For de Botton, sex is not a giving capacity; it isn’t valuable in and of itself, and it doesn’t add to life through its own merits. Instead, sex is a means to an end. One end is procreation. The other — more thoroughly examined in the book — is the temporary relief from loneliness. The result is — and Alain de Botton doesn’t seem to have noticed this — that How To Think More about Sex is a book that is far more about loneliness and alienation than about sex itself. Because alienation is the book’s main concern, and because de Botton tells us that we all feel alienated by sex, the book is permeated by and never quite shakes the feeling of Original Sin; in other words, he assumes we all start from a fallen place, since we are born into loneliness. He asks us to reconsider our alienation, and believes that it can even be seen as a triumph. But his way of going about this is by demonizing sex.
When he writes about the ordeal of impotence, for instance, he tries to convince us that impotence is “an achievement of the ethical imagination,” because it excuses us from the imposition of initiating sex. Impotence is a gift of civilization that can stop us from giving in to the “free flow of animal impulses.”
Previous Dish on de Botton’s book here.