The Naked Ape

I am currently reading this book by Desmond Morris, and was wondering what anyone else that has read thinks of it.

Do I take it seriously, or with a pinch of salt?


Great book. It does have its flaws though; off the top of my head, I think it claims that the human female is the only animal with a hymen, which IIRC was refuted by Cecil Adams in one of his columns.

I love the theory that boobs are as big as they are to simulate butt-cheeks. I haven’t looked at titties the same way since. Or asses either, for that matter.

Isn’t it rather dated? Or has he updated it?

Marvin Harris, at least, is one anthropologist who accepts a lot of Morris’ theories. He cites him in his book Our Kind. Morris himself edited a book on primatology, and lifted a lot of stuff from there, so his stuff has some good pedigree. On the other hand, he seems to have had occasional lapses – see the note above, for instance, on hymens. I’ve also encountered folks who believe that animal females do so have orgasms, despite what DM says.

My pet peeve with the guy is that in most of his books he does not list his sources. I read one book by a writer who thought Morris was the original source for an idea, only to learn much later that Morris had taken it from elsewhere. I myself was annoyed , on read his book Dogwatching, that he felt that Niko Tinbergen’s ideas about submissive postures for dogs and men had been disproven. He didn’t mention Tinbergen by name, of course. But what burned me up was that he didn’t give any sort of cite for the ideas being disproven, not even mentioning a name.