Attitude Toward Sex

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Sex, we have been led to believe, is as natural as breathing. But in fact, contends British philosopher Alain de Botton, it is "close to rocket science in complexity." It's not only a powerful force, it's often contrary to many other things we care about. Sex inherently sets up conflicts within us. We crave sex with people we don't know or love. It makes us want to do things that seem immoral or degrading, like slapping someone or being tied up. We feel awkward asking the people we love for the sex acts we really want.

There's no denying that sex has its sweaty charms, and in its most exquisite moments dissolves the isolation that embodied life imposes on us. But those moments are rare, the exception rather than the rule, says de Botton, founder of London's School of Life. "Sex is always going to cause us headaches; it's not something we can miraculously grow relaxed about." We suffer privately, feeling "painfully strange about the sex we are either longing to have or struggling to avoid." Find a Therapist

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If we turn to sex books to help us work out this central experience of our lives, we are typically assured that most problems are mechanical, a matter of method. In his own new book, How to Think More About Sex, de Botton makes the case that our difficulties stem more from the multiplicity of things we want out of life, or the accrual of everyday resentments, or the weirdness of the sex drive itself. Here are some of the most basic questions it answers. —The Editors Why do most people lie about their true desires?

It is rare to go through life without feeling that we are somehow a bit odd about sex. It is an area in which most of us have a painful impression, in our heart of hearts, that we are quite unusual. Despite being one of the most private activities, sex is nevertheless surrounded by a...
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