Bobo is an abbreviation of the bohemian bourgeoisie. They are the pretty privileged who see themselves as progressive on a number of fronts. Sex-wise, they wholeheartedly support gays lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders.
There are bobo ‘leaders’ who hand down their thoughts to the bobo flock. The middle-brow philosopher, Alain de Botton, is one of them.
The problem isn’t that we’re thinking too much about sex, it’s that we’re thinking about it in all the wrong ways. That’s the argument in his latest digestible treatise, “How to Think More About Sex.”
It attempts to set us straight without neutering us. It’s a bite-sized book that applies a philosophical lens to our modern sexual reality — from infidelity to impotence, intimacy to Internet porn.
But it’s no Human Sexuality textbook: De Botton, the author of the bestseller “How Proust Can Change Your Life,” is more concerned with big ideas than hard evidence.
“The more closely we analyse what we consider ‘sexy,’ the more clearly we will understand that eroticism is the feeling of excitement we experience at finding another human being who shares our values and our sense of the meaning of existence.”
This seems intuitively true and wise, doesn’t it? But desire is not so easily explained. It requires great temerity to make such pompous generalisations given that sex researchers continue to devote their lives to finding empirical evidence to answer such big questions, and such research is often highly nuanced and not easily summarised.
Then again, some truths are better told in philosophical pronouncements than in pie charts. If you get off on intelligent generalisations about sex that are made alongside highly subjective arguments about the act, “How to Think More About Sex” is absolutely the book for you.
If you have a fetish for objective, peer-reviewed fact facts and you’re a Kinsey three on that particular scale of science-to-philosophizing, the book is at times a total turn-on, at others disappointing.
Botton takes creative liberties in imagining what a sexual preference for Scarlett Johansson or Natalie Portman must mean about one’s childhood.
“If we were traumatised by overly theatrical and unreliable parents, we may decide that something about Scarlett’s features suggests she has just a little too much of a taste for excitement.”
The book has some interesting maxims, worthy of only the most refined of refrigerator doors, about our deceptions surrounding sex.
“We are universally deviant but only in relation to some highly distorted ideals of normality.”
His discussion of how we seek to overcome loneliness and isolation with sex is often no more than romantic cliché. But there are a few inspirational moments when he’s dispensing advice on everything from how to keep desire alive in long-term relationships to what to do (or not do) about adultery.
It’s like Cosmo meets Plato. Pop porn for middle-brow liberals.