How better than to mark the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s book on human evolution than by challenging his theory with an updated version which instead places the female species at the centre of the theory. Sexual selection may have created us, but by refusing to take a good hard look at ourselves and our impact on the planet, we may be granting natural selection the power to eliminate us. A fascinating book which is both controversial and entertaining and which will deepen your understanding of human evolution like you would never have imagined.
Heather deepens our understanding of human evolution by including genetic discoveries that were unavailable in 1871 when Darwin wrote The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. She offers an updated version of the theory by viewing the courtship dance through a female lens.
Darwin was correct in acknowledging that sexual selection is driven by female choice, but he was seriously mistaken in granting a female no active influence and depicting her as passively succumbing to the charms of the triumphant male who had bested another in a competition to win her favour or to the one who had tickled her fancy with his feathers. In the process of her doctoral research, Heather analysed hundreds of hours of tape-recorded interviews in which women identified the traits that made specific men in their lives sexually and reproductively attractive. Their insights help us make sense of recent studies that leave researchers scratching their heads when the species they study don’t appear to be playing by the rules, according to Darwin.
We are in the midst of two immediate existential crises—climate change and growing economic inequality—caused by human behaviour. If we are to be successful in addressing these challenges, Remoff argues that we need to come to terms with the double-edged sword at the heart of all that makes us special. Who are we? What selection pressures forged our species specific traits?
Of all the trillions of species that have ever existed on this planet only one, Homo sapiens, has mastered language, the art of symbolic communication. Did female passions play a role in triggering our way with words? Absolutely. Our choice of reproductive partners shaped not only language ability but also many of the other traits that define us today.
Heather Remoff has a B.A. in sociology from The Pennsylvania State University, an M.A. in sociology from The University of Missouri at Kansas City and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation provided support for Heather’s doctoral research.
Reviews from her previous books
Sexual Choice: A Woman’s Decision:
“Sexual Choice: A Woman’s Decision… is a charming book” Carolyn See, Los Angeles Times, January 1985
“I especially enjoyed learning that we women not only select for ourselves the best possible of all available mates at any given time, we also generously give away those excess males we find who aren’t suitable to our situation or needs. We hook our sisters up. Turns out that whole cooperation-vs.-competition thing really does have much to recommend itself…” goodreads.com, 2011.
“Remoff brings to the field of sexology a much needed and too often neglected perspective….In addition to an articulate and most readable style, there is substance…” Carol Cassel, The Journal of Sex Research, 1985.
“Anthropologist Heather Trexler Remoff writes in “Sexual Choice” that an unambiguous advance on a man — asking him out — is fine if your goal is getting him to attend one specific function with you. If you’d like more than a single-serving-size encounter, “you’d do well to take (your) time and not push against the built-in rhythms of human courtship.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 2010 and East Bay Times, 2010.
“A beautiful story. Life as it should be and truer than truth, as is any real life story. If we accept our own mortality, wisdom and beauty appear.”
-Bernie Siegel, M.D., author of Love, Medicine, and Miracles
The Library Journal says, “A paean to nature as well as a diary of disease, this beautifully written work should find a large readership Highly recommended.
“What a wonderful memoir.…” goodreads.com, 2016.