Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence (Anglais) Broché – 30 octobre 2007
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Revue de presse
“Mating in Captivity...articulates a poignant and unacknowledged modern crisis for the first time.” (The Evening Standard (London))
“An elegant sociological study, complete with erudite literary and anthropological references.” (Daily Telegraph (London))
“A charming blend of wit and wisdom...this book will give you a fresh perspective on long-term love.” (Gold Coast Bulletin (Australia))
“Well argued points written with considerable eloquence.” (Jerusalem Post)
“This is a brave book...refreshing.” (The Times Higher Education Supplement)
“So honest it hurts.” (Irish Times)
“An excellent book, full of provocative prose and entertaining case illustrations.” (Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy)
Présentation de l'éditeur
One of the world’s most respected voices on erotic intelligence, Esther Perel offers a bold, provocative new take on intimacy and sex. Mating in Captivity invites us to explore the paradoxical union of domesticity and sexual desire, and explains what it takes to bring lust home.
Drawing on more than twenty years of experience as a couples therapist, Perel examines the complexities of sustaining desire. Through case studies and lively discussion, Perel demonstrates how more exciting, playful, and even poetic sex is possible in long-term relationships. Wise, witty, and as revelatory as it is straightforward, Mating in Captivity is a sensational book that will transform the way you live and love.
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But here comes Esther Perel to suggest that we --- men and women alike --- have it wrong. Good sex doesn't have to end when the hormones cool. Lust doesn't have to devolve into companionship. You can be a mom and a sex kitten. And as for "intimacy"....in the bedroom, a little goes a long way.
Who is this wild woman? A therapist in New York who's been working with couples and families for two decades. Belgian-born, to Holocaust survivors. Married (to her original husband). Two kids. Speaks eight languages --- including common sense.
Not for Perel a how-to book of ridiculous exercises you can practice to rekindle the passion you once knew. If she had her way, you'd never consult a manual again. You might, however, write a dirty letter about all the hot things you'd like to do to your partner --- or that you'd like done to you. Or maybe you should start two e-mail accounts just for the sexual dialogue between you and your mate.
But she's the mother of your child!
But he's the guy who only gets his kicks from online porn!
Perel has heard all that. Many times. She's not fooled --- underneath those smart New York rationalizations are hearts that still want to believe in hot sex with someone you know. The problem, she says, lie in the unspoken assumptions of most marriages.
Like: To love is to merge. Wrong. Merging is what happens when you see the Other as your security. That's death to sex. Good sex requires a spark. A spark requires a gap. Cross the gap, feel the sizzle. No gap? The best you can hope for is a cuddle.
"There is no such thing as 'safe sex,'" she writes. Sex requires mystery, excitement, uncertainty. Which means not knowing everything about your partner. You find that threatening? You'd find it less so if you stopped equating intimacy with sex.
Here's a radical thought: don't do everything together. Cultivate your own set of friends. Create differences, not affinities. "Ruthlessness is a way to achieve closeness" --- ponder that for a while. Monogamy? Great if you can honor it. But it is, statistics show, "a ship sinking faster than anyone can bail it out."
Infidelity is a symptom of deeper problems in the relationship? Many believe that. Perel doesn't. She finds life...complicated. She hates the verb "have" when used in relationships --- for her, no one "has" anyone. Relationships are negotiations, not assumptions. You can get crazy with someone you've lived with and known well --- if your "rules" allow that.
Eroticism, she says, is "sexuality transformed by the imagination." So, start dreaming. There's a big payoff: "Nurturing eroticism in the house is an act of open defiance."
I live in a city of therapists and in a neighborhood where they are at their most dense. I have done couples therapy; socially, I know several sex-and-couples therapists. All women. All buttoned-up --- their sexuality is not just unseen or tamped down, it's under lock-and-key. So it's a great relief to read Esther Perel. No question about it --- she's hot.
Being a graduate student in sociology, I will admit a bias for the likes of John Gottman's work in part because it's based on social science research. Perel's research is not - its subjects are her clients, and selected accordingly. Another reviewer writes that Perel uses the word "perhaps" very often - she does. This book is full of speculation and opinion. Clinician based research means that her ideas work well for her clients - as far as she knows - but anyone who has sought a therapist knows that it can be very difficult to find a therapist that one works well with. Would she be a good match for you? Maybe, maybe not.
Her writing is good, and there are a couple "aha!" moments in the book. She discusses how sex is viewed in contradictory terms, and that women in particular struggle with the baggage of being "good" and being sexy. She argues that lovers need to rediscover the creativity that led them to pursue their spouses in the first place, and to think of them more as lovers and less like the wife or husband-role with the cultural baggage that comes with this. In the introduction, Perel writes that she uses the word "marriage" to refer to "all long-term emotional commitments". Despite that, it seems that the majority of her cases are married. She also says that she writes of same-sex partnerships, but they have a token presence at best. She does not comment about the race or class of her clients.
