Sex at Dawn

Exploring the evolutionary origins of modern sexuality

For the Record

Setting the record straight for critics who want to get personal.

As the profile of Sex at Dawn has continued to grow in the mainstream media, questions have been raised about claims I or others have made about my qualifications. Normally, I try to resist responding to Internet trolls and critics who attack me rather than the arguments we make in the book, but it seems prudent to set the record straight in the hopes of avoiding having to do so repeatedly in the future.

—As to whether I am a "psychologist." I received a Ph.D. in Psychology from a fully-accredited graduate school (Saybrook Graduate School, in San Francisco) in 2003. I am not licensed as a clinical psychologist and have never worked in that capacity. My understanding is that having a doctorate in psychology allows a person to describe him/herself as a psychologist (specifically a "research psychologist"), though there may be state to state differences on this issue. Certainly, in Spain, where I normally live, it's customary for anyone with even a BA in psychology to refer to themselves as psychologists. My understanding is that in the US, such semantic issues become important when one acts in a professional, clinical capacity. So I don't think it's a misrepresentation to say I'm a psychologist, as long as I don't charge anyone money in exchange for listening to boring stories about their dreams.

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—As to whether I am a "teacher." I taught English to business executives, medical doctors, prostitutes, TV personalities, and others for a dozen years or so. I taught US History to 17 year-olds for most of one bittersweet academic year, and I was honored to be invited to give guest lectures on Medical Anthropology at the University of Barcelona Medical School two consecutive years. Some confusion seems to have arisen from statements that I've "taught at the University of Barcelona Medical School," which I have—but I've never been on the faculty there, nor claimed to have been. I've also given presentations and workshops at conferences around the world on topics ranging from alternative cancer treatments to medical marijuana to human sexuality. I think just about anyone can call themselves a teacher, and I certainly number myself among them.

—To the German guy who thinks I plagiarized his 1996 article from an obscure German journal: Listen, Herr Dumbkopf, I don't read German, have never heard of you or your article, and the line you're accusing me of stealing ("We didn't descend from apes. We are apes.") isn't worth the trouble.

I get emails.

—To the people who think Cacilda (my wife and co-author) doesn't really exist and that my publisher and I colluded in inventing her as a way of giving cover to my "white male, phallocentric world-view," I assure you that she does exist. She doesn't appear in most media interviews because that was the condition of her agreeing to be listed as co-author of the book, something she initially refused. English is one of half a dozen languages she speaks, and one of the ones she learned as an adult, so it doesn't exactly flow when she's nervous. In our Penn & Teller act, I play the distracting loud-mouth while she quietly sets up the tricks just out of sight.

I wrote the manuscript, but she read every page I wrote, gave me brutally honest feedback, enriched the content with her medical knowledge and multi-cultural perspective, and trudged off to work every morning at a psychiatric hospital in order to pay the bills while I was writing a book we had no reason to think anyone would ever read, much less care enough about to attack us personally. Oh, and she managed to tone down my admittedly white male, phallocentric world-view. For those reasons and many others, I insisted she be listed as co-author.

I know that not everyone agrees that these things should qualify one as being a co-author, but they can choose what names appear on their own books. For me, not to have Cacilda's name on this book's cover would have been shameful. Without her, our book wouldn't exist.

I hope this clarifies things enough that those who are offended by the arguments we've made in Sex at Dawn will focus on the book itself rather than rooting around for inconsistencies in my personal history, although I realize that may be an unrealistic hope. I'm going to turn off the comments on this entry because I'm not going to waste time engaging in further dialogue with these folks. I've got nothing to hide from such people, but that doesn't mean I want to spend any more time dealing with them than necessary.

Christopher Ryan, Ph.D., is co-author of Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality (HarperCollins 2010).

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