My favorite sex book is Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski, PhD. She is an expert in human sexuality and brings a fresh perspective. I love that she debunks so many of the ideas that we were taught were “normal” about our bodies/minds that are really just cultural garbage. Her voice is a blend of a nurturing, supportive friend and a wicked smart research scientist. She uses this voice to teach you how your brain works and how you can optimize it to improve your sex life. Please check out her book for yourself. On a personal note, I loved the audible version of this book. It was 14 hours but it flew by and is read by the author.
Here are some concepts from the book that really resonated with me.
1. Another shout out for Mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness helps increase sexual pleasure and desires. We may think that mindfulness helps us improve sex because of increases awareness. Actually, the concept of non-judgement is what set folks free to enjoy their experience. Think about a sexual encounter when you get rid of the shoulds- what your body should look like, what your partners body should look like, how you should feel about your partner, etc. Imagine how liberating it would be for those should messages to be silenced and simply enjoy what is.
2. Spontaneous vs Receptive Desire This concept is both helpful and liberating. Most of us grew up with the notion that sexual desire just happens. You see someone attractive and Shazam– the fire of desire ignites. This type of desire is spontaneous desire. There are lots of folks that are normal and healthy and don’t experience desire this way at all. They experience receptive desire– meaning that they don’t start wanting sex until they are already experiencing pleasure. They like pleasure and have to reach a critical threshold before that liking turns into wanting. Everyone is different, but commonly women experience receptive desire more than spontaneous desire. When desire styles are different, this can create some tension in a relationship where one partner is constantly initiating and the other never does.
If the spontaneous desire partner keeps getting rejected, that partner may stop initiating. This doesn’t have to happen.If both partners are aware of how their desire styles differ, then they can to work to create space to be open to pleasure without the expectation that every pleasurable experience has to lead to sex. The receptive desire partner can receive pleasure and enjoy that experience, a kiss, a touch, whatever. In the old model she thinks – “you want sex, I don’t want sex. I should stop the kissing or touching or whatever because I don’t want sex now”. In the model where she understands receptive desire she may think, “I don’t really want sex right now but this kiss is nice, I would like some more kissing.” Her partner understands that they are creating a space for pleasure with zero expectation of progressing to sex. The kissing or touching or whatever may generate enough pleasure to transition from liking to wanting or it can just be a nice makeout session that wouldn’t have happened if there wasn’t a space for pleasure without expectation. Understanding that her desire style is receptive, she is no longer frustrated that she doesn’t just want sex out of the blue. She understands that it is totally normal and healthy for her to needs some positive pleasurable stimulus to even begin to think about wanting sex. She now can use that knowledge to change her life.
3. Dual Control Model: improving your sexual energy isn’t only about putting your foot on the gas- it’s about turning off the emergency break. Like many systems in our brain, our sexual response system has accelerators and brakes. Sexual brakes don’t have to be a bad thing, they keep us in check to avoid unwanted pregnancy, infections, or socially inappropriate situations.Take some time to write down about what turns you on and what slams on your breaks. Then generate some strategies to remove or negotiate obstacles. Too tired for sex after a long day? Hello saturday morning sex. Feeling stressed by your job and your home responsibilities? Share how you feel with your partner. You need time and energy for self care before you are going to feel restored enough to give more in the relationship. What can you do to fill your own bucket? Is it a yoga class or a long walk or a mindfulness practice. Do something to restore yourself and reset. Think about what turns you on and make some time for it. Most women don’t feel desire out of the blue. Cultivate it.
I hope this little sliver of insight into Come As You Are inspires you to take a deeper dive and read the book for yourself and to create some space in your life for better sex.