Orgasm, Time And Human Evolution with Leonard Shlain, M.D.

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Leonard Shlain is a medical doctor with a passion for evolutionary biology. His unique and intriguing views present new theories about many of the mysteries of human culture, from the genesis of patriarchy and misogyny to the role of female sexuality in human evolution. He explains, "When you read about a culture where they marry twelve-year-old girls off to old men, or practice honor killings, or female genital mutilation, or chastity belts, or any of these weird practices, what it's really about is that the men have been trying for the last hundred and fifty thousand years to regain the power they so emphatically lost when women gained veto power over sex." In this provocative dialogue, Shlain outlines his perspective on how the unique features of human biology, sexuality and behavior impacted the evolution of our species. He suggests that the interplay between women's developing awareness of the risks of childbirth and their male counterparts' insatiable desire for sex led to a host of modern human traits, including our awareness of time and mortality, the creation of art, and ultimately the patriarchal cultures we know today. (hosted by Michael Toms)


Leonard Shlain, M.D. (1937-2009) was chairman of laparoscopic surgery at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, and Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. He has been a keynote speaker at the Smithsonian Institute, Harvard University, the Florence Academy of Art, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, among others. His books include:

To learn more about the work of Leonard Shlain go to

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • How men's desire for sex and for immortality may be the root cause of patriarchy and misogyny
  • Why women's menstruation and loss of blood in childbirth led men to become hunters
  • Why human females developed the capacity to have an orgasm
  • How an awareness of our mortality led to the creation of complex art forms
  • How homosexuality may help our species survive
  • Why we can be optimistic about a transcendent, spiritual, total change that may soon transform our species

Host: Michael Toms      Interview Date: 11/5/2013      Program Number: 3018