Sunday, July 02, 2006
Wouldn’t you think a book about sex should be a teeny bit sexy, just as a book on humour should be a bit funny, or at least have jokes in it? This one has questionnaires instead. It has photos in which agency models illustrate stereotyped banalities. There's a vase with a droopy flower to illustrate erectile inadequacy. A grinning couple with the girl eating a banana to illustrate something else.
The book assumes that its reader, whilst already partnered with someone of the opposite gender, has problems in the sex department. Where does it go from this premise?
If it were my book, not that I am a professional sex therapist, it would go very widely indeed. Sex is so fundamental to our existence as human animals that there is nothing that I would not touch on. I would have got the reader to examine the nature of the attraction towards his or her partner, the state of spiritual health, their life-situation and reproductive prospects, their stresses and anxieties, their attitudes to life, their aesthetic and emotional reactions with the “other” - not just one another but the world. My premise would be, “Don’t try to fix a dysfunctional sex life, but see how your whole life may be dysfunctional by comparison to your true nature and needs”. I’d point out that mankind has managed for 400,000 years without benefit of sex manuals in fulfilling the three main purposes of sex. Primary purpose: reproduction. Secondary purpose: make sure parents remain fascinated enough with one another to bring up their children. Tertiary purpose: “Make love, not war.” I'd give more than a passing nod to the main “sex problem” known to men and women in the last 400,000 years: not getting any!
I almost started writing the book right here! But let’s get back to our hapless “psycho-sexual therapist within the National Health Service, who also runs a successful private practice”. Reproduction plays little part in his opus, apart from cursory references to contraception. Nor does he have much time for love:
I have not talked much about love in [this book] because I see it as part of the relational whole. . . .People [who] come to the clinic . . . see love as a magical and spiritual feeling, experienced when they were first attracted to one another . . . [but] now love has ‘gone’. They don’t see how it can be fixed. . . . Love is proportionate to the amount of spadework they have done.
He’s a doctor, they don’t use words like “lust” and “love”. No, it's “libido” and “spadework”. And as a doctor working for the National Health Service, he needs to make sure that no romantic or spiritual notions infect his practice, let alone the prose in this book. It is written with the passion and poetry of an accountant’s report, or the Yearbook of the Institute of Epidemiology. The foreword is entitled “Our vision for high quality sex”. A vision statement, yes. Perhaps the authors are planning to export high quality sex to those places in the world where, for lack of appropriate guidance, sex is scarce and of mediocre quality.
Or perhaps the quality of sex is inhibited by inappropriate scripts. Hm. There is a whole chapter about this. “A script is a belief or set of ideas or stories, often rigidly held. . . . Scripts tend to limit choice: this is one of their key attributes.” What, you may ask, is their book but a “script”?
You’d think sex was a traded commodity, the way the authors write about it. Yes, a leisure commodity. What a pity that a brewery or gambling conglomerate can’t seize it in a hostile take-over bid. Or a drug company: Pfizer, of course. From the unsolicited email I get, you'd think Pfizer have already cornered the market in sex.
The book recommends fantasy, pornography and masturbation. My sex book, if I ever write it, will recommend finding out who you really are, and devoting your life 100% to being it. Then sex will take care of itself, and you.
Posted by Vincent at 9:42 am