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Monday Reviews: Open

November 05, 2012
The CSPH

Every Monday, The CSPH takes a look at a book or film focusing on an aspect of sexuality. This week, we will be taking a look at Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage by Jenny Block!

In a society where the comfort and security of a monogamous relationship reigns, the thought of an open marriage intimidates many people due to the confusion and hurt that they assume would be inherently part of such a relationship. Thus, these individuals continue to shame and pass judgment on those who engage in such behaviors in both conscious and subconscious ways. However, in this book, we meet Jenny Block. An author, essayist, and advocate for open marriages, Block writes for a variety of websites and has appeared on many television shows to discuss relationships. Her book has been reviewed both nationally and internationally in a number of different publications, and received the Lambda Literary Award in 2008.

In Open, Block takes the opportunity to put everything on the table—such as her college experiences, her previous partners, her marriage, her girlfriend, etc.—enabling readers to explore her happiness and learn how she traveled this path. Expertly recalling and describing her thoughts and emotions throughout different moments of her life, she grapples with society’s definition of happiness and marriage, despite knowing her own sexual needs and how she wanted them to be met. Was she weird, or is society weird? As she describes her life, Block takes tremendous care to address the majority of society’s concerns against open marriage, such as those that pertain to jealousy and the safety of her daughter. She vehemently asserts that the public should consider an open marriage as viable of an option as a monogamous marriage, because, ultimately, there are many forms of “happily ever after.”

Nevertheless, despite her ability to present arguments and provide numerous rebuttals, the style of her writing becomes overdone as the book progresses. In many ways, reading this book is like chatting with a friend—a friend that, even though you love her to death, will not shut up and give you a second to talk or breathe. While you’re fascinated at the beginning, being completely enthralled in a new subject, by the end, it’s getting late and you want to go home. Block’s approach of rationalizing her open marriage by taking us through her life seems plausible; however, she spends more time making an argument than giving the audience time to soak everything in and think on their own.

In many ways, this book is a good choice if the reader is new to the subject of open marriages because Block’s example proves to be an exemplary one, a relationship where she considers her own needs, desires, and happiness. It’s empowering to be able to read about someone taking control of her life and creating a life that she enjoys, despite what society thinks. However, I would suggest taking this book slowly. Read one chapter a day. Give yourself a chance to reflect and make up your own mind, just like she did.