Book Review: Come As You Are

Synopsis according to Goodreads:
"An essential exploration of why and how women’s sexuality works—based on groundbreaking research and brain science—that will radically transform your sex life into one filled with confidence and joy.

Researchers have spent the last decade trying to develop a “pink pill” for women to function like Viagra does for men. So where is it? Well, for reasons this book makes crystal clear, that pill will never exist—but as a result of the research that’s gone into it, scientists in the last few years have learned more about how women’s sexuality works than we ever thought possible, and Come as You Are explains it all.

The first lesson in this essential, transformative book by Dr. Emily Nagoski is that every woman has her own unique sexuality, like a fingerprint, and that women vary more than men in our anatomy, our sexual response mechanisms, and the way our bodies respond to the sexual world. So we never need to judge ourselves based on others’ experiences. Because women vary, and that’s normal.

Second lesson: sex happens in a context. And all the complications of everyday life influence the context surrounding a woman’s arousal, desire, and orgasm. 

Cutting-edge research across multiple disciplines tells us that the most important factor for women in creating and sustaining a fulfilling sex life, is not what you do in bed or how you do it, but how you feel about it. Which means that stress, mood, trust, and body image are not peripheral factors in a woman’s sexual wellbeing; they are central to it. Once you understand these factors, and how to influence them, you can create for yourself better sex and more profound pleasure than you ever thought possible.

And Emily Nagoski can prove it."

I don't normally read self-help books, and some science/educational stuff can be a real snoozefest, so I was hesitant to check out Come As You Are, despite the fact that it was recommended to me by about a dozen woman. I'm really glad I got over myself, because this book is fantastic.

There's a lot of science referenced here, which she footnotes so you can dig even further if you want. And the science is stuff above, beyond, and more recent than what I learned in high school and college. Which is why I was constantly amazed that what I learned (in the classroom, and by living in society) was so very wrong. The crux of why is that sex has been studied and understood as a men-as-default thing, which by nature sets up the differences between the sexes as "women are broken". The truth, as the author repeats often, is that there is no default or normal, and as long as you aren't experiencing pain with sex, your sexuality is healthy and normal. 

She goes into the biological aspects (how we all have the same parts, arranged in different ways), the psychological aspects (how control centers in the brain act as taskmasters and why we experience frustration, orgasm, nonconcordance, etc), the physiological aspects (how you feel about how you feel during sex, for example, being a huge detractor from enjoying the experience), the cultural aspects (contrary to social shorthand, sex is NOT a drive), etc. 

She throws in anecdotes as well, which I found helpful in breaking up the science parts and giving me a context for real-life application. She also has worksheets and suggestions about addressing any of a myriad of issues, which she encounters commonly as a human sexuality educator. Occasionally, as the book goes on, her repeating of phrases and question/answer posing felt a little too "in the classroom" to me...I didn't feel like she was speaking down to me, necessarily, but it made me twitch just a bit.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book: I learned a lot, it empowered me to improve some areas of my sexuality that I've been unsatisfied with (and did that beyond platitudes, with actual, practical advice), and it made me realize the root of some of my core issues (not just as pertains to sex, but with my self-esteem, my self-definition as an adult woman, my relationship fears, etc). I guarantee you, even if you're 100% happy with your sexuality and body, you'll still get something out of this book. And while the tone is definitely specifically aimed at women, it's got a lot of info in there useful to men (in understanding their own biology, brain relationship to sexuality, etc).

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