All in all, my sex education whether from school, religion, media or peers, did not fully prepare me for navigating the complex world of sex and relationships. Yes, I basically understood the biological principles but I had also acquired some pretty unhelpful and judgmental beliefs about sex. My assumptions and expectations were often limiting rather than liberating.
It has taken me into my late-20s and 30s to really begin to release some of these tricky beliefs and the feelings of shame that I’ve held around sex. Emily Nagoski’s book has helped. She writes frankly, offering the science about sex in an easily-accessible and enjoyable read. It’s littered with examples and exercises to help explain the points. Like why long-standing views of female sexuality as pretty much like men’s sexuality doesn’t quite fit, and the importance of context for sexual desire and arousal. She examines the impact of stress on sex, especially in our modern, busy, chronically-stressful lives, and trauma and debunks cultural myths about women’s sexuality. Most importantly, for releasing shame, she repeatedly emphasises that we are normal, we may be different but difference can be embraced as normal.
Reading ‘Come as You Are’ has helped me to recognise some of the cultural and life-history factors that have impacted my beliefs and feelings about sex, and, now, I think I’m well on my way to a healthier relationship with my own sex and sexuality. My views are more flexible, more nuanced and more compassionate. Personally, I now make sense of sex as something precious (and I understand and respect why some people advocate saving it for marriage), but not ‘sinful’ or shameful. In a culture and society that can often perpetuate shame around sex, Emily Nagoski’s book offers a refreshingly different voice amongst the usual hubbub, and it’s well-worth reading.