Megan Harlan
October 04, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

The Prehistory of Sex: Four Million Years of Human Sexual Culture

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Timothy Taylor
genre
History, Self-Help and Psychology
We gave it a B+

Does ”Me Tarzan, you Jane” basically sum up the sexual lives of our prehistoric ancestors? Not even close, argues British archeologist and BBC documentarian Timothy Taylor, in The Prehistory of Sex: Four Million Years of Human Sexual Culture, the nothing if not stimulating catalog of erotic ancient history. Taylor brushes off many common, often sexist and homophobic interpretations from his musty, millennium-spanning artifacts (featured in 50 illustrations) — Ice Age dildos, cross-dressed skeletons — to conclude that most early human cultures were, if anything, sexually sophisticated. With an irreverent, witty style, Taylor boldly posits widespread prehistoric use of herbal birth control and abortifacients, says that the Stone Age ”Venus” figurines are no mother goddesses but very primitive Playboy playmates, and argues that human beings have always defied Sigmund Freud’s claim that anatomy is destiny — sexual or otherwise. If such energetic arguments don’t always coalesce, they do breathe imaginative sensual life into long-discarded shards and bones. B+

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