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Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life Paperback – March 3, 2015
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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 be the answer—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.
—John Gottman, Ph.D., author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
“Emily Nagoski has written one of the most important books about sex any woman (or anybody else) could ever pick up, full of insights that are both fascinating and deeply useful. Synthesizing new research and theory about sexuality with old-school sex-positive information of the sort you didn’t learn in sex ed (unless, perhaps, you are a Unitarian, or Scandinavian, or lucky enough to be in Dr. Nagoski’s class), I guarantee Come As You Are will open minds and change lives.”
— Carol Queen, Ph.D., Founding director, Center for Sex & Culture
“Emily Nagoski is worth her weight in TED Talks, and Come as You Are is a master-class in the science of sex.”
— Ian Kerner, sex therapist and bestselling author of She Comes First
“It’s the science of sex, decoded and demystified. Want to be educated on the latest findings about female genitalia? Of course you do. Empowering and sex-positive at best, this informative read makes for an enticing bedfellow.”
“Lots of books — and articles and experts — claim to have the keys to transform your sex life. This one actually has it. It isn’t as fast as taking a pill, but it will last a whole lot longer. You will find no hot new bedroom moves — it’s that deeper-level soul stuff. You know, the stuff that actually works.”
“Wonderful new language to help us articulate to women (and their lovers) what is going on.”
“Like a punch to the gut. When I read the passage that made me realize—after all these years—that I was not actually broken, I began to cry. . . . I wished [Nagoski] was someone who was actively in my life, someone I could reach out to for grounding every time I momentarily forgot the lessons in her book.”
“Nagoski’s book deserves plaudits for the rare achievement of merging pop science and the sexual self-help genre in prose that’s not insufferably twee. . . . [Come As You Are] offers up hard facts on the science of arousal and desire in a friendly and accessible way.”
—The Guardian (UK)
About the Author
- Publisher : Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (March 3, 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1476762090
- ISBN-13 : 978-1476762098
- Item Weight : 1 pounds
- Dimensions : 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #21,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the authors
Reviewed in the United States on May 5, 2021
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We all have the same parts, just organized differently. As long as you are not experiencing pain, you and your genitals are healthy and beautify as they are. How you feel about your sexuality is more important than your sexuality itself.
*Myths about women’s sexuality because they are viewed as men lite*
- Orgasm should reliable occur during vaginal penetration > only true for 30% of women, 16% of women have not had an orgasm by 28
- Arousal (happens in your brain) and genital behavior (wet/hard) always line up > only 10% of women
- You should get aroused spontaneously > only 15% of women
*Dual control model*
Level of arousal = accelerator - brakes
Accelerator - context that is sexually relevant, turns on genital response
Brake - turns off sexual relevance. Threats can be external context or internal mental state.
People have a spectrum of low vs. high acceleration and low vs. high brakes. There is no correlation with hormone levels or genital size/shape with sexual desire or response
Boys learn erections = sexy. Less obvious for girls because of mismatch between genital response and arousal.
How to reduce brake:
be affectionate toward body
let go how what’s “supposed” to happen
> Exercise: Reflect on what triggers your brakes and make concrete plans to turn them off, anticipating obstacles and making contingency plans
How to increase accelerator:
love/emotional bonding cues - feeling loved, secure, with a committed partner, getting special attention
Explicit/erotic cues - reading a dirty book, hearing someone having sex, anticipating sex, feeling desired, noticing arousal from your partner
Visual/proximity cues - seeing an attractive party well dressed, seeing a partner confident/classy
Romantic/implicit cues - feeling close, dancing, massage
*The importance of context*
We can only understand women’s sexual wellbeing only if we take context into account - and most of that context has nothing to do with sex itself
Context - circumstances of present moment (who with, where, novel or familiar, risky or safe) and brain state (relaxed or stressed, trusting or not, loving or not)
Women are more sensitive to context than men
Perception of sensation is context dependent. If you activate the approach and avoid parts of a rat brain in a neutral context, you’ll get the expected behavior. But a safe context will always generate approach behavior and same with always avoiding in a stressful context.
