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The central question of this book is; "...we are no longer worried about getting all the sex we desire, now we're desperately wondering how to desire the sex that we get" (p.10).
Written by a medical practitioner, the book seeks to offer couples a way of recovering the intimacy and passion that originally brought them together. The author declares some skepticism about the medical profession's 'usual' response of diagnosing Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder and underlines that this book is not a replacement for visiting a physician. Yet, from here on the reader is walked through the diagnostic process that she uses with her own patients.
The language of the book is often over-expressive and emotive, full of over-generalizations. The analysis is over-simplified. The approach assumes that the answer for low libido lies largely in / with the individual rather than in the relationship. Much of the material ignores the relationship / partnership and focuses on the individual alone.
Almost all the patients described in the vignettes are treated in a relatively easy and straightforward way by providing a change in their medication or diet that leads to an increase in libido within a very short space of time.
Chapter 2 takes the reader through a lengthy "Barriers to Sexuality' self-test. Each of the questions requires a simple yes / no response. The author emphasizes that a 'yes' response -- even to one or two questions in a section -- may increase the likelihood of developing the relevant disease or disorder. Based on the responses to the questionnaire, the reader is directed to particular later sections of the book which deal with the potential 'diagnosis'. Most of these sections discuss well known medical conditions which can impact on libido. For example, if I respond 'yes' to "Do you urinate frequently?" and to "does your mouth feel dry?" I am led to the section on diabetes. If this is not a form of self-diagnosis, then I am not sure what is.
The ultimate aim of the book is for couples to want sex more often. Simply to have sex more often and to feel satisfied if this is the result misses the mark on a huge number of issues associated with relationships. The book seems to urge that quantity is important for its own sake. It does not address some of the deeper issues about the life cycle or the quality of one's sexual relationship.
"Should you have sex even when you're not in the mood?" (p.52) turns into "What would it take to put me in the mood ..." (p.53)
While exploring all the standard differences between women and men, the book is full of over-generalizations and half accurate assertions e.g., "By design a woman is more sensitive than a man" (p.63). There are too many to cite.
Much of the book is a glimpse first at sexual disorders and their treatment and then at the wider health issues which can affect libido -- ranging form heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, thyroid disease, cancer, spinal chord injury, chronic fatigue, depression etc. In each case the engagement is insufficient but runs the real risk of leading people (through the questionnaire) to forming conclusions or self-diagnoses about their health status -- exactly the opposite to what the author claims she has set out to achieve. Even the female life cycle is discussed as though it is a series of medical conditions, the mastery / treatment of which will lead to increased sex.
Sex in the brain -- part 3 of the book -- opens the question of the relationship between the brain and its chemicals with sexual functioning. Again the discussion is superficial, and a number of animal examples are used, the relevance of which is tangential at best. Issues such as sleep, stress, alcohol, smoking and the like are discussed as medical issues which may decrease libido. We've heard all this before. From p.187 we begin to hear about some positive ways the issues can be addressed -- yes, you guessed it - start with a physical fitness regime and eat right. From p.201 we get the next stage of a positive response -- the author's new 'sex hormone diet'. Exercise and eat a well balanced diet (see recipes) and you will achieve sexual fulfillment. Oh, and by the way, you can add some of the herbal aphrodisiacs, hormonal supplements, vitamins and minerals discussed to increase your chance of success.
Only on p.283 do we begin to see any discussion of relationships and enhancing romance. Here is a 14 page summary of material that is covered in much more detail in most books on romance and relationships.
In my judgment, don't buy this one unless you are seeking simplistic medical answer or unless you want a diet with recipes ready-made (and guaranteed?) to improve your libido.
© 2007 Erich von Dietze
Erich von Dietze, Ph.D., Manager, Research Ethics, Murdoch University, Western Australia