The author is European, and writes that "Americans think [something]" or "Americans often [do something]" in order to question taken-for-granted cultural beliefs. This rhetorical device can be useful in encouraging a reader to reconsider something that they know. An example of when this is helpful is when she discusses how motherhood is desexualized in America, or the contradiction between Puritanism and hedonism in chapter six. Occasionally it comes off as off-putting, as she'll insinuate that because other cultures have the better idea. An example of this is her discussion of infidelity in Chapter 10.
On page 186, she says, "To the American way of thinking, respect is bound up with honesty, and honesty is essential to personal responsibility. Hiding, dissimulation, and other forms of deception amount to disrespect. You lie only to those beneath you-children, constituents, employees. [paragraph break] In other cultures, respect is more likely to be expressed with gentle untruths that aim at preserving the partner's honor. ... Hence concealment not only maintains marital harmony, but also is a mark of respect." She then argues "informed by my own cultural influences, I defer to [client]'s decision to remain silent..."
The logical problem with this is that her client's partner is American, and informed by the American ideal of respect. This is downplayed, as the author seems to be reaching for a universal truth rather than meeting her clients in their cultural context. This is a case where opinion is valued over empirical truth - there is no data to support one or the other.
To encourage the erotic to reappear in relationships, Perel thinks couples should introduce insecurity and distance. This may be great for sex, but whether it is good for other parts of relationships is unexplored and remained an unanswered question for the rest of the book. Consequently, the advice she gives to her clients may not be useful to her readers. One example is that she encourages one woman to flirt with other men. It seems that her idea that distance will reignite eroticism is given exclusively in a context of relationships that are functioning with the exception of being sexually unfulfilled.
Mating in Captivity is worth reading, albeit with a grain of salt.
However, I strongly disagree with her belief that confessing to an affair is disrespectful. The real disrespect is betraying a partner's trust via an affair. You show respect by allowing your partner to make an informed decision to either leave you or stay - and if they stay, their trust is earned back on their terms rather than yours. Withhold that truth, though, and you keep your partner bound to you through controlling and manipulative means, which the author tries to reframe to sound positive. It's a surprising argument, too, coming from an author who earlier argued against possessiveness.
The author makes this one point over an over again, starting with the introduction, and then repeating herself, in slightly different words (or sometimes even the same words) throughout the book.
She makes a very spare number of specific recommendations to address the dilemma of intimacy and desire: (1) Don't assume you know everything about your partner, and cultivate a certain amount of mystery; (2) Don't expect desire to be "spontaneous" - it can be kindled just as well (or better) through forethought, scheduling and careful planning - just like a great meal or a long-ago date; (3) Sexual fantasy is ok; and (4) imaginary or real third parties add spice to relationships - a little jealousy is a good thing, and don't take your partner for granted.
OK. That's the book. If you want to read a lot of her chatty case studies, or hear her repeat herself over and over again, buy the book. The writer is in dire need of an editor. But then again, if she eliminated the repetition, the book could be reduced to one page, or even one paragraph, and there is no money in that kind of efficiency!
There is nothing in this book that would really help a married couple whose sex life has faded. She suggests role play, like pretending the wife is a prostitute. Yawn. She also suggests pornography. In his book "In the Shadows of the Net," Patrick Carnes, with 25 years of experience in the field, warns that many people get so hooked on porn that they lose interest in their mates. Fantasy and porn not exciting enough? Perel suggests the discrete affair, open marriage, swingers clubs. No mention of the risk of herpes, hepatitis, AIDS, etc. And for every anecdote that she has on extra-marital sex helping a marriage, I dare say I have heard ten about its having the opposite effect. Not that I have any actual numbers, but then I'm not writing a book. Dr. Perel doesn't back up her pronouncements with any hard data.
On 9-24-10 at the annual conference of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, plenary speaker John Gottman, mentioning Esther Perel by name, said that her idea that emotional distance makes for better marital sex is contradictory to his findings. Now at the University of Washington, he has been doing research with married couples since 1980.
On 5-20-11 at the annual conference of the Massachusetts Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, I asked Terry Real whether too much intimacy could be boring, whether it was important to keep mystery in a marriage. He recognized that as Perel's idea and said that while he likes her as a person, he totally disagrees with that idea. He says intimacy is the great turn on, the pearl of great price.
Lori Brotto, a psychologist in Canada, is doing serious research on lack of desire, and is getting good results with treatments based on mindfulness, one thing in the moment. She has published articles, but no book yet.