Best context - low stress, high affection, explicitly erotic
Stress is physiological and neurological process to help you deal with threats/stressors. Love is the process that pulls you toward your tribe. Just as you don’t care about hunger if you don’t have oxygen, it can be hard to card about sex if you’re stressed.
When stress is intense, you fight (conquer the stress feeling irritation, anger, annoyance, frustration, rage), escape (avoid the source of stress feeling worry, anxiety, fear, terror) or freeze (emotional numbness, shutdown, depression, despair)
For all forms of stress, need to complete the cycle - identify, take action, feel safe/whole/home. Exercise, sleep, affection, meditation, cry/scream common solutions.
> Exercise: If worrying about orgasm or frequency of sex is causing stress, take a break and don’t have sex for pre-determined amount of time. Consciously don’t try to orgasm.
Moral message - “You are damaged goods”. idolize virginity, you’re a slut if you’ve had too many sexual experiences
Medical message - “Something’s wrong with your body”. You should always have simultaneous orgasm with your partner during penetration or you have a medical issue. Men and women have the same sex response but women are less horny and take longer to orgasm.
Media message - “You are inadequate”. You should have already tried spanking, manage a toir, had multiple orgasms, tried every type of vibrator. Your body is wrong and you need to change it. Only a conceited bitch likes themselves.
When a baby girl is born, everyone talks about how beautiful she is. Until puberty when all signs point to body self-criticism. There is cultural permission to criticize ourselves (I feel fat today) but not to praise ourselves (I feel beautiful today). These pervasive self-critical thoughts negatively correlated with every part of sexual well-being. Women believe it is good to torture ourselves to stay motivated, but this re-injury delays healing.
> Exercise: Try on the identity as a “woman who loves sex”. If you don’t have enough time for sex, reframe as “As a woman who loves sex…”
*Healthy at all sizes*
You are healthy and beautiful at any size. Self-compassion is unconditional, non-evaluative love and caring for yourself, which is not the same as self-esteem or perceived value of success in comparison to others or self indulgence numbing the pain. Body preference in 17th center favored soft/round/plump women since they were rich enough to afford food and a sedentary lifestyle. Mid 19th century Industrial revolution changed norms because men wanted to show rich enough to marry women too weak to work.
1. Self-kindness (treat self gently and caring, tender during hard times), opposite of self-judgement (intolerant/impatient to any aspect of personality you don’t like)
2. Common humanity with suffering connecting us (we all feel inadequate at times), opposite of isolation (I feel alone)
3. Mindfulness (nonjudgemental about present moment), opposite of over-identification (obsessing on failures and suffering, holding pain without letting go)
> Exercise: look at self naked and list everything you like, Try to let go of self-critical thoughts. Avoid media that makes you feel bad about your body.
Non-concordance = Genital response doesn’t necessarily match person’s experience of arousal
Genital response means the detection of sexual relevancy (expecting). But arousal is being turned on (enjoying).
Men are highly correlated with 50% overlap. Women just 10%.
Erectile disfunction pills increase blood flow to genitals during sexual stimulation, Since men there is a connection between response and arousal, it works.
Orgasm = Sudden, involuntary release of sexual tension.
Like tickling, how good it feels depends on the context. Possible to orgasm during rape without meaning pleasure or consent.
80-90% of women who masturbate do so with little or no penetration, including vibrators
Of college female, 11% reliably orgasm first time with new partner, 67% within 6 months, 16% no orgasm by age 28, remaining 6% never
Imagine attention as flock of birds. If your feet are cold or you’re anxious, some birds fly off towards that so you have less momentum to have an orgasm. Stronger attachment to partner, stress relief, curiosity creates strong magnetic pull to keep flock together
Vibrator activates sex relevant stimuli so maxes out the accelerator, but doesn’t do anything to brakes
Women have no “point of no return” like men for orgasm
> Exercise: Change the goal - pleasure not orgasm, clitoral stimulation not penetration, sex-positive context for responsive desire not spontaneous, feel tough emotions and stress non judging
*Sex is not a drive*
Drive is an unpleased internal state with the goal of getting to baseline. Like a biological thermostat, if you don’t respond to hunger or thirst you die.
Sex is an incentive motivation system, won’t die without it.
