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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Review of THE EAST, THE WEST, AND SEX: That's Right, He Said "Fleshpots"

"The East, the West, and Sex" is the best sort of book about sex: It is replete with anecdotes from history that titillate as they inform and observations on human nature that amuse as they illuminate, all delivered in language and tone that is broadly moral without being moralizing and certainly far from prudish. To his credit, Mr. Bernstein strives hard to avoid prurience, or even the suggestion of it, although occasionally he does drop his guard, as when he writes of Western men being "powerfully drawn to the slim, small-boned, black-haired women of Asia, more plumlike than melonlike of breast, spare rather than full of buttocks and hips."

Mr. Bernstein's survey of Westerners in the fleshpots of the East -- ranging from the 17th century to the present -- is actually cultural history with a point, an attempt to show that nonmonogamous sex in the Orient (at least for men in power) long carried no contingent connotation of sin and was, in fact, a natural part of the masculine condition. While Christian scolds of old viewed such easy sexual possibility as clinching proof of Eastern degeneracy, the more worldly among Western men saw in the East an opportunity for liberation -- for a breaking of the shackles they wore, perforce, in London, Lisbon or Rotterdam, before the West's own sexual revolution.

link: Seeking Pleasure Far From Home -


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