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Sep 2014 by PCI College

Bite-Sized Book Review 'Mating in Captivity - Unlocking Erotic Intelligence' by Esther Perel

Brian Ó Murchú, PCI College Excecutive Administrative Officer reviews 'Mating in Captivity' by Esther Perel, a book he believes offers new perspectives, possibilities and choices.

Esther Perel is a New York based therapist, author, speaker and consultant. Originally from Belgium, Esther published Mating in Captivity in 2006 which has since been translated into 25 languages of which Esther speaks 8.

The book explores the opposing forces of the need for security and the need for adventure in relationships. Love and intimacy is outlined as something that draws two people closer together, but desire is like fire; it needs air to breathe. When it comes to long-term relationships, how can we expect to remain connected with the same person for 50 years? How can we want what we already have?

From a historical perspective, the concept of romantic love arose towards the end of the 19th century, which brought marriage and passion together for the first time. The past 50 years has redefined coupledom in that we turn to one person for the protection and emotional connections that a multitude of social networks used to provide. This change in social norms can lead to intimacy overburdened with expectations.

That love seeks closeness should not be confused with merging, as closeness reduces the sense of freedom and autonomy. Desire needs distance, admittedly too much distance leads to no connection but there must be a synapse to cross. Times that we most admire our partners is when we see them at a distance. The need for togetherness and the need for autonomy, freedom versus commitment, is a paradox to manage as opposed to a problem to solve.

Interestingly the book outlines that the some of America’s best features such as democracy, equality, mutual tolerance results in very boring sex. Sexual desire and good citizenship don’t play by the same rules, with desire not considered PC! Esther observes from her multicultural background that while there is great tolerance for divorce but no tolerance for sexual infidelity in America, the opposite tends to be true of Europe.

The book introduces the concept of the Third, which exists at the boundary of every couple, the manifestation of our desire for what lies outside the fence. It is the forbidden. The Third points to other possibilities, choices we didn’t make. Mating in Captivity offers new perspectives, possibilities and choices. The book invites us to unpack our ambivalence about pleasure and challenge our discomfort with sexuality.

Brian Ó Murchú (September 2014)
PCI College Executive Administrative Officer & Postgraduate Certificate in Psychology Graduate (2013)

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