Spontaneous desire = feeling aroused suddenly
75% of men but just 15% of women. Many women have responsive desire. Expect > enjoy > eager loop.
In order for responsive desire to work, need the right context and accelerator to be stronger than brake.
Sex knowledge is like a map. Terrain is the reality.
Run into issues when map doesn’t fit terrain. Trust the terrain. Everyone’s map and terrain are different.
Female orgasm - no relation to reproductive success such as sucking sperm into uterus. Byproduct of male orgasm needed for ejaculation.
Male nipples - It takes less energy to suppress them for men than just to keep them for both.
Hymen - Vary between women including some not having it. There is no such thing as a “broken seal”. If damaged, it will heal. The most likely cause of bleeding during intercourse is lack of lubrication.
Female ejaculation - same as male nipples
Vulva - package of external female genitalia. Vagina is the internal reproductive canal that leads to the uterus.
High variety in “normal” vulva
Variability in size and shape of sex shapes just like variability in height. It is not good or bad to be one way, just is
Men and women both get hard and wet.
Male and female fetus are the same at 6 weeks after fertilization when a wash of masculizing hormones that determines the genital configuration.
We start life with a plot of rich, fertile, unique soil. Family and culture plant and tend until you’re old enough to do it yourself. Affects everything: language, attitude, knowledge, love safety, body images, sex. Most of us get a balance of healthy thriving plants and toxic crap we have to grow out of.
Don’t yuck someone’s yum - Think of sex as a salad bar. Take what you like and ignore the rest, don’t judge or worry much about what others do.
Attachment process - children form secure attachment 50% of the time when they have reliable caregivers. The other 50% form anxious (clinging, jealous) or avoidant (avoiding) attachment. Particularly for those with insecure attachment, sex can act as a form of relief in unstable relationships because it stabilizes something unstable. This is why many’s women’s best sex is after unstable or even abusive relationships.
Takes 6-12 months for typical couple to get pregnant, 15% don’t conceive in first year
On the pill, 1/3 women decrease in sexual interest, 1/5 interest, 1/2 no effect. Each pill different hormones so trying new one can change result.
My only criticism of this book is the unfortunate undertone throughout and a couple of specific assertions from the author that men are solely responsible for the disfunction and mis-understanding of womens sexuality. Women need to own this situation just as much if not more than men (After all they have the pussy, so they make the rules) It would have been great not to marginalise men in the text, which despite my cognisance of feeling, interfered with my ability to read coherently at times because I was feeling pissed off. So I'd have to stop to process those feelings before I could move on. Instead this incredible, ground breaking work should be lovingly and compassionately delivered and targeted to everyone! Especially men, as I think their understanding and acceptance of the 'new knowledge' will be essential to their active participation in the healing process for partnered women. Obviously single men will benefit immensely and immediately upon commencing a sexual relationship with a woman too.
Despite the thinly veiled contempt for males sprinkled in acouple of areas in the book, this is a seminal piece of work and I will now order several more copies for all the women (and their men) in my family, particularly though, my 15yo old daughter. This will set her up right. It will assist her with personal happiness through knowing herself properly. Emily has presented a correct interpretation of the subject, that will facilitate young women to navigate critically and with a measure of steadfast confidence through the spam and peppering of rubbish messages that unfortunately screw dso many young ones up. It must be said that there is value in this text in so many ways! Whilst it appears to fundamentally address sexual disfunction in women, one of the foundation points in the text is about how 'feeling sexual' is an apex desire/emotion for women. In order to cultivate an environment where sexual feelings/desire can occur, underlying issues must be dealt with. And Emily does. Have a daughter with eating disorder? Partner has body image issues? Emily marvellously dismantles, dissects and explains to the reader how all these things are caused and how to break them down and how they interfere with the sexuality She also covers a multitude of other less insidious but no less interfering issues that cause sexual disfunction. Reading this will fundamentally reset/recalibrate the readers expectations about what is 'normal' and what we should be desiring for ourselves in terms of healthy, real and relevant expectations. I'm a man and I'll admit that some sections of this book brought me to actual tears. As I read and learnt and realised that my assumptions about my wife were so wrong and as I considered my treatment of her (IE fighting about sex, accusations, all that) I realised that I have not been gentle with her heart and that realisation nearly killed me (really upset me). I have not acted lovingly and kind to my dear wife (and best friend) at times, (regarding sex), because I refused to accept that if anybody's experience of arousal and sex wasn't exactly like mine then there was something wrong with them. 'She's not a sexual person', ' She's vanilla' etc etc If you've ever found yourself thinking these things or god forbid actually labelling your partner like this then you absolutely must do yourself and your partner a justice and READ THIS BOOK! Yes, it's confronting, but it's also going to open new pathways to intimacy, strengthen existing ones, cultivate safety, trust and bonding for couples and understanding, self acceptance, healthier self talk and realistic expectations for singles and well everyone!
