Sunday, September 26, 2010

Review of the Book Healing Sex

I wanted to read Healing Sex because I have experienced a sexual assault and I wanted to see how much healing I still had to go through and finalize my personal healing process. As I feel already sexually empowered, I was mostly interested in the psychological aspect of healing than the physical one.

Healing Sex: A mind-body approach to healing sexual trauma focuses on helping the reader reconnect with her body and be able to become sexually empowered. This book covers almost everything you need to know about sex if you start from scratch, from masturbating to exploring BDSM. There are even Sex Guide Exercises at the end of each chapter to guide your healing process. Even if ultimately the book is a helpful tool for someone whose sexual life is deeply affected as a result of sexual assault or abuse, there are many things that I did not like in this Readable Back Coverbook.

This book is the second edition to an original book titled The Survivor’s Guide to Sex: How to Have  an Empowered Sex Life After Child Sexual Abuse. They mention that they added a new introduction and an updated bibliography and resource section (Readable on the back cover shown). However, they failed at editing the whole book to target a larger audience. This makes women who have been sexually abused when they were children the target audience. Since the editing did not affect the target audience, not one single testimonial is from a man. So even if the author claims to be sex positive, it feels very sexist and narrow-minded to ignore the fact that men and boys can be sexually abused too. Since she talked to the reader as ‘you’, it would not have been hard to include them as well.

Since it has the size of a textbook with a page count of 267, I could not help but think how they managed to have so much to say about the topic and I was really curious about reading it. For comparison, I took a picture of the book next to a mass market paperback. Well, in the end, this book should have been edited to be more concise and to cut off some repetitions. In the parts where she rants about her content, she becomes very repetitive within, and across, chapters. I’ve Healing Sexeven found a sentence copy-pasted a few pages after the first occurrence and that should also give you an idea of the level of tolerance for other nearly-identical sentences.

The author Staci Hanes switches often between informational speech, personal comments, and rhetorical questions. Her style is mostly informal, and at the beginning of the book, especially in the original introduction, she speaks about her own experience of sexual abuse as a child. This is even supported by the huge amount of testimonials written in italic and inserted more or less logically between chapters. If at first this feature is interesting and can make you feel like you are not alone, ultimately, I felt like there were way too many and their usefulness is sometimes dubious and become more distracting than anything else.

Since the author is a victim of sexual abuse, there are a lot of comments about child abuse throughout the book; they did not edit out all the ‘sexual child abuse’ found at every few pages. Sexual child abuse is sometimes described as the most horrible experience. Even if I agree that it is a bad experience, it still introduces a comparison between other types of sexual trauma and assaults. As a result, if you have been abused as an adult, you may actually feel like your own experience is being diminished for not being as traumatic as theirs. And trust me, it really gets annoying unless you have been sexually abused as a child yourself. I also got tired of the term ‘survivor’ and never stopped wondering why they never used the word ‘victim’.

The author seems to have a hard time staying focused on one topic, organizing her thoughts logically, and often cross-referenced chapters, which I did not like. It seemed like she really had a lot to say and her thoughts sometimes seem chaotic in the way she can jump from one topic to another. Unless her editor was not doing her job, it gives the impression that the author was too self-absorbed or proud to take her advice and accept some changes to the content. Even the way the chapters were named and their order show how much the book needs some major editing for logical organization. I know I’m being very critical, but at one point, the style of the author really got on my nerves. And seriously, why put those subtitles in the chapters’ title?

The chapters are broken down like this:

  1. Safety, Somatics, and Sexual Healing
  2. Desire and Pleasure
  3. Dissociation
  4. Self-Denial
  5. Sexual Response and Anatomy: Information is Power
  6. Masturbation and Self-Healing
  7. Consent and Boundaries: The “Yes”, “No” and “Maybe” of Sex
  8. Partner Sex
  9. Oral Sex
  10. Penetration
  11. Embracing Triggers
  12. The Emotions of Healing: You Gotta Feel Your Way Out of This
  13. S/M, Role-Playing, and Fantasy
  14. Sex Toys and Accoutrements
  15. Spiritual Healing
  16. Intimacy and Self-Forgiveness
  17. Partnering with Survivors of Sexual Abuse
  18. Your Powerful Sexual Self: Who Are You Becoming?
  19. Bibliography and Resources

There are some drawn cartoonish illustrations that could have been completely removed because they bring nothing useful to the content. The ones that should have been the most helpful are the anatomy illustrations, but they are side views of the reproductive system. In my book, that’s a huge fail, since the author asks the reader to take a mirror and compare how she looks to that. Good luck finding the clitoris. The others can even display sex toys with smiley faces. I get it thatInside View with Illustration they wanted to make them non-threatening, but seriously, what were they thinking?

Actually, reading this book is like assisting a motivational speaker’s lecture about healing from sexual assault as a child and you share the room with other people. It’s still nice to make you fell ‘not alone’ in case you are not interested in joining a real support group. However, since the testimonials are from women sexually abused as children, sometimes from incest, there can be a limit to how much you can relate to. Honestly, some testimonials even give some disturbing details about incestuous event that state the parental connection and activity, which can put off more than one reader.

I was not interested in going through the ‘focus group’ experience and I know I was not able to really appreciate it as much as I expected, but if this is something that you are looking for, this might be a very good introduction to initiating your healing experience. Otherwise, you might want to hope for a third edition.

Healing Sex is available at the Babeland sex toy store.

Kynky Kytty

This item was received for free in exchange for an unbiased review. This review is in compliance with the FTC guidelines.

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