Come Together by Emily Nagoski

Emily Nagoski at Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA

Come Together: The Science (and Art) of Creating Lasting Sexual Connections

by Emily Nagoski, PhD

Reviewed by Mac Marshall


What is the key to passionate sex over the long term? Frequency? Orgasms? Novelty? Monogamy? Being a “skilled” lover?

Wrong, says Emily Nagoski, PhD in her new book, Come Together: The Science (and Art) of Creating Lasting Sexual Connections. Her goal is to give us the key to long-term satisfying sex. She writes,

Great sex in a long-term relationship is not about how much you desire sex or how often you have to do it. It’s not about what you do, in which position, with whom or where or in what clothes, even how many orgasms you have. It’s whether or not you like the sex you are having.


Pleasure Is the Measure” is a major theme of Come Together.  Pleasure is all about “how much you like the sex you’re having.” Most of the book teaches how to create access to pleasure with a long-term partner. Mutual admiration and trust are essential to this creative process.

Most of us seek both connection and pleasure in sexual relationships. But the excitement we feel when a relationship begins often fades as time goes by. Partners in committed relationships such as marriage frequently drift apart sexually. Typically, this is due to work pressures, the demands of family, and our physical changes as we age. Nagoski gives us helpful guidelines to revive and maintain connection and pleasure for the long haul.

Two chapters focus on what she calls “your emotional floorplan.” She bases this on the dual control model that she introduced in her best-known book, Come As You Are: turn-ons—the accelerator—and turn-offs—the brakes. The floorplan consists of seven emotional spaces that affect your sexuality: lust, care, play, rage, panic+grief, fear and seeking. She offers advice on how to navigate these emotional states as we construct a safe space with our partner for mutual sexual pleasure.

When people “come together” in partnerships Nagoski finds they seek:

  • connection,
  • shared pleasure,
  • being wanted by another,
  • freedom to feel full immersion in an erotic moment.

These are especially pertinent for relationships between seniors. Aging usually changes our needs for erotic connection. It is potentially empowering. For example, Nagoski observes:

[Aging provides] a context that encourages you to explore. Try new things. Shed all the preconceived ideas about how sex “should” work and experiment with all the ways it can and does work for you and your partners, in the bodies you have right now.


 Come Together centers on persons of any gender in long-term relationships. She shows us ways to create partnerships that sustain a strong sexual connection. The partnership characteristics she focuses on are:

  • they are friends
  • they prioritize sex
  • they pursue what’s genuinely true for them—what works in their unique relationship—rather than accepting other people’s opinions about how they’re supposed to do sex.

These characteristics flourish by avoiding “the desire imperative” and “the sex imperatives”:

  • “The desire imperative” is the notion that we should feel a “spark” of spontaneous craving for sexual intimacy when a relationship begins. And if we don’t continue to feel that sparky desire, we’ve failed. The desire imperative pooh-poohs planning or preparing for sex, and if we and our partner don’t just spontaneously want each other effortlessly, we must not want each other enough. Against this “mess of wrongheadedness,” Nagoski centers pleasure as the alternative measure of sexual well-being.
  • “The sex imperatives” that endanger lasting sexual connections are many, including these:
    • the coital imperative (penis-in-vagina sex)
    • the variety imperative (manual, oral, and anal play as well as PIV)
    • the performance imperative (enhancing your sexual skill set)
    • the monogamy imperative (you should only have one sexual relationship at a time)

Fixation on any or all of these can thwart success in building lasting sexual connections.


Change is an unavoidable given in life and relationships. Among the changes most of us encounter are illness, pain, and aging. Nagoski writes,

 The key to sustaining a strong sexual connection over the long term is to adapt—with confidence, joy, and calm, warm curiosity—to the changes brought by each season of our lives.

To join together in a successful sexually rewarding long-term partnership, Nagoski champions trust, admiration, confidence and joy. She gives these tips for achieving mutual lasting pleasure and connection:

  • Seek authenticity.
  • Plan for and embrace the changes that will always occur.
  • Find adaptations and adjustments that work for your unique situation.

Just as Nagoski’s Come as You Are is a ground-breaking book for women understanding their sexuality and achieving sexual pleasure, Come Together is the book you need to enrich the sexual joy in a long-term relationship. Read it — your sexual relationship will thank you!



Purchase Come Together at your local independent bookstore or order from or Amazon.



Mac Marshall, PhD is a retired anthropology professor, researcher, and author who is delighted to explore sexuality studies at this time of his life.



Leave a Comment