• CouplesTherapyOrlando

    Sexual Myth-buster: Emily Nagoski’s Come as You Are

    A lot of science has been done on female sexuality, but many people act on and are affected by damaging beliefs shaped by shopworn myths and stereotyped media portrayals. The book Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., has helped a number of my clients unwind that thinking. You might assume I recommend Nagoski’s book only to female clients, but I also regularly recommend it to men.


    Nagoski presents research-based information that’s useful to both genders. She also writes in a way that helps readers grasp ideas in a practical way. And she’s funny, making an oftentimes awkward subject more approachable.

    While Come as You Are covers a lot of territories, I’d like to highlight a few important concepts she presents.

    Nagoski reminds readers that “you’re beautiful the way you are” and “all your parts are perfect.” Holding negative judgments about your body or your sexuality — or perceiving those from your partner — can cause stress that activates our sexual “brakes.” Acceptance of ourselves and our partners, on the other hand, increases the likelihood of more pleasurable and satisfying sex.

    Cultural expectations that prevent self-acceptance, especially for women, are explored throughout the book. Being critical of the appearance of yourself or your partner can cripple your enjoyment of lovemaking and self-esteem. Science shows there are countless varieties of shapes, colors, and sizes of sex organs and erogenous zones. But popular media often shows something else, with body parts even digitally retouched to conform to a culturally derived ideal.

    The author tackles the challenges of partners with differing levels of sexual desire by offering the concept of sexual brakes and accelerators. If someone has a high accelerator, they’re more easily aroused, whereas an individual with high brakes is more easily hindered by factors that say “stop.” One example of a brake trigger might be “someone might hear us.” But a brake can be internally generated too — as in the case of a person with poor body image.

    The book provides self-assessments of your personal brake and accelerator systems and discusses the negative consequences that can occur when brakes are interpreted as a rejection or a personal failing. Case studies and research-based interventions are offered to help individuals and couples struggling in this area.

    Nagoski also lays out the evolution of many beliefs that shape women’s sexual lives, reminding readers that in Western culture, these evolved in a male-dominated hierarchy, heavily influenced by religious thought and popular media. Moreover, she asserts that these mores often fail to serve women’s best interests — or emotional and sexual health. Nagoski points out that the word clitoris is derived from a word that actually means “shame.” And even though most women don’t experience vaginal orgasms, that’s how sex is depicted in movies and on TV. This can foster an unmet expectation that leaves both women and their partners feeling inadequate. Furthermore, society gives women mixed messages about their sexuality: They’re encouraged to look and act sexual — but not too sexual — a standard that’s almost impossible to meet.

    If you’re experiencing challenges with sexual connection in a relationship, I encourage you to read Come as You Are. And consider counseling with a mental health professional. I’m available to help — contact me at CouplesTherapyOrlando.com or by phone at 407-579-2070.

    Therapy services available via Telehealth.