"The Soul of Sex: Cultivating Life as an Act of Love", by Thomas Moore, Harper Collins Publishers, (c) 1998, ISBN 0-06-018697-6, 307 pages.
I disliked this book. As I studied it more closely I came to loath it.
I come from a science background. When someone presents an argument, it should give the evidence for and against their thesis. When Darwin was talking about Evolution, it was thought that the sun was a cooling, glowing rock - which meant the Earth could only be a few million years old. Darwin needed Deep Time for evolution to work. Rather than ignoring this problem in his theory, he brought it up, acknowledged the difficulty and rather weakly said that perhaps when we learned more about the sun, we would find it glows from some other principle.
That is the honest way to present an argument. This book is the antithesis of that approach and Mr. Moore's sloppy and sleazy way of presenting his points grated on me for the entire time I slogged thru this work.
The early chapters were the most enjoyable. He talks about the greek myths and establishes a metaphor - the Greek goddess Aphrodite is the nymph of love. We want to invite her into our hearts. It was all down hill from there.
First it is totally poly intolerant.
When discussing the holy importance of marriage: "... and in each marriage lies the deeper laboratory of sex, the holy of holies, where passion union, differences, pleasure, difficulties and even work achieve their necessary balances. If couples realized the importance of their lovemaking and its impact on the world around them, from their children and neighbors to the nation and the world, they might have a less personalistic, less psychological view of their sexuality, and in that broadening they might enter into sex with larger vision and greater joy." (Page 204.)
(I apologize for the long quotes. I try to quote full sentences and his run on sentence style assures that many of these quotes will also run on.)
"The attention to the beauty, craft, and ritual in this ancient scene [a couple approaching the marriage bed] could teach us that the bedroom is a place of holy mysteries and that sex is closely connected to what is going on in the rest of the universe." (Page 211.)
After a chapter about the holiness of matrimony, he has a chapter of infidelity. He discusses the mystery lover. This figure is not a real person that you should screw, but a phantom to tempt you.
"When we actually meet someone who seems to be a potential lover or mate, we may see them surrounded by fantasy. They glow for us, but not for their friends. The lover becomes a double star - one radiance branches out from their real presence, while another shines from an unknown source, intensifying the total effect." (Page 222.)
"The specific rites of sex are designed to engage one's relationship with the mystery lovers we usually encounter only in night dreams and daytime fantasies. Because the soul lover is not really part of this world, our attempts to give body to those loves will always fall short of the mark and be somewhat disappointing, but we can keep trying. There is always the possibility of confusing private fantasy with life." (Page 229.)
"Because sex is so enveloping and inclusive, because it can't be separated from the fabric of life and personality, and because it is so often essentially implicated in developments and transitions, people faced with unexpected and unintended or even unwelcome sexual longing feel profoundly confused." ... and a paragraph later... "Care of the soul is a simple phrase that seems to represent an easy adjustment of life's basic elements. But at times it may take all the courage and wisdom at a person's disposal to have the patience and presence of mind to keep the soul distinct from life, to reflect deeply on developments rather than take the easier, though more dangerous path of acting out." (Page 233.)
The author's discussion of mystery lovers make them sound like movie stars - far off and surrounded by glamour. On page 228 he specifically says that these lovers are not really part of this world. As for the real life, very lovable people close to you - keep your pants on and maintain the sanctity of the holy wedding bed. AND the civilization that holy marriage maintains!
On page 188, the author says that about 1/3 of the people he provided therapy for were deeply worried about the "impossible conflict" of keeping their marriage intact, yet feeling crazy in their love for a third person. "Typically one sensation was notably absent amid all the confusion - the feeling of personal integrity & individuality." (Page 189.)
The author counsels a mystical celibacy and chastity in order to maintain the marriage. (Chapter 9: The Joy of Celibacy.)
The moral superiority of loving but a single person is mentioned again at the top of page 282.
The author, in glowing terms, described the saving of loveless marriages. (See pages 285, 286 & 287.) I thought, "he will soon discuss the exception - marriages where one partner is being physically abusive". I was wrong, a hateful marriage weakens his argument so he ignores this possibility in an intellectually cowardly fashion. Or perhaps he found rhapsodizing about the nymphs of love does not fit well into sentences about spouses & children being neglected or abused?
There are many other things in this book that rubbed me the wrong way. I've not space or time to list them all, but here is a sampling:
"We have to invite the spirits of sex into our bedrooms, or else sex will remain a secularized, egocentric, narcissistic, and exploitive endeavor; even in the midst of our supposed sexual enlightenment." (pg 109.)
This is part of a circular argument that is repeated in the final chapter on Epicurean love. Since no one can really tell if the spirits of eros are with us, all nasty sex is with out the spirits. All nice sex has the proper religious overtones. Nice sex is epicurean. Thus the author is free to look down his nose at any form of sex he does not approve of.
The author seems to sneer at BDSM, so I started to reread this book to find the exact places where he does so. However, he never actually comes out and makes a declarative statement. (Very typical.) However, he does cast what sound like aspirations at this style of love making:
A woman craved rough sex. A sadist, over 3 years, beats her and steals all her money. "Eventually she came up from that dark place, ..." (Page 164.)
When discussing the holiness of marriage he mentions: "What is required is not a masochistic act of literal debasement, ..." (Page 237.)
"But there is another aspect of sexuality that can be easily be lost in the dark and downwards emphasis on the sensuous life." (Page 265.)
"Sexual experiences long fantasized and hoped for may fail to give the promised satisfaction." (Page 270.)
"Other men and woman I've known have entered relationships where the sex was very aggressive and experimental, and they enjoyed it at first but then reached a point where the joy disappeared. Then they craved some purity and found it difficult to convince their partners that their sudden inhibition didn't spring from their fear but from a deep need for purer sex." (Page 198.)
Page 218 argues against novelty in sex play even within the marriage. (He may be referring to avoiding loving someone else, hard to tell what he is saying. But if that is the case, wouldn't the argument be more logically placed in the chapter on infidelity?)
See also the lower half of page 275 for more on sexual fantasy. It is hard to say what he is saying, but he does not sound supportive about "acting out" and actually trying some kink. (The phrase "acting out" makes people exploring their sexuality sound like spoilt children.)
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Last edited by RickPlus; 03-07-2010 at 11:08 AM.
Reason: Left out a page number.