Thursday, 16 August 2012

102/111 - How To Think More About Sex by Alain de Botton

This is another one of the books in the 'School of Life' series. I know of Alain de Botton but I don't think I've ever read anything by him before. To be honest I wasn't expecting a book about sex from him, as he's a philosopher and so I thought he would be pretty dry.

He's got some interesting ideas about sex and the way we regard it and its part in our lives, and I don't agree with all of the. I didn't agree with his take on pornography. At one point he seems to suggest that religion and restrictions placed on women might be seen in a more positive light, in that it means that we are not always thinking about sex and it doesn't detract from our development and creativity. I think that's bollocks, personally.

However there were loads of bits that I thought were really interesting. His take on monogamy and infidelity is interesting, and he proposes that it's actually very hard. He also proposes (in a kind way) that the person who has been cheated on should also take some of the responsibility for the infidelity (of course, in cases where neither party is just a dick, more like if they have a stable relationship but have drifted apart sexually). He proposes that long term couples who manage to remain monogamous should express more gratitude for the faithfulness of their spouses, to acknowledge that fact. And that infidelity isn't always the end of a relationship. Strange to think of, because for me it has always signalled the eventual end of a relationship, either through a transgression of some sort, or the discovery of a transgression later on. Do we take these things too personally? Is monogamy realistic? I'm not necessarily sure I think it's unrealistic, but certainly difficult. Conversations I've had in the past about opening things up more in relationships have ended badly, however I think it's unrealistic to think that one person can be everything to you, forever. People change, get bored, have different needs, etc.

I also found it really interesting to read his ideas about how it's actually sometimes harder to be intimate with someone the longer you have known them and the closer you are. In this instance, he's talking about sex, however I have experienced for example it's sometimes easier to talk to a stranger about difficult things instead of people you're close to. It's sad but I guess it shows an inability to be vulnerable physically/emotionally. When he' talking about sex, he says that part of this difficulty is to do with 'shifting registers between the everyday and the erotic'.

I also really enjoyed that he talks about how hard it can be to love someone and again, how unrealistic expectations are nowadays with regards to romantic love. I'm not going to try and paraphrase what he says, so I'll just quote it: 'we can achieve a balanced view of adult love not by remembering what it felt like to be loved as a child [which is our first exposure to love] but rather by imagining what it took for our parents to love us - namely, a great deal of work.'

This was an interesting book, but I found it it be a little utopian in places. A lot of these ideas assume that people are balanced and generally good and able to act with the best intentions, and open up themselves and be bigger people. And people generally just aren't that good natured all of the time.

Next: not sure yet.

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