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Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life

By Emily Nagoski

Many women find it empowering to try on the identity of “woman who loves sex.” It feels like finding the perfect wedding dress or house— it might need some alterations before it’s exactly right for your life, but you can feel the connection there. If that’s what it’s like for you, let the identity guide you as you think through your plan and your anticipated barriers. “If I were a woman who loved sex, how would I deal with feeling too busy for sex?” or “As a woman who loves sex, what’s my best strategy for overcoming self-criticism?”

For other women, the identity of “woman who loves sex” doesn’t feel right at all—at least, not at first. If you find it difficult to embody the identity of a woman who loves sex, that’s crucial information! Think about what makes that identity feel like such an uncomfortable fit. Are the “offs” you’re attempting to turn off tied to your identity? The more they are, the more your brain and body will hold on to them, not want to let them go.

Feeling stressed, depressed, anxious, self-critical, untrusting in your relationship, or simply exhausted and overwhelmed are all real and meaningful barriers to sex. Remember how the monitor in your emotional brain prioritizes, based on survival needs. If your answer is simply, “I’m too damn tired and lonely to be a woman who loves sex,” that’s a fantastic answer! It means that your fatigue and loneliness are hitting your brakes—which is normal and makes perfect sense in terms of context-sensitive or responsive desire—and the way to turn off your brakes is to get more rest and find more connection with loved ones you trust. Those are not easy things to do—if they were easy, you’d be doing them already—but they are important, even without the incentive of having more and better sex.

Sometimes it comes down to a struggle between different identities: the woman who’s passionate about her job and the woman who’s passionate about sex. The woman who keeps herself safe by shutting down and the woman who opens up and takes the risk. The woman who believes she’s not good enough and beats herself up for it and the woman who knows she is good enough and gently grants herself permission to try new things and make mistakes.

There are whole values systems that go with these identities, and the identity you have now didn’t just appear out of nowhere. But as I described in chapter 5, a lot of the factors that shaped your sexual self were not chosen by you. You didn’t choose your garden or what got planted in it in the early years of your life. Now is the time to evaluate what you learned and decide what you want to keep and what you want to replace. And listen: Sometimes you don’t have any control over how stressful your life is, and when that happens, it’s perfectly rational to let sex take a backseat. You don’t have to increase your desire for sex. But you can, if it matters to you.
You can, by turning off the offs.

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