Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Book Review: How To Think More About Sex

How to Think More About SexHow to Think More About Sex by Alain de Botton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had great hopes for this book but was somewhat disappointed.  It is a very short book at least on the Kindle.  Only 1339 locations.  The fact that the print length is 185 pages tells me that the printed version of the book is loaded with white space.

de Botton will make a pithy observation, and you will think oh this is going to be good.  Then he keeps writing and the pithy thoughts turn into somewhat boring sentences that turn into words that turn into letters that turn into pixels on my Kindle's screen and what started out as a really cool observation just seems to disintegrate into dust before your eyes and drifts off into some of sort of second law of thermodynamics iso-thematic fog.   You go back and read it again because surely you missed something and soon enough you are once again staring at meaningless pixels thinking what the hell did that mean?  Thank God it is short.

The other thing that bothered me about the book is that de Botton has seemingly become jaded with long term committed monogamy.  He is pessimistic about the outcome of maintaining fidelity in most marriages and he almost seems pessimistic as to whether the effort is warranted.

Spouses who remain faithful to each other should recognize the scale of the sacrifice they are making for their love and for their children, and should feel proud of their valour. There is nothing normal or particularly pleasant about sexual renunciation. Fidelity deserves to be considered an achievement and constantly praised – ideally with some medals and the sounding of a public gong – rather than discounted as an unremarkable norm whose undermining by an affair should provoke spousal rage. A loyal marriage ought at all times to retain within it an awareness of the immense forbearance and generosity that the two parties are mutually showing in managing not to sleep around (and, for that matter, in refraining from killing each other). If one partner should happen to slip, the other might forgo fury in favour of a certain bemused amazement at the stretches of fidelity and calm that the two of them have otherwise succeeded in maintaining against such great odds.

de Botton, Alain (2012-12-24). How to Think More About Sex (The School of Life) (pp. 167-168). Picador. Kindle Edition.

There is something profoundly sad in the above quote.  For a moment one thinks that de Botton is about to praise faithfulness in marriage and then he mocks it with medals and gongs.  What has happened to de Botton that he can advise replacing the pain, humiliation and fury of discovering an infidelity with "a certain bemused amazement"?  Why has he given up on monogamy?  

I can't get over the feeling that great deal of what was going on in the book went straight over my head.  Perhaps I need to read it again, I was hoping for a better understanding of the more philosophical elements of sex, instead I became depressed by a deep thinker who has abandoned fidelity.

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  1. Think more about sex? I thought men were supposed to be thinking about sex like every five seconds. Or is it that we are being asked to think more--as in longer and harder--about sex as a concept. Either way, it seems telling that it is a short book.

    1. Olga,

      Every three seconds for me, it's never off my mind. de Botton is a modern day philosopher and I was hoping to elevate my musings on sex out of the gutters of my mind. While the book presented sex in a more thoughtful manner than say Fifty Shades of Gray, the notion that we poor little helpless human beings stand defenseless against this huge promiscuous evolutionary monster forcing us all to indulge in adultery to me is bullshit. Yes the urge to stray is a problem in human marriage, but there are plenty of marriages that attest to the fact that both partners can remain faithful, and nobody needs to ring a frigging gong to celebrate the fact.

      If you do not give yourself permission to stray, there is a far better chance that you won't stray. If however we as a society are going to throw our hands up and declare that monogamy is just not in our genes and, boo hoo, its just too hard to keep it zipped up and the skirts pulled down...well I guess we may as well kiss the idea of faithfulness to a spouse goodbye.

      Sex to me is the oil that lubricates the gears of a good marriage and prevent petty frictions from building up, but that was only hinted in this book while he wrung his hands about marriage being a cage or the improbability of finding one person to provide sex, love, and family.

      You are right, it is telling that it is short. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, always and honor.

  2. Yes, I have noticed that sex and the human condition does seem to be a mainstay of your blogging. Not a criticism, just an observation. Carry on.

    1. Shat,

      One should blog his fascinations, no?

      Usually they are book reviews that I wrote for Goodreads so I am just getting a 2-fer because I am too lazy to blog.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.