Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence

Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence

by Esther Perel

NOOK Book(eBook)

View All Available Formats & Editions

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now


A New York City therapist examines the paradoxical relationship between domesticity and sexual desire and explains what it takes to bring lust home.

One of the world’s most respected voices on erotic intelligence, Esther Perel offers a bold, provocative new take on intimacy and sex. Mating in Captivity invites us to explore the paradoxical union of domesticity and sexual desire, and explains what it takes to bring lust home.

Drawing on more than twenty years of experience as a couples therapist, Perel examines the complexities of sustaining desire. Through case studies and lively discussion, Perel demonstrates how more exciting, playful, and even poetic sex is possible in long-term relationships. Wise, witty, and as revelatory as it is straightforward, Mating in Captivity is a sensational book that will transform the way you live and love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061835223
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 30,027
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author Esther Perel is recognized as one of today’s most insightful and original voices on modern relationships. Fluent in nine languages, she helms a therapy practice in New York City and serves as an organizational consultant for Fortune 500 companies around the world. Her celebrated TED talks have garnered nearly 20 million views and her international bestseller Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence became a global phenomenon translated into 24 languages. Her newest book is New York Times bestseller The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity (HarperCollins).

Perel is also an executive producer and host of the popular Audible original podcast Where Should We Begin?

Read an Excerpt

Mating in Captivity

Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic
By Esther Perel


Copyright © 2006 Esther Perel
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-06-075363-3

Chapter One

From Adventure to Captivity

Why the Quest for Security Saps Erotic Vitality

The original primordial fire of eroticism is sexuality; it raises the red flame of eroticism, which in turn raises and feeds another flame, tremulous and blue. It is the flame of love and eroticism. The double flame of life. -Octavio Paz, The Double Flame

Parties in New York City are like anthropological field trips-you never know whom you'll meet or what you'll find. Recently I was milling around a self-consciously hip event, and, as is typical in this city of high achievers, before being asked my name I was asked what I do. I answered, "I'm a therapist, and I'm writing a book." The handsome young man standing next to me was also working on a book. "What are you writing about?" I asked him. "Physics," he answered. Politely, I mustered the next question, "What kind of physics?" I can't remember what his answer was, because the conversation about physics ended abruptly when someone asked me, "And you? What's your book about?" "Couples and eroticism," I answered.

Never was my Q rating as high-at parties, in cabs, at the nail salon, on airplanes, with teenagers, with my husband, you name it-as when I began writing abook about sex. I realize that there are certain topics that chase people away and others that act like magnets. People talk to me. Of course, that doesn't mean they tell me the truth. If there's one topic that invites concealment, it's this one.

"What about couples and eroticism?" someone asks.

"I'm writing about the nature of sexual desire," I reply. "I want to know if it's possible to keep desire alive in a long-term relationship, to avoid its usual wear."

"You don't necessarily need love for sex, but you need sex in love," says a man who's been standing on the sidelines, still undecided about which conversation to join.

"You focus mainly on married couples? Straight couples?" another asks. Read: is this book also about me? I reassure him, "I'm looking at myriad couples. Straight, gay, young, old, committed, and undecided."

I tell them I want to know how, or if, we can hold on to a sense of aliveness and excitement in our relationships. Is there something inherent in commitment that deadens desire? Can we ever maintain security without succumbing to monotony? I wonder if we can preserve a sense of the poetic, of what Octavio Paz calls the double flame of love and eroticism.

I've had this conversation many times, and the comments I heard at this party were hardly novel.

"Can't be done."

"Well, that's the whole problem of monogamy, isn't it?"

"That's why I don't commit. It has nothing to do with fear. I just hate boring sex."

"Desire over time? What about desire for one night?"

"Relationships evolve. Passion turns into something else."

"I gave up on passion when I had kids."

"Look, there are men you sleep with and men you marry."

As often happens in a public discussion, the most complex issues tend to polarize in a flash, and nuance is replaced with caricature. Hence the division between the romantics and the realists. The romantics refuse a life without passion; they swear that they'll never give up on true love. They are the perennial seekers, looking for the person with whom desire will never fizzle. Every time desire does wane, they conclude that love is gone. If eros is in decline, love must be on its deathbed. They mourn the loss of excitement and fear settling down.

