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by Anne J. Hooper
DK Publishing, 2001
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Apr 21st 2003

Ultimate Sex

Let me preface my review by noting that I am probably the last person you would want to ask for advice about sex, and I make no claims to be a sexpert.  So I come to this book as a layman (no pun intended).  Let me also add that I’m there's no reason whatsoever to think that I'm at all representative of the more general public.  What is be obvious to most people may be news to me, and where an idea seems right to me, many other people could disagree totally.  Nevertheless, I will attempt to be fair in my assessment of this book.

Anne Hooper is a sex therapist and the director of a clinic for sexual problems.  Ultimate Sex contains 23 chapters each addressing a different question that she has found her clients asking.  How can I overcome my partner's inhibitions?  How can I make lovemaking more intimate?  How can I revive a partner's waning interest?  How can we find time to be lovers?  How can sex make us feel whole?  How can I get over sexual rejection?  And so on.  Each chapter starts with a brief case study of a heterosexual couple and their problem.  For example, Louis is a 29-year-old stockbroker, and his girlfriend Charlotte is a 25-year-old librarian with a strictly religious background, and he finds her very inhibited.  Accompanying the study is a therapist's assessment about how best to deal with that case.  Hooper also gives general recommendations, such as project a sexier image, use relaxation exercises, give vent to sexual expression, and dress to stimulate erotic touch.  Each chapter has plenty of illustrations, photographs of an adult couple, showing both topless, but never revealing any genitals.  Judging from their looks, the models in the photographs are mostly in their twenties, and are close to conventional standards of attractiveness, at least for the early 1990s.  Most are white, and all are able-bodied.  Some chapters have more explicit drawn illustrations about how to perform some sexual acts.

The book is nicely produced, with a "coffee-table" feel to it, and is not at all seedy.  The photographs are tastefully done and the large format of the book makes it easy to browse.

The book says very little about serious sexual problems, and makes no attempt to provide advice for people who are gay, lesbian, transgendered, cross-dressers, or who have unusual fetishes.  It provides no advice for people with chronic illnesses, disabilities, mental disorders, or unusual body-types.  There's no mention of Viagra or how to cope with side-effects of the many medications that can affects one's sexual abilities. 

On the whole then, Ultimate Sex seems of limited use, but it is possible that some people may find it useful.  Its frequent mention of meditation and the use of erotic touch seem like good ideas, and it's conceivable that people may be inspired by the many pages of illustrations of different positions for intercourse.  Hooper shows some awareness of the many emotional issues that may interfere in a couple's sex life, and provides some hints about how to sort through them.  Personally, I would not turn to this book as a first resource for dealing with sexual problems, because I would not identify myself as the kind of reader it is aimed at.  It seems a little conventional and modest in its approach to explaining issues, and it the photographs of couples struck me as unintentionally funny.  I think I'd prefer a guide with more humor and more details about how real people deal with their problems successfully. 

 

© 2003 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.