Plays Well in Groups: A Journey Through the World of Group Sex 1st Edition
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Frank (scholar-in-residence, American Univ.; G-Strings and Sympathy) examines group sex from a sociological approach to discover “who has it, how they do it, and why.” Covering (what seems like) every possible subject related to the topic, Frank shares experiences that range from the Burning Man festival to the Playboy Mansion; discusses swinging, gay bathhouse orgies, bachelor parties, rock star groupies, and gang rape; and explores the realm of sex addiction, sperm competition, the mythology of orgies, cross-cultural practices, sexually transmitted diseases, urban myths of group sex, as well as contemporary codes and practices in today’s culture. The author’s research extends to ethnographic observations, interviews with professionals, primary sources, and individual stories to weave together contrasting opinions and observations with acumen and fairness. Frank’s comprehensive study deftly addresses the controversial subject of group sex and its many components, contributing to our overall understanding of human behavior. Highly recommended for those interested in human sexuality, behavior, and culture., Library Journal
Sociologist Frank (American Univ.; G-Strings and Sympathy, 2002) examines the history and cultural fixation on group sex, which she defines as 'erotic or sexual activity that implicates more than two people.' The author provides much food for thought as she looks at the symbolism of orgies and contemporary manifestations, such as group sex in public sex venues and swinging parties. The book investigates multiple fields of study, including anthropology, biology, psychology, and sociology, in an attempt to explain participation in group sex and the varied reactions to it. Frank is both observer and participant as she explores various group sex situations. Interspersed among the ethnographic research, history, case studies, and interviews, Frank offers glimpses of her own experiences with group sex. Writing well and intelligently without sensationalizing the topic, Frank, maintaining academic neutrality, is the layperson's Virgil, using her intellect and research to illuminate the dimly lit world of group sex. Notes and an extensive bibliography make up the rest of the book, which student researchers will find especially useful. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers to undergraduates through researchers/faculty., CHOICE
Katherine Frank, nodding to her own ethnographic training as she scrutinizes such events and situations, argues that seasoned initiates tend towards the banal. Frank notes 'even libertines who try to harness the power of the orgy, believing that participation is a route to social transformation or that it leads to an experiences of the sublime, can find a sudden stray foot to the face or accidentally falling off the bed are the most immediate sources of jeopardy to be faced.' As this passage demonstrates, the author often takes an affectionate or wry stance toward the theme, while never minimizing the danger and degradation certain forms of capitulation to power or coercion may exact. Disgust, shame, and guilt receive in-depth investigation. Media coverage, which persists in pursuing the more attractive of those involved in group sex, denigrates those who do not fit the youthful, voluptuous, buff, or preening figures idolized. Ultimately, Frank avers that risk taking, danger, and addiction may compete within the drives and psyches of a comparative few who must find release in group sex. Dr. Frank carefully concludes this evocative work on a provocative subject. She acknowledges that 'transgressive sex'—as with any other sexual practice—might ease ennui or affirm one’s belonging with another or others. Yet, as she reminds us, this liberation does not have to depend only on sex., New York Journal of Books
It's fair to say that anyone reading her extensive examination of stories from classical times, tribal rites, wartime rapes, bachelor parties, the Playboy Mansion, virtual worlds, group sex clubs, and more, is going to learn a thing or two. The big lesson from all the facets of Frank's study . . . is that group sex is always transgressive. . . . That she has found so many aspects of her subject surely indicates that group sex is a big deal and worthy of serious academic attention; that many of the aspects are liable to exaggeration and sensationalism only further indicates the pull of the topic. . . . Frank's wide-ranging book takes in a lot of territory. . . . There's a great deal of research here with case studies and interviews, but there is also good humor and a healthy sense of wonder at how diverse and funny our species is., The Dispatch (Lexington, NC)
The author has tackled a multitude of taboos to help readers understand group sex, who has it, why they have it, and how it has solved over the years. Her use of sociology, biology, anthropology and psychology explain many fears, wonders, and worries behind group sex. Surveys, research, and interviews all add to Frank's truly interesting read. Regardless of whether you've had even the slightest interest in anything involving group sex, Plays Well in Groups will surely provoke thought and understanding of a world many of us will never step foot in., Curve
Frank’s research certainly has wider implications for anthropological thinking, and it relates a number of streams of thought about embodiment, social construction, boundaries and boundary-crossing, resistance, and such. Being not a single ethnography but a survey of literature, it brings together a lot of material that anthropologists should know., Anthropology Review Database
Plays Well in Groups: A Journey through the World of Group Sex by Katherine Frank is an excellently researched collection of narratives—histories, current events, media studies, ethnographic works, and participant interviews—analyzed through a sex-positive and unifying anthropological lens. Frank’s task is drawing parallels between different forms and practices of group sex in general, while exploring deeper social, political, economic, and historical contexts in order to contrast them. Much of the book is about who has group sex and why, as well as who fears group sex and why. An overarching theme of the book is thus one that appealed to my interests: an emphasis on sexual taboo and transgression. . . . If you’re interested in an anthropological survey of group sex across geographies, times, and fields of study, be sure to pick up Plays Well in Groups. The wide variety of topics and perspectives that are discussed in this book make it a perfect reading material for any undergraduate social science course on sexual behavior and politics or even gender studies., Savage Minds
