IPT Book Reviews

Title:

Sexual Attitudes: Myths and Realities   Positive Review Positive Review

Authors: Vern L. Bullough and Bonnie Bullough
Publisher: Prometheus Books, 1995

Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive
Amherst, NY 14228-2197
(800) 421-0351
$29.95 (p)

There are few people as experienced, erudite, and evenhanded in dealing with human sexuality as Vern and Bonnie Bullough. For many years their articles, presentations, and books have led the way in opening a path to reasoned discourse about sexuality. In this 281-page book, there is a detailed, clear, and illuminating presentation of many of the prevalent myths and misconceptions affecting our understanding of sexuality. Footnotes with references follow each chapter and the book ends with a useful index.

The first and possibly the most widespread myth is that Christianity has given the sex-negative cast to western civilization. The authors correctly and cogently point out that the roots of a hostile and punitive attitude toward sexuality derives from paganism, principally Greek philosophical dualism. It is not Christianity that made the world ascetic but the pagan world in which Christianity found itself that made Christianity ascetic.

The shift from viewing homosexuality as a mental disorder to removing it from the diagnostic nosology is thoroughly explored and interpreted. The authors understand that there has been a movement toward destigmatizing some sexual behaviors and welcome a rational acceptance of the heterogeneity of sexual behavior. However, they also understand there are some patterns of sexual behaviors that are destructive and harmful, including child molestation, rape, and sadism.

The one weakness in the book is the failure to perceive the likelihood of a vitriolic and vehement backlash of anti-sexuality that is emerging now. The authors see the sexual revolution as proceeding toward greater acceptance and a more calm and tolerant acceptance of sexuality. They see changes in society and structures such as the family, but did not perceive how the criminalization of sexuality would result in the marked increase in the number of persons, mostly men, imprisoned for sexual offenses.

There are few books that can match the breadth of knowledge, the extent observation, or the reasonableness of this volume. Anyone concerned with understanding what human sexuality is really like and what the problems are in attempting to guide and express our sexuality will benefit greatly from close attention to the material in this book.

Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies, Northfield, Minnesota.

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