The sexuality of happy people, Pascal de Sutter • Mon blog sexo

The Sexuality of Happy People
Pascal Sutter
The bullring, 2009
260 pages

Pascal de Sutter’s book presents itself as an inventory of knowledge on fulfilling sexuality, as opposed to the many studies that focus on its dysfunctions, or on sexual violence, or even on injunctions to performance or the quest for extreme practices.

Studies devoted to the sexuality of happy people do not benefit from the same interest, nor from the same private financing by laboratories which would not find there material to develop any drug… but it is the field of research of Pascal de Sutter, who popularizes here some results.

Chapter 1 :
The place of sexuality and its link with happiness

The first chapter cites many studies concerning sexuality, which show how much a fulfilling sex life contributes to the general health of individuals. For example, regular ejaculation has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

But is it really in terms of quantity that this is at stake? Men who ejaculate regularly, to use this example, probably have a more fulfilling sex life, whether with a partner or through a freer practice of masturbation. And it may well be that it is the qualitative aspect, this well-being linked to a happy sexuality, which plays a role in protection.
Thus, according to other studies, sex workers or people with many casual partners do not show the same benefits, despite quantitatively high sexual activity.

Then a small historical chapter recalls the place of sexual freedom – very closely linked in general to the freedom of women – in Western society.
We can see how our society goes back and forth: from the myth of the noble savage and the glorification of sexual naivety to the total repression of the Victorian era, from prudish McCarthyism to sexual liberation… in the long term , the cultural history of sexuality seems to oscillate permanently between repression and liberation.

Finally, the chapter ends with a reminder of the current work of the WHO to define sexual health as a component of overall health. According to the WHO: “Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality, it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free from coercion, discrimination and violence. To achieve and maintain good sexual health, the Human Rights and Sexual Rights of all people must be respected, protected and fulfilled.
WHO 2003, cf. WHO website

The WHO is thus setting up strategies for the development of sexual health at the international level, respecting as much as possible the cultures of each country and their own sexual norms.
> cf Sexual and Reproductive Health Action Plan, 2016 – PDF

Chapter 2
Happiness and sexuality

The second chapter starts with some statistical analyzes from a survey on sexuality – with some interesting correlations, such as the level of sexual satisfaction which decreases in men as the level of studies increases (to intellectualize things too much can lead to difficulties in sexual life) – whereas it is the opposite for women… and leads to an astonishing observation for those who believe in the importance of sexual life:

A satisfying sex life is not predictive of level of happiness

This observation may seem counter-intuitive for anyone who works or is even interested in sexuality… in any case, personally I would have argued the opposite! If I want to become a sexologist and help people find a balance in their sexuality, it’s because I think it’s an essential pillar of human happiness.
Of course, but the link is not as linear as that…

Incidentally, Pascal de Sutter reverses this analysis by making it a reason not to put too much pressure on yourself, not to establish a “sexually correct” attitude that must be achieved at all costs.

However, other statistical correlations still show strong links between happiness and satisfying sex:

  1. Sexual problems affect the happiness of life
  2. A lack of happiness affects sex life
  3. There is a circular link between happiness in life and sexual functioning.

Then the book presents lots of interesting statistics and studies on sexual pleasure and orgasm! How much is biological, can we learn to enjoy, but also a small point on the dictatorship of orgasm which replaced its prohibition in the last century…
What to make a general culture around these questions.

Chapter 3
sex in the head

The third chapter is devoted to the psychological aspects of sexuality.

Fantasies first, with studies on their content (are they the same in men and women?), on disturbing fantasies… of course the big question “should one fulfill one’s fantasies”?
Not all of them, of course – violent fantasies or fixed ideas are not necessarily good advisers – but the author conducted a study where participants were asked to act out a fantasy (a low-risk fantasy, such as having sex in front of a mirror or blindfold, play with an ice cube…), and studied the effects of this realization. Rather positive effects, not only for the production itself, but for the whole climate around it: the imagination and the anticipation, the fact of preparing a time and a sexual place… the effect put forward the most by the participants being awareness of erotic ideas.

Then the book discusses sexual motivation, then desire – with a focus on an important point: overweight, or rather the self-image linked to perceived overweight, which appears to be the main cause of female sexual unhappiness.
If obesity seems to be statistically linked to a less happy sexuality, another study provides an interesting angle:

I interviewed an audience of a hundred women anonymously about the perception of their bodily appearance.
78% of them felt they were too fat, 22% felt they were of a satisfactory weight and… 0% felt they were too thin. However, if we look at their actual weight, only 7% actually suffered from excessive overweight. 4% were even underweight according to WHO criteria. So I had before me an audience of women who were objectively thin and yet considered themselves too fat.
It would therefore seem that today many women suffer from a form of dysmorphophobia.

Pascal Sutter, The sexuality of happy people

And the author then describes how this dysmorphophobia, more or less pronounced, has cascading repercussions on sexual life – difficulty in showing oneself naked, feeling of not being attractive… and all the embarrassment and sexual blockages that arise from these thoughts.

Road trips:
a small criticism on the form

No doubt to give a little more life to what could look like a long series of studies and figures, Pascal de Sutter sometimes takes a few sentences to introduce a researcher he knows personally before popularizing his results. .
Alas…

Pr Reynaert, psychiatrist and sexologist, is head of service in a department of psychosomatic medicine. The word “chief” hardly suits this elegant green-eyed woman who behaves much more like an accommodating and understanding collaborator than an authoritarian boss. “

P. DE SUTTER, The sexuality of happy people, p. 16

Is followed, a few chapters later, by:

“Eric is one of the few university professors who has an ego of about normal size. Although he’s far smarter than most of us, he manages the feat of never showing it. […] This man has a gift, that of giving multiple numbers an intelligible and accessible meaning to the vulgum pecus. »

P. DE SUTTER, The sexuality of happy people, p. 66

We are not told anything about Eric’s graying temples which gives him a little air of Georges Clooney, nor about his blue-gray eyes?

Presenting a woman through her physical beauty and her kindness and a man through his social and statistical intelligence: there is no denying Pascal de Sutter remains a man of his century.

Despite the real open-mindedness he shows in matters of sexual mores, his undeniable competence and erudition in matters of scientific studies on sexuality, it seems to me that he remains a man, with preferences, and that his libido is expressed in the margins more than its competence.
There is nothing wrong with finding your co-worker stylish and loving her green eyes. Reporting on it in a popular science book seems more questionable to me. But that’s still a small defect in this book, which really allows you to get a little idea, indeed, of the sexuality of people “who are doing well”.

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The sexuality of happy people, Pascal de Sutter • Mon blog sexo


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