How to Think More About Sex (The School of Life)

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The School of Life: An Interview With Alain de Botton

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Sage sex advice from a philosophical polymath

Christopher Hamilton 2. Page 1 of 2 Showing 1 - 48 of 59 Next. None of us approaches sex as we are meant to, with the cheerful, sporting, non-obsessive, constant, well-adjusted outlook that we torture ourselves by believing that other people are endowed with. We are universally deviant — but only in relation to some highly distorted ideals of normality.

So it's time to accept the strangeness of sex with good humour and courage - and start to talk about it with honesty and compassion. This is what my book is about: an invitation to think more about a subject we mistakenly think we know all about already.

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What are the advantages and disadvantages about society's obsession with sex? The problem lies in the feeling that we live at a time where we're very advanced about sex. We look back at the 19th century, or pre s and think, 'Now they had a problem. Whereas we Whatever discomfort we do feel around sex is aggravated by the idea that we belong to a liberated age — and ought by now, as a result, to be finding sex a straightforward and untroubling matter.

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Despite our best efforts to clean it of its peculiarities, sex will never be either simple in the ways we might like it to be. It can die out; it refuses to sit neatly on top of love, as it should. Tame it though we may try, sex has a recurring tendency to wreak havoc across our lives. Sex remains in absurd, and perhaps irreconcilable, conflict with some of our highest commitments and values.

Perhaps ultimately we should accept that sex is inherently rather weird instead of blaming ourselves for not responding in more normal ways to its confusing impulses. This is not to say that we cannot take steps to grow wiser about sex.

We should simply realise that we will never entirely surmount the difficulties it throws our way. What are the biggest issues we face as a society about sex? It is very rare to have a lot of sex. Very few people do.

There are good and bad reasons for this. Here are some of the worse one: we may not be having too much sex because our partner is angry with us - or we with them.

The arrow is fired, it wounds us, but we lack the resources or context to see how and where, exactly, it has pierced our armour. Even rehearsing them to ourselves can be embarrassing.

These hardly seem matters worth lodging formal complaints over. But we may need to spell our complaints in order to get in the vulnerable, trusting honest mood that makes sex possible. The unchanging environment in which we lead our daily lives can also affect sex negatively. We should blame the stable presence of the carpet and the living-room chairs for our failure to have more sex, because our homes guide us to perceive others according to the attitude they normally exhibit in them.

The physical backdrop becomes permanently colored by the activities it hosts — vacuuming, bottle feeding, laundry hanging, the filling out of tax forms — and reflects the mood back at us, thereby subtly preventing us from evolving. Hence the metaphysical importance of hotels.

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Their walls, beds, comfortably upholstered chairs, room service menus, televisions and small, tightly wrapped soaps can do more than answer a taste for luxury; they can also encourage us to reconnect with our long-lost sexual selves. There is no limit to what a shared dip in an alien bath tub may help us to achieve. We may make love joyfully again because we have rediscovered, behind the roles we are forced to play by our domestic circumstances, the sexual identities which first drew us together — an act of fresh perception which will have been critically assisted by a pair of towelling bathrobes, a complimentary fruit basket and a view out of a window onto an unfamiliar harbour.

Why did you choose not to deal with homosexuality, bisexuality or polyamory in the book?

Alain de Botton On 'How To Think More About Sex'

I had only a pages and most of what I say can apply to any gender orientation, so it's not a book about heterosexuals, it's a book about anyone who has sex of any type. How should we think about sex? Good sex isn't about better positions or appointments, it's about thinking more about it not less.