The data in this book, fascinating and counterhegemonic as it is, could just as easily have been marshaled to support a book arguing, say, this:
'Monogamy is arguably the oldest extant human cultural tradition - nearly as old as agriculture or the stationary village. Its utility to technologically-minded humans is difficult to measure, but the astonishing productivity and exploration of monogamous societies certainly suggests that monogamy has been immensely useful.
'In the last 100 years, however, cultural traditions like monogamy and monotheism have come under intense scrutiny and challenge, and like monotheism, monogamy would seem to be on the wane in the modern world - or at the very least, undergoing a catastrophic transformation in which fundamentalist monogamies and emergent "non-state" alternatives compete for resources, just like their equivalent theisms.
'We dismantle the "biological" arguments for human monogamy, while recognizing its totally self-evident status as sensible cultural/behavioral adaptation, and tentatively suggest modifications to human monogamous practices, including relaxation of the strictures of monogamy itself.'
But of course that book wouldn't sell. Instead they've written a scattershot, snide, airily generalizing, unfunny, self-important book: well-researched, I believe, but filled to the brim with dipshit rhetorical questions and insinuations. It's not an argument for the utility of polyamory - it's a collection of evidence for that argument.
The book's rendering of evolution strikes me as cartoonish. In particular I'm appalled by the authors' disregard for the evolutionary importance of self-organizing optimizations like monogamy, and for their thuddingly 'biological' (and oddly deterministic) treatment of human sexuality. Their dim view of marriage is also a hackneyed Euro-cliché - how bohemian to carry on and on about the stultification and soul-deadness awaiting anyone stupid enough to explore a single long-term sexual relationship!
I need to think more about this (and to finish the book). I see why polyamorists are so excited about the book, though: as if modern polyamory were a return to an ecstatic Eden - excuse me, a savannah - of sexual-intentional purity, more 'natural' than modern monogamy. Blah, blah, blah.
Something tells me A General Theory of Love would be a tremendously useful corrective to this book's overreach, even as Sex at Dawn is a vital corrective to the overreaching lunacy of fashionable ev-psych.
And I have to set off this comment: the authors imply that clerical child-rape is a result of sexual repression - i.e. if those priests had only been allowed to fuck adult women/men they would never have raped those boys. This view is contemptible, and I desperately hope they're not so vile as to believe it. A child molester isn't picking children as targets for abuse from the societal leftovers after being denied grownup sex. If celibacy the only (or main) problem behind clerical child-rape, why isn't there an epidemic of Catholic priests impregnating their parish secretaries?
The book isn't that bad, on the whole. I hope I've mistaken their intent.