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Start Having the Sex You Want

I just finished the fantastic book “Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life” by Emily Nagoski. What was most striking about it for me wasn’t the science (though Nagoski does a great job at laying that out, along with the misconceptions, inaccuracies, and propaganda we’ve all been fed for too long.)

No, what was most striking was the frequent refrain/reassurance that we’re all normal–in terms of our body parts, our desires, our arousal, our orgasms. You name it: it’s variable from person to person.

And the number one enemy, what’s really keeping you from having the sex life you want, is preconceptions about what’s normal, or right, or what everyone else is doing, or what we’re all supposed to be doing and feeling. The question, “Am I normal?”, does us all a disservice. But the answer, every time is yes.

Here are some ideas of how to get the sex life you want, and to want the sex life you have.
1) Think sex-positive.

If your desire is low or it takes a while to get aroused or you’re not able to orgasm reliably (or at all), you might start feeling bad about yourself. You imagine everyone else is out there having great sex and if you’re not, something must be wrong with you.

That sense that something’s wrong with you will make you want to avoid sex all the more. You’ll want to avoid talking about it, or thinking about it. The very idea of sex will create intense pressure, and nothing’s less sexy than pressure.

If you’re not yet ready to think positively about yourself, you can start by thinking positively about sex. Remember that there are lots of ways to do it, and they’re all right. Remember it’s okay to go slow, and it’s okay to stop. Remember good experiences you’ve had in the past. Remember times you were connecting intimately with your partner. Remember that normalcy is just a myth.

2) Aim for good enough sex.

Did you ever hear that expression, “The perfect is the enemy of the good”? What it means is, if you’re chasing perfection, you can never truly experience what’s good. And what’s good enough is by definition good.

There is no perfect sex life. Ebbs and flows are inevitable. By accepting that, you begin to create a judgment-free environment where good sex is most likely to blossom.

And here’s some normalizing science for you: Many women experience responsive desire rather than spontaneous desire. Responsive desire means that you want sex after the foreplay’s already started. Spontaneous desire has been positioned like it’s somehow superior, but responsive desire is equally likely to lead to satisfying sex.

Just start doing it. I don’t mean sex. I mean, kissing, caressing, putting yourself into an erotic space where something might (or might not) happen.

Because avoidance might feel like it’s solving the problem but really, it’s making your anxiety worse. It’s creating higher expectations for when you actually have sex. Nothing kills the mood like pressure and stress.

3) Think in terms of context.

Emily Nagoski explains that sexuality has an accelerator and a brake. With the proper context, you can maximize the turn-ons (which lead to acceleration) and minimize the turn-offs (which cause you to brake.)

Here’s where you want to get scientific yourself. Examine your personal turn-ons and turn-offs (ideally, your partner will do this, too, and ideally together as a bonding exercise), and see what you can tweak in your routines. Perhaps the problem is that it’s just too routine altogether. That’s when…

4) It’s time to start explorating.

This looks different for different people. It might mean that you start masturbating to gain more self-knowledge. It might mean trying out new things in the bedroom (or the kitchen, bathroom, or living room.) It might include porn or sex toys.

It might involve having entirely new experiences together like sky diving, since new experiences are chemically similar to falling in love.

It could be getting away from the kids for a weekend to a place with a favorable context (that maximizes turn-ons and minimizes turn-offs.)  It could be having someone else take your kids for a night in.

You could do sexual positions and acts that you used to do but have forgotten about. You could do something you’ve never tried before.

But that’s the key: It’s about trying. We’ve been told that sex is supposed to be effortless, or we’re doing it wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. Effort can be extremely erotic. It says you care about yourself and your relationship. That’s sexy.

5) Recognize that the sex you’re having can be the sex you want (at least some of the time.)

By relaxing your standards, you increase the probability of sexual fulfillment. I deliberately said “relaxing” and not “lowering” your standards because we’re talking about a shift from the fantasy/lies we’ve all been told to a conceivable reality.

Yes, simultaneous orgasms happen some of the time. No, they are not the yardstick for whether you’ve had good sex.

Yes, some people experience spontaneous desire. No, it’s not the prerequisite for a satisfying sexual experience.

Yes, there are couples who do it every night. But there are NO couples where both are entirely satisfied every time. And that’s okay.

You don’t have to keep up with anyone else. You just have to figure out what works for you. Sex is trial and error, even when you’ve been together for years.

No one told you that, but it can actually be where the fun begins.

She’s also a novelist. Please visit her author page for details.

Photo by aarmono

Start Having the Sex You Want

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2019). Start Having the Sex You Want. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 10, 2020, from


Last updated: 20 Mar 2019
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