Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic & the Domestic
Esther Perel, . . HarperCollins, $24.95 (244pp) ISBN 978-0-06-075363-4
Developed originally from an article she wrote on "erotic intelligence," psychotherapist Perel's first book sets forth a thesis for today's couples that is as revelatory as it is straightforward. Languishing desire in a relationship actually results from all the factors people look for in love and marriage: grounding, meaning, continuity. Partnerships are supposed to provide "a bulwark against the vicissitudes of modern life," Perel notes, and in one person we turn for all the emotional connections that the greater society (church, community, family) can no longer provide. Habit and certainty kill desire, yet how to live comfortably with the elements of unpredictability and risk that are necessary for healthy eroticism? Perel supports her nicely accessible work with case studies of couples both heterosexual and gay, spanning all ages, with kids and without, in an attempt to cure what ails their sex life. Some of the proposals Perel recommends for rekindling eroticism involve cultivating separateness (e.g., autonomy) in a relationship rather than closeness (entrapment); exploring dynamics of power and control (i.e., submission, spanking); and learning to surrender to a "sexual ruthlessness" that liberates us from shame and guilt. In short, Perel sanctions fantasy and play and offers the estranged modern couple a unique richness of experience.
Reviewed on: 06/26/2006