BuY this book! We need to make this into a worlds best seller. It's application globally to re-orienting so many values and switching people off to bad messages (think media/advertising etc) could be a catalyst for a return to marriages that endure, harmony between spouses and the re-invigoration and appreciation of the family unit and wider caring societal values.
Lastly I'd love to see Emily re-write this amazing book with the following considerations:
1) Take out the underlying blaming of the male species. We are just as much victims of the corporate greed, culture and advertising etc that sponsored the current situation.
2) I couldn't help but wonder throughout the book if a lot of it wasn't equally applicable to men. Whilst I'm sure some of it was (I kept personally identifying with things) Is all of it though? If so, then why not make this amazing book about human sexuality. This would also serve to facilitate it being read by a lot more men. Which is very important.
3) As the 'spontaneously aroused' (SA) member of my marriage I have learnt and modified my expectations and behaviour regarding how I relate sexually to my 'responsively aroused' (RA) wife. However whilst this new way of relating to and assisting her with her accelerator and breaks is necessary, I guess I'm now experiencing some cognitive dissidence because despite understanding it all, I still have a stubborn, unreasonable yearning desire that cannot be placated with any amount of understanding (or deep breaths, cold showers or late night runs for that matter). So I am still suffering in a way because now the sexlife I am having 'is not natural to me'.
Sometimes It feels like it's just all too hard. All this thinking, planning and effort to maybe facilitate something that comes so easily and naturally to yourself. Then sometimes you 'slip mentally' and you get into a really bad place where you've been managing your partners breaks and accelerator all day(s) and then when they are non responsive to your solicitations and just want to go to sleep, that's when you become resentful, because you've subconciously entered into a one sided pact, thinking that they now owe you something.. Yeah, bad I know. But wait it gets worse. That's when in your frustration, anger and despair, your little monitor suggests and convinces you to give up on your partner and sex altogether.
I guess in consideration of the above there are three further issues that really need to be dealt with:
1) This book (by virtue of recommended courses of action) basically legitimises and encourages the removal of spontaneous sex for the SA person.. Ouch! This doesn't seem quiet right to me. Surely there's another way? I know that technically it's "my problem" if I'm aroused and my partner isn't. But remove the spontaneity for the SA person and you have created virtually the same situation of an 'un-attractive sexual prospect' except it's now in reverse, affecting the SA person instead of the RA person. SA people deserve their partners energy and to be seduced and to receive some pampering and path clearing as well. They also should not have to initiate every single time. When the SA has to initiate every time the message cultivated by the little monitor is basically: "My partner doesn't care enough about me to know me. If they did they'd know I need to have sex" For some of us Spontaneity within a sexual encounter is a significant attraction to or reason for enjoying sex. Sex is allowed to be easy and carefree and spontaneous sometimes.
I feel that after reading this book I understand my RA partner much better and how I can assist with her arousal response but it's also left me feeling like it's going to be a long life of work or dis-appointment for me, neither of which are particularly appealing.
Despite the techniques detailed for identifying and developing arousal sponsoring situations etc it would be great if there was also a section of the book devoted to direct action techniques to be undertaken by the RA person to re-condition themselves to be more SA. Ie Pavlovian programming, meditations on sensuality. Homework?
2) The SA aroused person must ultimately accept that they are going to be doing most of the leading, facilitating, seduction and initiation. How does one stay motivated to complete the significant workload required to manage the others breaks and accelerator without losing the 'joy of sex' for themselves and without 'feeling emotionally (and physically) exhausted, particularly if there is a limited or no return on their investment?.