At the opposite extreme are the realists. They say that enduring love is more important than hot sex, and that passion makes people do stupid things. It's dangerous, it creates havoc, and it's a weak foundation for marriage. In the immortal words of Marge Simpson, "Passion is for teenagers and foreigners." For the realists, maturity prevails. The initial excitement grows into something else-deep love, mutual respect, shared history, and companionship. Diminishing desire is inescapable. You are expected to tough it out and grow up.

As the conversation unfolds, the two camps eye each other with a complex alloy of pity, tenderness, envy, exasperation, and outright scorn. But while they position themselves at opposite ends of the spectrum, both agree with the fundamental premise that passion cools over time.

"Some of you resist the loss of intensity, some of you accept it, but all of you seem to believe that desire fades. What you disagree on is just how important the loss really is," I comment. Romantics value intensity over stability. Realists value security over passion. But both are often disappointed, for few people can live happily at either extreme.

Invariably, I'm asked if my book offers a solution. What can people do? Hidden behind this question looms a secret longing for the élan vital, the surge of erotic energy that marks our aliveness. Whatever safety and security people have persuaded themselves to settle for, they still very much want this force in their lives. So I've become acutely attuned to the moment when all these ruminations about the inevitable loss of passion turn into expressions of hope. The real questions are these: Can we have both love and desire in the same relationship over time? How? What exactly would that kind of relationship be?

The Anchor and the Wave

Call me an idealist, but I believe that love and desire are not mutually exclusive, they just don't always take place at the same time. In fact, security and passion are two separate, fundamental human needs that spring from different motives and tend to pull us in different directions. In his book Can Love Last? the infinitely thoughtful psychoanalyst Stephen Mitchell offers a framework for thinking about this conundrum. As he explains it, we all need security: permanence, reliability, stability, and continuity. These rooting, nesting instincts ground us in our human experience. But we also have a need for novelty and change, generative forces that give life fullness and vibrancy. Here risk and adventure loom large. We're walking contradictions, seeking safety and predictability on one hand and thriving on diversity on the other.


