How Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So Stories

Evolutionary Enigmas

David P. Barash, Ph.D., and Judith Eve Lipton, M.D.

Columbia University Press

How Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So Stories

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Pub Date: March 2011

ISBN: 9780231146654

224 Pages

Format: Paperback

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Pub Date: April 2009

ISBN: 9780231146647

224 Pages

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Pub Date: April 2009

ISBN: 9780231518390

224 Pages

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How Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So Stories

Evolutionary Enigmas

David P. Barash, Ph.D., and Judith Eve Lipton, M.D.

Columbia University Press

So how did women get their curves? Why do they have breasts, while other mammals only develop breast tissue while lactating, and why do women menstruate, when virtually no other beings do so? What are the reasons for female orgasm? Why are human females kept in the dark about their own time of ovulation and maximum fertility, and why are they the only animals to experience menopause?

David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton, coauthors of acclaimed books on human sexuality and gender, discuss the theories scientists have advanced to explain these evolutionary enigmas (sometimes called "Just-So stories" by their detractors) and present hypotheses of their own. Some scientific theories are based on legitimate empirical data, while others are pure speculation. Barash and Lipton distinguish between what is solid and what remains uncertain, skillfully incorporating their expert knowledge of biology, psychology, animal behavior, anthropology, and human sexuality into their entertaining critiques. Inviting readers to examine the evidence and draw their own conclusions, Barash and Lipton tell an evolutionary suspense story that captures the excitement and thrill of true scientific detection.

David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton unabashedly demonstrate the pleasure of using evolutionary theory to help make sense of some puzzling aspects of the anatomy, physiology, and behavior of women. The authors' enthusiasm for their subjects and for the process of science is contagious. An excellent book. Refreshing in the extreme.

John Alcock, Arizona State University

How Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So Stories is a joyride of intellectual discovery. I felt as if I were at a dinner party with exceptionally knowledgeable and lively conversationalists whose creativity and intellectual detective work so totally engaged me that the hours passed like minutes. After only a few pages I wanted to play their game—the marshalling of evidence to see what combinations of data and scholarly pyrotechnics would solve such interesting mysteries as why women menstruate, why women's ovulation is hidden, and why female orgasm exists. The authors are admirably humble about their conclusions, and their logic is fascinating and convincing. How Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So Stories deserves a big audience, and I salute the authors on creating an intellectually ambitious book that is as gripping as a novel. This is education that goes down so easy the reader may not notice. It is also full of provocative ideas and counterintuitive reasoning. Is this a groundbreaking, attention-gripping, intellectually brilliant, and paradigm-changing book? Unequivocally. It is all that, and more.

Pepper Schwartz, author of Prime: Adventures and Advice on Sex, Love, and the Sensual Years

A delightful, thought-provoking volume on perennial questions about female biology.

Publishers Weekly

The book is well written and even though evolutionary biology can sometimes be difficult to comprehend, the authors do a good job in describing and explaining the various hypotheses encountered. The examples they use shed light on complex biological and evolutionary traits and adaptations.

Hennie Weiss, MetaPsychology
1. Introduction
2. On Scientific Mysteries and Just-So Stories
3. Why Munstruate?
4. Invisible Ovulation
5. Breasts and Other Curves
6. The Enigmatic Orgasm
7. The Menopause Mystery
8. Epilogue: The Lure of the Limpopo

About the Author

David P. Barash is an evolutionary biologist and professor of psychology at the University of Washington. An early pioneer of sociobiology, he is the author of twenty-four books, including, with Judith Eve Lipton, The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People.

Judith Eve Lipton is a clinical psychiatrist specializing in women's health and, with David P. Barash, the author of Gender Gap: The Biology of Male-Female Differences and Making Sense of Sex: How Genes and Gender Influence Our Relationships.