From Matt Ridley’s book “The Origins of Virtue” (1997: 87-88):
Imagine if sex were an activity normally carried out communally and publicly, but eating was something done secretly and privately. There is no particular reason why the world could not be organized that way, so that it seemed positively odd to want to have sex alone and rather shameful to be caught eating in public. No reason except human nature. It is simply part of our make-up that food is communal and sex is private. It is so deeply ingrained in the human mind that the reverse is unthinkably weird. The bizarre notion, beloved of various historians, that sexual privacy was a cultural invention of medieval Christendom, has long been exploded. All over the world, whatever god people worship, and however many or few clothes they wear in public, sex is a secret act to be done quietly when everybody else is asleep or out in the fields in the daytime where nobody can see. It is a universal human characteristic. Eating food, on the other hand, is just as universally a communal activity.”
“The most fundamentally selfless and communitarian thing we do is to share food; it is the very basis of society. Sex we do not share; we are possessive, jealous and secretive, prone to murdering our sexual rivals and guarding our partners if given the chance. But food is something to share.”
The anthropologist in me is hesitant to say almost anything is universal. Almost any pattern in human behavior has exceptions. Still, I read this book years ago and Ridley made me think about how strong these patterns held and how they came to be that way. Anthropologists?