De Botton on sex – even odder than you might have expected

Oh dear. Apparently Alain de Botton knows exactly how everybody feels about sex (just like he does! how convenient!) while being blithely unaware of the sheer TMI factor in some of the examples and hypotheticals he puts forward in his latest book, How To Think More About Sex.

As commentor D.C. Sessions says on Stephanie Zvan’s post:

Is it really so hard to grasp what are arguably the two most basic facts of being a human being in a society of other human beings:

1) Other people are not like me
2) That is, on balance, a good thing

It’s hard for me to imagine people getting along in society without those two, but I bow to the observed reality. My own limitations are obviously not binding on the rest of y’all.

The review at is long, comprehensive and unfavourable, but at least at the end they constructively offer some alternatives for those who might like to think more about sex with the benefit of some science findings and theoretical constructs more recent than mid-last-century:

Our final word? Skip it. If you want to think more about sex or are just looking for a beach read, pick up any (or all) of the following:

Mary Roach’s Bonk (2008): This amusing and informative book tracing the development of sexual research will tell you everything we have come to understand about arousal and orgasm (up until 2008). It will even answer the age-old question: How do porcupines mate?

Sharon Maolem How Sex Works (2009): This accessible, addictive book will throw science at you in such a compelling way it will make you wonder if you went into the wrong field. Seriously. Not only does it go over the nitty-gritty of sex, it reaches far beyond it.

Carin Bondar’s The Nature of Human Nature (2010): How many times have you heard someone describe a human mating behavior as “unnatural!”? Prepare to school them the next time (and to feel less weird yourself about your preferences) with this awesomely conversational read featuring parallel examples from a bunch of other species.

Sheril Kirshenbaum’s The Science of Kissing (2011): If science and history had a quickie over lunch, this would be its end result. Don’t be misguided by the title — a kiss is not just a kiss, but the basis for arousal. Curious? Check out the book!

Clarisse Thorn’s The S&M Feminist (2012): Not into science as much as you are into theory? Fair enough: try The S&M Feminist. Doesn’t matter if you’re neither into BDSM or a feminist, this book will get you to think about consent, pleasure and communication in ways you’ve never considered before.

H/T Stephanie Zvan and PZ Myers

Categories: arts & entertainment, education, ethics & philosophy, relationships, Sociology

Tags: , ,

6 replies

  1. Oh dear, I really don’t need to know that much about him.

  2. “Certainly adultery grabs the headlines, but there are lesser, though no less powerful, ways to betray a partner, including not talking to him or her enough, seeming distracted, being ill-tempered or simply failing to evolve or enchant.”
    Gakk. Given what the article says about the book, and his apparent women-exist-to-please-men slant (again, according to this article), why do I get the feeling this is just another “Well you deserve to have him cheat on you, you COLD creature. You failed, you were not enchanting [ever heard anyone suggest a man should be enchanting?] and had the presumption to have your own thoughts, your own problems, your own physical or mental tiredness, your own life. How dare you not be a Stepford wife?”

  3. You’re right, Louise, ‘enchant’ is the giveaway, isn’t it?
    Thanks for the link to the list of good books, tigtog.

  4. ever heard anyone suggest a man should be enchanting?

    I am quite taken by this idea. I think we should all immediately start suggesting that men should be enchanting.

  5. I have heard how I could be more… well, not enchanting, but more romantic and engaging. All the suggestions tend to be variations on the theme of “be more spontaneous”, though, with very little of anything else. I certainly don’t get the same type of crap that I’ve seen shovelled onto women’s heads.

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