49 of 58 people found the following review helpful
Someone get Mr. de Botton some good porn!
, December 25, 2012
This review is from: How to Think More About Sex (The School of Life) (Paperback)
[Let me preface this review by saying I've been reading Alain de Botton for more than a decade and have typically enjoyed his work. When I saw this new release, I was so excited that I preordered it on Kindle months ago and was surprised when it arrived the morning of Christmas Eve]
I have to say, I'm a bit disappointed with the views presented in "How To Think More About Sex". Initially, de Botton presents some stark and sobering realities of sex within long-term relationships and offers up several dilemmas that he intends to explore. However, his idea of exploration is more like flip-flopping on specific issues (e.g. Adultery). First we get the cons, then the pros and then... he just settles somewhere in the middle. Even his Conclusion section feels limp, ending on a "sex is what it is" sort of note.
While this approach technically makes good on the title's promise, it doesn't seem to realize the full potential of the topic of sex, instead remaining rather timidly within the conventions of everyday life and stereotypical relationships. Where are the daring challenges to accepted conventions, the bold analysis of how society's relationship with sex changes as society (and to some extent humanity) also change?
We see just how constricted de Botton's thinking is when he talks about pornography. He states that only those "whose logical selves have never been obliterated by the full force of sex" can remain 'modern' on the subject of porn, going on to promote censorship of such materials as "necessary both for mental health of our species and for the adequate functioning of a decently ordered and loving society". According to de Botton:
"Pornography asks that we leave behind our ethics, our aesthetic aense and our intelligence when we contemplate it, in order that we give ourselves over wholly to the most mindless sort of lust. The plots are daft, the lines of dialogue absurd, the actors exploited, the interiors ugly and the photographs voyeuristic."
de Botton's remarks are technophobic and, along with the entire 'Pornography' chapter, read like the heavy-handed generalizations of someone who has little breadth of experience of the subject at hand. Pornography can be found in a multitude of media, with vastly differing degrees of absurdity, aesthetics and intelligence. The fact that de Botton failed to discover more holistically engaging forms of porn is no excuse for his backwards views.
Furthermore, de Botton seems to be unable to conceive of a world where regular pornography viewing might benefit an individual, single or otherwise. Sure, there are those who may abuse pornography and may lead a "lesser" life (quotes for subjectivity on de Botton's part), but who is he to suggest censorship? And once we adopt his--or anyone else's--subjective morality, where we do we stop?
3.5 out 5 stars, with serious points off for de Botton pushing his own morality without even a cursory attempt to explore how society might embrace change rather than run away from it
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