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In Relax, It's Just Sex: Understanding Non-Possessive Intimate Relationships, Leslie Spurr, relationship therapist, introduces the reader to so called non-possessive relationships, in which mostly married couples decide to have sexual relations with other people while maintaining their own relationship. As such these couples are non sexually exclusive, but maintain most other features of "traditional" relationships or marriages.
Spurr first discusses the differences between exclusive sexual relationships between two people and the non-possessive relationships. Even though both types of relationship agreements require just that, an agreement in terms of what is expected in such relationships, in non-possessive relationships, sexual activity with other people is permitted and encouraged. One of the most important notions that Spurr focuses on is the notion that in non-possessive relationships, these couples maintain open communication and honesty in terms of their sexual wants and needs and how they go about inviting another couple or another individual into their lives, which is key in maintaining a successful relationship. According to Spurr individuals in non-possessive relationships tend to be less jealous and possessive in terms of their partner's sexual needs and exclusivity, even though there can certainly be issues in non-possessive relationships when it comes to not being sexually exclusive.
Spurr also discusses how these couples find other couples or individuals in terms of sexual activity; such as at clubs (which are becoming more popular) online (through social media and particular websites catering to non-possessive couples), or at private parties to name a few venues. There are also various forms of non-possessive relationships, including one or more people in addition to the couple. As such, Spurr also discusses threesomes, foursomes, collective living and polyamory.
Spurr also writes about some gender differences in terms of the reasons as to why some couples seem interested in non-possessive relationships. In regards to men, Spurr argues that they are more prone to viewing such relationships in terms of getting a "hall-pass" to have sex with other women and that for men, the conquest can be alluring. On the other hand, Spurr states that for women, it can be a way to confirm ones attractiveness and to receive positive attention rather than the focus necessarily being on sexual satisfaction. Spurr does not explain why, but states that men are more likely to propose and initiate non-possessive relationships than women. Even though Spurr does note that there are some gender differences in terms of the wants and needs for non-possessive relationships, it would be interesting if Spurr discusses this notion more. Also, Spurr does give some demographic information in regards to the dynamics of non-possessive couples (they are often slightly older and have been married or in a relationship for quite some time), but again, it would be beneficial to know more about these couples. Lastly, Spurr has been working as a relationship therapist with many couples, and does give one example from an interview (page. 130), and of course Spurr would need informed consent from couples to share some of their stories, but it might be beneficial to "hear" from the couples first hand based on Spurr's interactions with these couples. At times, Relax, It's Just Sex could benefit from further analysis of various topics, but Spurr does inform the reader that "The purpose of this book is simply to describe this emerging phenomenon and to explain how it works, psychologically, for the couples and singles involved (p. xi)". Spurr also notes that the book is for the general public, and not academic in nature. The book is certainly an interesting introduction to non-possessive relationships, foremost for couples who might be interested in this type of relationship agreement and they would likely benefit from and find the book interesting and informative.
© 2018 Hennie Weiss
Hennie Weiss has a Master's Degree in Sociology from California State University, Sacramento. Her academic interests include women's studies, gender, sexuality and feminism.
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