Fighting Fear

Confronting phobias and other fears

Sex Education During the Time of the Cavemen (and Cavewomen)

They didn't use a blackboard and a pointer

Sex education is very controversial. On one side are the more or less liberals, on the other the more or less conservatives.  The liberals take the view that sex is part of nature, and, therefore, should be taught as readily as other natural subjects, such as evolution and global warming. Bad examples. Such as gravity, which is not controversial, or astronomy, which is not controversial any more. Except when you talk about the age of the universe.

The conservatives take the view that learning about sex is fine when it is done in the right place by the right people at the right time. The right time is later. They think introducing children to provocative subjects, such as what fits where, will encourage them to experiment prematurely and damage themselves psychologically. Naturally, these children should not be instructed in how to become homosexual or otherwise introduced to the “homosexual agenda.” Childhood and adolescence is a time to do childhood and adolescent things. Like sports. Sports encourage healthy competitiveness, including fishing and hunting. Academic learning is good if it is done in the right place by the right people at the right time. If possible, at home.

History can tell us a lot about the right way to do sex education, especially if we go back to the time of the hunter/gatherer age, before civilization got in the way. They lived healthy back then. They ate a lot of fish and vegetables. This was the beginning of the Mediterranean diet, which everyone knows is healthy. Except this was before wine. Even before beer. The only way to get high in those days was to chew on certain plants. This was the Stone Age, when there were rocks all over the place.

There was the New Stone age and even further back, the Old Stone Age. Also known as the Old Rock age, which had nothing to do with loud music. These ages went on for a long time. Recorded history is around only four or five thousand years. There were Iron and Bronze Ages that came before that and went on for thousands and thousands of years, and before that all the rock and stone ages. And there was a time even before that that lasted for three or four hundred thousand years when human beings were hanging around waiting for all the ages to start.  They didn’t live near the Mediterranean then. They lived in Africa off a diet of half-eaten carcasses , (what was left after the vultures and hyenas got through with them) and herbs and shrubs and the occasional tuber. Lots of people nowadays look back on that time as healthy without any life-destroying additives. So, maybe they knew something about sex education. After all, they must have learned what was important because they multiplied generation after generation for all those hundreds of thousands of years. They were good at sex, witness the fact that you and I are both here now. Maybe they did a better job than we imagine. Maybe they got past all the pitfalls which everyone worries about so much. Maybe we should think about what they did.

Now, this is speculation since I wasn’t there. Nobody we know was there. We know they used sharp rocks, but we don’t know what, if anything, they thought about sex and all the things they had to teach the youth about sex, namely, how to do it. And when to do it. Or not do it. I don’t think we’re entirely in the dark about what must have happened. We can do, what Einstein called “a thought experiment.” We can picture how it must have been during the long evenings in the cave without television or even radio with nothing to do, but, you know what. After all, these were young vigorous couples since most of the older couples like 30 plus had died from slipping on a wet rock or getting hit in the eye with a branch. So, no doubt, they had lots of sex. Probably what they had was normal sex, since there were no ropes to tie somebody up and no elaborate sex toys that ran on electricity, which they didn’t have any of.  No mirrors either. I think sex was probably very quick since they did not have any soft pillows or mattresses. Just hard rock.

 They may have had fire even in those early days, so I think it is possible that they told dirty stories around the campfire, but nothing more exciting than that. No pictures or books. The cave people were unsophisticated in those days, and they did not know anything about politics or about what celebrities were doing with their love life because there were no magazines. And, in fact, there were no celebrities. The guy that people talked about most was a guy from the next cave who used to climb up on a tree and bellow out some song, which chased away the wildlife, like the hyenas and vultures.

Getting back to the “thought experiment.” Imagine that you are young and vigorous, and you have just come back from the hunt where you hunted berries and the occasional tuber, and you are really tired. But horny. The kids are running around the campfire throwing hot embers at each other and laughing. The nearest wife is cleaning off her thongs. Thongs and loin cloths were common even in these early days for support; but brassieres would not be invented yet for about 400,000 years. So there was no question of protecting the children from the sight of adult breasts.

Suddenly, this wife looks up at you and smiles. You know that she is turned on by your scraggly beard and hair, and you motion to the cave with your head and wink at her. She drops the fish bones which she has been using to clean the dirt off the thongs and sachays off to the cave.

Now, you have to understand, they didn’t have one or two family caves, like we have nowadays.  They lived together with five or six other families in what I will call “The Tribal Unit.” We know something about what used to happen sexually in the Tribal Unit. Brothers didn’t mate with their sisters, who they thought were disgusting, just like now. They learned this from their parents, who discouraged that sort of thing. (They did not know about the genetic difficulties that arose from consanguineous unions, but they were instinctively pretty smart.) Lots of animals know this too. Sex with other guys’ wives were discouraged for the same reason that birds and other animals resent that sort of behavior: no one likes to put up with the aggravation of bringing up someone else’s kids. Besides, each big guy had a lot of wives, a custom that survives to this day, and there was enough static between three or four wives without sneaking up on the wives of some other guy in the Tribal Unit. The short and skinny guys didn’t have any wives, which is the same as it was with other animals. It’s not exactly the same for us nowadays; but not a whole lot different either. Anyway, the bottom line was the children had to be sexually educated to keep their hands off anyone in the family.

But there you are with your wife, who I will call Adelaide to distinguish her from the other wives, who I will call Joanne and Louise. Actually, it was hard to distinguish one wife from the other because they did not wash, and, frankly, they all smelled the same. Stripping down quickly, which does not take long because the thongs and loin clothes are smaller than usual this year, you and Adelaide get it on, when you see a row of kids staring at you. What to do?

Now, maybe sex didn’t happen exactly this way every time; but even if it happened behind some shrubbery, or way up at the top of the stream, I bet there were kids taking a peek. Even if you and Adelaide were doing the dirty (as it is referred to by some Hollywood types) standing up behind a big tree, some kids were going to be sneaking around. So, what do you and Adelaide do? You finish up. And that is how kids learned about sex in Prehistoric Times. They stayed away from their siblings and half-siblings because they were too busy learning how to make pots.

I think what this tells us is that the more or less liberals are right. Children are not ruined by learning about sex at an early age. (Too early, under the age of three, the kids aren’t really interested.)

Of course, because one “Tribal Unit” would run into another “Tribal Unit” from time to time, there was a lot of rape. Whether there was more rape back then or now is hard to say. (c) Fredric Neuman Author of "Come One, Come All." Follow Dr. Neuman's blog at or ask advice at

Fredric Neuman, M.D. is the Director of the Anxiety and Phobia Center at White Plains Hospital.


Subscribe to Fighting Fear

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?