Book review: “Come As You Are”, Emily Nagoski

Happy Saturday folks!

So I haven’t written a post in a while, and whilst currently I’m feeling good about sex (the product of nearly two years hard slog figuring out my “off-switches”!) I wanted to reflect on my journey and where it started. And that, my friends, was in part down to this book.

You can read more about beginning my journey to address the lack of desire to have sex here, but suffice to say- I was worried about the future and overwhelmed at how on earth I’d get my libido back.

I had a sneaking suspicion nibbling at my insides that actually- perhaps I was broken.

I worried I’d never recover that shred of desire I had before, and that I was going to have to lose my relationship and surrender myself to miserable, unwanted sex forever more. Maybe even no sex.

A life I was NOT looking forwards to.

Then, cue Nagoski.

I’d come across her book online after my frantic googling of “help, I’m not bothered about sex”, and ordered the book from Amazon with the hope that something might prove useful.

I’d never ever ordered any books that dealt with sex before, and I share my Prime account with my family, so it was rather embarrassing ordering it and just hoping no one checked the history of the account! A brazen purchase, if you will, but it turns out its the best tenner I’ve ever spent.

The book begins with a gentle introduction called “Yes, you are normal”.

One of my greatest fears was that there was something wrong with me, so reading her kind words convincing me that yes, I was normal, was incredible.

But there was more. SO much more.

She then introduces the concept that for our whole lives we’ve been lied to about sex.

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Our beliefs about sex often come from male behaviour which is ASSUMED to be the same in women. For example:

  • because men orgasm during penis-in-vagina sex, women should too- and if they don’t, they are broken
  • because men experience out-of-the-blue spontaneous desire, women should too, and if they don’t- they are also broken

But Emily suggests this is wrong. Hallelujah! And so the rest of the book then spends time debunking all of the assumptions we’ve made about men and women and sex over the years.

Emily gently interweaves academic text, experiences she or people she has met have had, with the calm reassurance that YOU ARE NORMAL. She goes through everything from mental health, to what a vagina looks like, to gender roles and biology to help us explain and explore women’s bodies and desires in real terms.

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In particular what stood out for me was the idea of the dual-control model. This is the concept that we all have a sexual brake, and a sexual accelerator.

Again, the assumption has always been that pushing the accelerator down as hard as you can (e.g. buying new lingerie, booking a dirty weekend away) revamps a flagging sex drive. But Nagoski insists that as much as you push down your accelerator , it won’t make any difference: if your brake is pushed down, you ain’t going anywhere.

The book talks about how women often have multiple (and more) brakes than men, so in fact focussing on your “off switches” is better than pushing more “on switches”.

This concept blew my mind.

I’d always assumed I needed to do more, not…. less?

Stress and anxiety are often the main “off switches” for women. Emily talks you through why this is- and the biology behind why stress shuts us down is fascinating (so much so that I now do exercise!!).

So, dear reader, this was where I picked up my story and made stress the first thing I wanted to target to see if reducing the pressure on me might lift my libido. You can read more about stress and your sex drive here.

Also striking was her assertion about responsive and impulsive desire. She talks about the sexual response cycle, which has always (as mentioned earlier) suggested that out-of -the-blue, impulsive desire is the only model of wanting sex.

Yet, Emily tells us that in fact, most women’s desire instead is prompted by an “erotic context”- basically our desire arises from AFTER being stimulated, not before. And this is also a totally NORMAL response.

If the world knew this, how much would our understanding of sex, desire, initiation and approach change?

Along with her insistence of normality, and validation of women’s experience, her words were music to my ears. Needless to say, I would one thousand percent recommend this book to ANY woman- low sex drive or not. It’s an incredible resource that should be the foundational text for anyone interested in exploring their sexuality.

My only criticism is that the book, despite the warm insistence of my normality at having a “responsive” style of desire, STILL left me wanting to be more impulsive.

Perhaps impulsive desire as the only form of sexual expression that is seen as socially accepted has left me feeling like any other is a traitor or incorrect? And I’ve so wholehearted swallowed the lie we’ve been sold that I can’t accept another way of being.

Or, I’ve a sneaky suspicion that it is in fact impulsive desire that makes me feel alive.

This is simply because it has that element of control. If you desire sex out of the blue, you take the initiative because YOU want it, not because you’re playing second fiddle to someone else’s desires.

You take control rather than passively respond to someone else’s libido. And having control over your sexuality is sexy, right?

For me now, this is really where my story begins. 

Love,

L

xxx

P.S. Have you read the book? What did you enjoy about it? Do you prefer impulsive or responsive sexuality- or can you experience both?

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