Sexual Awareness: Your Guide to Healthy Couple Sexuality

By Barry McCarthy and Emily McCarthy

Reviewed by Dan Berkowitz

Learn more

Now in its fifth edition since its original publication in 1975, Barry and Emily McCarthy’s Sexual Awareness is still the go-to book for couples who want to learn more about healthy sexuality. Each of the 19 chapters deals with one specific area. Examples include “Self-Exploration and Masturbation,” “Your Sexual Voice” and “Couple Sexual Desire.” Written in a formal, objective manner, as well as from a position of authority and knowledge, Sexual Awareness is without question an important resource for all things sexual.

The McCarthys state their aim in the book’s introduction:

[This book] is designed to help people—especially married and serious couples—enhance sexual awareness, communication, feelings, and function… Our goal is to increase sexual awareness and acceptance, which lead to the new mantra for healthy couple sexuality: enhanced desire, pleasure, eroticism, and satisfaction.

The McCarthys, though, are quick to caution that the book “is not do-it-yourself sex therapy” and “is not a substitute for therapy.”

What the book offers, however, are techniques, exercises and information that can aid “healthy couple sexuality.” Nothing is meant to be a panacea. The book can help fix myriad problems, but if there is true psychological unrest at the root of the couple’s struggle, then actual couples therapy might be the prudent approach. That said, for more acute problems, as well as for enhancing a sexual relationship, Sexual Awareness is a golden resource.

A nice update that clearly was possible in the book’s original publication are the topic of sex addiction and Internet pornography. The McCarthys write:

It is crucial to recognize that a minority of men (fewer than one in five) do misuse porn in a manner that subverts healthy sexuality for themselves and their intimate relationship. In that situation, the compulsive, addictive use of Internet porn must be confronted and changed because it is destructive for both individual and couple sexuality.

One of the key problems the McCarthys point to is that when most men masturbate they are orgasm-driven. That is, they do not take in the whole experience, so to speak. It is a mindless act used as a means to an end. Not only is this mindset unhealthy, but it can also lead to “goal-oriented sex performance.” As the McCarthys point out, sex between a couple should not necessarily be about reaching orgasm; there should not necessarily be an established goal.

Couples, instead, need to be, to use the book’s term, aware of what is occurring. There needs to be a greater degree of mindfulness during sex. The McCarthys write: “So much sexual activity is goal-oriented and intercourse-oriented that sensual and sexual awareness is inhibited by the rush to intercourse and orgasm.” They continue: “Intercourse is not the only means of sexual expression, nor does sex equal intercourse.”

A reoccurring theme in Sexual Awareness is that what is right for one person is not necessarily right for another. And by extension, what is right for one couple is not necessarily right for another. In a healthy sexual relationship, the partners must work together. Not only must there be open lines of communication, but there must also be a willingness to err.

“There is a romantic myth that if you are in love and communicate, sex always works well,” the McCarthys write. This, however, is not the case. “There are loving couples who communicate feelings and work together in parenting yet are unable to transfer this caring and sharing to sexual function. Communication is necessary but not sufficient. To overcome sexual problems, you need to learn and practice sexual communication and psychosexual skills.”

These skills can be learned through the techniques and exercises the McCarthys offer throughout the book. Naturally, by experimenting with these exercises, couples can begin to develop heightened sexual awareness and intimacy.

Whether it is explaining the importance of “afterplay,” or detailing the intercourse traps couples can fall into, the McCarthys continually submit comforting, reassuring wisdom: no person or couple is in this alone. Through open communication, as well as an open mind, couples can make sex work for them. Yes, some problems are bigger than others, but, as some might say, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Sexual Awareness: Your Guide to Healthy Couple Sexuality
By Barry McCarthy and Emily McCarthy
Routledge (5th edition): March 19, 2012
Paperback, 263 pages
$19.95

Psych Central's Recommendation:
Worth Your Time! +++

Your Recommendation: (if you've read this book)
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (11 votes, average: 2.82 out of 5)
Loading...Loading...

Want to buy the book or learn more?

Check out the book on Amazon.com!


 

APA Reference
Berkowitz, D. (2012). Sexual Awareness: Your Guide to Healthy Couple Sexuality. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/sexual-awareness-your-guide-to-healthy-couple-sexuality/00012164
Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter


Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code



Users Online: 12868
Join Us Now!