Dr. Katherine Frank’s book, Plays Well in Groups: A Journey Through the World of Group Sex, is a fascinating look at the taboo of group sex. Her robust research spans historical references to modern day accounts throughout cultures around the world. Dr. Frank used surveys, interviews, and ethnographic research to uncover why people participate in group sex, and what it means to them. Her work also looks at group sex in a violent setting, such as gang rape, and examines the social, political and power structures involved. Her work on group sex and the complex reaction to it, allow a behind the scenes look at a world that is often portrayed differently than it is actually experienced. Plays Well In Groups provides social, anthropological and historical detail about a world that is both feared and fantasized about. Frank’s work is bold and scary, but always engaging. It is an intriguing journey into the complexity of sex and the meaning that it holds for culture and society. , New Books Network
Group sex has been many things in many cultures, and author Katherine Frank treats us to a fantastic journey through the history of the orgy, and its accompanying mythology about what it all means. This is not a how-to book, but I think readers both for, against, and undecided will find food for thought and lubrication for the imagination in these pages, and perhaps a little permission to set forth on their own explorations of how to Play Well in Groups. -- Dossie Easton, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist; co-author of The Ethical Slut
About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.73 pounds
- Hardcover : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1442218681
- Product Dimensions : 6.29 x 1.18 x 9.22 inches
- ISBN-13 : 978-1442218680
- Publisher : Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; 1st Edition (June 27, 2013)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,770,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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There are many aspects of this book that make it impressive. First, right away, the reader enjoys a full timeline history of group sex practices - which serves to give important context to practices that might seem aberrant or recent. The inclusion of this history across cultural groups immediately cuts through any impression the reader might have that only "certain types" of people engage in group sex practices - which Frank later develops even further by debunking stereotypes of "swingers" as unattractive, aging perverts. She takes on the characterization of "orgies" as "free for alls" (when in fact, any group sex scenario has rules and boundaries to contain it - even if unstated). And, while porn may help us expand our sexual imagination, group sex formats expose us to the visceral realities of human bodies and the actual doing of sex - which, as she points out, Western cultures are rarely so exposed to such variety simultaneously at any other time.
Second, while this work is well-researched and interdisciplinary, it is not weighed down with jargon. Regardless of your field, this book is a pleasure to read and Frank uses an accessible style - and she is even laugh-out-loud funny at times. She includes her own experiences doing her research without making it a memoir (although, I must admit, I would read that too should she ever decide to write that).
Third, alongside her own participant-observation, the voices of participants and the varied settings they are found to engage in group sex are seamlessly integrated. She ably accounts for the variety of experiences during group sex - from Japanese bathhouse body language to convey desire to the house shared by a network of people equipped with cameras to produce a reality show on polyamory. As a reader, I could `hear' the thrill of risk-taking during anonymous Craig's List encounters, the excitement in being watched at a swinger's club, the shared bonds among adventurers at Burning Man. Part of the effect is that the reader feels empathy, begins to identify with the voices in the book - pointing to the crucial role anthropological research can play in helping us better understand and unravel cultural taboos.
Fourth, Frank does not avoid the not-so-sexy side of group sex. She fearlessly includes topics such as gang rape, sexual overindulgence to the point that it interferes with one's life - these are areas of discussion which serve to deepen her argument and she does not shy away from their role in her analysis.
Finally, the core brilliance of this book is the central theme of how marginalized/stigmatized group sex practices are, which leads one to ask the question, "Why risk all of this for sex?" Frank's answer is repeated again and again, in every chapter, through every example: "It's never just about sex."
The big lesson from all the facets of Frank's study, and it might be an obvious one, is that group sex is always transgressive. Anthropologists have found few universal taboos, but "having sex willingly in the presence of observers or with multiple partners crosses a line of social propriety in many societies. Where these lines are drawn is, of course, highly variable." Although group sex is transgressive, it is not anarchic; this is one of the themes that runs throughout the chapters here. "Even in a setting where encounters might be anonymous, then, group sex remains organized, monitored, and patterned." The lesson in chapter after chapter here, however, is, "Far from being a `free-for-all,' group sex is highly negotiated. When humans breach norms of sexual privacy - even as they aim for transgression - they do not do so in random or senseless ways." And always: No Means No. Frank briskly explains the idea of sperm competition, but perhaps we are not going to be able to explain fully what makes sex fun, or what makes group sex fun, beyond, "It feels good." There is, of course, the novelty of having other people around; we non-swingers seldom get an opportunity to see, or to learn from, other people in actual lovemaking. And also we do not get to see, pity us, group demonstrations of the Orgasmatron, Orgasmator, or the Spank-O-Matic.
Frank's wide-ranging book takes in a lot of territory. Did you know, for instance, that in the virtual world Second Life people "earn, save, and spend. They make friends, fall in love, get married, have children, cheat, and get divorced. And, of course, they have sex (usually after buying genitals, which aren't included with the basic model.)" She looks at the very dubious stories about "key parties," during which (as in the film _The Ice Storm_, guys put their keys in a bowl and each wife picks a random key to select whom she will drive home with for the night. Such things probably never happened. There are other ways of randomly finding partners, like sex clubs with dark rooms, or Craigslist. She looks at the young people in Iran who have sex parties as an expression of rebellion against repression, and, oh yes, "It's just fun! It's what we do for fun!" She does get to go to the Playboy Mansion, where, just as you would expect, the stories about the goings-on are far more titillating that what actually happens. The descriptions of what goes on in Hefner's bedroom are among the least erotic passages in her book. (Frank reports them second-hand: "More recent bunnies have also spilled their carrots about what happens in Hef's chambers.") There's a great deal of research here with case studies and interviews, but there is also good humor and a healthy sense of wonder at how diverse and funny our species is.