New Sex Book Alert: Come Together by Emily Nagoski

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Emily Nagoski’s new book Come Together: The Science (and Art!) of Creating Lasting Sexual Connections is set to release on January 30th, 2024. We were able to receive a sneak preview and wanted to highlight some of the unique insights this book has to offer (without giving too much away, of course!). 

Come Together may be understood as somewhat of a sequel to Nagoski’s previous New York Times bestseller, Come as You Are. While Come as You Are focused on helping women unlock sexual pleasure through their relationship with sex, Come Together is all about making it so sexual partners can “co-create a context that makes it easier to access pleasure” alongside one another (p. xiv).

On paper, creating this context is simple. Nagoski identifies the “three characteristics of partnerships that sustain a strong sexual connection” (p. xiii): friendship, prioritizing sex, and couples accepting what’s genuinely true for their own unique relationship. However, being able to achieve these characteristics in real life is often difficult. Subsequently, the central premise of Come Together is to “learn what great sex over the long term looks like in real life, how to create it in your own life, and what to do when struggles arise—which they definitely will” (p. xiv).

The Power of Sex Metaphors

One of Nagoski’s greatest strengths as both a writer and a sex educator is her ability to mobilize the explanatory power of metaphors when providing practical advice about individuals’ sexualities and their sex lives. In Come as You Are, Nagoski proposed that individuals are not “broken” because our sexuality is not something that needs to be fixed. Rather, we should conceptualize our sexuality like that of a garden, meaning it is something that we cultivate, tend to, pull weeds out of, and help grow. Come Together expands this metaphor, seeking to explain “what happens when you decide to co-create a shared garden with someone else, with the idea that you’ll continue to tend to this garden for many years to come” (p. xvi). Nagoski explains the good that tending to our sexual garden does not just for ourselves, but for others: 

Every time you pull the invasive weeds of body-self criticism or sexual shame, you weaken the social vine, making it that much easier for your sister to pull it from her garden, or your daughter or your niece, your clients and patients, your romantic and sexual partners. When you cultivate a garden that is uniquely your own, filled with whatever brings you delight, you make it a little easier for everyone else to do the same. (p. xvi)

Other prominent metaphors Nagoski utilizes are that of harnessing desire akin to driving a car (there are times to use the accelerator and times to hit the brakes), and centering pleasure akin to hosting a party or playing a game. These metaphors are great at giving readers a context they are familiar with in order to actually implement and internalize the advice in the book. For example, Nagoski writes that those who center pleasure do not just show up, they “love to entertain” (p. 39). She continues:

Why take time to make a meal beautiful? Why think ahead as you write a grocery list for a get-together you don’t even know for sure you’ll have? Maybe some people put in that kind of effort simply to show off or impress people. But for people who prioritize sharing pleasure with loved ones, all the effort is part of the pleasure you anticipate sharing. (p. 40)  

Identifying Your Emotional “Floorplan”

Come Together does not just explain sexuality through metaphors, but is meant to be used as a workbook for individuals to tend to their individual and shared gardens. Chapter three, “Your Emotional Floorplan” (p. 48) helps readers “develop a kind of map of the different emotional states that exist in your brain, that will show you how to navigate those spaces to find yourself in the vicinity of the erotic” (p. 49). That is, mapping where pleasure-favorable spaces (lust, play, seeking, care) and pleasure-averse spaces (panic/grief, fear, rage) are on a floorplan specific to you will help individuals navigate their emotions to move more easily into spaces of sexual desire.

Although this task may seem daunting, Nagoski provides readers with a litany of examples and reminds us that this, again, is another metaphor to help us learn. “The floorplan isn’t what matters–it’s just a metaphor for the actual hardware of your emotional brain. If you can identify the emotions in yourself and understand what moves you into and out of these states, that’s what matters” (p. 51). 

You Are Not Broken

My favorite aspect of the book is Nagoski’s attention to the processes by which sex and sexuality are culturally constructed, reminding readers that you are not abnormal and that it is realistic to expect our sexualities to grow and change. For example, in chapter seven (which begins the second half of the book), Nagoski focuses on how a calm and curious approach to our bodies changing and aging can actually enhance erotic connections, specifically in the context of illness and disability.  Chapter eight speaks to navigating changes in relationships, chapter nine is centralized around cultural imperatives around having sex, and in chapter ten, Nagoski highlights how gendered expectations inhibit the ability to unlock one’s true sexual desires.

Altogether, Come Together is a practical guide to helping individuals gain a better understanding of themselves, their sexuality, and how to curate their sexual gardens with a partner to create pleasure. The book combines scientific research with realistic vignettes of fictional couples, understandable metaphors, and an open-minded approach to sexuality that reminds readers that there is nothing “wrong” with them sexually. Nagoski does an excellent job at helping people name their desires and understand emotions in the context of one another to access spaces of sexual pleasure. 

Come Together is available for preorder now. You can also learn more about the book by listening to this podcast episode we recently did with the author.

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The post New Sex Book Alert: Come Together by Emily Nagoski appeared first on Sex and Psychology.



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