Excerpted from Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel Copyright © 2006 by Esther Perel . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Mating in Captivity 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Esther Perel is a ¿couples therapist¿ who deals with all types of human couples be they heterosexual, lesbian, gay, mixed race, mixed religion, and most any other category where eroticism and/or sexual behavior is involved. She tells it like it is through her years of therapy practice with many humans. While I had a hard time getting into this book, I can understand where it would be a great asset to many couples regardless of age, race, sex, or personal background. The author compares sex in the modern world in the United States as it compares to other areas of the world. We in the United States are more aggressive in sexual behavior but we are also too self worried about our personal actions and performance compared to many other areas of the world. The comparison of eroticism and sex is completely different. The author goes to great lengths to attempt to explain these differences. Her one on one and couples therapy goes into many aspects of what many call love, some mistaking love for sex. She will have sessions with a couple and then, if needed, separate them to delve deeper into their problems. Many of today¿s marriage problems are due not only to sexual problems but the ability to assume each partners role in their marriage how it came about how their daily lives affect their bedroom life how outside influences such as work affect both partners how children sometimes cause a blockade and how to resolve these problem areas before they have gone so far that the marriage is broken. The book explains various types of groups that her patients have spoken about in their therapy and the suggestions she has rendered to them. Group consensual sex, sex with someone outside the marriage, and sexual encounters in ¿swingers¿ groups, all have helped some but have also taken their life in reverse. The use of fantasies by each mate is described quite deeply with its benefits and pitfalls. The bringing of more intimacy into a couples life and how it enhances both. She explains that sex is not the answer to everything even though it was a major part of their early marriage it cannot exist as the only part of a marriage in order to keep it flowing smoothly. As an older person reading this book I really did not learn much for my age group but I could equate many a family and friend needing some of the therapy this book gives freely. Can it save a marriage or a union? Possibly so by directing them down a new and steadier path towards happiness in their bedroom and in their total lives even with children in those lives that might be creating a block for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's about time somebody said the obvious, that the same old/same old does chip away at a couple's sex drive. Great book that makes you feel OK if you sometimes don't want to 'Play by the rules' in bed or if that doesn't always turn you on. Buy 'The French Maid' book of fantasies (by MacLeod) to go along with this since it lets you pretend your somebody else while your having sex. Politically incorrect, but feels goooooood......
Lilac_Lily01 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book came at exactly the right time for me. It addresses an issue that I have been thinking about for a while. Sex in committed relationships. Why is it that even though you grow closer and closer to your partner that the passion in your sex life just dwindles away? The author of "Mating in Captivity" seems to have found the answers to that. Esther Perel is a couples therapist and with the help of some case studies from her practice she illustrates how different aspects of our domestic life are holding us back from experiencing earth shattering passion with our life partners. This book delivers new insights that other books on sex in marriages usually lack. Instead of advising to do whatever it takes to get closer to your partner and schedule time for sex, it suggests to emphasize one's independence and uniqueness. This in turn will create more of a gap between partners which seems to be necessary in order to have great sex. I was hoping for a little more of guide on how to reconcile the erotic and the domestic. But then again Perel's intention wasn't on writing a How-To- Book. Nonetheless this book will open your eyes if you've ever wondered why your married sex life is nothing compared to your dating sex life back in the days.
jlo2010 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reconciling Cliché and Popular SociologyBy Jeffrey L. OttoOn a crowded bus last week, my eight year old son couldn¿t help but inquire about the title of Esther Perel¿s debut book, "Mating in Captivity : Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic." ¿What¿s `mating¿ mean, dad? And `cap¿tiv¿ity¿?¿ With numerous ears besides his own eager to hear my reply, I resorted to cheap humor that passed by him as surely as hot sex passes by Perel¿s patients throughout this book. ¿Mating,¿ I told him, ¿is finding someone to love and captivity is what happens after that.¿ Perel¿s central premise is succinctly stated early on and aptly summarized in a piece of her own counsel. "I point out to Adele that if we are to maintain desire with one person over time we must be able to bring a sense of unknown into a familiar space." Adele, it seems, has been suffering from ¿contemporary angst¿ and now stands in as proxy to the larger condition that many face regarding sex within committed long-term relationships.In the pages that follow, a cast of stereotypical characters (her clients) is rolled out for the reader while the soothsayer herself dispenses meaning to truth. The writing is airy, and even at times elegant, but sadly only rarely achieves the intensity that the topic deserves. Throughout, it¿s never quite clear whether this is a legitimate self-help manual or a series of slightly tawdry, Springeresque sketches.My own sensibilities would have preferred the author to engage in a more rigorous analysis of both the psychology and the anthropology attendant in the complexity of sexual relations within (semi)permanent relationships¿in other words more Barthes, de Beauvoir, and Fisher¿and less emphasis on the self-selected and voyeurized accounts of Alan, Adele, Zoë, Naomi, and Jed, among others.The book was not without its highlights, however. In a well-written chapter titled ¿The Pitfalls of Modern Intimacy,¿ Perel deftly draws out the consequent logic of removing pragmatism from the realm of relationship building. Using romantic love as a measure to assess long-term compatibility, we create unreasonable expectations about the role of passion in providing the sustenance of permanency; expectations that can hardly be met by self as emotion laden being, let alone by the self as orchestrated by a never ending series of neuro-chemical carbon based reactions.In another section, Perel usefully describes the limitations of the spoken word in the pursuit of everlasting sexual bliss. Her advice on the matter? Couples should start by purging the feminized language of emotion from the bedroom where, instead, we might reintroduce the carnal ¿mother tongue¿ that is our body. I¿m reminded here of a passage from Monica Ali¿s Brick Lane: ¿He was a man and he spoke as a man. He was not mired in words. He did not talk and talk until he was not certain of anything.¿ (Of course, here the protagonist was comparing her lover, a man of few words, to her husband, a man of many!) Yet, agree or disagree, it defies convention regarding the constitution of stable and happy relationships.Finally, a subsequent chapter on monogamy convincingly points out that despite the breakdown of many sexual taboos in our society (homosexuality, premarital sex, birth control) Americans remain steadfastly committed to monogamy as a singular ideal within all types of relationships. During a recent conversation with a friend and colleague who is very open and accepting of alternative sexualities and is generally unflinchingly supportive of the goals of the American cultural left, the issue of monogamy and politics arose. And despite her predilection for progressive thought, she quickly staked out well trodden normative terrain, saying that ¿any man who cheats on his wife is a complete dirtbag.¿ Perel, however, correctly points out that for many couples, ¿fidelity is defined not by sexual exclusivity but by the strength of their commitment¿ and argues that monogamy and its alte
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago