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Human Nature Review 2002 Volume 2: 411-412 ( 9 October )
URL of this document http://human-nature.com/nibbs/02/judson.html
Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation
by Olivia Judson
Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt & Co.
New York, NY. ISBN: 0-08050-6331-5
Reviewed by Tony Dickinson, McDonnell Centre for Higher Brain Function, Washington University Medical School.
Whether the reader is a newcomer or season ticket holder with regards the comparative sex behaviour literature, this volume will surely prove itself to be both tremendously entertaining and educational. Judson’s novel ‘agony aunt’ Q & A style of presentation makes for a clearly accessible text for a wide audience of all ages and levels of understanding. This is a great way to impart much of the bewildering array of comparative morphology and associated knowledge concerning the rich diversity of sexual behaviour across a broad swathe of species. This book will surely attract many from the younger generation to the study of evolutionary and comparative biology/psychology. Many of us will wish that we had written this one! Not only do we read here about the birds and the bees’, mammalian phyla are well represented throughout the 13 chapters. The full tour includes gender differences (as well as similarities) and the how’s and why’s of the sex that might take place between them, whether that be in (serial) monogamy, polygyny, polyandry, or even parthenogenetic circumstances. The implications of each section for our better understanding of human sexual behaviours (both normal and abnormal) are rarely explicit, and for the most part (possibly intentionally so), are presented rather tongue-in-cheek. This is not a failing of the work, however. There is ample material here to occupy the lateral-thinking reader in this regard.
Although this book makes for a terrific vacation or conference-trip read whilst in transit, it also has much of seriousness to offer the student of comparative psychology, sociology, anthropology, zoology or medicine. For those wishing to cut to the chase with the primary literature concerning particular issues, over 20 pages of extensively referenced notes are provided. Although by no means dealing extensively with theoretical issues in the aetiology of particular sex behaviours, we do meet (albeit briefly) with Darwin, Fisher, Hamilton, Bateman, Muller and Wallace. The notes cover every "Dear Dr. Tatiana..." Q & A presented in the book, and could well form the basis of core tutorial reading and/or stimulation for small group discussions.
A welcome volume for the shelf at home as much as for the academic library, unless you’re comfortable with the public at large thinking that you’re undergoing sex therapy counseling, be sure to carry it in a brown paper bag when moving between the two!
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© Tony Dickinson.
Dr. Dickinson is visiting research fellow to the Snyder Lab of the McDonnell Centre for Higher Brain Function at Washington University School of Medicine where his principle researches include investigating electrophysiological correlates of hand-eye coordination behaviour in posterior parietal regions of the brain.
Dickinson, A. R. (2002). Review of Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation by Olivia Judson. Human Nature Review. 2: 411-412.