Friday, April 04, 2014

Booknote: The New Naked

Harry Fisch, with Karen Moline, The New Naked: The Ultimate Sex Education for Grown-Ups. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2014. ISBN: 9781402293375 (link to publisher. Book is due out on April 1, 2014). 

I finished reading this, and I will say directly: do not bother. This book basically felt like reading a combination of pop psychology and a few cobbled together articles from Cosmopolitan magazine. The premise of the book is a good one: adults often do need some good adult education to have a happy and healthy sex life and overall good health. This is not the book for that; the book is often judgmental, filled with overgeneralizations, and a frequent moralistic tone.

The book seems to start innocently enough as the author writes in his introduction that "this book will show you that sexual satisfaction and emotional satisfaction are not mutually exclusive in a relationship" (9). That seems reasonable enough as a goal for a book on this topic, but it soon falls apart. Many of the initial statements the author makes seem to be common sense. Yet, the author soon reveals his biases, and the tone of the book degrades.

By the way, though the book is billed as sex education for adults, this is not a book for men. When I stated earlier that much of the book reads like cobbled pieces of Cosmo magazine, it is because it is written with the same stereotypes of men as barely literate stoic cavemen as Cosmo articles often depict them. In addition, the author does state that is is a book "written about men but for women" (13), and it shows in the condescension and reliance of male cliches. It is a pity really. The points he makes on men's health-- exercise, eat well, get your medical check-ups-- are all good, but they get lost in the "men don't listen; they growl" cliches he often employs. I would ask if women honestly believe those stereotypes.

The book is arranged as follows:

  • Part One: "Let's Talk About Sex: What's Right and What Can Go Wrong." This contains four lessons on topics of satisfaction, turn-offs, erectile dysfunction and other male physiological issues (there is actually some useful information here regarding male health, which you can find in other sources but is all in one place here), risks of porn (for the men. Porn is bad for men pretty much no matter what according to the author), affairs (clearly bad), and sexual addiction (this is questionable in light of more recent findings). 
  • Part Two is his LSD method. LSD stands for listen, security, and desire. This boils down to: guys, shut the fuck up and listen (by the way, he does use those words. Ladies, you don't have to listen as much, just enough); guys, provide security for your woman, including financial security (yes, your woman wants a nest and money to spend. If your ass is broke, you are pretty much not getting laid. The tone here can come across as a bit crass), and guy, show your woman she is desired. Though the author does discuss the importance of communication from both sides, a good point, it is overall biased towards telling guys to shut the fuck up, do as told, and go from there (and no, this is not consensual D/s or femdom. Actually, the author has a bias against femdom too as we shall discuss shortly). 
There are a lot of issues with this book, but I am only going to highlight a few for the review:

  •  The author displays a bias against sex toys. A common refrain of his is for women to "put the vibrator away" (20). Now, I am willing to grant toys in the bedroom may have mixed results for some, but they are great for other couples and individuals. However, the author pretty much does a blanket condemnation. Other reputable experts and educators will likely argue that some play and toys in the bedroom are fine. 
  • The book displays a strong moralistic and preachy tone that the author tries to cover by flashing his credentials, a form of appeal to authority that readers who are well-read and informed will likely see through.
  • I would hate to be his patient. In the author's world, there are a ton of unhappy women married to husbands who are lousy in bed, gruff, and incompetent. One wonders how or why they got married. Yes, we acknowledge that not all marriages are perfect utopias, but there seems a bit of hype here, likely to drum up some business given the first part of the book reads like an infomercial, i.e. if you stay tuned, I'll give you the answers you seek in part two. As for his consults, men often do end up humiliated. If you wonder why men resist things like couples' therapy, here is one answer: getting bashed over the head hurts, especially when your partner is pretty much absolved from the get go. As the old saying goes, it takes two to tango, but not in the author's world. There is a lot of emphasis in the book on the guy doing such and such. But what happens if it is the woman not putting effort in the relationship, making a gesture, so on? Could that be the author's next book? Let's be honest, a good relationship should be a two-way street, but the street here seems to go in only one direction. 
  • Another bad example from the book: the topic of masturbation. He writes that "masturbation can only be a solitary pursuit" (42). Really? I guess the author never heard of mutual masturbation; he may need to get out a bit more. The preachiness on this and other topics does get grating for readers. By the way, women masturbating is fine, so they can know their bodies better (49). For guys? It's pretty much bad. For the author, a guy masturbating is a problem. We can recognize a serious double-standard here. 
  • Then we have the quizzes. For instance, if the man in your life wants to try pegging, he may be a closeted gay man (79). Granted, this could be true for some men, but I am sure a good number of men who identify as straight enjoy it as well just fine and would beg to differ. 
  • Another quiz question. Apparently, I am a porn fiend if my spouse does not know every single password of mine. This is how you know if your man is addicted to porn. I am guessing the concepts of physical space and boundaries are non-existent for the author. In our case, the Better Half has her e-mail password, and I have mine. We are both fine. Then again, we trust each other and have done so for close to 18 years now (married. 25 or so if you count our long dating and courtship period). In the end, these quizzes are not better than those quickie online personality quizzes some people use for amusement. 
  • On the sexual addiction issue. The author claims that "sexual addiction, or sexual 'dependency,' is a valid psychological disorder" (182). This is debatable at best. In fact, it is not listed in the DSM-V,(I did look) and there are peer reviewed articles that question the validity of that diagnosis. The health and psychology community are not in agreement; it does not make it valid. This could change in the future, but at the moment, the question is open at best. 
  • And finally, we get to this. The author writes, "being a dominatrix doesn't involve having actual sex with her client, but it's not a healthy profession. . . " (276). I honestly wonder how many dominatrixes, whether professional practitioners or amateurs who practice privately with a lover would balk at being told their practice is not healthy. If any dominatrix out there reads this, they are welcome to comment. Sex educators also welcomed to comment and add to the dialogue.
Overall, I am not recommending this book. While the author is a urologist and an expert in male body and health, that is about it. There is no real sex education here as the book is full of stereotypes, unfounded generalizations, bias, and other flaws that overshadow the parts of good health advice.

I am (barely) giving it 1 out of 5 stars as I did not like it.

Disclosure note: This is where I tell you that I read this book as an e-galley from the publisher via NetGalley. I have not been compensated for providing an honest review. There, we have fulfilled the requirements set by The Man.

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