Book Review of
Joyous Sexuality: Healing from the Effects of Family Sexual Dysfunction
by Mic Hunter
(Review by Michele Babcock-Nice)
Dr. Mic Hunter has a wealth of knowledge and experience in psychologically-treating individuals who have experienced sexual trauma, sexual abuse, sexual dysfunction, and addictions. He believes in the positive influence and effects of people practicing The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as adapting them to psychologically-based issues in addition to alcoholism.
In his book, Joyous Sexuality: Healing from the Effects of Family Sexual Dysfunction, Dr. Hunter has again applied The Twelve Steps, as well as many valuable, beneficial, and thoughtful workbook-style questions in the treatment and recognition of family sexual dysfunction and individual sexual dysfunction as a result of the former. Dr. Hunter identifies and describes family sexual dysfunction, including many different styles and characteristics of it that are helpful for readers to know, understand, and reflect upon.
Dr. Hunter goes further by identifying and describing adult child issues related to family sexual dysfunction, unhealthy and healthy aspects of adult sexuality, and applying The Twelve Steps to family sexual dysfunction – as an individual – as a method of recovery. He not only identifies The Twelve Steps for use in conjunction with recovery from family sexual dysfunction, but also describes how they apply to recovery and provides personalized workbook questions for individuals to answer in an effort to identify, recognize, contemplate, and recover from past sexually dysfunctional experiences.
Dysfunction prevents the fulfillment of needs in a reasonable manner, and may include extremes of behavior. This also applies to families. In a sexually dysfunction family, there are attitudes, behaviors, or other interactions and communications that have a negative affect on the family members’ sexuality (p. 1). Rather than enjoying sexuality, “they end up being hurt by” it (p. 1).
Dr. Hunter identifies and describes “three basic extremes [that] are common in sexually dysfunction families: the overvaluation of sex, negative attitudes about sex, and sexual shutdown” (p. 2). In families that overvalue sex, “sex is the most important thing in life” (p. 2). People in such families have “sexuality as the predominant focus of most interactions,” and “they sexualize their emotions” (p. 2).
In sex-negative families, “sex is something to be feared, because it is seen to be dangerous, perhaps even evil” (p. 4). Dr. Hunter shares that such families may “enforce rigid rules about sexual behavior,” and when a person violates those rules, he or she feels unworthy and ashamed (p. 4). In the sexually shut-down family, “there is a nearly phobic response” to sex (p. 5). People in such families are hard at work in repressing their sexuality, ignoring children’s sexual development, and pretending not to notice sexual develop changes (p. 5). There are also families that combine the dysfunctional styles.
Members of the adult self-help group, Adult Children of Sexual Dysfunction (ACSD), identified ten main characteristics related to family sexual dysfunction when they were young, such characteristics affecting their behavior. Some of these characteristics include experiencing confusion or shame about sexuality, a lack of healthy or nourishing touch, and the experience of difficulty in establishing relationships that are intimate (p. 8).
Dr. Hunter goes on to identify, describe, and discuss each of the ten characteristics pinpointed by ACSD and provide his helpful, reflective workbook questions that personally assist individual readers in remembering and recognizing past sexual attitudes and/or experiences within their families. A few of Dr. Hunter’s questions in relation to these described characteristics include: “When you think about the other gender, how do you feel?” (p. 24); “How do you react now to being touched by others?” (p. 37); and “What relationship patterns have you noticed in your life” (p. 47).
Importantly in regard to the tenth characteristic of confusing sex with emotions, Dr. Hunter identifies and describes different types of intimacy, including physical, sexual, mental, emotional, and spiritual. One of the results of the tenth characteristic may be that people “sometimes leave groups or end friendships when they start to grow close” (p. 71). Also, those who sexually abuse children may misunderstand sexuality and sexual boundaries by stating that they are being intimate with the children (p. 71).
Dr. Hunter states that “perhaps the most destructive consequence of living as a child in a sexually dysfunctional family is the development of a shame-based identity” (p. 73). Even when the child grows into adulthood, he or she continues to be ashamed. Such identities stem from relationships that are abusive or neglectful (p. 73). In order to heal from the affects of such experiences, Dr. Hunter states that “safe, nurturing person-to-person interaction” is required (p. 73).
Following this, Dr. Hunter introduces The Twelve Steps as a guide for recovery from family sexual dysfunction. He identifies and describes each of the Steps, as well as associating his helpful workbook-style questions with them. For examples, in the area of powerlessness, Dr. Hunter asks the reader if he or she could obtain nourishing touch as a child (p. 81). In relation to admitting our defects, Dr. Hunter asks the reader to write a list of his or her character defects and to give examples (p 109). Regarding the experience of a spiritual awakening, Dr. Hunter asks what the reader understands about his or her past, and it’s effect on one’s present lifestyle and experiences (p. 129).
I recommend Dr. Hunter’s book, Joyous Sexuality: Healing from the Effects of Family Sexual Dysfunction, to those readers who are interested in discovering and healing from their past that may include sexual dysfunction, individual sexual dysfunction, and/or family sexual dysfunction. I also recommend Dr. Hunter’s book for reading by anyone who desires to increase their knowledge about the impact, influence, and effects of general attitudes and behaviors about sex.
For the person who is seeking to recover and heal from past sexually dysfunctional experiences, Dr. Hunter’s book is a treasure trove of understanding, knowledge, examples, questions, insights, and suggestions for recovery regarding it. For the reader who may simply be interested in increasing his or her knowledge related to sexuality, Joyous Sexuality: Healing from the Effects of Family Sexual Dysfunction is a valuable work on understanding different attitudes, interactions, communications, and behaviors regarding it.
Therefore, again, Dr. Hunter has tackled an issue that likely causes discomfort and pain for many, though he also provides the power of healing psychological understanding, insight, and recovery to it. This is another of Dr. Hunter’s valuable books on issues related to sex and sexuality, and how readers can increase their enjoyment of sex by working through past experiences that may have been negative or dysfunctional.
Please Note: New copies of this book are available for $5.00 each by directly contacting the author at: Dr. Mic Hunter, 357 Kellogg Boulevard East, St. Paul, Minnesota 55101.
Reviewer’s Note: Quoted material is included in this review with permission by Dr. Mic Hunter.
Hunter, M. (1992). Joyous Sexuality: Healing from the Effects of Family Sexual Dysfunction. Minneapolis, Minnesota: CompCare Publishers.