July 3, 2005
Rarely will you find a women’s magazine that isn’t touting sex tips or a movie or novel that doesn’t contain some sexual content. But despite the prevalence of sex in the popular culture, attorney and erotic arts activist Ince argues that “erotophobia,” the powerful and irrational fear of our own sexuality, is prevalent, contagious and continuing to shape American attitudes towards human sexuality.
The bulk of the book explores the three distinct forces that fuel erotophobia: “antisexualism,” the irrational negative response to harmless sexual expression; “nasty sex,” which includes rape and violent pornography; and “rigidity,” the inability to enjoy “playful and spontaneous” sex. Ince’s assertion that negative views of sex and sexual expression are linked to social conservatism is familiar.
More noteworthy is his attempt to link sexual fear and repression with political power and social hierarchy. By comparing countries with varying levels of social stratification, Ince attempts to show that “irrational fears about sex help produce social inequality.”
Though Ince’s analysis isn’t scientific, he makes some salient points about the role of erotophobia in patriarchal societies and in religious communities. Ultimately, however, many of his arguments about the unhealthy persistence of erotophobia feel redundant; anyone interested in the causes and effects of sexual repression will already be well versed in many of them. But for those looking for an accessible primer on the subject, this book could be illuminating.