The Joy of (Caveman) Sex

Or, how a fictional character taught me to love and accept my body

Nicole Peeler
Human Parts


Photo: Getty Images / KvitaJan

I recently finished the audiobook of Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein, which catalogs the sexual practices and assumptions young women develop living in a culture that often disparages female bodies, and especially their sexual organs, as “gross.” Throughout, Orenstein interviews girls who expect to give oral sex, but never receive; who fake orgasms or have never had a real orgasm; or who, disturbingly, aspire merely to “less painful” rather than good sex.

Listening on my commute, I think, “Man. These girls need some Jondalar.”

Jondalar is the priapically gifted male protagonist of Jean M. Auel’s The Valley of Horses (1982), the sequel to her (admittedly very rapey) The Clan of the Cave Bear (1980). Both books follow the adventures of Ayla, a blonde, buxom Cro-Magnon raised by Neanderthals (Ayla’s played by Daryl Hannah in the 1986 film adaptation of Clan), and Valley occurs after Ayla strikes out on her own, accompanied only by animal friends.

Imagine Beast Master, but a lady.

Eventually Ayla and her menagerie find the beautiful, eponymous valley in which Auel indulges her version of early Homo sapiens society, most of which doesn’t bear scrutiny. But this second book has a dual POV. While…