. I noticed a couple of things that bear on previous reviews.


Potential evolutionary explanations for male homosexuality: It seems that one study showed female relatives of gay men had more offspring than average women. The authors suggests – not quite so bluntly – that there was a heritable factor that made carriers want to have lots of sex with men – regardless of the carrier’s gender. That could at least partially explain the evolutionary puzzle of homosexuality; there are enough females with the allele to overwhelm nonbreeding male carriers. Could be; other explanations possible.


Athletes with intersex conditions. Moalem lists a couple of examples:


Indian runner Santhi Soundarajan’s was disqualified in 2006 for having (according to anonymous rumor) “more Y chromosomes than allowed”. Moalem doesn’t have further details but notes that Soundarajan had passed many previous sex determination tests. He speculates that the previous tests were limited to physical genital inspection, and that Soundarajan has Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. An earlier (1985) case was Spanish hurdler Maria José Martinez-Patiño, who turned out to have Y chromosomes and AIS. Interestingly, it isn’t clear if AIS would necessarily give you an advantage in women’s athletic competitions; there’s enough variety in expression that AIS people range from externally indistinguishable from 46XX women to externally indistinguishable from 46XY men (despite all having 46XY karotypes).


In a chapter on The Pill, Moalem notes that it has an interesting effect on women’s odor preferences. Studies where women sniffed used men’s clothing (usually called “t-shirt” studies) found that women preferred the scent of men whose immune system genetics differed from their own (the evolutionary idea here being that women would seek mates in “outgroups” rather than among their own group, to avoid inbreeding). Women on The Pill, OTOH, preferred the scent of men with similar immune system profiles. The authors of this study suggested that being on The Pill is essentially fooling the body into thinking you’re pregnant. Women who aren’t pregnant therefore prefer “exotic” men, while pregnant women prefer “familiar” (and therefore presumably “safe” and “protective”) men. Could be, but a lot of evolutionary psychology excruciatingly difficult to prove conclusively. At any rate, I don’t think there’s been a tremendous increase in first cousin marriages since The Pill.


Not bad for a reasonably technical discussion of a lot of aspects of sex and gender. Interestingly, my copy was deacquisitioned by the Denver Public Library even though it was only three years old. Too controversial?
( )
  setnahkt | Dec 11, 2017 |
Birds do it, bees do it, but why do humans do it? In this wide-ranging look at the evolutionary reasons for sex, physiologist and evolutionary biologist Moalem says that it's all about shuffling the gene pool and getting rid of any unwelcome guests, such as viruses, that may have latched onto human DNA. But why is one particular person attracted to another? Moalem relays the latest research showing that smell plays a very important role in attraction, and that even our genes may influence one's smell, and thus a person's desirability, to others. Scientists have found that women tend to be attracted to different types of men at different points in their ovulation cycles (dark and handsome hunks at their height; sensitive, care-giving types at other times). Moalem (Survival of the Sickest) whizzes through his discussion of homosexuality, neglecting angles that would have added to the book, but readers will find thought-provoking material in his chapter on differences in sexual anatomy and on how chromosomes and body parts aren't always what we expect them to be. Moalem writes fluidly for the general reader, and when he necessarily goes into graphic detail, he does it gracefully. ( )
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  MarkBeronte | Jan 7, 2014 |
Terribly written and disorganized. The book is full of scattered 'facts' and speculation. While some of the information is interesting (and practical), the overall presentation is very poor. ( )
  mofoty | Nov 7, 2011 |
Clinical and somewhat enlightening on the neurological aspects of attraction.
  kedicat | Sep 29, 2011 |
I was very surprised by how much information is in this book. The author, Dr. Moalem does not dwell on one topic for long. Because of this, the book kept my interest. Some of the information shocked me (not in a bad way, just I never heard of it), and I was so surprised I looked it up the internet to confirm (or deny) his research. ( )
  Readingfanatic1 | Aug 4, 2010 |
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Neurogeneticist Moalem takes us on a trip from prehistory to the forefront of cutting-edge medical research, and through a bedroom or two, to tell the story of how human sexuality has developed over time. This book challenges common perceptions about our bodies and presents astonishing discoveries from the frontiers of science as it traces the transformation of sex across species and through time to its current role in human societies. Find out the answers to such provocative questions as: Can the birth control pill influence the type of men women are attracted to? What do men and honeybees have in common when it comes to sex? When are women most likely to cheat? From the composition and function of human sex organs to the fascinating biochemistry behind sexual attraction, How Sex Works presents captivating new ideas and surprising answers to questions about contraception, fertility, circumcision, menopause, STDs, homosexuality, orgasms, and more.--From publisher description.

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