• Dr Emily Nagoski is well-known for her authentic, warm advice about all things sex and relationships

  • Psychotherapist Camilla Nicholls reviews her new book Come Together

“It is often easier to have sex with someone than talk about it with that same person” is one of the many pieces of wisdom shared by sex educator, scientist, author and all-round force for good Dr Emily Nagoski whose important new book, Come Together: The Science (and Art) of Creating Lasting Sexual Connections has just been published by Vermilion. 

Dr Nagoski’s first book, Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life, was deservedly a New York Times bestseller. It, and the accompanying podcast, act as joyous debunkings of common myths about sexual behaviour and as no-nonsense explorations of what might instead help sex to be  fulfilling and pleasurable for all consenting partnerships. Dr Nagoski’s enthusiastic, well-researched embracing of all types of partnerships, including those that fall outside cis-gendered and heteronormative ones, feels comfortable and authentic. 

In her new book the emphasis is on how all kinds of sexual partnerships can flourish in the long-term. The story remains the same on the need for consent and a focus on pleasure but ‘calm, warm curiosity’ takes a front seat in Come Together too. 

With typical generosity of spirit Dr Nagoski ‘gives away the ending’ in the book’s introduction and names the three characteristics of partnerships that she believes sustain a strong sexual connection. Partners need to trust and admire one another, sex needs to be prioritised as mattering in the relationship and instead of ‘accepting other people’s opinions’ about how sex is supposed to be done in a partnership she suggests homing in on what’s genuinely true for each unique partnership. Everything is accepted as ‘normal’ in Dr Nagoski’s sexual world. 

We learn in Come Together about what might be ‘breaks’ to sexual desire and what might be ‘accelerators’, we confront what she calls the ‘gender mirage’, we discover the brilliant concept of ‘chore play’ (being turned on by a partner completing tasks). 

There are case studies, exercises (including drawing out our emotional floor plans) and there is informed, non-judgemental guidance from Dr Nagoski’s quarter of a century of sex educating and research. 

Esther Perel is often held up as the sex therapist and educator, and as therapists we have much to learn from her, but Dr Nagoski’s style works much better for me. Authoritative, honest, kind, a warm bath of a personality that allows the reader to step into her world and learn without feeling remotely judged or inadequate. I’ve always rather felt that the bath that Perel would provide would contain products I couldn’t quite afford or I might drown in its sumptuousness. Dr Nagoski seems to be able to keep all comers afloat. 

My eyes have been opened by Come Together. My practice has benefited enormously from Dr Nagoski’s writings and I would recommend every therapist working with couples read this new work. As therapists we have a duty to talk to clients about sex, if, of course, they want to, and we don’t know if they want to unless  we give them permission. Come Together goes a long way to helping therapists find constructive ways of inviting clients to feel safe and supported in talking about everything that might stand in the way of a pleasurable and consensual sexual relationship. Reading Come Together doesn’t make talking about sex, or maintaining a long-term sexual relationship, instantly easy but it is one of the best first steps therapists and clients can take.

Camilla Nicholls is a verified Welldoing psychotherapist in London and online

Purchase Come Together: The Science (and Art) of Creating Lasting Sexual Connections by Dr Emily Nagoski here

Further reading

Navigating mismatched desire and sex drives in relationships

How counselling helped my postnatal sex life

What is intimacy anyway?

I was sexually attracted to my therapist

How do I talk to my therapist about sex?