The Cultural Context of Sexual Pleasure and Problems – Book Review

Sexuality is intrinsically linked to its cultural context and without understanding each person’s cultural environment, one can hardly know how to help them with their sexual concerns or problems. This collection of papers by sex therapists around the world serves as a fundamental guide for anyone delving into the field of sex therapy. But moreover, it creates a powerful statement about social inequity, and how the essential practice of sex therapy is understood and practiced so differently on different continents.

This is not just a collection of essays from the global north, where sex therapy and sexual openness are slightly more mature. The editors have managed to include chapters from Iran, Cameroon, Hong Kong, Russia, Brazil, Turkey and others, each focusing on issues particular to their locale, issues that might never be seen in Western clinics. And yet, therapists in cosmopolitan centres can be invaluably enriched when dealing with immigrants from these communities, or learning to think outside of the familiar Western box. There are so many hidden codes when it comes to sexuality that even experienced therapists are likely to discover something new in these rich texts.

Whereas sexuality therapist would be wise to read this book cover to cover, perhaps skimming those parts of the texts that detail well-used therapeutic methods, laypeople may find it no less fascinating. Since sexual functioning and dysfunction are an evergreen attraction, this is a particularly interesting stage to display the forces of globalization and localization. The level of secrecy that accompanies sexuality has left this area of research somewhat new and alluring and there are numerous examples of unsexy cultural practices which make for a fascinating journey.

The three initial chapters deal with ethnic or sexual minorities in North American culture, adding a further dimension to the multi-cultural presentation. However,  being underwhelming, in comparison with the following chapters, they might be better placed later on in the book. Yet, since this is as much a reference book as a page-turner (at least in parts), one can pick and choice their way through it. As with sex, though, (despite the excellent synopses by the editors) there is sometimes more to an essay than what meets the eye.


  • Edited by a psychologist-sex therapist and a sexuality researcher
  • 15 chapters by experts in sex therapy around the globe
  • Diverse selection of contributors
  • Each chapter includes case study/ies
  • Well-indexed
  • Richly referenced
  • Excellent resource for sex therapists
  • 402 pages



Routledge, 2013


Dinah Rates      

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