Book reviews

A couple of really nice online reviews of my book this week. BJ Epstein for Wales Art Review, who engages with the idea of anti self-help self-help books, and Fred Toates on Society Matters who explores the resonances and tensions between my ideas and biological psychology.

BJ Epstein writes…

We all live with the unspoken knowledge that there are certain rules we have to follow or fulfil when it comes to relationships. For example, for each person there’s “the one” – the one mate who will complete us and be everything to us. And conflict in relationships is a problem, and having conflicts might suggest that your partner is not “the one”. And being attractive is essential because that’s how you’ll find and keep “the one”. And once you find “the one”, the relationship must be monogamous and must remain sexual throughout your lives. And romantic relationships are more important than friendships or other types of relationships. And you shouldn’t speak to your exes after you’ve separated from them, because obviously they weren’t “the one” and there’s nothing that a relationship with them can offer you. And so on.

But actually, as Meg Barker points out in her accessible and important book, Rewriting the Rules, we need to question these rules. They may be holding us back, causing us to be unhappy, making our relationships unsuccessful. Reflecting on them might make us aware of what’s not working for us, but it could even make us reject some of these rules. We can even – gasp! – come up with different ways of living. Read more…

Fred Toates writes…

This is a beautifully written and profound book that is laced with wisdom and humour, full of quirky and novel bits of insight and advice. It is very clearly written and I am happy to recommend it most strongly. I believe that any of us could greatly benefit from reading this study (I certainly have) and discover much unexpected insights into ourselves and our way of dealing with others. Couples, particularly at times of conflict, would probably gain much by both parties discussing together its message.

The basic underlying theme that runs throughout the study is that the rules by which we lead our sexual and romantic lives are open to question and to be undermined. The criterion of whether they should be undermined is essentially a pragmatic one – are these rules really working for you? However, rather than being an egoist’s DIY manual, it is very much grounded in sound ethical principles. I understand these to be that you can, indeed should, experiment, bend and challenge rules and do what you want provided that you are not hurting or being coercive towards another in the process. This seems like an excellent criterion to me and one which would relieve many people of their remorseless stress, discomfort and guilt. Read more…

Thanks so much to BJ and Fred.

Meg-John (MJ) Barker (they/them) is a writer, zine-maker, collaborator, contemplative practitioner, and friend. They are the author of a number of zines and popular books on sex, gender, and relationships, including graphic guides to Queer, Gender, and Sexuality (with Jules Scheele), and How To Understand Your Gender, Sexuality and Relationships (with Alex Iantaffi).



  1. Alan M

    26 November

    I’ve posted a review and a summary of media attention for the book at Polyamory in the News:


    Alan M.

    • megbarkerpsych

      26 November

      Thanks so much Alan, I appreciate it.