Come As You Are

I started and finished Emily Nagoski’s book this past week, and it was incredibly refreshing. While there were pieces here and there that did not resonate with my experience or perspectives, overall her thesis validated some of the twists and turns that I have been experiencing with my sex life recently.

Her book is intended for cisgender women, as most of the research she pulls from uses cis women as participants. I think the information is likely interesting to many people.

Helpful and interesting pieces worth sharing (some of which are completely obvious but were inspiring to read nonetheless):

  • Her book encourages the reader to explore some of their greatest and less-great sexual experiences and to identify specific pieces that made those experiences great and less-great. While I have a fairly deep awareness of what gets me going, it was nice to see so many similarities across my experiences: newness, sex outside, built-up attraction and desire, and deep emotional connection to my partner. Not all of those things need to be present for me at all, but they are some of the foundational characteristics of a great sexual encounter for me.
  • The book is based on the dual control mode of sexual desire. Different from Masters and Johnson’s four phase model and Kaplan’s triphasic model, the dual control model recognizes that one must have desire before one can become aroused and experience any kind of climax. It conceptualizes desire as a system of brakes and accelerators: we all have the same parts organized in different ways which means that we all have different experiences with what will hit our brakes and hit our accelerators. Stress, both from internal and external sources, hits the brakes for most people.
  • She discusses the concepts of expectedness, enjoyment, and eagerness as distinct components of sexual arousal and desire. We will see, smell, hear a sexual stimulus and our body will expect sex, but this does not mean we enjoy it or are eager for it. We become desirous when we expect, enjoy, and are eager for something sexy.
  • Many more women than men (according to her research) experience responsive desire as opposed to spontaneous desire. Others experience context-dependent desire, or a mix of responsive and context-dependent desire. This piece in particular was very validating for me: recognizing that it is perfectly normal that I have to work to and have help from a partner to create a context and environment that eases up on my brakes and hits my accelerators more. For me, this means time to nurture our emotional and mental connection and to reconnect emotionally, physical touch that isn’t necessarily sexual, and letting go of daily stress together. I think I have always had these tendencies, but it is relatively new that I’m needing this kind of intentionality more and more.
  • Reading this book further emphasized to me that I feel sexier and more in the mood for sex when I feel good about myself, physically and emotionally. This is something that I’m still working on, and expect that I will always be working on.
  • Her book emphasizes mindfulness, emotion coaching, and the Health at Every Size movement as lenses through which to gain self awareness and self compassion, thereby decreasing stress and increasing desire. All are highly valuable concepts.

I wish that she had the space in the book to address the ebb and flow of desire in nonmonogamous relationships, or to touch more on casual sex. Otherwise, it is a great read. Please comment if you have read it and what you thought!

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