3) What 'tools' can the Spontaneously aroused use to deal with the inevitable episodes of feeling isolated, rejected, misunderstood, 'not cared for' and plain old frustrated complicit in a relationship with a responsive arouser?
Finally, Emily asserts that there will never be a 'little pink pill' which will act on women the way Viagra etc acts for men. She makes a very good explanation of this and is correct within the limits of her argument. However I would advocate that if the scientists could develop a pill for men which made their semen taste like chocolate, then we might finally have a solution..... ;)
Top reviews from other countries
I picked this up (after reading some reviews) with the intention of trying to give my SO (who has some body image and anxiety issues) a little bit of a confidence boost. I began reading the first chapter to make sure this was a legitimate book and not some unfounded claptrap (like a lot of self help books). Suddenly I was half way through the book and thoroughly engaged. This book is obviously aimed at women but as a man I feel this could actually teach you a lot about your female partner. A theme that crops up in the book is the pressure a woman can feel to perform for a partner who craves their "love" which creates the adverse effect of reducing the woman's desire for intimacy because they feel pressured to do so. This is fine for the woman realising this by reading it in this book but without the partner learning it, it would still be a one sided realisation so I recommend reading this together as a couple. I wish there was a book in the same vein aimed for the male partner or even a book that encompasses both sides in a relationship.
The book so far has been a thoroughly interesting read backing up the science with evidence provided by past researchers in the field and dropping their names so you can look them up yourself if you want further reading. The science is explained plainly and with some extremely easy to understand metaphors. The rat and the lemon section for example was like a realisation of something you kind of always knew but when spelled out to you that human brains are not as complex as you might have assumed it seems so obvious once it is explained plainly how we tick. Each chapter even has a TLDR section at the end to recap and summarise the previous "lesson" or "message" the chapter is teaching you.
If I can summarise the messages I am getting from this book it is that no matter what problems you feel you have in your love life or with your body (and so many people seem to have such a variety of issues which this book gives examples of) it is that you don't have a problem at all and you are not broken you are completely normal and there are scientific explanations to explain why you are experiencing what you perceive to be problems.
If you want to unravel the ball of string in your mind that is your own perception of your or your partners (or societies) sexuality so you can see both ends of the string (and everything in between) I recommend this book. If you are a couple with a healthy sex life or a couple experiencing a perceived rough patch I would recommend this to both parties as it could improve anyone's understanding of their and others sexual self.
My reason for four stars rather than five is the same reason given as others was that at some points you feel like you are about to get an answer to one of your specific perceived issues (the reason you bought the book) and then the author will say "more on this in chapter 5" which can be frustrating but it definitely keeps you reading and learning more than just the specific issue you were looking for an answer for. This does make you learn a lot more than why you probably bought the book so it is beneficial to you, but if you wanted a quick answer to "why am I like X" it might frustrate you, but carry on reading and you will learn a lot more than you thought you would.
On another level, no. As they say, a prison is not full of criminals, it is full of people who have committed crimes. Don't denigrate someone's worth but do criticise their actions.
A man who is 100 pounds overweight, drinks too much, smokes too much, should be criticised (constructively) by his partner. Does the same apply to a woman, not so much.
The book is about sex, generally this involves 2 people. In over 400 pages, men are mentioned on about 10 pages. There are some case studies, where men fleetingly appear, although the main case involves a lesbian couple.
How about a chapter on what women want, a chapter on what men want, a chapter on communication, a chapter on compromise.
A world with no men in, where women can do what they want without being judged, i guess is the feminist dream. But lets live in the real world. Women and men have to share this planet, a book on how we can get on better would be more useful. Not the feminist fantasy this book portrays.
If you are feeling worried about your sexual self is some way I encourage you to read this book, hell if you aren't worried read this book. It is easy to read and totally fascinating and may just change your life. It changed mine!
It's very thorough and goes into detail with real life examples and answers to questions I could find the answers to else where (internet etc).
Theres scientific background and research in this book which makes it alot more credible.
In general, the book makes me feel normal in regards to all the sexual issues I have experienced, it allows me to embrace my womanhood and free the sex goddess that I am.